Best Free Project Management Software for 2021: Getting It Done at Cost

You don’t need to spend money to get your hands on a solid project management app: we’ve put together the definitive list of the best free project management software.

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large, Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-07-25T14:39:34+00:00

Project management is a vital part of running any business, big or small, but the costs of the associated software can seem daunting. This is especially so when you consider that many of them charge per user, which racks up costs quickly. To help you, we have ranked the best free project management software to get you organized without spending a penny.

Thankfully, most of the services featured in our best project management software selection offer a free version, making it easy to round up free project management tools. The quality of these free versions differs greatly, though: for example, our overall favorite project management tool, monday.com, has a mediocre free plan (read all about it in our article on monday.com pricing) and makes it in as only an honorable mention. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Our overall favorite free tool for project management is Asana due to it having both a great interface and solid feature set. 
  • All our top contenders have general feature sets that should help most companies, most of the time. Our honorable mentions section goes over some more specialized tools, like TeamGantt for Gantt charts and Jira for agile teams.
  • Most of our picks will either allow for integration between them, or let you do so using no-code solutions like Zapier or Integromat. 
  • Two providers have ridiculously cheap upgrades: nTask costs just under $3 per user per month, and ClickUp is only marginally more expensive at $5 per user per month.

We have put together five of our favorite project management software options and four honorable mentions. You’re sure to find something that fits your company and your team members perfectly (just be sure you know the difference between task management vs project management).

Also, don’t forget that there’s no rule against combining different free software. You can always make them work together using no-code solutions like Integromat or Zapier; we’ll point out options as we go along.

  • Fresh top five using new criteria; added four honorable mentions.

  • There are two: Microsoft Planner, which is pretty good, and Microsoft To Do, which is not, as it’s more of a task management app. Planner is worth looking into, though.

  • One of the best pieces of agile project management software has a great free plan: namely, Jira. Though it didn’t make the top five list in this article, it’s a prominent honorable mention.

  • There are several excellent options, the best of which are probably Redmine and Project Libre. Both can be tricky to use, but do a fine job for small teams or as personal project management software.

Best Free Project Management Software Comparison

The Top 5 Best Free Project Management Apps

From among the dozens of project management reviews we’ve written up, we’re willing to guess that only a handful don’t have a free version. Still, though, after separating the wheat from the chaff, we’re left with five contenders that we can rightly call the best.

  1. Asana — Great all-round tool with solid functionality
  2. nTask — Solid service with a very cheap upgrade
  3. Airtable — Views galore, based on spreadsheets
  4. Wrike — Not the belle of the ball, but great reporting
  5. ClickUp — Limitations on use mar an otherwise great tool

Besides these five, we also have a selection of four honorable mentions. These offer less than our top contenders do, but make up for it with either specialized functions (Trello’s excellent kanban board is a good example) or great usability (such as monday.com).

What Makes the Best Free Project Management Tool?

That brings us to how we made the selections for this article. Our main objective was overall usefulness: whether the service’s free plan offers enough functionality for a small team of people. All our picks offer exactly that, and we expect companies with fewer than five team members should be able to get a lot done with them; Asana even allows for 15 users.

Of course, there are bound to be some restrictions. These plans exist as a way to try out the service more than anything and will often miss a few handy functions as an incentive to upgrade to a paid plan. However, we’ll give you some tips on how to get around that where we can.

In the end, though, you’re always going to be hampered in some way unless you decide to spend money on a paid version or go with an open-source solution like Redmine (read our Redmine review). Still, you’d be surprised how much you can get done without spending a penny, as long as you box clever. Let’s have a look at your options.

1. Asana

asana colors
Asana has an extremely well laid-out interface.
  • Free plan benefits: 15 users, kanban board, list view, calendar, unlimited file storage (100MB size limit)
  • Website: www.asana.com

Pros:

  • Allows for a large team
  • Good, if basic, views
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Need to upgrade for advanced views
  • Upgrade is pricey

The best free project management software is Asana. This is not because it offers the most tools — others on this list, like nTask and Airtable, have it beat in that regard — but because it does a lot more with them. On top of that, it also sets the cap for the free plan at 15 team members, which is very generous. 

This is, in part, because it offers unlimited projects and unlimited tasks: as long as you stick to having fewer than 15 people on your team, you won’t run into any artificial barriers to using Asana for free. As free tools go, this is pretty rare and definitely interesting for people managing projects with decent-sized teams. We go into detail in our article on Asana pricing

Asana is also the only entry that can cater reliably to medium-sized businesses; it’s our best project management software for small business for a reason, after all. 

Asana Project Management Features

The views it offers includes: the list, the kanban board and the calendar, which should be enough to get small-to-medium businesses going. As you can read in our Asana review, it does more with just these three views than many other project management tools do with a lot more doodads. It also integrates well with other apps, such as time-tracking tool Harvest.

