It’s time for Microsoft Planner to be turned off

(UPDATED 4th Feb 2022 with additions to the comparison table, removal of the Power Apps line in the table, link to Gantt chart JSON sample for list view formatting, link to a follow-up post showing how to migrate from Planner to Lists)

I’ve been working with Microsoft Planner for many years, since it was originally revealed to the MVP community as “Project Highlander” around 2016.

We needed a new task management system back then. Microsoft Project was too expensive and difficult to use properly without training, Project Online was providing a cloud alternative but still provided the same challenges and lists in SharePoint had stagnated.

The world was turning away from the “waterfall” view of managing projects. Agile was starting to emerge as a hero, and products such as Trello and Asana were starting to take the spotlight.

Microsoft unveiled Planner as an ad-hoc group-based task management tool for the new age. It was never intended to compete with Trello and its clones, never offer the same level of functionality. But it was designed to be enough, that the average Microsoft 365 user (Office 365 back then) wouldn’t need to look for an external solution.

For a time, things were great. But then, it started to become clear that this was becoming similar to when Microsoft made Yammer part of the Office 365 suite. The product integration was heralded as the next big thing, people like me jumped on the bandwagon full of hope for the future… which never came.

Because the product stagnated. Development and creation of new features was minimal. Sure, the average user still thought the product was good, but those who scratched beyond the surface quickly realised the shortcomings.

The difference is that Yammer finally came around and virtually re-invented itself, making up for lost time. Even posing a challenge for those of us who had moved on to Microsoft Teams, because we wanted to get back together with our ex.

Where does Lists fit into the picture

Similar to Planner, lists in SharePoint was introduced a lot earlier than people realise. In fact, document libraries are technically lists, so therefore lists have actually been around in SharePoint since 2001.

With every version of SharePoint Server, the lists functionality got a big bump in features – especially in SharePoint Server 2007. Unfortunately, not a great amount changed since then, and so the lists functionality, while still useful and used a lot, became something for the hardcore SharePoint users.

Until lists in SharePoint, like Pinocchio, became a real boy thanks to magic from Microsoft, and emerged as a standalone product – “Lists” – in mid-2020.

Since then, Lists has continued to add functionality and be more and more visible to end users who might never have thought of using them. While Planner on the other hand, has given us confetti on completed tasks and a few other small things.

Comparing Lists to Planner

Instead of continuing to waffle on, I’m going to paint it clear as day for you and show below a table comparing Lists to Planner. I’m not going to talk about what to use when – each to their own, however this should make the decision easier for you.

Beyond that I’ve got a number of screenshots showing things that Lists can do (either currently, or in the past) that people aren’t even aware of.

Native functionality or integration
Requires additional tooling such as Power Automate
Not possible

Restore items from recycle bin

See previous versions

Identify who modified a task

Identify when a task was modified

Be notified when a task is modified

Visualise the report in Power BI

Share individual items (not the whole plan)

Share just the list/plan (without adding user to the site/Group/Team)

Create a list/plan in a private channel (i.e. stored within it)

Comment on an item/task

@ mention people in a comment

Can exist without a M365 Group / Team

Customise the views beyond what’s available out of the box

Display items as a Kanban

Display items as a Gantt chart

Drag & drop tasks between buckets

Display items as a list

Show as an app in Teams

Integrate with personal tasks

Send automated reminders

Have items rolled up into a parent list

Define custom columns/fields

Select multiple items at once

Works offline

Mobile app – iOS

Mobile app – Android

Desktop app

Work with list items / taks in Power Apps

Store attachments with the task item

Display as a calendar in Outlook

Display as a task list in Outlook

Be embedded within SharePoint as a web part

Support application permissions in Graph API

Got more here that I’ve missed? Tell me, and I’ll add them.

Got a correction or want more in depth information – let me know.

Gantt charts in lists

Hey look, here’s a REALLY old version of SharePoint displaying a Gantt chart:

Hey look, here’s a modern List displaying as a Gantt chart:

How do I know that’s a modern list? Because it’s my list.

Here it is using the new Board view in Lists:

Lists board view by priority

Lists board view by progress

Here’s how to make a Gantt chart.

  1. Go into the settings of your list

  1. Click on “Create view” at the bottom left to be taken to this screen:

  1. Select the fields to be used for Title, Start Date, Due Date:

  1. (Optional) If you don’t have an existing percentage complete field you can add that afterwards and come back to edit your view:

NOTE: The above approach creates a “classic” view in SharePoint which is not ideal and might not be around for long. A better way is to use list view formatting with JSON, like in this example on GitHub.

Integration with Microsoft Project

Yep, that’s still a thing.

Get notified of task updates without any code or automations

Simply select the ellipsis menu at the top to find alert options:

Native integrations to do more with your data

Out of the box, you can connect your list data to the Power Platform to go further.

Power Automate

Here’s what you can do with Planner:

Here’s what you can do with Lists (and the rest of SharePoint):

Power BI

Here’s what you can do with Planner:

Nothing. It’s not an option as a data source.

But hey, here’s SharePoint:

Summary

As you can see, when someone claims that Planner has better integration in Microsoft 365 – it’s factually incorrect. It’s also clear that Lists can do vastly more than what Planner can without any integration.

The lack of data control and compliance options for Planner is simply gobsmacking, and the fact it has been allowed to persist like this for so long is a governance crime.

Yammer rose from the ashes to change the perception that it was a dead product. While Planner is certainly not dead, it’s repeating the mistake of Lists before it and failed to innovate.

Planner – do a Yammer and catch up. Because right now Lists is doing a Microsoft Teams and doing the things you should be doing.

NOTE: Since publishing this post I have also written a follow-up post that shows a couple of approaches to migrating from Planner boards to Lists.


