Jira describes itself as “the number one software development tool used by Agile teams.” It is geared toward development, but can be used for other things, too. We’re going to take a look at it in this Jira review.
Atlassian, Jira’s owner, provides software to over 125,000 teams, so it has experience. The platform has been around since 2002, so you’d expect it to be refined. It was redesigned recently, though, and our impression is it still has things to sort out.
We found Jira to be packed with features. It has a strong community and training options to help you master its complexity. It does have a few user interface issues, but, overall, it offers plenty of bang for your buck and will suit advanced users who are prepared to learn the platform and take advantage of its depth.
It is highly configurable and usable in all sorts of situations, but takes time to set up if you want to get the best out of it. However, we had an unfortunate experience with its support, which we’ll get to later, but you might fare better than we did.
We recommend Jira and rank it among the best project management software, but we do have concerns about the privacy of your data, so those wanting to manage projects including sensitive information might want to read this review carefully before using the platform.
Alternatives for Jira
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Templates support many project setups
- Excellent community & training
- Strong documentation & knowledgebase
- Not always intuitive
- UI quibbles
- Support staff accessing project details
Jira has more than 3,000 apps to help you expand its functionality. Many charge per user, but the prices don’t seem too steep. The handful of them we looked at charged a flat fee of $5-$10 plus between 70 cents and $3.50 for each user over 10.
It integrates well with several other platforms. Stablemate HipChat can easily be connected, giving you an excellent way to talk with colleagues. You can link to Bitbucket and Github accounts, too.
There are some options to customize your setup beyond the way issues are organized. You can create custom emoji, for example, which is a cute feature.
Time can be tracked by clicking the time tracking area in each issue and entering how long you’ve spent working on it. For another tool that is excellent at time tracking and also offers invoice generation, check out our Mavenlink review.
Jira has a useful backup manager that enables you to backup your projects to the cloud in a single click. It can take time, though, so be prepared to wait a while if you do it. That said, our test project was ready in a couple of minutes.
You get 250GB of storage, which is plenty. It also says it won’t immediately start deleting things if you go slightly over the limit, so as long as you aren’t storing anything problematic you should be okay.
If you need more storage than that, read our Asana review. Asana offers unlimited storage and is simple to use, but it doesn’t offer as much complexity as Jira. You could, using tools like Zapier, add more storage to Jira. The zaps we found worked with Egnyte and Google Drive. Read our Egnyte Connect review and Google Drive review for more on these two.
Jira and Confluence
Communication between team members is handled in Atlassian’s “Confluence.” That is separate software we were sometimes shifted to. The disconnect wasn’t ideal. We can see many teams ignoring Confluence altogether.
If you prefer having an integrated means of communication in the platform you are using, take a look at our Podio review. Podio features a handy chat sidebar that makes chatting easy.
You can generate all kinds of reports to help assess your team’s performance in a few clicks. There are over 20 options, including the usual pie and bar charts, as well as issue resolution time reports and sprint reports.
It also has apps for both major mobile platforms, so you can use it on the go.
We were happy with Jira’s feature set, but felt its UI showed its limitations whenever we tried to do anything complicated.
It offers plenty, but doesn’t do as good a job as some of its competitors of making its more advanced features accessible. Check out our Airtable review for an example of a platform that makes it easy to add sophisticated functionality to your projects.
Jira Features Overview
- Dependency management
- Custom backgrounds
- Custom emoji Other customization options
- Unlimited Team size limit
- 250 GB Storage space
- Credit Card, Paypal, Bank Transfer
- Accepts cryptocurrency
- iOS, Android
- Free Trial
- Two-factor authentication
- TLS 1.2 (transit) Encryption
- Type II SOC certification
- Live chat
- Email / Contact form
- Phone support
Our first impression of Jira wasn’t good. The agree button remained locked after we entered our sign-up details. Once we refreshed the website, though, a previously invisible Captcha appeared on the form, enabling us to submit it after filling it in again.
After you verify your email address, you have to go through a quick quiz. Jira uses your answers to select a template for you, but you can pick another setup if you don’t like its recommendation. There are several templates, including Kanban, which was recommend to us, Scrum, Project Management, Bug Tracking and more.
If a kanban board is sufficient to meet your needs, take a look at our Trello beginner’s guide. Trello is as simple as can be and allows you to move issues from left to right, following a workflow you design yourself. For a more advanced option, check out our LeanKit review.
Once you’ve set your project up, Jira drops you into it. There’s an optional tour offered at the top, but, unlike with most tools, you are largely left to your own devices at first.
If you follow the tour, it shows you the basics of task creation, explains a few controls, then lets you get on with things. Though it doesn’t stick around for long, other tips pop up from time to time as you explore the platform’s features.
