Free project management software
Free project management software: Who would not like that? We have mined the internet for useful solutions. We have limited ourselves to web-based solutions, so that it can also be used in teams. We have found exactly 5 offers, which we consider useful. The rest does not meet the criteria listed below. The order of entries does not imply a rating!
Why did we exclude products?
Getting free project management software is a tempting thought. Unfortunately, many projects on Github and Sourceforge are not really ready for serious use. We have applied the following criteria to put together a list with free project management software that we consider a serious alternative to commercial offers:
- The software has been updated within the last 12 months
- The software has been around for more than 3 years
- We could see that there is support for ongoing development and maintenance of the software
- The software runs on Windows and Linux
- The software is usable without paid extensions
- The software is web-based and can be used without browser plug-ins or special servers
In the following reviews we have not only tried to make clear what the tools do, but above all what they do not do. We have no intention to put them in a bad light. We rather want to enable you to quickly decide whether the tool could fit your requirements or not. Here is the slim result of our research:
When looking for a free project management system, OpenProject is at the top of the list in terms of quality and performance. The system is a fork of the Redmine project. It is now maintained and developed independently. It offers a clear, tidy and modern user interface.
OpenProject is well suited for software projects. The system is highly configurable. Like Redmine, it offers so-called “modules” that can be activated by project. There are such modules for issue tracking, time tracking, news, documents, files, wiki, repository, forums, calendars, and an interactive Gantt view.
OpenProject makes it possible to create project hierarchies and task hierarchies of any depth. Items can be linked with each other, eg through predecessor-successor relationships. Expenses can be categorized.
If you’re looking for what OpenProject does not offer, it’s best to look at the feature list of the paid Enterprise version. It quickly becomes clear that there is no Agile Board for Scrum and Kanban in the free version. There is also a lack of support for single sign-on, attribute highlighting, full-text search in attachments, a usable workflow system and, unfortunately, as rudimentary a function as a multi-select custom field. It is also not possible to design the input forms freely.
The free version is therefore particularly suitable for classic project management and issue tracking, where you do not need workflows and the number of attributes for work packages remains manageable.
Support and maintenance of OpenProject is provided by a company in Berlin, Germany and a very active developer community. The project has about 3100 stars on Github.
OpenProject is written in Ruby on Rails and only supports the Postgresql database system only. It’s rather easy to install on Unix systems. Installation on Windows servers is possible, but challenging.
Why spend money on something that you can get for free? If you look at the project management tool Allegra, you can see relatively quickly what makes the difference.
Allegra supports all features of all open source tools. Add to that the way of support. The user interface is tidy and modern. There is no system on the market providing more configuration options than Allegra. The Gantt chart, resource view, and graphical workflow editor are all interactive.
Allegra has a powerful role and authorization system; it supports all important methods like Earned Value, Milestone Trend, Eisenhower Principle and Getting Things Done. Virtually everywhere, you can perform operations by drag & drop.
ProjeQtOr is a very comprehensive software for general project management. The product covers many process areas, including project planning, resource management, incident management, requirements management and test management.
When the tool is first installed, it presents the user with a wealth of control elements. Behind the default configuration is a specific development process, which you first have to adapt to your own. The process fits into a system house that performs software development projects for external customers.
If you do not need some of the process elements, you cannot always remove them from the user interface. Also, you cannot define custom fields and input masks. If your own process matches the one shown in the tool, you should take a closer look at ProjeQtOr. The installation and initial commissioning on a Linux server takes about an hour.
The large range of functions unfortunately entails that the user interface appears very complex. There is a Gantt representation, but it is not really interactive. There are hardly any context menus and little drag & drop functionality. The workflow editor is tabular and not graphical. There is no support for agile project management.
It is not transparent whether ProjeQtOr is directly supported by a company. Commercial support is available via a contact form on the website. The Sourceforge administrators are located near Toulouse in France. The project has been active with new releases since 2010.
Honor to whom honor is due. Redmine serves the category “free project management software” since 2006. Redmine is a project management platform especially for software projects. The system is very configurable. It offers so-called “modules” for tickets (issue tracking), time tracking, news, documents, files, wiki, repository, forums, calendars and a non-interactive Gantt view.
You can create so-called “trackers” to be able to treat different types of items separately. You can create customer-specific fields for projects, items, time entries, and users. There are integrations with SVN and Git. Items can also be created by e-mail.
Redmine supports project hierarchies and task hierarchies of any depth. Tasks can be linked with each other, eg through predecessor-successor relationships. There are simple, tabular workflows. Expenses can be categorized.
Redmine is a mature, high quality and configurable system. Looking for deficits, one could mention the lack of drag & drop functionality, the just rudimentary Gantt chart, the lack of configuration options for input forms and the only rudimentary workflow support.
The most serious point, however, is likely to be the lack of support for agile methods in the core system. Plug-ins, however, can partially overcome this shortcoming.
Redmine currently has two active developers plus a large user community. Redmine is based on the Ruby on Rails framework and supports a whole range of database systems. Due to the technology used, installation on Unix systems is easy, but a challenge on Windows systems. The project has about 3400 stars on Github.
ZenTao is a project management tool designed primarily for agile software development projects. It is especially popular in China, where it is also being developed.
The user interface is clean and modern. The Open Source Edition is functionally limited, but provides all the key features for a Scrum development process. If you need Gantt charts, Excel import, an integration with SVN / Git or your own report templates, you have to switch to a paid version. There is a Chinese and an English online help.
Zentao does not support effort-based allocation and billing of items; there is no support for accounts and cost centers.
The open source variant has no user definable fields and input masks. The roles are not assignable to a specific project but are always assigned to a user. The permissions are not configurable. The item types are fixed, you can not create your own.
Zentao allows you to define repetitive tasks. There is no support for a task hierarchy; however, tasks can have child tasks. Zentao does not permit to split projects hierarchically into subprojects.
Free project management software: A conclusion
It’s amazing that we did not find more than 5 viable products that could be used seriously for project management purposes. All but two offer paid extensions, which then turn the tools into complete solutions. It is also interesting that two tools have emerged from the same code base.
The many (over 300) other solutions are either no longer maintained (eg dotProject,] ProjectOpen [), are only for desktop use (eg ProjectLibre), are pseudo-free offers or fit only for very limited application scenarios.
Please use the comment function to alert us to bugs or important products that are missing in the list.