Also published on Medium.

31 comments

  1. Nice article about Lists.
    Too bad “kanban view” is not yet available in my tenant.

    You can also add to the list of differences:
    * Creating a Planner creates a Microsoft Group!/ Lists don’t
    * You can’t share Planner with individual users, only with members in a plan / With Lists, you can
    * You can’t @mention users in Planner / With Lists, you can
    * You can’t create custom fields in Planner / With Lists, you can
    * You can’t select multiple item at once in Planner / With Lists, you can
    * You can’t add a Planner in a Teams private channel / With Lists, you can

    1. Very good points, thank you!
      As for it not being in your tenant yet – have you gone into a List and tried to create a new view? That’s how I saw it show up in the past few days.

      1. The board feature is still rolling put according to MS roadmap – we have it for targeted release user but not yet for the rest of the organization

        Another ting to the list of differences: Lists can be synced so you can work on them offline – planner cannot

  2. I was just trying to make this decision last week of lists vs planner, for a small organization I’m working with. I went with planner because of the native integration of planner tasks to To do and the Tasks app in Teams.

    If making tasks for a team of people is your goal, then I think Planner wins until MS Lists can make proper tasks that show up in the full tasks ecosystem, to do, outlook, task app in Teams, etc.

  3. Gantt view is great – I had forgotten all about that!
    Might be doing it wrong, but I wasn’t able to add the Gantt view to a team site using the list app – I had to add a tab using the Sharepoint app – is there another way to do this with the Lists app?

    1. It’s a legacy way of doing it, so probably not ideal. Another way is to use view formatting with JSON to replicate it. I’ll update the blog with some links shortly.

  4. Doesn’t Planner send you an email when a task is DUE? Not happy with Planner, but not sure I am ready to move to Lists either.

  5. Thanks Loryan. This is a topic that should receive more attention. Overall, I lean your way, I prefer Lists in almost every way to Planner/ToDo.

    However, I do see some blockers for wider adoption. As another commenter noted, Office App integrations are missing, at least to my knowledge, and in particular, for Outlook and Excel.

    A Lists Personal Teams App is missing – not that it couldn’t be created, but that is a barrier to adoption, it not being native.

    The other common workflow would call for a Chrome, or Edge Chromium extension for Lists. To my knowledge that doesn’t exist.

    Within Outlook or Excel, from a browser by way of a browser Extension, or within Teams in a Teams Personal App, those seem like typical, “table stakes” workflow contexts where simplified access to viewing, adding to a List, or, in the Teams Personal App use case, acknowledging that Lists are used by individuals for Task Tracking for example, just like ToDo/Planner. Tasks in Teams has recognized that.

    I have workarounds for these challenges personally, using Power Automate and using non-Microsoft Tools to created the Chrome Extension functionality I find helpful. But it is tough to gain traction with most users who aren’t interested in that sort of complexity, understandably. I hope this is addressed. Overall, Lists’ value and flexibility is excellent. These challenges are not major development hurdles (I think), but would “put it over the top” in my view.

    Thanks!

  6. You bring up some excellent points. But Oy! Right now Planner has the eye candy that non technical users like and it is built in.

    I tried to build up a plan with a native SharePoint list. One of my clients has a plan with about 30 items in the plan. Trying to create a similar plan with lists was very painful and looked quite ugly. I am sure with a lot of customization I could make the list look okay, but with the two hours I spent, my client was not happy.

    1. I agree with you, Planner is easier to use and prettier out of the box.
      With regards to doing a plan in Lists – do you have the Boards view in your tenant yet?

      1. Hi Loryan,

        I do have Boards view in my client. I feel like it is difficult to get the fields I want to show and the layout in the cards. Numerous other things that make me feel like the people that like Planner, will not like to switch. I’m they will ask me to do something like Planner does and I will spend a lot of time and come up short.

  7. Hi Many thanks for this article! I feature that is very popular in my organisation in Planner is the ability to do a quick checklist within a card. Is that functionality possible to replicate with lists in board view?
    Thanks again.
    Birger

      1. Thanks. Trying this but I don’t see a way to include a checklist in an item or card in board view. The checklist becomes several items… Do you or anyone else in this thread see a clever way to replicate planner functionality here? Many thanks again

  8. Hey Loryan.

    Hope you’re doing well. A great article and strong argument to turn off Planner.

    Just one questions about the comparison items: ‘Display as a calendar/task list in Outlook’ – Are you referring to the classic tasks and calendar/events lists?

  9. Hey Loryan

    A couple of things where Planner seems to be better than Lists – in this example we are using it for delivery tasks.

    1) For a given task, a user can add a custom checklist (i.e. different checklist per task)
    2) In Planner, you can create proforma/template tasks with data pre-populated and then copy these to create actual tasks.

    Any ideas about how to achieve the same?

    1. Good points Jonathan.
      1. You’re right, we can’t do this currently. Hopefully one day.
      2. This can be probably be achieved through the creation of a Content Type for the List. Or if referring to an entire Planner board, then potentially a List template for the structure and Power Automate to create the list/task items.

  10. Thanks for this comparison. I’ve been away from the SharePoint world for a few years now and was struggling with trying to figure out how to actually integrate Planner into a viable leads management workflow for a very small business, something that has *some* automation. Like, how are there virtually NO usable integrations between Planner and other MS products? (I literally googled that question and your blog post was one of the first results 😀 ) I mean there are more two way Trello connections than being able to do anything in a Plan from another MS product. Needless to say, it has been frustrating. It’s definitely time that I looked at what’s been going on in the world of SP Lists.

    1. Yeah, I’m absolutely amazed that there’s no connector action for “When a Planner task is update”. I mean… how hard is that to create???

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