Comparing 3 top project management tools: Trello vs. Monday vs. Asana

We look at three of the most popular tools for keeping projects on track — each takes a slightly different approach and will appeal to different types of users.

project management tools

If you’re shopping for an online project management tool, you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed. Luckily, there are three good ones that are free — or at least free to try — so that you can find a good fit for managing your deadlines and projects.

We decided to check out popular online services that are all good choices for assigning work and tracking progress — Trello, Monday and Asana. Each takes a slightly different approach, however, so we considered how each of these tools might appeal to different types of users. Let’s take a look.


Target audience: Project owners who want an elegant way to keep on top of things, for ongoing projects. 

Trello uses an elegant, visual approach to project management. The interface features an agile-inspired Kanban board, with columns of tasks displayed on cards. It’s a very efficient and friendly to see what’s coming, in progress, or done.

Moving cards and changing who they’re assigned to is a simple, drag-and-drop affair. When you start a new project, you’ll create a new board, add tasks and if necessary, rename the columns — which Trello calls lists — to suit your needs. Click the Home button, and you can view all your boards in one place.

To help get started, Trello offers dozens of prebuilt templates. Some of the templates include boards, for example, that help you create a software product, organize a meeting, or manage a publishing schedule for a blog. 

trello boards Trello

You can add one of Trello’s pre-designed boards with a few clicks, then customize it to fit your project. (Click any image in this article to enlarge it.)

There are also community-created boards you can select in Trello. Project managers have posted boards designed for making and tracking a big decision, for example, or setting objectives and tracking results. You can also submit your own templates to share on Trello for others to use.

Trello provides optional add-on features called “power-ups,” which enhance the interface, automate a process, or integrate with a third-party tool. The calendar power lets you view due dates in, you guessed it, a calendar view. The Card-Repeater power-up automates the creation of cards you use regularly. And you can add power-ups to integrate with third-party tools, like Google Drive, to easily access project files in the cloud. There are also integrations for, among others, Microsoft Office, Slack and Salesforce. To use some power-ups, or to use more than one per board, you’ll need a paid plan. 

Trello offers three tiers. The Free plan lets you create unlimited cards, lists and boards, with an attachment limit of 10MB. And you can use one power-up per board. Business Class adds priority support, unlimited powerups and additional third-party app integration.

Trello is an excellent choice for individuals and small teams that need a basic, free tool. It’s also good for executives who want a tool for quickly spinning up ideas without a steep learning curve. By comparison, Monday may be a better fit for any process that is typically managed with spreadsheets, where you’re interested in reducing the need to create them from scratch. And if you’re looking to manage a large project with many teams and deadlines, Asana may be a better choice. 


Target audience: Nontechnical users, creatives and spreadsheet pros. 

If you’re spending too much time in spreadsheets, manually adding tasks, deadlines and charts to show what’s happening on your projects, Monday might be the right tool for you.

In Monday, the default view — called Main Table — looks like a simple, attractively designed, color-coded spreadsheet. Here, you enter new tasks, assign them, and show their status: For example: Working on it, Stuck, Done, or Waiting for Review. You can quickly see how projects are coming along, and the status of those working on them.

Click a menu and you then see that same information in Monday’s Kanban view, with lists displayed on cards, providing a quick visual snapshot of where your project stands. Another view called Timeline can display projects with concurrent deadlines. Or you can view your deadlines in a calendar. A chart view lets you break tasks down visually by percentages, for example to see how many tasks each member is handling. As with Trello, you’ll need a paid plan to use some of these features. 

monday main table view Monday

Monday’s Main Table view is an excellent way to see who’s doing the work, the deadlines for task, and when the jobs are completed.

It also costs more to add some integrations, like Github, Outlook and Zendesk. Monday also offers integrations with Trello and Asana, so coworkers or clients who work in those tools can add tasks and deadlines there, which will automatically appear in Monday’s interface. Upgrading your plan also means the ability to use automations. Monday offers pre-written automations you can customize, taking a trigger like a date, or a change in status, to fire off an action, like creating a recurring task.

Monday doesn’t offer a free version, however, they do provide a 7-day free trial. After that, pricing starts at $39 per month per user, for their Basic plan. The Standard Plan is $49, this option adds features like a Gantt chart view (called Timeline) and a calendar, and you can share your boards with people without requiring them to sign up for a Monday account. The Pro plan costs $79, for additional views and enterprise features like time tracking. For a full plan comparison click here

Monday is easy on the eyes for nontechnical staff and may appeal to creatives, like designers and ad staff, or anyone who finds that spreadsheets are the way to stay on top of projects. Like Trello, it’s better for ongoing deadlines, rather than large projects that have a hard stop. For those, Asana is likely a better choice. 


Target audience: Teams operating concurrent deadlines, large enterprises, creating new products or services.

Asana may be the most full-featured of the tools we examined for managing projects, and potentially, large teams. If you don’t mind a steeper learning curve — or if you like the idea of automating routine tasks — Asana may be the tool for you and your colleagues.

Asana provides a free version of its Basic plan for up to 15 users. This tier lets you create tasks, assign them to team members and view them as a Kanban board (Trello and Monday also offer this sort of view). In the Basic, plan, you can also display all your deadlines a calendar. (Check out the complete plan comparison here.)

But many features, like the capability to view your project in a timeline, require a Premium plan, which costs $10.99 a month per user (each of Asanas plans is discounted if you pay annually). The Business plan adds priority support, and additional features, including the ability to see task dependencies, and a “workload” view that shows what everyone is working on — and potentially which employees are overloaded.

asana list view Asana

Asana can help you manage large projects, but most users will need a paid plan to see more than a simple list view, and to access features like Gantt charts.

To speed up routine tasks, Asana offers automation through its “Rules” feature. You can create your own rules based on triggers, like moving a task to a certain column as soon as it’s been marked complete, or use pre-designed ones from Asana.

You can add comments in projects, but there’s no built-in chat feature. That said, Asana offers excellent integrations for third-party collaboration software, for creating tasks assigning them, and adding or editing deadlines without leaving Slack, for example, or Microsoft Teams.

Asana offers a deep list of integrations for other tools as well, including G Suite and Microsoft Office. Asana also offers an app integration with Trello to sync up projects between them. Some of the integrations, like those for Salesforce and Adobe Creative Cloud, require a paid Business plan. 

Test drive before you decide

If your primary interest is in flexibility, and choosing how you want to work, Asana may be a good choice for your organization. It’s an excellent tool for managing sprawling projects with many moving parts. If you’re interested in simplicity (and need to watch costs) Trello is likely a better choice for you. And if spreadsheets seem a natural way to organize your project, Monday could be the right move. We recommend test-driving all three, for free, to see which approach best fits your team.

Read this next: 7 Trello alternatives for visual task management

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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