Free Kanban board software

But what is Kanban? For those who don’t know, Kanban (看板) is a Japanese word that means signboard or billboard. It is a scheduling system for lean and just-in-time manufacturing. Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed Kanban to improve his manufacturing efficiency.

A research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. Contrary what we usually think, the researchers discovered that people bombarded with several information can’t pay attention, recall information, or even switch from one task to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

Kanban is basically a queue limiter. Different from waterfall methodology, Kanban avoid overloading of the system, and one of the main benefits of Kanban is to establish an upper limit to the work in progress flow, then you need to complete a task/iteration at a time, instead of doing different tasks/iterations at the same time.

I love physical Kanban boards but I understand that when we work with remote teams, the best option is to have a software where all the team has access to it. I also love the idea to have my Kanban board super handy for example in my phone or tablet. I’ve tried a bunch of software, some people ask me about them so I made a list with some free alternatives.

ZenHub

Owned by GitHub, free for small teams and public accounts.

Pros

  • GitHub, Slack, HipChat, Spark, and Gitter integration;
  • Burndown Charts & Estimates;
  • Customizable boards;
  • Set a limit of cards for each WIP;
  • +1 button on comments;
  • The ability to connect as many GitHub repositories as you want;

Cons

  • Free just for small teams and public accounts.

Trello

Totally free for small or large teams. For unlimited Power-Ups including app integrations, team overviews, and more security $9.99 per user each month.

Pros

  • Totally free for small or large teams;
  • Online and offline mode;
  • Integrations with Slack, Box, Drive, and Dropbox;
  • Unlimited boards, lists, cards, members, checklists;
  • Customizable boards;
  • File attachment;

Cons

  • No Breakdown Charts & Estimates;
  • Can’t limit cards on each WIP.

Kasban + Asana

Free for teams of up to 15 users. Premium version $8.33
per user each month (billed annually).

Pros

  • Totally free for small teams up to 15 users;
  • Asana, Google Sheets, Github, Dropbox, Hipchat, Slack, Front, Evernote integration and others;
  • Burndown Charts & Estimates;
  • Unlimited boards, lists, cards, members, checklists;
  • Calendar visualization;
  • File attachment.

Cons

  • Free for just 15 users;
  • Without customizable boards;
  • Can’t limit cards on each WIP.

Swift-Kanban

Free up to 10 users, for 50 users and 20 boards is $7 per user each month.

Pros

  • Large feature set;
  • Customizable boards;
  • Set a limit of cards for each WIP;

Cons

  • Complicated to use;
  • Free for 10 users;
  • Free for just 4 boards.

Kanban Tool

Free up to two users, for teams is $5 and enterprise $9 per user each month.

Pros

  • Breakdown Charts & Estimates;
  • Customizable boards;
  • File attachment;
  • Set a limit of cards for each WIP;

Cons

  • Free for just two users;
  • Limited boards;
  • No file attachment.

Virtual Kanban

Web-based and totally free. It’s good to learn how to use Kanban and you can also download it because it’s a single HTML file.

Pros

  • Totally free;
  • Simple to use and make it changes;
  • Editable HTML;

Cons

  • It’s just a simple HTML file;
  • It doesn’t have a login area;
  • It’s not possible to save your board;
  • No Burndown Charts & Estimates;
  • No customizable boards;
  • Can’t limit cards on each WIP.

My choice: Trello

Trello has a mobile and web version. I love how customizable and simple it is. It’s very intuitive, even the teams that never worked with Kanban before are able to use Trello right away.

I use frequently the file attachment feature on cards, for the free version you have file attachments up to 10MB. I also love the integration with Slack and Google Hangouts. For example, I use a plugin on Slack, so every time I close a board, it automatically sends a message to my Slack channel. If you want to dig into their Slack integration, you can check it here.

The only features I miss are WIP limit, and Burndown chart & Estimates. Actually for Burndown chart and estimates I use a Google Chrome extension named Plus for Trello. The Burndown chart looks like this bellow, the red line is my time spent, blue estimate time, and green remain work.

What’s your favorite Kanban software? Let me know your favorite one!


My name is Thaisa, I’m a Product and Program Manager and I’m based in San Francisco, US.

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