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Jira: five alternatives competing with the Atlassian tool

Jira Software is one of the most popular solutions for managing and planning projects and boasts more than 35,000 users worldwide. Online companies such as Spotify, eBay, and Airbnb use the web application from Atlassian. Jira is primarily involved in the development of software, providing the ideal platform to plan, perfect, and release powerful applications from the get-go. In addition, there are more than 100 other third-party extensions that you can connect it to.

Due to the complexity and the hefty price tag, it might be worth considering an alternative to Jira. In this guide, we introduce you to some interesting project management alternatives.

What are the Jira alternatives?

Jira can quickly become very costly if more than ten users require access. For highly scalable projects, you need to use the relatively expensive Data Center edition, which offers a corresponding performance-oriented option. Often further costs are incurred for various extensions, which can then put you over budget. Searching for a free alternative to Jira can be worthwhile for smaller companies because it’s unlikely that you will be able to make use of all the functions that Jira offers. Some of the Jira alternatives listed here are from the open source sector.

Sprintly

After its founding in 2011, Sprintly, a company based in Portland, released its web-based solution for project planning. In contrast to Jira, Sprintly is just available as a web app and can also be accessed via iOS app. The tool’s biggest plus is its clear dashboard that provides a detailed overview of all the projects currently being worked on. For example, the team’s tasks are organized according to their status so that each worker can see which steps are in the planning stage, in progress, or have already been completed. Other plus points include the first-class search and filter engines, as well as auto-complete.

Just like with Jira, the functionality of Sprintly can be extended by integrating third-party applications and add-ons. The integration platform, Zapier, and the online service, GitHub, are supported among others. The project management tool proves to be very useful for practically everything you might need in this context, for example, by making suggestions for formulations. Other features include:

  • Activity logs and productivity analyses in real-time
  • API for integrating external services and ad metrics
  • Seamless linking with chat environments such as Slack, Campfire, and HipChat
  • Simplified keyword shortcuts
  • Tickets can be created via e-mail

Sprintly is a cost-effective alternative to Jira, being offered in various price classes from 'Startup' to 'Enterprise'. Depending on the package you choose, up to 75 subscribers have full access to all functions and features. In addition, the individual plans include storage space (between 5GB and 350GB) in the Amazon S3 cloud. Regardless of your subscription, you can manage an unlimited number of projects at the same time.

Advantages Disadvantages
Clear dashboard No desktop version (no self-hosting possible)
Creating tickets possible by e-mail Limited storage space
Official iOS app  

Redmine

A free alternative to Jira is the open source tool, Redmine, released for the first time in 2006 under the GPLv2 license. It is written in Ruby and is based on the framework of Ruby on Rails, meaning it is independent of the platform or database used. In addition, Redmine supports over 30 different languages including German, English, Spanish, Italian, and French. You need a suitable hosting environment and a database (MySQL, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, etc.) in order to use this project management program. You also have to make sure that the correct version of Ruby is installed.

Although using the original software is free and you only have to pay for the hosting, Redmine is a complete tool for planning and developing projects. You can specify the individual tasks and progress down to the smallest detail for different projects at the same time. Thanks to the excellent rights administration, you can individually determine how much access a worker has to a project e.g. by allowing them to leave comments but not modify any of the content. The open source tool also includes the following features:

  • Flexible ticket system, which can be adapted to the desired workflow (separately for each user role)
  • Automatically or manually create Gantt charts and schedules e.g. based on the tickets created
  • Wiki and forum in the simplified text language (per project)
  • Has its own repository as well as access to various version management systems such as CVS, Subversion, Mercurial, Darcs, Barzaar, and Git
  • News and notification system

These standard features make Redmine a first-class Jira alternative for smaller projects. Using plugins from its own plugin directory, you can extend the functional radius of the software so that you can carry out more complex development processes. For example, you can use the extension to optimize the ticket system, add a chat, or connect Redmine to many third-party programs. In addition, the project management program’s design can be adapted to your preferences using themes.

Advantages Disadvantages
License-free and free of charge Workflow isn’t configurable
Expandability (plugins, themes) Complex, time-consuming setup
High compatibility  
Tip

The company, Easy Software, offers a supported version of Redmine, which contains an enhanced array of resources, customer support, and a hosting solution (optional). This fee-based offer can be tried out free for two weeks thanks to the demo version.

Stackfield

German-based Stackfield GmbH has launched a Jira alternative called Stackfield, that places emphasis on security and data protection. This means that the program makes regular backups to avoid any having data lost. In addition, it is possible to protect access to the tool with two-factor authentication. All data spaces are encrypted by a combination of AES and RSA algorithms (AES-256 and RSA-2048) and encoding takes place in the browser, meaning that all relevant information that is transmitted to the server is encrypted.

