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May 09

Gantt chart software: 5 best free and paid project planning tools

Before the computer era, project managers used to draw Gantt charts (or bar charts) by hand. Needless to say, when something has changed, they had to revise (and redraw) their charts—Every. Single. Time. Fast forward to present times. Today, managers can use project management tools like Gantt chart software to make their life easier.

Sounds great, right? Well, it does. But as you may guess, there is a flip side to every situation. The bigger the choice, the more difficult it gets to identify the most suitable application. So before you commit and pick the tool, it is worth checking the best free and paid Gantt chart applications waiting for you.

Our top picks for the dedicated Gantt chart software:

  1. BigGantt
  2. TeamGantt
  3. MS Project
  4. Instagantt 
  5. GanttPRO

Gantt chart in project management

Your role is to solve big problems. When you have a project starting, a lot of questions pop up that you must address. You need to consider tasks that your teams will work on; identify and assign responsibilities; estimate durations, and figure out how to track time and progress. There are tools and processes to choose from but there aren’t many tools that give you as much visibility into your entire project as a Gantt chart.

A Gantt chart is one of the best tools because it simplifies the planning process by breaking even a large and complex project down into an ordered sequence of smaller tasks. It will support your work by emphasizing the relationship between tasks and the impact of potential changes on the entire project. It will also let you perform a simulation to identify proposed changes to the specification, resource availability, and set deadlines. The Gantt chart is instrumental in optimizing the first “realistic” version of a project plan.

An example of a Gantt chart (the view comes from the BigGantt app).

The Gantt chart is an example of a bar chart that you can leverage in many areas. In particular, when you need support with a group or team projects of small and medium sizes, or to control the implementation of a planned project. Thanks to this technique, it is possible not only to efficiently plan the project but also to control its implementation.

Gantt chart software in project management—essential terms

Before we move on to the list of the best Gantt chart software, we would like to briefly go through a few important terms typical to Gantt charts. The goal is to revisit the bar chart’s important elements and point out what you should pay attention to in relation to Gantt chart software.

Baselines

A baseline is a fixed point or a snapshot that represents the project’s original plan and comes from the project schedule, scope, and budget. When the project is running, a baseline will help you measure the effectiveness of the initial understanding of a project’s requirements, risk, and scope.

An image illustrating the concept of a project baseline.

Baselines are essential to any Gantt chart project management software. Therefore, you will find this functionality in pretty any Gantt chart software. However, not all of the tools will let you conveniently track them, no matter the size of your project.

Milestones

A milestone is a checkpoint that specifies an important point within the project schedule. It could be an important date of a review meeting, a deadline, a start and finish point, or some other key event in your project that indicates how your project is moving on. Milestones, as well as baselines and critical paths, will help you measure the progress toward the completion of your project.

An image illustrating the concept of a project milestone.

(What-if) Scenarios

A what-if scenario is a simulation of how a certain factor (e.g., a delay, resource underallocation) would influence the project’s progress. Scenarios help you understand how certain inputs could impact the outputs of your project. Or to compare an optimistic plan to a pessimistic one (and the other way round).

Not all the Gantt chart software offers Scenario functionality, or if it does, it might be underdeveloped. Consequently, you may end up doing a lot of work that other software could easily automate.

Dependencies

A dependency in a Gantt chart shows the relationship between tasks or milestones. Typical dependencies indicate that one task cannot start until the other finishes; one task can only end when the other one also ends, or one task cannot finish until the other task starts. Dependencies also will help you set up the tasks in sequential order.

An image illustrating the concept of a task dependency.

In general, there are two types of dependencies between tasks: soft and strong. Strong dependencies indicate that if you make any changes to a given task (e.g., change schedule or duration period), those changes will have consequences on the other task. Whereas soft dependencies simply visualize the connection between the tasks on your Gantt chart. So if you change one task it will not impact the other soft-linked task.

In regards to Gantt chart software, pay attention if it auto-schedules strong-linked tasks so that you do not have to spend your time re-scheduling them by hand.