Its kanban view is simple. By default it includes just three columns: “to do,” “in progress” and “done.” That’s useful if you need something simple, but you can add as many columns as you like, representing anything from different team members to different stages of your workflow.
Its scrum view allows you to create issues, then pick some for “sprints,” each of which can be given a goal and deadline.
Jira’s templates are different and the one you select will have a big affect on how you interact with it. If you’re new to the platform, it might be a good idea to try a few to see which suits you best.
Jira Task Management
Most project management software is based around tasks, but Jira refers to its basic elements as “issues.” They are divided into several types. You’ll likely use “tasks” or “bugs” most, but there are also “stories”, which represent goals or desired functions, and “epics” which are larger stories that require being broken down into other elements.
Subtasks can be created within tasks, but the administrator needs to enable and add them as an issue type for that project. The functionality wasn’t available to us at first and its documentation didn’t help, so we had to contact support to try to get it working.
Once enabled, subtasks can be added by clicking the appropriate icon and ticked off as they are done. You can comment on and prioritize individual subtasks, too.
We couldn’t get dependency management to work. Jira’s documentation suggests it is possible, but the process for setting it up didn’t look clear to us. There are plugins that may help with it, though. If you’re looking for a tool that makes adding dependencies a breeze, read our TeamGantt review.
Jira is a mixed bag in terms of usability. Its core areas are generally well-designed and high-quality, with plenty of documentation. Team members who are assigned items will be able to read, comment on and modify their issues without too much fuss.
It occasionally goes wrong, though. We’ve mentioned a few of the ways, but we saw issues where pop-ups weren’t sized correctly or didn’t have a close button, leaving them hanging in the middle of our screen until we pressed escape to get rid of them.
Its website isn’t always as snappy as it could be, with noticeable delays when selecting options. When we clicked the billing link, for example, it took over 10 seconds to load, even when we tried twice to let caching improve the situation.
Several things failed to load the first time. Once, we clicked something and got a message saying the feature wasn’t available in its “new experience,” only for it to appear a few seconds later.
Its settings pages present many options, but it isn’t always clear how to actually change them. Sometimes, we attempted to do so, only to find it not working as expected. We saw columns overrun in its settings pages, too. There was nothing catastrophic, though, just a lot of minor issues.
At times, it was like being stuck in a labyrinth, with multiple versions of the same thing, such as security, being presented, depending on the level of the platform you are working in. With time, you’ll likely get to know how to do the things you need, but we found it took a lot of hunting to find what we wanted.
One problem in our kanban template was that we kept getting lost in different subviews and couldn’t find our way back to the default view.
Jira launched its next-generation projects recently, and that’s what we were testing. We assume that’s why there were so many UI problems, because when we’ve used it in the past it has been outstanding. The current UI often left us floundering, though, unable to get out of views we’d entered or find those we’d seen.
We needed to contact support to get subtasks to work, which is a first, and we couldn’t figure out dependencies. Its help pages didn’t match what we found in our project.
We give it an average score. It is a highly-developed platform with well-designed individual features, but users will have to be patient when dealing with its issues and its redesign needs work. Its menus are easy to get lost in. We found it disjointed and, at times, irritating to explore.
If smooth-as-butter usability is what you’re after, a good alternative is monday.com. You can read all about it in our monday.com review.
Jira charges by the user, with the per-user cost decreasing as your team gets bigger. It doesn’t have different tiers for different features sets. You pay and get everything.
There is a self-hosted option, too. You can set Jira up on your own website for a one-time fee. For 10 users this costs just $10, but for 25 users the price balloons to $2,500. It increases from there, so unless you are just starting out and have a small team you will have to pay a big chunk of change upfront.
That said, it does work out cheaper in the long run. Your users are going to be costing you in the region of $100 per year, so $2,500 isn’t bad value.
There’s no free plan, but you can try it for free for seven days without a credit card. If you sign up, you can do so with a credit card or PayPal. You can pay by bank transfer or check, too, if you’re doing an annual plan.
Jira is priced competitively and its lack of tiers keeps things simple. It gets better value as your team gets larger, too. There is no free offering and the free trial is only seven days long. It’s not perfect, but it still gets a good score.
Security & Privacy
Jira’s parent company, Atlassian, provides a lot of information about its security and privacy practices. It goes into more detail than we’ve seen elsewhere and is perhaps the best at doing so in the project management category.
It uses TLS 1.2 with perfect forward secrecy to protect data in-transit. It holds several certifications, including ISO 27001 and 27018. It has a Type II SOC certificate for Jira Cloud and a PCI DSS certificate, which suggests you can trust it with your credit card details.
In addition to participating in security audits and penetration testing programs, it makes its reports available to everyone on its website. If you want to know the specifics, you can find them there. It also has a CSA Star Level 1 questionnaire that goes into detail about what it does.