Overall, Asana is a very good option if you want to run medium-sized operations for free. Though it lacks in some departments — its kanban board could be a tad better, and there’s no Gantt chart, to name but two — you can do a lot with very little when using Asana.

Free
  • : Up to 15 users
Premium
  • : Price is per user. unlimited users, expanded features
Business
  • : Price is per user. unlimited users, even more features
Enterprise
  • : Custom pricing, advanced security features

2. nTask

ntask-slider-2
nTask makes some odd choices, but it works out very well for the user.
  • Free plan benefits: 5 team members, meeting tool, list, calendar, time-tracking tool
  • Website: www.ntaskmanager.com

Pros:

  • Several unique features for free
  • Easy to use
  • Extremely cheap upgrade

Cons:

  • No kanban board on the free plan
  • Navigation is a bit odd

nTask is an odd duck on this list because it is missing one vital ingredient for a solid project management tool: its free plan doesn’t have a kanban board — you need to upgrade for it. We’ve still placed it second despite this obvious flaw — one easily fixed by signing up for Trello and connecting the two with Zapier.

It earns second place for two reasons: its features are solid despite the kanban-shaped hole, and it’s ridiculously cheap to upgrade. Though we prefer not to mention money at all in an article like this (it says “free” for a reason), at less than $3 per user per month, nTask is a steal. If you decide that you want more from it than just the free offering, it’s not a big leap to make.

Reasons to Upgrade nTask

The downside is that you may have to make that leap sooner than you think. That’s not just because of the kanban problem, though that may be part of it, but also because the free version only accommodates five team members.

If that’s enough for you, though, then nTask is definitely worth looking into. We’ve praised its approach in our nTask review, and like its list view, meeting planner and calendar a great deal. We’re a bit puzzled by its grid view, which is kind of like a gallery, only different. Still, at the grand price of free, it’s worth a look.

Free
  • : Maximum 5 team members.
Premium
  • : Minimum 3 team members. First three users are only $36 per year for all three.
Enterprise
  • : Self-hosted option. 50 team members minimum.

3. Airtable

airtable slider 2
Airtable is a great tool, but the jury’s still out on the spreadsheet-based approach.
  • Free plan benefits: Unlimited users, grid and gallery views, kanban board
  • Website: www.airtable.com

Pros:

  • Almost full suite for free
  • No user limits

Cons:

  • Activity caps a bit low
  • Upgrade is very expensive

Our third pick, Airtable, thankfully does have a kanban board, but suffers in some other ways. While it should do a fine job for the right team, there’s a reason it was beaten by Asana and nTask, besides some of the ones we go over in our full Airtable review.

Airtable’s main strength is that the free plan includes all the views and tools you need, except for a Gantt chart and advanced features included in the enterprise-focused plans. This includes a grid — basically a spreadsheet — and a kanban view, meaning you’re all set for basic project management. That said, the interface leaves something to be desired, as it’s a bit clunky in places.

Airtable and Unlimited Users

You may want to put up with the interface, though, as there’s no limit on the number of people who can use Airtable — just a limit in the number of actions you can take.

It’s perfect for large teams that need overview but don’t need to perform too many actions in their project management solution. If you need to perform more actions, you can always upgrade, though the cost is a little higher than we’d like.

Free
  • : All views (except Gantt), 1,200 record, 2GB file storage
Airtable Enterprise

    4. Wrike

    wrike colors
    Wrike may not look the best, but it has some serious chops.
    • Free plan benefits: 5 users, kanban board, list and spreadsheet views
    • Website: www.wrike.com

    Pros:

    • Easy to use
    • Nice spreadsheet
    • Great reporting

    Cons:

    • List & spreadsheet are virtually the same
    • Tutorials are a bit brief

    In fourth place is Wrike, which has been around for a long time and with good reason. However, we score it a little lower, partly because we’re not fans of its interface — it’s pretty ugly — but also because of some functionality issues in the free plan.

    Like Asana or monday.com, the free plan restricts you to just a few views: the kanban board and a list, as well as the spreadsheet view thrown in. However, as you can read in our Wrike review, the list and spreadsheet are functionally much the same, so it really is just a list and a board.

    Like Asana or monday.com, the free plan restricts you to just a few views: the kanban board and a list, as well as the spreadsheet view thrown in. However, as you can read in our Wrike review, the list and spreadsheet are functionally much the same, so it really is just a list and a board. Add to that a cap of just five users, and you can probably see why it got knocked out of the top three.

    Manage Projects with Wrike

    That said, Wrike’s free option still has a lot going for it, especially if you like your interfaces old-school. On top of that, it has some strong reporting features, meaning you can get a lot of detailed information about your team’s activity. The upgrade, if you decide you need it, is also decent, though we go over some caveats in our article on Wrike pricing.

