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When deciding on a free project management tool, many organizations find themselves confronted by the same choice: Trello vs. Asana. These are two of the biggest names out there, and they both give you a lot of project management power without sapping your bank account.
Deciding between the two can be difficult. So we’re going to help by breaking down the basics of each and comparing what you get in the free plans. In the end, you’ll see whether Trello or Asana is better for your business or projects.
Trello: Simple Card-Based Kanban Project Management
We’ll start with Trello. If you’re not familiar with Kanban project management, you might be a little confused as to how it works. But the idea behind it is rather simple. Here’s the process:
- You establish columns, categories, or steps for your workflow.
- You write tasks on cards and put them in a column.
- Team members work on those cards and move them through the columns.
The original version of Kanban used Post-Its and whiteboards. But today, we use digital tools to accomplish the same thing. This is a visual method of project management that helps you quickly see where tasks are, who’s working on them, and where they’ll go next.
This is great for linear workflows that always (or almost always) follow the same process. Making editorial calendars in Trello, for example, is common. Here’s Trello’s example board that shows how an editorial calendar might look:
Ideas move from left to right, going through each necessary step in the process. A group of columns is called a board (think of it like a workspace). You can have as many boards as you want. Each board could represent a team, a division or your organization, a project, a category of tasks, or anything else you think would be a useful delineation.
Each card can contain a wide variety of information. Here are some of the options:
- Assigned users
- Color-coded tags
- Due date
- Task list (with checkboxes)
- Update notifications
Users can talk about cards by leaving comments. Those conversations are recorded in the card, where they can be referenced later. This makes the Trello card a great vehicle for communicating about specific tasks without cluttering inboxes or instant messaging clients.
Managing Your Team With Trello
Of course, a good project management tool does more than just assigning tasks. It also lets you manage your team and make sure everyone has access to the things they need.
Assigning team members to cards is only the beginning. You can also make your boards visible to only certain groups, give people different permissions levels, and change commenting permissions on individual cards.
Trello makes it easy for your team members to find the cards that need their attention. They can filter by due date, see only the cards they’re assigned to, or look at cards with specific tags. It’s also easy to search for cards. And communication is super easy: just leave a comment on a card and other members of that card will be notified.
Powering Up Trello With Integrations
Trello’s visual nature and easy drag-and-drop workflow make it a powerful tool. But when you combine it with other services, you get a project management system that really stands out. Trello calls these integrations “Power-Ups.”
You can always attach files from your cloud storage apps, but the Dropbox power-up lets you see previews of your documents and automatically updates them. The Evernote power-up lets you attach notes, meaning you can combine your Evernote project management with Trello. Github lets you attach branches, commits, issues, and pull requests to cards.
You can track your time, add links to dedicated video chat rooms, integrate with Slack (which itself a great project management tool), view your Trello cards in a Gantt chart, and more. Dozens of major services integrate with Trello. If you’re already using a tool, it’s worth checking to see if it can interface with Trello.
What You Get for Free With Trello
Trello’s free plan gives you unlimited boards, lists, cards, members, checklists, and attachments. Those attachments, however, can only be up to 10 MB each. You also get one power-up per board.
If you upgrade to the premium plan, which costs $9.99 per user per month, you get unlimited power-ups, board collections, custom board backgrounds, and priority customer support.
You can see a full breakdown of features on Trello’s pricing page.
Asana: Versatility With a Learning Curve
One of the biggest advantages of Trello is that you can fire it up and be quite adept at using it very quickly. Asana takes a bit longer to get the hang of, but once you do, it gives you a whole lot of project management power.
In the Trello vs. Asana debate, there’s one important thing about Asana that gives it a distinct advantage: you can set up both traditional task lists and Kanban-style boards.
The basic task list is much like you’d expect, and includes features that you’ll find in many of the best task management software apps:
You get sub-tasks, due dates, descriptions and comments, and the ability to assign tasks to specific projects (which function like boards in Trello). In the premium version of Asana, you can also mark task dependencies, which is useful when some tasks depend on others.
The Kanban board view in Asana looks a lot like Trello:
Again, you have columns, with cards that can be assigned, contain subtasks, have due dates, and so on. They can be tagged with color-coded tags, as well. Sub-tasks assigned in cards also show up on a user’s task view.
