Trello vs Jira: Settling a Sibling Rivalry in 2021

Trello and Jira are both owned and operated by Atlassian, but they are very different beasts. In this article, we match Trello vs Jira and see which one comes out the winner. Join us as we deconstruct a sibling rivalry.

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large)
— Last Updated: 2020-12-18T19:59:47+00:00

Kanban boards are a great way to keep track of projects, and among the very best kanban-based project management tools are Trello and Jira. They both are owned by the same company — Atlassian, which has its corporate fingers in a few pies — but there are still plenty of differences between them to make this Trello vs Jira battle pretty exciting.

That said, this article won’t be entirely combative. Jira and Trello both have a strong emphasis on integration with other cloud-based apps, and as such play extremely well together. By combining the two you’re definitely getting more than the sum of their parts — a supercharged kanban board, if you will. If you’re not sure what that means, check out our guide to using kanban boards.

Key Takeaways

  • If you just need kanban boards and nothing else, sign up for Trello and don’t look back; Jira just doesn’t have the same oomph in this regard.
  • Both Jira and Trello have great free plans, but Trello’s paid plan just doesn’t offer anywhere near the same value as Jira’s.
  • If you like both and aren’t sure which to decide on, look into integrating them: as they are both Atlassian software, they are extremely easy to integrate with each other.

However, even at their best, neither solution is a real threat to our reigning king of project management software, monday.com. Though Jira and Trello are great in their specific niches — more on that later — as an all-around project management tool, monday.com has them beat. Read our full monday.com review to find out why, or stick with us as we lead you into this Jira vs Trello comparison.

  • No, Jira and Trello are very different pieces of software. Trello is first and foremost a free kanban board; easy to use without spending a penny. Jira mainly is an Agile software development tool, so it uses scrum boards as well as kanban. It can be used for other purposes, too, but it’s mainly aimed at programming teams.

  • If you just want a kanban board, then yes. If you want more than that, then it gets a little questionable to stick just with Trello, and Jira may be a way better option. Still, though, it does depend on what you use it for.

  • Yes, and very well, too. As they’re both Atlassian products, they’re made to work together and we’ve had no trouble making them play nice. In fact, we’d go so far as to recommend it if your project management strategy emphasizes a kanban-style flow as Jira alone can’t always cut it.

Trello vs Jira: Which Is the Better Project Management Tool?

Trello is most likely the king of kanban, as you can read in our full Trello review, but doesn’t offer much beyond that without using add-ons. On the other hand, Jira offers a kanban and a scrum board, as you can read in our Jira review. On top of that, it also gives you some other bits and pieces as well as add-ons; almost the exact same ones Trello does, in fact.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Trello is faced with a surefire loss in this piece: Jira specializes very strongly in software development using the Agile methodology. As such, if you neither develop software nor work using the Agile philosophy, it might not be the best pick for you.

Is Jira Just for Software Development Teams?

That said, there’s still a strong argument to be made for non-programmer teams to use the Agile approach. Any group of people that works in spurts or sets short-to-medium-term goals can benefit from this approach to project management. Whether that’s you, you have to decide for yourself. 

However, if you’re considering Jira because of the free kanban boards, Trello is a way better bet, as you’ll see over the course of this piece. Let’s get started with a round comparing our two roosters’ features.

1. Features

In our first round, we’ll compare Jira’s and Trello’s features. It’s also going to be our most lopsided round, as Jira wins it handily due to Trello having very few features. However, it’s only because it’s up against such a lightweight contender as Trello that Jira wins here; in our monday.com vs Asana piece, for example, it got trounced on this front.

Let’s first take a look at Trello, which really only offers one feature, namely the kanban board, plus a small supporting cast for it. Don’t get us wrong; it’s among the best kanban boards, but it doesn’t do much beyond letting you drag and drop lists and cards.

jira vs trello team collaboration with audience
Trello probably has the best kanban boards in the business, and we love the overview it offers.

The supporting cast is made up of the Trello Butler — which helps you automate tasks such as assigning automatic due dates when moving a card into a certain column and the like — as well as the ability to add labels and search for them and other characteristics. Overall it’s a well-rounded system, but it’s pretty sparse.

jira vs trello automate boards lists
Trello’s Butler lets users automate many basic tasks, saving lots of time.

