How’s Flat different from ClickUp?

ClickUp is an “everything app”, providing tons of functionality in one tool. Flat is a minimalist “home base” dedicated to keeping everything organized – and everyone on the same page.

Apr 14, 2023

ClickUp is an all-in-one workplace productivity suite founded in 2017. It has undergone two major revisions since then, most recently with the release of version 3.0 in early 2023. ClickUp allows teams to track and collaborate on their work — which ClickUp calls “tasks” — and employ many ancillary capabilities like documents, whiteboards, and more.

Flat, by contrast, is a new kind of teamwork app that provides an effortless, uncluttered, and organized home base for your team.

Here are some of the key ways Flat is different from ClickUp.

Core philosophy

This is by far the biggest difference between ClickUp and Flat.

ClickUp bills itself as “one app to replace them all”. It’s an integrated, all-in-one suite that includes work tracking, collaborative documents, spreadsheets, dashboards, whiteboards, reporting, time tracking, screen recording, and email.

An integrated suite certainly has its advantages. Among other things, it reduces the number of procurement decisions an organization has to make. But it’s often a double-edged sword and poses its own set of challenges.

ClickUp is not a simple tool to get started with. Many users have complained about the lengthy onboarding process and extensive configuration requirements and customization options. There’s an overwhelming number of features to take stock of and decide how best to use, potentially leading to decision paralysis. Users can spend excessive time tweaking settings, customizing features, and debating how to improve their work processes, instead of focusing on their actual work. And since the learning curve is so steep, team members may drag their feet getting on board, so your team never gets to realize the value of having a teamwork app in the first place.

Flat is not an all-in-one productivity suite. Instead, Flat’s philosophy is that simplicity is crucial and worth fighting for. Flat is a lightly-structured home base that lets you and your team write down what needs to be done, "stick it on a wall" where everybody can see it, discuss it in context, and archive it when it's done. It doesn’t try to replace all your collaboration tools like Google Docs, Loom, Figma, and others. Instead it integrates and plays nicely with them. And most importantly, Flat is designed to be so easy and delightful to use, anyone can figure it out in just a few minutes, from the intern to the CEO.

Product capabilities

As an all-in-one suite, ClickUp is an enormous product with lots of features that aren’t built into Flat, like whiteboards, time tracking, and screen recording. But for ClickUp’s core capabilities that do overlap with Flat — the central features needed to organize and discuss your team’s work — there are some subtle but important differences worth mentioning.

Work ownership

ClickUp and Flat have different models for tracking who owns (is responsible for) a piece of work.

In ClickUp you indicate who’s responsible for a task by assigning it to them. By default a task can have only one assignee, though it’s possible to configure ClickUp to allow multiple task assignees.

But ClickUp can’t directly capture a common real world scenario: several people are involved in a piece of work, while one of them is ultimately responsible for driving it forward. As a result, work in ClickUp can get confusing, for example, if Alice and Bob are both assigned a task and each mistakenly thinks the other is ultimately responsible.

In Flat, on the other hand, you indicate who is ultimately responsible for a topic by adding them as the topic “owner”. Optionally, you can add additional people as “collaborators”. Both the owner and the collaborators know they’re involved in the work, but there’s no ambiguity as to who is ultimately responsible.

Comments and discussion

Both ClickUp and Flat support assignable comment threads, so it’s always easy for users to know when a conversation is in need of their follow-up, helping ensure balls don’t get dropped.

Flat has an additional capability that’s not available in ClickUp: blockers. Blockers are one of Flat's superpowers, a special kind of thread that lets anyone record a short, prominent message explaining what’s blocking progress, so there's never a question like "is this blocked?", "what's it blocked on?", "who's responsible for addressing it?", or "what's the latest update?".


It’s often helpful to break down work into pieces and to track how smaller pieces roll up to larger projects, goals, initiatives, or milestones. ClickUp and Flat both support it, but in different ways.

In ClickUp, you can break down a task into subtasks, checklist items, or both. A subtask is just like any other task, except that it has a parent task. Checklist items, on the other hand, are short bits of text that can’t easily be converted into full-fledged tasks. Subtasks and checklists are presented separately every time you view a task. Effectively, ClickUp has two different ways of breaking down work that are independent of one another.

In Flat, breaking down work is a single, consistent concept: you create a checklist that includes simple text items, or links to other topics, or any combination. And it’s easy to “promote” a simple text checklist item into a full-fledged child topic.

Target audience

ClickUp and Flat are each good fits for different kinds of teams.

ClickUp is potentially a good fit for large organizations with hundreds or thousands of people looking to work together in a unified platform, and for teams looking to follow a formal project management process with integrated reporting, dependency management, Gantt charts, etc. While ClickUp can also be used by small teams, they often find that the overhead of configuring, customizing, migrating to, and maintaining ClickUp isn’t worth it.

Flat is a better fit for individuals and teams seeking a lightweight teamwork app that prioritizes simplicity and clarity over lots of bells and whistles. Flat’s attitude is: less is more. Flat only includes the core capabilities that all or almost all users need. That way, it stays simple and clutter-free for everyone.

Andrew Kallem is Flat's co-founder and lead engineer. He has a background in finance, risk management, and computer science, and he has been writing software for nearly 30 years.

Copyright © 2024 Constructor, Inc. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Copyright © 2024 Constructor, Inc.

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Copyright © 2024 Constructor, Inc. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.