It does a good job of reporting problems, too. For example, we found a report on its website detailing a third-party vulnerability in its HipChat software. It is reassuring to see a publisher take such an open approach to security issues.
We found reports of a security breach from 2010, but it was open about it and it happened a long time ago, so we don’t hold it against Jira.
Jira and GDPR
Jira offers detailed information on what it does with respect to the General Data Protection Regulation and helps its customers comply with it. That includes profile deletion tools that enable you to delete your personal information, as well as import and export tools that work with your customer data. If you want to read more about that, take a look at our GDPR article.
Two-factor authentication is offered, but not out of the box. You’ll need to buy an extension for the web version for around $10 per user or install an app, such as Google Authenticator, for your phone.
If security and privacy are important to you, take a look at our Wrike review. Wrike is our favorite project management tool and it scores well in most areas.
In Jira, you get several security options, but you’ll need to set up an organization, verify your domains and subscribe to Atlassian Access to get them.
Though Jira talks the talk on security and privacy, we got a surprise when we contacted its support. They responded to us with a screenshot that showed our tasks and some of their details, which they’d taken in our project.
It was just a test project, but if it had been confidential business information, Jira’s staff would have seen it. That’s a big downside from a privacy standpoint.
We got back to it to ask if viewing users’ data was usual and got a reply apologizing, but telling us “support, however, while investigating an issue can log in to a customer site.”
Though we’re sure its terms and conditions give it permission to do so, we still don’t expect our project internals to be viewed without explicit consent. This is the first time we’ve seen it happen when looking at project management software.
Unfortunately, because of that, we have to give Jira a poor mark for security and privacy, despite it getting everything else right in this area.
Service & Support
The help menu in the lower left of the screen is full of options and the first place you should click when you’re stuck.
Its documentation, which you can access from that menu, is comprehensive and detailed. You can find information about how to use particular controls and screen elements, along with higher level advice on how to set up your projects and use them to achieve what you want.
There is also a large knowledgebase with how-to articles offering further information.
Jira is a popular tool and it has a large community available if you need help. Its community website is busy, with lots of questions and answers, most of which got a response within a few hours. There is a search box and several filters you can use to hunt through them, but another minor UI issue occurred when a drop-down menu failed to close after we used it.
If you want to connect with other users in person, Atlassian has user groups around the world. It has them in 50 cities in the U.S. alone, and there’s at least one in most major countries. They typically have events every month or so, making Jira a great platform if you want to escape the office and network in real life.
Keeping in contact with your fellow human beings is especially important if you work from home. If that’s you, you might also want to read our article on the benefits of working remotely for more pointers.
You can even earn badges for community participation (sadly, we’re only at level zero). As well as motivating those who enjoy that kind of thing, levels are awarded for completing different tasks, so it’s a sneaky way to get your team to try the different tools at their disposal.
If you’re managing a large team, you can take advantage of the Atlassian University, which offers training and certification via on-demand and live classes.
We appreciate an application with a good selection of keyboard shortcuts as well as a readily accessible way of viewing them. Jira has both.
Jira’s help menu doesn’t have an option for contacting support, but there is one in its linked community page. Support funnels you toward the self-help options first, but if you keep clicking, you’ll eventually get to a contact form.
Even then, the categories don’t include general requests for help. If you want to know how to do something, the closest match is “technical issues and bugs.” You then have to rate the severity of your issue on a four-point scale.
We’ve already talked about our experience with Jira support in the security and privacy section, but its response to our query was quick. It took less than an hour to reply to us, which is better than many others. It was just unfortunate the representative decided to access our project and send us a screenshot from it.
An hour is a great response time, but if you want even faster service, take a look at our Basecamp review. Its support got back to us in three minutes, replying before we got back from our coffee break.
Despite Jira’s efforts to push us away from getting in touch directly, we struggled to find a question that wasn’t already answered in its documentation or community, so they are excellent resources.
We generally give Jira high marks here. Despite funneling you away from contacting support, its help materials are top quality and support answers quickly and accurately when you do contact it. We have to knock a few points off for allowing its support staff to view our project details unnecessarily, though.
Jira is an excellent platform for managing projects and assigning tasks to your team. We had to figure out a few things when using it, but there is a lot of support there and things are easier for regular users than those setting projects up.
Its security is a real strength and we would have said the same about its privacy had it not sent us a screenshot of our project details, but those who are serious about keeping their data private should be careful.
Its community is strong, with a lot of help and information available online, as well as via real life meetups and training. It also responded quickly to our support ticket. We think it is worth a look and, hopefully, it will get better when it irons out the issues in its redesign.
If you’ve tried Jira please let us know about your experience in the comments. Thanks for reading.