When it comes to project management, Basecamp has been a massive success. In fact, it boasts over 3 million fans. This comes as no surprise as the application does wonders when used properly.
Unfortunately, many Basecampers fail to utilize its full potential. So, we’ve set out on a quest to discover the 7 coolest Basecamp features that many are missing out on.
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1. Support is strong with this one
Even though the guys from 37signals regularly brag about Basecamp’s simple and intuitive nature, you may still find yourself confused on how to use a feature. Fear not, as the support you get with Basecamp is out of this world.
The best part about dealing with the support guys is the speed. Whatever the question, you will on average get an answer within 25 minutes, and the “worst” response time you’re ever likely to see is no more than an hour. Have a quick question? Tweet them between 8pm Sunday and 9pm Friday (CST) for a ridiculously quick response!
And if you consider yourself some kind of a DIY jedi, you can always get instant answers by just checking out the knowledge base. But if you truly want to become a Basecamp master, you can take one of their 30-minute classes hosted every week by their Support Team. It’s also wise to check out the many finely written and information-packed guides.
And then, if you’re a sucker for video materials, you may enjoy watching their short and fun clips. These videos cover all kinds of useful information, including how to make the most of their software and lots of hidden fun tricks and tips. For some extra benefit, we suggest you share these clips with your clients, so that they too can experience the gem that Basecamp truly is.
There you have it. From their direct support line, to FAQs, to Twitter, to videos, to help / training guides, to classes… they’ve covered every learning style.
2. It’s a mobile world after all
So you’re working on the project of a lifetime, but you’re always on the go and need access from anywhere, at any time. You’re in luck my friend, as Basecamp has some kickass official mobile apps for iPhone and Android users. And if you’re a BlackBerry or Windows Phone user, there are some decent third party solutions as well.
Thanks to these apps you can now have complete overview of your projects wherever you are. Whether you want to make a decision that affects the outcome of a project, want to upload files, update some to-dos or simply check how other team members are doing – these apps will help you do it all.
But the coolest feature of all is probably the chat function. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual chat with your coworkers or want to discuss business, you can always use the mobile app to initiate a discussion and share what’s on your mind.
3. Introducing Email-in!
Don’t you wish you could use your project management software to communicate with your coworkers? As it turns out, most Basecamp competitors lack such a feature. A few have it as an add-on, but none of them offer it as a built-in core feature.
37signals came up with Email-In, an integrated app that allows all team members to e-mail into the actual project, as if they were using Basecamp directly.
What this means for you is that you don’t have to lug your PC around or buy a laptop. You are equally effective within your team when you are on vacation or taking a long drive on the highway. You find access to the internet, send an email to Basecamp and your team receives the update immediately.
What’s especially enjoyable about Email-In is the fact that it always sends a confirmation email back to you, so you know your message was delivered. If you so prefer, it can forward your colleagues’ messages to your email inbox as well.
What if you forget to go through Basecamp’s communication channel when you start to discuss a project with co-workers? Perhaps you and a co-worker go off on a tangent and end up having a great back-and-forth email exchange relevant to the project. As it turns out, basecamp lets you forward any email into a Basecamp project, and it will appear in a separate “Forwarded emails” section where every team member has access.
4. Cheat your way through Basecamp
Cheating is never the answer, unless you start using software like Basecamp; using this software supercharges your projects to a point where it feels like cheating because you and your team end up getting so much more work done than otherwise.
37signals always knew that Basecamp would be a massive global success, so they made sure to include hotkeys to further increase productivity and speed. These range from simple shortcuts like pressing G + F to access the search menu from anywhere in the program, all the way to other, longer combinations allowing more complex operations.
Navigation is the key to effectively using project management software. Fortunately, 37signals were aware of that and made sure that you can navigate your way around Basecamp quickly by typing G + [1 through 6].
Should you fancy checking out a certain section of a project, you can just hold down the shift key and click the header you want to be redirected to.
Basecamp takes full advantage of drag and drop gestures when it comes to attachments. For example, you can simply drag files from your desktop and drop them onto any basecamp project or discussion post.
Speaking of dragging stuff around, you can actually use a dragging motion to reorder any of the files that are attached to a message, as well as change the date of a calendar event.
You can jump to any team member or a project by just typing a name in the search bar and making a selection from the drop-down list.