With Stackfield, you can also manage several projects simultaneously with Jira. To do this, you can create team profiles including the allocation of specific roles and rights for participating users (administrator, member, guest) and data rooms. The configuration doesn’t take long thanks to the intuitive user interface that can be customized at any time. You will quickly become accustomed to the project platform because all functions and settings are easily accessible and appealing. You also have access to the following features:

  • Group chat for exchanging messages and files in real-time for each data room
  • Presentation of the task situation in the dashboard
  • Seamless linking of individual tasks, files, and comments
  • Version history for tasks, documents, etc.
  • Chronological, filterable activity logs

With its versatility and comprehensive security structures, Stackfield is undoubtedly one of the best Jira alternatives when it comes to managing sensitive projects. In this way, you benefit from the opportunities provided in the areas of product development and research as well as in the PR sector or in corporate consulting. The correct basis for software development exists, thanks to the version history, although this basis is less suitable for developing complex projects — e.g. because of missing API for third-party applications. As a customer, you can choose from four different tariffs that can be terminated every month and have different restrictions on the amount of disk space available (10GB or more) and the number of users (from 10 to more than 100). Each package includes support via e-mail and telephone as well as a personal support channel.

Advantages Disadvantages
High security standards No API for integrating third-party applications
Flexible roles and rights system No desktop version (no self-hosting possible)
  Workflow isn’t configurable

OpenProject

OpenProject GmbH (in cooperation with the OpenProject Foundation (OPF)), has been responsible for the project management tool, OpenProject since 2012. The German company was able to optimize and develop the free alternative to Jira (in the Community Edition) by working together with a wide-ranging community. The current desktop version of the software, which is available for the Linux distributions CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, and Suse, can be downloaded from the website and installed on the server. Alternatively, OpenProject GmbH also offers a version that includes hosting with the inexpensive Cloud edition. The Enterprise edition is also available and contains additional features and professional support.

The clear user interface of this Jira alternative means that all kinds of projects can be managed simultaneously. Thanks to the modular structure of the open-source application, you can select which functions are required for your project. The default installation of OpenProject includes the following modules:

  • Work packages
  • Timelines
  • News
  • Wiki
  • Forums
  • Calendar
  • Time tracking
  • Documents
  • Meetings
  • Budgets
  • Cost reports
  • Backlogs
  • Activities

It’s not just its functional range that puts OpenProject on the same level as fee-based alternatives like Jira: in just a few steps, you can create user profiles or entire user groups and assign them specific roles and rights. You can either access the predefined types or develop your own system. The same applies to the individual work steps as well as the complete workflow, where the project management application also assigns values that you can adapt to your own requirements if required. In the general system configuration, it is also possible to define basic settings such as the maximum file size, the preferred protocol (HTTP, HTTPS) or login parameters (password length, allowed characters, automatic blocking with incorrect password input, etc.).

Advantages Disadvantages
First-class configuration options Difficult to get to grips with
License-free and free of charge  
Modular construction  

Jixee

Jixee is a good alternative to Jira and is a web-based solution for managing projects characterized by their minimalist and simplified design. Combined with the excellent feature set, the tool increases the development level by making the entire team more productive. Four flexible work boards accompany the various development stages — from general development work, through to quality control to publication. Individual users can create their own tasks, comment on existing tasks, or take over the processing. The drag-and-drop feature can also be used to move the tasks between the different boards.

Furthermore, all tasks and subtasks in the tasks overview can be sorted and filtered as well as further specified. This way, the following information can be defined:

  • Task type (optimization, troubleshooting, feature etc.)
  • Superior main task
  • Users, who should take over certain tasks
  • Priority and level of difficulty
  • Desired start and end time

If you have already worked with other applications or have used third-party software as part of your project, this tool won’t pose a problem at all: on the one hand, you can link Jixee to GitHub and Bitbucket platforms, your Stash account, or the chat software, HipChat. On the other hand, the Jira alternative provides an API for integrating other favored software. In addition, it’s possible to generate incoming and outgoing webhooks (real-time interfaces) for fast data exchange between Jixee and the desired external program.

If you want to use the project management software, you can first try out the package using the one-week trial version. Afterwards, you have the choice between different packages that differ only in the possible number of users (between 10 and 100+). Each subscription gives you access to unlimited cloud storage as well as the ability to manage as many projects as you wish. The provider takes over the hosting  — there’s no version for your own server. However, you can access the web application via any popular browser, or alternatively, via the downloadable client app, if you have a macOS device.

Advantages Disadvantages
Easy to get used to Fewer configuration possibilities
Unlimited storage available No desktop version (no self-hosting possible)

The Jira alternatives in comparison

  Redmine OpenProject Jixee Stackfield Sprintly
Released 2006 2012 2011 2013 2011
Open source? Yes Yes No No No
Monthly costs     From $1.90 per user From $2.40 per user From $2.60 per user
Self-hosting possible? Yes Yes No No No
Cloud storage     Unlimited From 10GB From 5GB
API for integrating third-party software Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Mobile app RedminePM (unofficial; iOS, Android) OpenProject client (unofficial; iOS)   In planning Sprinter for iOS (official), Sprinter (unofficial; Android)
Official plugin-directory Yes Yes No No Yes

Digitalization Tools Open Source