Redmine is an open source project management application. We were keen to see how it stood up to the many excellent commercial offerings. Find out what we thought in this Redmine review.
Redmine is built using the Ruby on Rails framework. It has been out for 12 years, so it has stood the test of time well. It is designed to be downloaded and installed on your own server, which is different from the other tools out there. That makes it more demanding, but it is a lot more versatile, too.
If you’re interested in doing things yourself — and you’ll need to be with Redmine — take a look at our best website builders list for other options. We found it excellent at what it does and a great option for users happy to set it up themselves. It lacks bells and whistles, but it is functional, effective and largely bug-free.
Alternatives for Redmine
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Free & open source
- Built-in wiki for documentation
- Range of extensions & plugins
- Not for the technically faint of heart
- No regular support
Redmine is based around the management of issues. It allows you to create them by filling in a form. Issues are categorized as bugs, features or support, so it is geared toward software development.
You can rename issues to tasks, or anything else, by editing the language files included with Redmine. In fact, you can do that with any text in the platform, which shows how much control you have.
You can give each issue a parent task, allowing you to create subtasks. You can also mark a task as blocking or preceding another one, which gives you dependency management.
Issues can be viewed in many ways in Redmine. Its Gantt view allows you to look at them on a timeline and see how they relate to one another. It is purely to see how things are, though, as you can’t rearrange anything from the Gantt view. That said, you can see which issues are dependent on others.
For a Gantt-based tool that lets you rearrange issues and modify them, take a look at our TeamGantt review.
Redmine’s calendar view does what you’d expect, showing when your issues are scheduled. As with the Gantt view, you can select issues, but you can’t drag them around to reorganize them.
The Gantt and calendar views allow you to filter the issues displayed. By default, you view open tasks only, but you can change that to show any status type, as well as tasks that have or haven’t received feedback.
You can add more filters, and with over 20 types to choose from, each with its own set of options, you have enormous scope to modify what is displayed.
Redmine also allows you to identify and mark duplicate issues, so if you have a lot of people reporting bugs, you’ll be able to make sure the reports are kept together.
Sharing in Redmine
There are several ways to share information in Redmine. You can upload documents and share them with your team. Storage space is up to you to assign. If you’re running your own server and have a lot of users, space might be quite limited, so take a look at our best cloud storage article for suggestions.
Files are presented as a list. Some, such as images, can be viewed by clicking them, so, though it’s no frills, it is simple and easy to use.
Each project includes a wiki, which is simple to use and set up. It isn’t as straightforward as some tools, but if you can edit Wikipedia, you’ll have no trouble. If you’re confident using Redmine’s wiki, it’s a great way to document your products and produce a useful resource for your team.
You can also create a forum, allowing your team to discuss issues there. It just takes a couple of clicks to do. Give your forum a name and a description and it’s ready.
There’s also a news page that lets you add text articles for everyone on your team to read.
If you want a tool that makes communication simple, take a look at our Podio review. Podio has an integrated chat sidebar that makes chatting to your teammates easy.
If you want a platform that’s easy to customize and has a huge range of visual themes available, WordPress is a good option. Take a look at our beginner’s guide to using WordPress for tips on getting up to speed with it.
Though there are no official mobile applications, there are several third-party offerings created by the community. There are multiple client applications for iPhone and Android and even Windows Phone owners (there must be some of you!) have a couple of options.
One of the best things about open source software is that you can add whatever features you like because you have full access to the source code. That’s easier said than done, though, and we’ll assume if you know how to do that, you hardly need advice from us.
That said, feel free to tinker. If you’re not confident with code, browse what’s there. You might learn something and if you end up modifying it successfully, you can share your updates and contribute to the project.
We’re giving Redmine a high score on features. It offers useful tools in its vanilla form and is extendable. It will take skill to use, though.
If it sounds like a bit much, take a look at our Asana review. Asana is easy to set up, but useful in spite of its simplicity.
Redmine Features Overview
- Dependency management
- Custom backgrounds: No
- Other customization options
- Team size limit: Unlimited
- Storage space: Unlimited GB
- Free Trial: Free
- Payment: Open Source (free)
- Accepts cryptocurrency: No
- Mobile OS support: Third-Party
- Two-factor authentication: Via patch or plugin
- Encryption: Plugins available
- SOC certification: No
- Ticket-based support: No
- Live chat: No
- Phone support: No
Getting Redmine working involves downloading it and setting it up on your own server. That isn’t for the faint of heart and requires some technical know-how. The process isn’t terrifying, but you might encounter issues along the way and will need to sort them out yourself or get help from the community.
If you’re in the market for a server, take a look at our best web hosting providers 2018 article. It will take you through some of the options. Keep in mind that Redmine is built on Ruby on Rails, so it requires a host that supports it. Our how to register a domain name guide might also be helpful.
There are detailed instructions on setting Redmine up for different operating systems, including several flavors of Linux. They explain multiple steps, such as installing software dependencies, modifying system files and database configuration.
In our experience, this kind of setup will involve troubleshooting on top of what’s in the instructions, so be warned. There’s more to it than just downloading it and double clicking an icon.
If you want to test it before going through all the trouble, Redmine provides a demo website. If you’re considering using the platform, we recommend taking a look to see if it is for you.
If you’re a manager who wants to get straight into managing your project without having to set it up yourself, take a look at our LeanKit review for a project management tool geared toward business users.