To add anything more than this basic functionality, you’ll need to use integrations, or “power-ups” as Trello calls them, but that comes with a set of challenges all its own. Before we get to any of that, though, let’s take a look at what Jira can do.

Jira: Features for Agile Teams

Jira — or Jira Software, as Atlassian likes to call it for some reason — was, as we mentioned, designed for software studios. This means it’s heavily reliant on the Agile development philosophy and thus the scrum board, which has teams working in spurts with a clearly set goal in mind. Once that’s done, the team goes on to the next target, and so forth.

Asana vs Atlassian scrum board
Jira’s scrum board is a simple yet effective tool, especially if used with its supporting functions.

Luckily for Agile teams, Jira is one of the best scrum software solutions around (Wrike is another). Tasks — or “issues” as Jira likes to call them — are created in the backlog, then imported into the scrum board without a hitch. If, besides scrum, you also want to make use of a more linear workflow, there are also kanban boards and a roadmap for long-term planning.

Jira project management kanban
Jira’s kanban board gets the job done, though it’s not as fully featured as that of Asana or even Trello.

Like Trello, Jira has a few minor features that help out these main ones. For instance, you can attach code and other resources directly to a project, which is a handy way to keep a central repository when working on projects. You can also attach Jira directly to Confluence, which is Atlassian’s answer to Slack, though with added planning capabilities.

jira vs trello confluence tracking tool
Confluence, Jira’s answer to Slack, is a pretty comprehensive tool that lets you talk to team members as well as plan tasks and meetings.

That’s pretty much it, really. Trello just has the kanban boards, while Jira has that, plus scrum and a roadmap. They both have a decent supporting cast of features to help out these main ones, but really, when compared to other project management solutions like, say, monday.com or Wrike, it’s a bit meager. However, this is where integrations come into play.

Integrations With Other Project Management Tools

Atlassian seems to like to produce simple software that offers a certain base level of functionality, then make it highly customizable by adding integrations of its own little features as well as third-party add-ons. We see the draw of it, though we have some doubts about the overall usefulness of this approach. We go into that more in our monday.com vs Jira piece, among others.

However, many people do seem to very much like this way of working, and it definitely has its upsides. Using Trello to keep track of tasks, but also need to make sure they’re finished in a certain order? Use the TeamGantt plugin to add a Gantt chart and link up dependent tasks. Need a calendar or timeline view? Both Jira and Trello have several to choose from.

Jira comparison marketplace
The Atlassian marketplace is a smorgasbord of apps of varying stripe.

Integration Differences: Trello vs Jira

This is where a big difference between Trello and Jira pops-up: Jira allows as many integrations as you can handle, while Trello only allows unlimited power-ups (calling them “add-ons” must have seemed too simple) on paid plans; the plebes on the free plan get just one. Trello Gold users get three, but that plan is only for one-man bands and we’ll leave that out of the equation.

Thing is — and we’ve complained about this at length in our monday.com vs Trello article — Trello is so basic that you will probably need more than one power-up to get some real mileage out of it. Even a calendar is a power-up, for example. This makes it seem like a money-making tactic more than anything, and is a little disappointing.

Trello vs Jira project tracking abilities
Trello offers lots of power-ups, most of which add some much-needed functionality to the task manager.

Trello and Jira Add-Ons

That aside, add-ons add a lot of oomph to otherwise bland project management software. However, though it’s tempting to just add a bunch of features till you have something that meets every need, the resulting chimera may be too unwieldy for daily use. It’ll also be pricey, as some add-ons require a separate sign-up and payment.

For just adding a few extra touches, though, the add-on system works great, and we heartily recommend it. We especially like how you can add cloud storage services like Google Drive for extra ease in file retrieval. 

If you grow out of either Trello or Jira, you can always decide to add them as an integration to either monday.com, Asana or any other, more powerful project management tool.

Integrating Jira and Trello

Which brings us to our next point, and the one we will end this section with: as horses from the same stable, Jira and Trello can be made to run together. You can, for example, forego Jira’s kanban board in favor of Trello’s. You can also have two teams working in tandem, one in Jira and one in Trello.