Critical path

A critical path is the shortest time in which a project can be completed. It is also a sequence of tasks that you must complete in a given order to deliver your project on time. A project’s critical path consists of tasks and milestones linked together with strong dependencies.

An image illustrating the concept of a project critical path.

A critical path gives you an idea of which task you can reschedule without impacting your project’s completion date.

Resources

In a classic Gantt chart, you can add a resource to your task to see who is responsible for which task and who is going to work on it. When it comes to Gantt chart software, there are different ways to make resources visual and easy to understand, and convenient to allocate and manage.

Resources in the BigGantt app. It displays individual person’s workload, as well as color-coded capacity thresholds.

When comparing Gantt chart software resources capabilities, check if you can also use it for resource planning and project portfolio management (in addition to single project planning).

Best Gantt chart software

Most likely, your project has a deadline so you will need something that will help you improve efficiency, allocate resources, manage teams’ workload, and visualize the project from initiation to completion. Gantt chart software makes it easy to plan, schedule, and execute projects. Not all of the software is equal though.

Below you’ll find an overview of each of the best Gantt chart software, including feature lists and pricing.

BigGantt

BigGantt is arguably the most powerful timeline and roadmapping app for Jira you will find on the market. With this tool, you can easily build a portfolio-level command center to manage and track the progress of all your initiatives, not only single projects. One of its main advantages is that tasks with a start and end date get automatically projected on the timeline. This way you can forget about manual labor pains known from Excel or a simple Gantt chart creator.

When it comes to planning, BigGantt offers plenty of visual indicators to help you follow your project, including color-coding, critical path, dependencies, baselines, custom timeline markers, resource capacities, and much more. And whenever you need to make any changes to your Gantt chart project, you can proceed manually or use the auto-scheduling options. It will also let you export your bar chart to a variety of file formats, and generate a unique URL link to your Gantt chart view which you can share with your team or other stakeholders.

BigGantt is compatible with both Jira Core (essential functionalities) and Jira Software (essential functionalities and visual agile boards).

BigGantt features highlight

  • Infobar (look up milestones, dependencies, critical paths, overdue tasks)
  • Tasks, and subtasks (drag and drop, multi-selection, bulk operations)
  • Task progress (percentage, bars, percentage progress bars)
  • Resources panel (capacities, workload plans, holiday plans)
  • Timelines (auto-scheduling, zoom in, zoom out, markers)
  • Dependencies (strong, soft, lag time, color-coding)
  • Seamless integration with Jira
  • Milestones (task conversion)
  • Estimated and actual cost
  • Custom views (columns)
  • Multiple export formats
  • View sharing (URL)
  • Scenario mode
  • Critical path
  • Baselines

Pros: Scenario (what-if) mode; portfolio-level management; seamless integration with Jira.

Cons: It may take some effort to master; export requires the BigTemplate app.

Free/Paid: Paid. Free only for up to 10 users on Jira Cloud; free 30-day trial.

TeamGantt

If you need a project management app for viewing and editing projects in Gantt charts, TeamGantt is worth considering. It is a cloud-based Gantt chart software suitable for small, mid-size, and large enterprises. It offers a variety of project collaboration tools such as collaborative Gantt charts, time tracking, file sharing, and communication features down to the task level. The bar chart editing process is very intuitive and easy thanks to the drag and drop format that allows you to draw task groups, tasks, and milestones directly on the timeline.

TeamGantt, as a proper dedicated Gantt chart software, gives you all the basic features, including tasks, timelines, and team assignments. You will also find decent budgeting and reporting tools that will help you manage your resources, stay on budget, and ensure your resources are working efficiently but without being overloaded.

TeamGantt features highlight

  • Tasks, and subtasks (drag and drop)
  • Portfolio views and reports
  • All projects on one screen
  • Project plan templates
  • Calendar and list view
  • View sharing (email)
  • Baseline report
  • Dependencies
  • Task progress
  • Milestones
  • Resources
  • Timelines

Pros: Quick learning curve; mobile app; emails for upcoming and coming-due tasks.

Cons: Not many integration options; no sharing via URL; a lot of limitations in a free version.

Free/Paid: Paid. Free for up to 3 users only. Two premium plans and a free trial.

