Several years ago I wrote a post which became shockingly popular called “Free Project Management Tools.” Well a lot has changed since 2008, especially regarding free (or almost free) pm tools. When I first wrote the post, there were some good options but no great ones. Today, the opposite is true. There are so many good ones it can be hard to pick. I have taken a few months to test and try over a dozen, eliminating all but the top five. Of these top five I have recommended and installed several for clients (which should be a strong testimonial). My favorites, in order are:
1. Collabtive (self hosted)
If you are only going to try one project management solution, try Collabtive. It’s a free, open source project management tool that rivals (and in many ways exceeds) the popular alternatives like BaseCamp and ZoHo. Like the premium solutions available, Collabtive has individual projects, user management, tasks, files, time reporting, milestones, calenders, etc… it even has a Basecamp import if you are looking to migrate. The interface is beautifully designed and looks like paid software as well. You should have little fear of the project becoming unsupported as the parent company makes money by providing hosted solutions, customization and additional functionality. Really a winner.
The other heavyweight contender in the free project management arena is Freedcamp. Designed and built as an alternative to basedcamp Freedcamp boasts a wide and established user base including 48 universities, 30,000+ professionals across 188 countries. Impressive. Not sure how to install a PHP app or configure a MySQL database? No problem, Freedcamp is a hosted solution. However hosted solutions are not without fault. Worried about security and privacy? Your information is on their servers. Should they decide to charge for the basic service, guess what? Your looking at migrating your data to a new platform. Need a lot of space? Freedcamp is only free for limited amount of space.
Hosting aside, Freecamp is full featured, easy to use and has a beautiful interface. If you don’t need unlimited space or prefer to have someone else host your project management tool, Freedcamp is a great fit.
3. Project Pier
On first glance Project Pier looks pretty rough and I will be honest, I almost didn’t try it. Luckily I did, because it’s actually a pretty amazing piece of software. Despite the hideous skin used in the website screenshots, Project Pier has an assortment of beautiful and well designed themes which make the software pleasing on the eyes. Functionality wise PP boasts many of the same features as the two previous packages including messaging, client access, user groups (and rights management), scheduling, tasks, time management, files, etc… In addition, the software has some unique features such as form creation, easy theaming, tagging and version control. I wouldn’t be surprised if Project Pier surpases the quality of Freedcamp and Collabtive in the near future.
Achievo is not as pretty as Freedcamp or Collabtive, but what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up in features. Where Collabtive and Freedcamp seem like close copies of Basecamp, Achievo takes a different approach to project management. This open source gem has unique features including reporting, customer relationship management, human resource management, time scheduling and activity monitoring. If you have tried Basecamp, Collabtive, Freedcamp or the other common project management systems but found they don’t fit your needs… try Achievo. It’s a refresh look at project management.
From what I gather, Redmine is a niche project management tool. Rather than being PHP based (like all the previous self-hosted examples) Redmine is programmed in Ruby on Rails. In many ways it feels like a project management tool by developers for developers. I mention it here because it actually has some very cool and unique features including gantt charts, project specific forums and wikis, SCM integration (SVN, Git, etc…), LDAP authentication and more. The average project manager might not be excited by these features but any software company certainly will.
The landscape of free project management tools is certainly different than it was a few years ago. In my previous post, many of the options were single features (like task management) or free versions of premium solutions. Now there dozens of completely free, open source and feature rich tools. There are so many, the top five are practically worth paying for (even though you don’t have to).