Free Project Management Software lets you get started with planning and executing a project without having to put money on the table upfront. Many startups and small teams don’t need heavyweight project software and would rather channel money into the important things like salaries and technology. Also you may just need a task organiser, a basic scheduler, a space for collaboration or a tool to help you manage workflow. You can’t get it all when you’re going for free.
It’s surprising what is available for free these days, but every free lunch comes at some cost. It may be reduced functionality, limited users or a fixed time trial offer.
You’ll have to try out a few yourself to see what works best but here, we’d like to give you an honest guide to some the best free project management software available, in no particular order of preference:
Asana is web based team collaboration software so you need an internet connection to use it. Its free for up to 15 team members and then gives you unlimited tasks, projects and conversations, and some basic dashboards. The premium version adds data export, centralised administration, more roles and Google authentication. The pricing is per user per month for premium but you will get on well with the free version to start. Asana also has mobile apps for IOS and Android so you can access your project space on the move.
The software is structured around organisations, teams, projects and tasks. Each member has an inbox and tasks get assigned and move through the workflow. Its fairly easy for any team member to keep track of milestones, deadlines and conversations. Asana has been well designed and has an easy-to-use interface but you may need to do some customising to make it work for your specific project needs.
Trello is an online free project management software system based on the Kanban framework. It was originally popularized by Toyota in the 1980s for supply chain management. You set up a collaborative Trello ‘board’ and then add a series of stacks (or lists), each containing a number of cards. Each card corresponds to a task and you can add comments, images and attachments to each task. The cards can be dragged between different stacks depending on where they need to go next.
The great thing about Trello is that it’s so intuitive and easy to use. It worked especially well for me during test and fix phases of software development that involved multiple operating systems, programmers, designers and business people. It also has IOS and Android mobile versions which can help immensely during mobile app development because you don’t have to change devices to interact with it.
While Trello does a few things well, it is not a full-featured project management software solution and lacks, reporting, scheduling and resource management capability.
Zoho seems to be a popular choice for small and medium sized businesses and has received a number of industry awards. It offers a great user experience and is rich in features. It is free for 1 (active) project and up to 10Mb. Then the pricing plans start at around $25 per month.
The free edition still packs a punch with project feeds, task management, Gantt charts, document sharing, forums and Google Apps integration. You can also import MS Projects which makes converting from existing Microsoft software easy. The BugTracker feature is essential to any software project and will give you the ability to add files, images and comments to issues as you work through them.
Zoho is definitely a strong contender if you’re looking for an online solution that has mobile app support as well. Compare the feature list for the various plans here.
GanttProject is totally free project management software and is covered by a number of opensource licenses. There’s a web version and you can also run it on Windows, Linux or Mac OS. As you’ve probably guessed, its mainly based around the Gantt chart paradigm structure. Its not as powerful as MS Project but you can organise your tasks, create dependencies, baselines and generate PERT charts.
It only has basic resource management features but is strong on exporting documents. I enjoyed being able to generate a PDF report with a project summary as well as vector chart images. You can also export charts to JPEG and PNG formats. The Import and export of CSV and MS Project docs is also supported, which is a handy feature.
Like a lot of open source software it feels a little behind on usability and interface, but offers some great features for a totally free product. If you have a few minutes you can get an idea of how it works in this GanttProject video tutorial.
2-Plan project management software has been around a few years and has a good following in the open source community. It’s mostly free (there are one or two commercial plugins for advanced users) but you are encouraged to donate something and you really should if you’re going to use it commercially. There are three options available: 2-Plan Desktop, 2-Plan Team and Work 2-gether.
2-Plan Desktop has a full set of features covering Gantt charts, graphical work breakdown structures, resource allocation graphs, mind maps and risk management, and it’s promoted as the best alternative to MS Project. There is also some mobile app support for viewing messages, milestones and to-do items. I particularly enjoyed the Mind Map plugin which allows you to brainstorm and plan, in a drag and drop interface, and then integrate the map into different project plans.
2-plan Team is a their web-based project management tool which you can use by itself or in combination with 2-plan Desktop. This will be useful if you need collaboration across a team working in multiple locations. Rather than registering centrally in a SaaS type model, you can do your own installation on any Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP server.
The third part of 2-Plan is their Scrum solution called Work 2-gether. I found this quite similar to Trello. It’s easy to get started and is based on boards, tasks and stickies that you move around to manage your workflow.
All told, 2-Plan has put a lot into this offering and its definitely a good option for small to medium sized projects.
Check out the promo video below.
Wrike tries to “go beyond traditional task and project management” and is strongly based on the collaboration model and integration with third party apps like Google Drive, Outlook, Excel, Dropbox and WordPress among many others. It has won awards from Gartner and was FinanceOnline’s Best Project Management Software of 2015.
The free version caters for 5 users and unlimited collaborators. Collaborators cannot create and edit tasks, but can discuss them, upload files and mark tasks complete. You also get 2Gb of space and a decent set of task management functionality. One feature I found interesting was the ability to send emails which get saved as tasks, and you then get reminded when the deadline approaches. It also allows you to update and discuss tasks right from your email client! How successful this feature has been is not clear, but I know from experience that projects can land up being heavily driven from email communications when the pace starts hotting up.
While Wrike offers a substantial product that’s scalable to thousands of users, the jump from free to the first paid plan ($49-$99) may be a bit steep for small teams and startups. Look at the features and pricing and decide for yourself.
Here’s a great little intro video to look at before you decide
Freedcamp has some very positive reviews about its power, ease of use and customer support. It seems to have struck a balance between good features and simplicity. This is an enormous plus when your team comes from many parts of a business and are not all technophiles.
Often compared to Basecamp (a fully paid tool), Freedcamp has many similar features including dashboards, lists, task management, schedules, calendars and file sharing. It also gives you collaboration in the form of discussion forums.
Mobile support comes from their responsive website but they are due to release a mobile application in Jan 2016.
A great benefit is that it is free for any number of people. But one thing to note is that the standard Feedcamp package only comes with 20MB of space. Prices thereafter scale for $2.59 for 1Gb up to $39.99 for unlimited storage.
Free project management software has come a long way in the past few years from basic task management applications to full-featured online collaborative systems. We’ve given you a summary of seven of the most popular solutions but you’ll need to know what is most important to your type of project, if you need to scale, and if there is budget to upgrade if necessary.
Most of these are easy to set up and fairly quick to get started on, so its worth spending a little time trying a few out to see what works best. And while you’re trying, keep our list of questions about project management software features in mind to help you make a decision.