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Jira vs Trello

July 3, 2019

10:53 am

There are an absolute ton of project management software options out there. However, two popular names you will come across after even a cursory web search are Jira and Trello. Deciding on Jira vs Trello is more confusing still, since both services are owned by Atlassian, and both have a similar approach to project management using a card-and-board interface.

To understand this type of interface, imagine a cork board with three category labels: To Do, In Process, and Done. Each task is placed on an index card, then moved between the categories as needed.

Despite sharing a similar interface, they are nowhere near the same service, and the one you choose will depend on your needs.

For most companies, Trello is the right answer, since it offers more expansive functionality for standard project management needs. Jira, on the other hand, is meant for managing software development projects, though there are organizations that rely on Jira for general project management. Companies sometimes turn to Jira since their software team is already using it, while others prefer its overall simplicity.

Pricing can also be a factor. Trello starts with a limited free tier, which is ideal for individuals or small teams with more basic project management needs. With Jira, meanwhile, you can get up and running for $10 per month flat for up to 10 users. Once you start adding more team members, the pricing between the two gets closer, though Jira's hosted options are cheaper.

In this Guide:

Jira vs Trello – Which is Best?

Jira and Trello can both work for project management, but unless you're working on a software project, we recommend choosing Trello. The price is higher, but you can customize Trello with the features you need to manage projects in any industry. That said, there are situations where Jira might make more sense.

  • Trello is best for independent workers or personal projects, since it has a free tier with unlimited personal boards
  • Trello is best for large teams that require easy ways to integrate with email, and want a flexible and customizable tool
  • Jira is best for teams that work closely with software development or IT departments
  • Jira is best for small teams that need to upgrade to a paid tier
  • Between the two, Trello is the most capable solution for general project management

Jira Board

Jira Review Summary

  • Very simple approach appeals to some organizations
  • Designed with software projects in mind
  • Very economical pricing for small teams of up to 10
  • Wide variety of third-party add-ons
  • Roadmap view helps teams keep their projects on schedule

Jira (click for full review) is largely focused on managing software development projects – a fact that becomes obvious once you dig in to the product. Some companies turn to Jira because it's a very simple tool, because their IT department is already be using it, or simply because the price is right.

Teams can also customize Jira to act more like a generic project management tool, which can make its software development roots less obvious. BigPicture is a popular third party plugin, as it supports features such as scope and Gantt charts.

Jira's integration with Confluence, plus its document templates under the Pages tab, provide easy ways to add necessary documents to a project. It also supports helpful features such as “at mentions”, which can draw a colleague's attention to a document.

Jira supports nearly 2,000 app integrations created by third parties, while Confluence has about 874.

Trello Review Summary

  • Free tier makes it easy for single users or small teams to get started
  • Limited access to add-ons with free tier
  • Supports automations to complete basic tasks and housekeeping more efficiently
  • Supports email to task conversion
  • Fundamental project management features require add-ons, and are not enabled by default

Trello (click for full review) has a similar card-and-board interface to Jira, but makes it much easier to get up and running with general project management. For that reason, Trello is often the better choice for most companies that aren't creating software.

Trello itself is very basic, and any team choosing the free tier will probably find themselves frustrated with it unless their needs are simple. For example, Trello doesn't have a calendar view out of the box, and you can only get it via the Power-Ups (Trello's term for add-ons) catalog. The same goes for a timeline view. Then again, the advantage is that if you don't require these views, you don't need to add them to your Trello configuration.

Most companies will probably want to turn to at least the business tier, which costs $9.99 per user, per month (billed annually). For that money, the service includes unlimited access to Power-Ups, plus 1,000 automations to improve the efficiency of your workflow. It also supports Google single sign-on.

Best for Small Teams – Jira

For small teams of less than 10 users, Jira is probably the best choice. Trello does have a free tier, while Jira will charge a flat $10 per month (billed annually) for up to 10 team members. The difference is that Trello isn't particularly full featured on its free tier, and Jira's hosted solution is cheaper than Trello's paid tier.

Jira's task cards support attachments, comments, subtasks, and the ability to link tasks to each other. Jira's Confluence feature also lets you link to documents, if necessary.

Jira is not as full featured as other project management tools, but its marketplace lets you add functionality as and when you need it, which is super handy.

Compare Jira and Trello to other suites – see our guide to the Best Project Management Software

Best for Large Teams – Trello

Trello Details View

Trello is flexible, and will have you up and running quickly. It's also simple enough that the onboarding process can be accomplished rather quickly. The automations feature with the Butler add-on is also helpful for keeping teams organized by simplifying basic operations, such as notifying the entire team when a task is moved to the Done column.

Large teams paying for the enterprise tier also get access to more advanced automation features, as well as unlimited use of Butler. Business Class users, however, can only use 1,000 automation runs per team. At the Enterprise level, you can also get the key features that larger teams need – such as SAML IdPs – while admins have control over which Power-Ups a team can use.

Another feature that large teams will find handy is the ability to forward email messages directly to a Trello board, automatically turning it into a task. While people complain a lot about email, it's still the fundamental way many large teams communicate. Easy integration with Trello is a big plus.

Best for Teams Working with IT – Jira

For companies that are already invested in Jira for bug tracking, developing a company website, or creating products, using Jira as an extension of that makes a lot of sense. This is especially true for teams that have to work closely with the software development team. Using the same tool makes it easier for teams to communicate, and to understand how their project management workflow is structured.

Jira is purpose built for software development, but it's still flexible enough to work as a general project management tool. The only thing you'll have to do is add some of the features that you feel are missing, such as Gantt charts or calendars. Jira marketplace apps typically cost money, but if you're careful about how many you add, it still offers very good value.

Once you start adding apps, Jira becomes a little more complicated, and you can tell that many of the apps feature instructions and designs aimed at software developers. That may be a downside for some, and for those people, Trello may be the better choice.

Best for Independent Workers – Trello

Since it offers a free tier with unlimited personal boards, there's no question that Trello is the best choice for freelancers working alone. It also supports up to 10 team boards, meaning you can invite colleagues – or even clients – when a team effort is required.

As we've mentioned earlier, each board can only receive one Power-Up at the free tier, meaning you'll have to carefully choose the tool that works best for your situation.

Another downside of Trello’s free tier for an individual is that file attachments are limited to 10MB each, while the paid tiers support a maximum 250MB per file attachment. Free users also don't get a lot of support beyond forum posts and YouTube tutorials.

Overall, however, Trello's free offering is a fantastic tool for individual workers who need to keep their work for multiple clients well organized.

Trello vs Jira: The Verdict

Trello and Jira both have a good amount to offer users, but if it's a choice between one or the other, then Trello is the best overall. The only exception to that would be for anyone working in software development, for which Jira is purpose built.

Trello offers a free tier that is very usable, has a healthy number of add-ons, and doesn't put limits on personal boards, cards, or lists. For teams that upgrade to the paid tiers, the add-ons become unlimited, and automations become a lot more useful since you can use them more freely. Offering simplicity and customizability, and built with general project management in mind, Trello is a great choice overall.

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Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has worked as a technology industry reporter and critic for more than ten years. He’s written for PCWorld, Macworld, TechHive, Yahoo, Lifewire, and The Huffington Post. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, security software, and browsers.