There are a lot of options here, and both programs will hold your hand as you experiment. We recommend you give it a shot if you have trouble deciding between the two, as it is a wonderful way to get the best of both worlds.

Round: Features
Point for Jira
Visit Trello0
Visit Jira Software1

2. Pricing

With one long first round out of the way, Jira has taken the lead and it will further solidify its advantage in this round. Thing is, while both are definitely among the best free project management software options around (they’re more or less tied with Asana; for one example read our Asana vs Trello piece), Trello’s paid plans are nowhere near as competitive as Jira’s.

Trello Pricing

Free
  • 10 boards, unlimited cards and lists, 1 power-up, 10MB file attachments
Trello Gold
  • 3 power-ups, custom backgrounds, 250MB file attachments
1-year plan $ 3.75/ month
$45.00 billed every year
Save 25 %
Business Class
  • Price is per user. Same features as Free, but with unlimited boards, unlimited power-ups, 250MB file attachments, advanced admin options
1-year plan $ 9.99/ month
$119.88 billed every year
Save 20 %
Enterprise
  • Price is per user. Price goes down with 250 users or more. Has even more advanced functions than Business Class.

Trello’s pricing scheme is very simple, offering really just two plans: free and paid. We’re leaving the Gold plan out of consideration because it’s so limited in scope, and Enterprise as well, as it barely applies to our readership.

Thing is, $10 per user per month isn’t exactly cheap considering what you’re getting for it: a single kanban board, some automation features and unlimited add-ons that may or may not work as required. Compare that to Jira, and you see why Trello’s paid plan is a bit of a lemon.

Jira Pricing

Free
  • Max. 10 users
Standard
  • Annual price is for 10 users; with more than 10, annual pricing changes based on the number of users. Monthly pricing changes with teams over 100.
1-year plan $ 58.33/ month
$700.00 billed every year
Premium
  • Annual price is for 10 users; with more than 10, annual pricing changes based on the number of users. Monthly pricing changes with teams over 100.
1-year plan $ 116.67/ month
$1400.00 billed every year
Enterprise

    For $7 per user per month, you get a whole lot more functionality than you do with Trello. Sure, the Pro plan is $14, so more expensive than Trello by 40 percent, but then you get features Trello doesn’t even dream of. This round is almost no contest, but before we close, let’s compare free plans real quick.

    Trello vs Jira: Comparing Free Plans

    Though we made short work of our two contenders’ paid plans, the free versions need a bit of extra attention here. Thing is, there’s probably not a better kanban board out there than Trello’s, and you get it completely free. At Cloudwards, for example, we’ve been running our editorial calendar on it for years now, and it’s worked like a charm, without costing us a penny.

    As for Jira, we can imagine there are plenty of software teams that will never need to upgrade from the free plan. As long as you stay under 10 users and do without the handful of features the Standard plan adds (or find ways around them), you could work for years taking full advantage of a great software suite without overloading your budget.

    So, to close this section, if you’re a small team or company looking to save money, Jira and Trello are two fantastic free project management tools that each deserve a good, long look. However, if you have a team with a larger number of users, you may want to check out our article on Jira pricing, as the service maintains a sliding scale of user tiers that takes a second to figure out.

    Round: Pricing
    Point for Jira
    Visit Trello0
    Visit Jira Software2

    3. User-Friendliness

    When it comes to ease of use, there’s not much contest here: both Jira and Trello are very easy to use. Sure, Jira has more moving parts and should be harder to grasp than Trello’s drag-and-drop interface, but Jira makes up for it with some of the best tutorials we’ve seen. As such, we’re happy declaring this round a tie.

    Signing up for either one’s free plan is as simple as entering your email address, then going through a few initial steps to get your boards set up.

    Once that’s done, you get dropped into your board, with Jira offering you a choice of both scrum and kanban (you can’t have both on a single project). If you admitted you were a novice, Jira starts up with its quick-start menu open.

    Jira alternatives quickstart
    Jira’s quickstart bar gives you several options to get to know Jira Software better.

    We really like the quick-start menu: it’s the only system we’ve seen that lets you choose between watching a short video on the subject you’ve chosen, visiting a written guide, getting on-screen pop-ups or all three. We extol its virtues in comparison to another management tool with solid tutorials in our Asana vs Jira piece.