Another cool trick is zooming up and down the document by double-clicking on the corners of the page. The top two corners swipe you right up to the top, while double-clicking the bottom two corners swipe you right down to the bottom.
You can check out the full “cheat sheet” on the website to learn all of these and you should, because productivity increase is no laughing matter.
5) Everyone loves web browser extensions
Most of us have internet browsers chock full of extensions and add-ons. With that in mind it’s quite surprising that most avid Basecampers have failed to link the two. Let’s start with the bad news – Firefox users are out of luck as all Basecamp extensions have been abandoned for years. Chrome users on the other hand, will be happy to hear that there are actually several chrome extensions.
For example, it allows you to set default data for entries so you don’t have to do it manually each time. This can significantly speed up the process of going through the projects and trying to add back data.
But if that were not enough, it even offers to generate cool charts and graphs from your time reports. This allows you to easily, and at a visual glance, understand how your team’s time is being spent.
We’d also suggest that you look into Bitx, the extension that specializes in helping you track and work with to-dos. And then there’s also the YABCE add-on for those who want to try everything out there.
6) The magic of automation
If you’re like most humans, you probably get lazy now and then. Trying to sync Basecamp attachments to Dropbox or update the to-dos on your own can sometimes be a drag. Fortunately, Zapier is here. This platform will do the magic for you and it’s the closest thing to Basecamp superpowers that you will ever experience.
All you have to do is just create a “Zap” between the two apps – basically a fancy way of saying that you connect the two apps, allowing you to automate many time-consuming tasks. This includes creating new files, projects and to-dos, sending messages, updating calendar events and much more.
Some of our favorite automated Zap-enabled Basecamp coolness includes:
- Creating Basecamp to-dos from new Wufoo form entries and Gmail emails;
- Getting email alerts for new Basecamp to-dos;
- Syncing new Dropbox files to Basecamp;
- Creating new Basecamp calendar events from Google Calendar events;
- Getting a Campfire alert for new Basecamp events;
- Creating new Basecamp projects from new Google Spreadsheet rows;
- Adding new Basecamp files to Google drive.
If you want to know about all the available Zapier triggers and actions for Basecamp, as well as the services you can connect it to, you should check out their page right here.
7) Time for something a little “extra”
So many Basecampers fail to utilize the massive treasure trove of “extras” – the integration with other platforms, the third party apps, and the many add-ons.
Even though the guys at 37signals are proud of how Basecamp functions out of the box, they were also wise enough to make it a “friendly” environment for third party developers. This is why there are so many third party Basecamp products out there. It’s also why so many different websites and platforms offer seamless integration with Basecamp.
Take for example the third party Basecamp mobile apps. You have Carabiner, an iPhone app that carries all the compatibility and functionality of the full Basecamp experience. There is also Everest, for Android users and SuitChamp for Blackberry users.
While Basecamp tries to help you in a lot of aspects of running a business, it does not cover every business need. Almost every Basecamper will have to use other software solutions for other aspects of their business. Fortunately, nowadays there are a plethora of business solutions and software that can easily be integrated.
Take for instance the many different time tracking, invoicing and accounting solutions. The first to come to mind is TimeSheetr, a super-popular app that comes with complete Basecamp support and integration, making it the ideal choice for entrepreneurs who prefer visual time tracking options.
Or perhaps consider the now uber-popular Paymo, a fully featured virtual assistant which now integrates with Basecamp. In May of 2012 Paymo released an integration module which syncs Projects, Tasks Lists and Tasks between the two systems.
And if you prefer beautiful dashboards and charts, you will be happy to hear that Basecamp also integrates with platforms like Geckoboard and Hojoki.
Finally, you might want to look into the different apps, extras and addons that make file backup and file synchronization easier. The Basecamp extras page lists many solutions that allow you to connect your Basecamp account to file hosting services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and many others, and synchronize it all in real time. Backdrop, cloudHQ and CloudWork are only a few of the solutions that you should investigate over at the Basecamp extras page.
The journey to “master of Basecamp integrations” has only begun
Basecamp is a complete suite when it comes to creating and managing projects. It is also packed with cool features and we did our best to cover the ones we consider terribly under-utilized. However, that doesn’t mean you should stop learning about Basecamp. In fact, we encourage you to continue experimenting and learning for as long as you use it.