    Free
    • : Maximum of 5 users. Basic features.
    Professional
    • : Price is per user. Plans for 5, 10 and 15 users.
    Business
    • : Price is per user. No monthly option. Plans for 5 to 200 users.
    Enterprise
    • : Plans for 5 to an unlimited number of users.

    5. ClickUp

    clickup list
    ClickUp looks pretty slick, but has some small usability issues.
    • Free plan benefits: Unlimited users, lots of different views
    • Website: www.clickup.com

    Pros:

    • Lots of features in the free plan
    • No user limits

    Cons:

    • Strict limits on use
    • Some features lack depth

    In last place we find ClickUp, which has a lot going for it — even more than some other entries at first glance. Not only does it rock a kanban board and a list, you also get access to a Gantt chart feature, a mind map and a bunch of other stuff like workload views and milestones. Compared to our other four entries, it’s a smorgasbord of options and should beat Wrike or Asana easily.

    However, there’s a catch, and a big one: ClickUp puts some serious limits on its use when you’re on the free version. For a full overview, you should check the ClickUp pricing page

    Gantt Chart Use Limit

    Though it’s hard to predict when exactly 100 uses of a Gantt chart will be reached, an active team could hit it pretty early and would need to upgrade. Prices are reasonable, but then it’s not free anymore.

    As such, we recommend ClickUp’s free plan for teams that mostly need a list and kanban view and use advanced features only sparingly. If that’s you, then ClickUp may be an excellent option. Check out our full ClickUp review to get an idea of everything this free project management app can do.

    Free
    • : Basic functionality with some limitations
    Unlimited
    • : All prices per user; most limitations removed
    Business
    • : All prices per user; extra features added, especially security
    Enterprise
    • : Even more features added

    Honorable Mentions

    That’s our top five list of free project management tools, but, as we mentioned in the introduction, there are a lot more than five free apps out there. Below are four other contenders to keep in mind, even if they didn’t quite make the cut.

    Trello

    First among our honorable mentions is Trello, which, as we mention in our Trello review, we use ourselves here at Cloudwards and we just love. It’s the best kanban app out there, thanks to its ease of use, smartly designed interface and general smooth operation.

    The downside is that Trello doesn’t offer much more than the kanban board on the free plan and, on top of that, free users are limited to just one integration (read the details on that in our Trello pricing piece). However, it does allow unlimited users, so it may bear looking into Trello, especially if you don’t need more than some simple task management.

    TeamGantt 

    TeamGantt is a tool geared toward Gantt charts and might even be the very best on the market, as we mention in our TeamGantt review. Not only does it rock a great interactive chart, the rest of the suite is geared toward the chart. This means that any change made in the kanban board or list will reflect in the chart and vice versa.

    Sorrowfully enough, none of this functionality is present in TeamGantt’s free version, which offers the chart and that’s it. Still, though, it does a fine job of helping you keep track of dependent tasks. It also integrates with a large number of other project management apps, so if you like Gantt charts, you might want to take it for a spin.

    Jira

    Our next pick is one of the very best choices for Agile teams — if not the best: Jira. As we explain in our Jira review, it does a stellar job for scrum teams and allows you to set up sprints easily, while keeping day-to-day tasks separate in a regular kanban board. For that reason, it’s at the top of our roundup of the best scrum software.

    One of the great things about Jira is that a small team of software developers — fewer than 10 — can use almost all its features for free, meaning that a small software studio (or any company using agile methodology) could conceivably use it indefinitely without ever spending a penny. The downside is that if you’re not an agile team, Jira is near to useless; this is also why it misses our top five.

    monday.com

    Last is monday.com, a service that wins almost every other roundup, but fails when it comes to its free offering. As we mention in our monday.com review, the free plan is still relatively new, and we get the feeling the team behind this otherwise excellent tool is still working out some kinks.

    The free plan pretty much replaces the Basic plan — we go into details in our monday.com pricing article — and is really just a board and a list. If that wasn’t paltry enough, it also only allows for two users, making it useless for anybody except the very smallest of companies (and it even loses out among the best project management software for freelancers).

    As much as we love monday.com in every other capacity, especially usability — it gets a hard thumbs down from us here. You’d be much better off making use of the 14-day trial of one of the paid plans it offers — at least then you’d get an idea of why we like it so much.

    Final Thoughts

    On that note, we’ll finish off our roundup of the best free project management apps. While Asana is our overall favorite here, we recommend checking out a few of the others as well, even if just to get a feel for your different options — it’s all free, after all.

    What’s your favorite project management tool? Did we miss one with a particularly good free offering? Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below. As always, thank you for reading.