MS Project

Microsoft Project Management Software, also known as Microsoft Project or MS Project, is one of the most popular project management tools used today. That is partly because many project managers are very used to the Microsoft suite of products.

Can you build and manage Gantt charts with this tool? Absolutely. MS Project is rich in features and enables managers to monitor their resources, budgets, and timelines efficiently, especially if they run large projects. It gives you multiple very detailed options and dozens of customizable reports that you will not find in any other Gantt chart software. On the one hand, such a plethora of reports will please anyone who loves to track everything. On the other, it could be too much for those who simply want to keep track of their progress and follow through with project execution.

When it comes to the layout, it is easy and intuitive to use and supports the drag and drop format. Microsoft Project provides different views in boards, grid views, and visual timelines (Gantt views).

MS Project features highlight

  • Collaboration and communication (via MS Teams)
  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Timeline (Gantt) view
  • Project Home
  • Coauthoring
  • Board view
  • Roadmaps
  • Resources
  • Grid view
  • Reports

Pros: Simple layout; seamless integration with Office 365, Skype, and Sharepoint; financial management.

Cons: Limited integrations with non-MS apps; poor in-app communication; steep learning curve.

Free/Paid: Paid. Three separate plans for cloud-based and on-premise solutions.

Instagantt

The Instagantt Gantt chart software was initially built to serve as an extension for Asana back in the days when Asana did not have bar chart functionality. Nowadays, Instagantt is more complex than a simple Asana plugin and operates as individual software. But the past bond with Asana was not severed and still enables Asana users to integrate their accounts to create and manage Gantt charts easily.

With Instagantt, you can create multiple workspaces for your projects and resources to reside. You may find such a solution useful if you work with several separate teams. Thanks to the Undo feature, you will be able to restore past versions of your project timeline by a certain number of actions. On top of that, Instagantt comes with a really helpful “Changes since you’ve been gone” button that feeds all the updates since the last visit. So if you like to track your project progress in detail, this button will reveal your project’s recent past to you.

Instagantt features highlight

  • Multi-department project planner
  • Automatic project scheduling
  • Multiple formats export
  • Minimap navigation
  • Daily task planner
  • Workload view
  • Notifications
  • Critical path
  • Baseline

Pros: Gantt chart minimap; seamless integration with Asana; tag co-workers within a task with a comment.

Cons: No free version; limited project security/authorization options; limited resources view.

Paid/Free: Paid. Two premium plans and a free trial.

GanttPRO

What you will notice immediately as you start working with GanttPRO is the Gantt chart layout that accommodates a massive amount of details on a single screen. Such a detailed view can help project managers to see exactly how the project is going, which tasks are in progress, and who owns which tasks with a quick glance. Others, however, could find it too busy and cluttered. The GanttPRO app allows users to create several workspaces and projects and populate them with tasks using a simple drag and drop functionality.

GanttPRO comes with all the necessary features you will need to create a full-fledged Gantt chart and track your project progress, including, among others, very intuitive baselines with automatic adjustments and the critical path. 

This Gantt chart software also covers importing and exporting. You can import your project from a .csv file or Jira. As far as exporting/sharing goes, GanttPRO allows you to set a secret link to share it with people outside of your team. Additionally, you can export it as a .pdf, .png, or .csv file or grant selected stakeholders viewing access to your bar chart.

GanttPRO features highlight

  • Hourly lead and lag times
  • Sharing (via secret URL)
  • Multiple export formats
  • Portfolio Gantt chart
  • Project templates
  • Dependencies
  • Drag and drop
  • Critical path
  • Resources
  • Budgeting
  • Baseline

Pros: Slack, Jira, and Google Drive integration; project history; custom and pre-configured templates.

Cons: Heavily packed UI; no free version; no custom columns.

Free/Paid: Paid. Three premium plans and a free trial.

About The Author

Content writer at BigPicture. Previously, Aggie worked for SaaS companies writing specifically about eCommerce and marketing. As a continuous learner and advocate for knowledge-sharing, she creates content for beginners as well as more advanced readers. She loves clean plant-based food and morning workouts.