Is EasyChair still good?

Today, I will talk about EasyChair, one of the oldest conference management systems, used in academia, especially in computer science (founded in 2002). As many other researchers, I have been a user of EasyChair for over a decade, especially as an author and also as a program committee member for various conferences. I used to think that EasyChair was relatively easy to use. But in recent years, it seems that EasyChair has become more business-oriented, and is basically no longer free to use since 2022 (unless an event receives no more than 20 submissions, which is quite small). So, is EasyChair still good?

To find out, I recently decided to give EasyChair a try for organizing a small academic event. The user-interface was quite familiar. However, the design itself did not change much over the last decade (as I recall). I saw that EasyChair had a 20 submission limit for free but thought that I would still use it as I did not expect to receive many submissions. But eventually, I faced a problem. I received 21 submissions. So EasyChair sent me two warning e-mails saying that if I do not upgrade within 7 days, “reviewer access to your conference can be restricted or disabled“.

What does this warning means? Well, unfortunately, I did not read that e-mail in time because I am quite busy and my EasyChair account is linked to a secondary e-mail address. So I soon found out what it means. EasyChair not only disabled the reviewer access but it also locked me out of the conference chair account and asked me for money to regain access:

This happened after I had set the paper decisions and sent the notifications to authors, and just before authors would submit their camera-ready papers, that is at the most critical moment.

At that moment, EasyChair gave me the option of either paying a relatively large amount or to forever lose access to the data about the event such as the list of papers, the authors’ e-mail addresses and reviews.

Luckily, I had saved the author emails and the list of accepted papers in an Excel file, otherwise, I would have to pay a relatively large amount of money to recover that. And since my academic event is non profit, I do not have money to pay for this.

That situation is very inconvenient, and honestly is one of the reasons why, I will not use EasyChair anymore.

If we put this bad experience aside, lets talk about other aspects of EasyChair such as the user interface. While it is relatively easy to use, I think that it looks outdated:

In terms of features provided to conference managers, I see that EasyChair has been enhanced with many additional features over the years, but for small events, I don’t think that many of these features are essential.

And in recent years, some excellent alternatives to EasyChair have emerged such as Microsoft CMT that is free. As far as I see, it seems that the major conferences in computer science have moved to Microsoft CMT. This latter has in my opinion a better user interface, is fast, and easier to use. There are also several other conference management systems that are free to use such as the excellent OpenConf, which can be downloaded and installed on our own server (the community edition, which includes many essential features).

Given that EasyChair now has a very small 20 submission limit for the free license and that it locks out an account if the number of submissions exceeds 20, I will not use EasyChair anymore for organizing events. I think that there are many better alternatives.

What do you think? Do you still use EasyChair? Do you like it? Do you think there are better conference management systems? Leave a comment below to share your opinion.

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