The ability to switch back and forth between these two different views is great for large teams that have different kinds of projects. At MakeUseOf, we might have a Kanban editorial calendar, but a task list for search engine optimization or reviewing old articles.
Like Trello, you can have multiple projects, which is great for when you want to keep team members from being overwhelmed.
Asana also has good reporting functionality: you can create multiple dashboards that show you the status of different projects for yourself or your team members.
Managing Your Team With Asana
Asana’s team management features are similar to Trello. You can make specific projects visible to certain members, prevent members from seeing team conversations, and tweak specific permissions.
Tasks and cards can also be assigned to team members, which is a great way to reduce email clutter. And the My Tasks tab makes it easy for everyone to see what’s been assigned to them. And, of course, leaving comments on tasks makes communication easy and referenceable.
Powering Up Asana With Integrations
Asana integrates with many of the same services that Trello does. You can attach files directly from cloud storage, email tasks and cards, track your time, and more.
You can even integrate Asana with many of its competitors, including JIRA and Pivotal Tracker. Many customer-service apps also work with Asana, making it easy to create tasks when a customer or client makes a request.
There are a lot of integrations with apps that are traditionally associated with development, like GitHub, TrackDuck, BitBucket, and Instabug. This makes Asana a good choice for organizations who are already using a variety of tools for development tracking. (If you’re thinking about using Trello for a development project, check out our tips for programmers using Trello.)
Check out Asana’s list of integrations to see what else you can do with other apps.
What You Get for Free With Asana
The free version of Asana gives you unlimited tasks, projects, and conversations. However, you can only have up to 15 members. You’ll also get access to basic dashboards and search.
The premium version, priced at $9.99 per user per month, gets you unlimited members, custom dashboards, advanced search capabilities, task dependencies, custom fields, private teams, and priority support.
Get the full details from Asana’s pricing page.
Which Is Better? Trello or Asana?
Before we share our recommendation, let’s take a quick look at the features of both:
- Kanban-based, visual project management
- Easy learning curve
- Unlimited users
- Workspaces can become cluttered
- Best suited for linear processes
- Kanban-style or task-based project management
- Steeper learning curve
- Up to 15 users
- “My Tasks” section makes prioritizing easy
- Built-in reporting and dashboards
While different organizations have different needs, Asana’s versatility makes it a great choice for almost everyone. The ability to track tasks in a traditional task-list view or on a Kanban board gives it a level of versatility that Trello doesn’t have.
Of course, that versatility comes with a steeper learning curve. The Asana interface is, by necessity, more complex than Trello. It can take longer to find what you’re looking for if you’re inexperienced with the app.
That being said, Asana is more user-friendly than some of the project management software out there. Basecamp, Pivotal Tracker, and JIRA all pack a huge amount of power, but they can be even more difficult for beginners to navigate.
Trello, however, is great when all you need is a central repository for tasks and a system to communicate about them. It’s easy to learn, easy to use, and many people already have at least a passing familiarity with it. It’s also fantastic as a personal life management tool. In fact, you can Trello for just about anything.
Trello vs. Asana: The Choice Is Up to You
In the end, both Trello and Asana are fantastic tools. Which you use for your organization will likely come down to the details: Does Asana’s task-list-and-Kanban-board format appeal to you? Or do you want to keep things simple? Do you want to manage a large team without paying a monthly fee? Are your users quick learners, or will they benefit from a tool with an easier learning curve?
You’ll need to think about all of these questions when deciding on Trello or Asana. But there are two things that should put your mind at ease if you’re having trouble making this decision. First, both are great apps and will help you manage your team. If you’re not using project management software right now, either app will make a huge difference.
And second, you can use Trello and Asana together. They integrate, so you can transfer data between the two, sync your tasks and cards, and use both. Or use Migrator.xyz to move data from one to another when you want to switch. You’re not locked in forever.
Now that you know the differences between Trello and Asana, you’re ready to make a decision. Pick one, go with it, and start managing projects more efficiently!
Do you use Trello or Asana for your organization? What about for personal project management? Why did you choose one over the other? Share your thoughts in the comments below.