The demo website has a few limitations. There are no email notifications or code repositories. There’s not much disk space available, either. Demo websites get cleared every now and then, too, so you can’t use them long-term.
If you need extra storage space for your team, take a look at our best online storage for teams article to see what’s available.
Fortunately, using Redmine is much easier than setting it up. Once installed, creating a new project is just a question of filling in a form and clicking create.
It is functional and efficient, with little in the way of bells and whistles. It is also streamlined. Because it is built by enthusiasts, it tends to present what you need as you need it. An advantage of being non-commercial is that it doesn’t have to push services on you or sell you features that are only available in more expensive tiers.
It isn’t the most attractive platform in the world. Frankly, it looks like something from the ‘90s. That said, it is clearly laid out and the controls do what you would expect them to.
The lack of bells and whistles count in its favor from a usability perspective because everything is so clear, but there aren’t any concessions to making the experience enjoyable, such as design flourishes or introductory guidance.
If you want something easier, along with help getting started, take a look at our Trello beginner’s guide. It’ll give you tips on getting up and running with a simple but effective alternative.
Redmine requires skill to set up, but, once that’s done, you can do what you want with it. After you have set it up how you want, it is a simple tool to use, with a limited number of controls that do what you expect.
We’re giving it a good score to reflect it being a functional, utilitarian tool that can be expanded in any way you choose. It’s not too high, though because plenty of people will take one look at it and run for the hills. That said, it does the job for its target audience.
As a free and open source tool, Redmine won’t cost you a cent and gets top marks for price by default. It is a great choice for students or anyone looking to learn about software setup while saving cash.
If you need to expand or customize it and aren’t confident doing that yourself, you may want to factor in the cost of bringing in a developer when comparing it to other tools. If you want to see what else is out there, take a look at our best project management software piece for a roundup.
Unless you’re using it on a local network, you’ll also need to pay for hosting. Take a look at our cheap web hosting article for budget options.
Security & Privacy
Your information is safe with Redmine, but if you have concerns, read our how to protect your privacy article for tips.
All you need to register with it is an email address, which is kept private, unless you choose otherwise. It even grants you permission to use a pseudonym if you want to go under the radar.
Like a lot of open source software, it is made by people who care about it working, rather than just covering themselves legally.
As for security, Redmine gives you a list of its previous security issues. There are quite a few, but it has been around a long time and the difference between it and other platforms may well be that it is open and upfront about its past security bugs.
Our cybercrime article explains some of the threats lurking online and will be useful for those of you setting up independently with a tool like Redmine.
Because you’ll be setting Redmine up on your own server, security is your responsibility. Handily, it gives you a link to a scanning tool that you can use to probe for vulnerabilities. That’s an excellent way to keep your website secure.
As you’ll be doing things yourself, it might be worth looking at our website security article to see what you’re up against when protecting your server.
If the thought of managing your own security gives you cold sweats, read our Wrike review. We were impressed with its security and privacy and it is easier to set up than Redmine.
Two-factor authentication isn’t in the vanilla package, but it can be added via a patch or plugin if you need it. To learn more about the feature, read our what is two-factor authentication piece.
You don’t get much protection out of the box when it comes to encryption, either, but we found plugins to encrypt your attachments and wiki files, so you have options if you want more than what is included in the basic installation.
Redmine is difficult to rate on security because you are left to your own devices to an extent, though you do have plenty of options to protect yourself. Experts will be able to go as far as they like with it, but beginners won’t find much that can be done without work.
We’ve given it a strong score because of its high configurability and many available options, but if you don’t plan to customize it, don’t expect it to be perfect in its vanilla state.
Service & Support
Because it is an open source tool, you might think you’d be on your own with support, but that isn’t the case. With its excellent community, you will likely be able to find help with any issue you have.
Open source communities are generally welcoming and helpful, though no one is getting paid for their time, so don’t get too pushy.
Redmine’s website has a forum with a help section. About half the questions there get answers, but if you ask sensibly and consult the documentation before asking, you are more likely to get a response.
There’s also a section on the forum to request professional assistance if you need to do something tricky, such as advanced customization.
If you need the security of having a paid support team on call to look after you, take a look at our Basecamp review. Basecamp’s support got back to us in three minutes when we contacted them. You’ll be lucky to find anyone else that fast.
There are services that expand on Redmine and offer paid support. Easy Redmine is one of those, but it isn’t cheap and we haven’t tested it, so sign up at your own risk.
Redmine is intended for those of you who know what you are doing. Though there is an excellent community available to help, don’t expect what you’d get from a dedicated support team. We’ve given Redmine a decent score regardless because it offers as much as you’d expect from an open source platform.
Open source software is an excellent alternative to the paid tools out there, offering both flexibility and quality. Redmine is great at the basics and has plenty of plugins available to extend it. If you’re comfortable with code, you are free to customize it however you want.
Those wanting something easy to set up, with a slick, modern interface, will likely be disappointed. It is designed by technical people and isn’t a consumer product like most of our best project management software. If you want something you can use with a minimum of fuss, read our monday.com review for a good example of more user-friendly software.
Those of you who can handle it will know who you are. Redmine is a strong platform for anyone who wants to be fully in control of an advanced program. You’ll get a sense of ownership with it. It isn’t a blank slate because it does plenty for you, but if you choose to expand it, the sky is the limit. It won’t be easy to get there, though.
If you’ve been able to set Redmine up successfully or if you’ve had problems, feel free to share your experiences in the comments. Thanks for reading.