    Getting Started With Trello

    In comparison, Trello just does tool tips and a few guides on its website, but then again, there’s not much to grasp in the kanban system: just pick up your cards, which represent tasks, and move them between columns, which represent stages (to-do, doing, done). You don’t need a doctorate for that, though we do have a Trello tutorial to help you along.

    jira vs trello differences small teams
    The kanban system is very simple, making it attractive for an audience that doesn’t want to spend too much time on learning new tools.

    Issue Tracking and Other Functions

    The nice thing about kanban and scrum is that they both offer a lot of overview, meaning tracking tasks and projects is pretty easy. Jira was designed to make this even easier, as was Trello, by allowing you to add all kinds of information to the backs of cards. Some of this information will tell users what to do with a task, while some of it will make it easier to sort tasks.

    project managers filter cards
    Both Trello and Jira let you add all kinds of detail to a task; we especially like the way Trello does it, like here.

    While at first adding these details to a card may seem onerous, in no time you’ll be used to it and adding team members, labels and time tracking modules like it was second nature. Another upside is that all this information can be extracted as data — using the right integrations, of course — and then used for further overview through charts and the like.

    Overall, there’s very little to complain of here. Both Jira and Trello are ridiculously easy to get used to and use. As you’ll see in the next round, even if you do hit a bump in the road, you’ll be able to handle it confidently.

    Round: User-Friendliness
    No clear winner, points for both
    Visit Trello1
    Visit Jira Software3

    4. Service & Support

    Three rounds down, and Jira is firmly in the lead due to Trello not winning a single round so far. However, now that we’ve come to the customer service round, Trello gets its only clear win of this battle as it does a better job here than Jira does, though not by much.

    As we discussed in the ease-of-use section, Jira has one of the best tutorial systems we’ve seen, and if that were the only criterion it’d be the winner. Trello has good documentation, but the quick-start menu just can’t be beat.

    However, that’s not the whole story: sometimes you will run into an issue that the documentation doesn’t cover, and Trello is more responsive in these cases. Like Jira, it has a forum with helpful people.

    Free Tier Customer Support

    Unlike Jira, though, it also has a support ticket system for its free tier. Jira has one, too, but only for the higher paid tiers. Trello users can get an actual live person to help them even if they don’t pay.

    Trello customer service
    Trello’s support portal is one of the most comprehensive we’ve seen, especially for a free tool.

    That said, the staff are not the most helpful, generally only giving you a link to a relevant forum post or how-to article, but, hey, it’s still enough to give Trello the win here. The only odd thing is that both services fall under Atlassian customer support, yet play by different rules. If you know why this is, drop us a line in the comments; we’re curious to know what’s up.

    Round: Service & Support
    Point for Trello
    Visit Trello2
    Visit Jira Software3

    5. Security & Privacy

    With all the major rounds out of the way, let’s quickly go over how Trello and Jira protect your files from hackers and snooping. This round will be a short one, because the answer is a short “not great,” resulting in a tie.

    Both use TLS to protect your files in transit, which is cool, but both use AWS to store data, which is less cool. AWS has good encryption, but its buckets are known to be leaky, so you’re pretty much hoping Atlassian doesn’t have some sleep-deprived intern handle those.

    Atlassian Privacy

    As for privacy, well, Atlassian has a fairly dodgy privacy policy. The company tracks what its users do and shares this information, as well as individual user data, with third parties. Free users seem to bear the worst of it, too, but then again, that’s the price of free.

    Still, though, so far we’ve never received reports of people being targeted with ads or emails because of Atlassian data, so we guess that the company is just using it for market research. Let us know if you have a different story in the comments below.

    Round: Security & Privacy
    No clear winner, points for both
    Visit Trello3
    Visit Jira Software4

    The Verdict: Jira vs Trello

    There you go, a resounding win for Jira. It’s not a huge surprise, really: as we said in the introduction, Jira just has the advantage when it comes to features and price. 

    Still, there’s a place for Trello in any system that uses a kanban board, and there’s nothing saving you from integrating the two. If you’d like to see how our winner fares against another scrum tool, check out our Wrike vs Jira article.

    Winner: Jira

    Did you find this Trello vs Jira comparison helpful? Did we get all the major beats, or did we drop the ball? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.