Update 2/23/2016: This piece has been updated to reflect comments and new software options since the article first went live. New additions appear in the “Free/Freemium” and “Bonus” sections.
We all have our favorite four-letter words.
Mine is “free.”
Finding the latter for free, when it works well and meets your event planning needs, can save you precious dollars and also from using a few other four-letter words.
Here’s our list of the top open source and free event management software out there:
In its free version, this platform creates event registration forms. For one user, it includes five forms, with up to 10 fields in each. You are also limited to collecting 100 submissions each month.
To get payment integration, you’ll have to upgrade to the Platinum or Diamond versions.
The good news is 123ContactForm integrates with WordPress and a number of other publishing platforms, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Hootsuite.
Anyvite lets you create event invitations, to be sent by email or posted publically on a webpage. They can be personalized with your own image, or you can choose from pre-made designs. Once they’re sent, you can message guests based on their RSVP and add an Anyvite widget to your site.
Ticketing and payment collection, however, incur a separate fee of $0.99 plus 2.5% of the ticket price, with card processing fees on top of that.
The free edition of Event Track is made to work with the free online event registration platform Jolly Events.
With Jolly Events, you can register attendees online on a customized registration form, send invitations, and send registration confirmation emails with barcodes. Then you can export your guest data for Event Track, which lets you register attendees on-site, register them for specific sessions of an event, print nametags, and scan barcodes to verify them.
Be wary, though: the free edition is “as is.” Jolly Events does not offer any warranty, or email or phone support for this product.
Event management on the EB Basic level is completely free. It’s robust for a free version, and includes a wide range of features, including event registration, an event page, and up to 500 email invitations.
Plus, you have options for collecting payments, which can go directly into your Paypal account. You’ll also be able to track progress and produce reports.
To get automated invoice and online payments, customize your event page’s look and remove ads, or offer an offline payment option, you’ll have to upgrade to the premium version, which has a 2% per ticket fee (which can be added to the ticket price).
If all you need is an invitation and RSVP system, the free version of Evite will fit the bill. The ad-supported option has a limit of 750 invitations, with a large selection of designs.
The premium version (price varies based on number of guests) allows you to customize invitations.
Specifically geared to planning a wedding, Seating Arrangement does more than just manage table space. It will be useful to any planner working on a banquet or dinner event.
You can use it to manage the guest list and menu options, sort guests by preferences like age or social group, track RSVPs, and print place cards. Its web-based design lets you work on your event from multiple locations.
Sure, you could pay for more for extra bells and whistles, but when you are running small events, why pay at all? That is the theme of OpenConf Community Edition. What started as a peer review software solution in academia has been expanded over to cover several areas of event management, such as data export and email notifications to attendees.
If you are willing to host your own server, provide your own support for your maintenance issues, and abide by the license, OpenConf Community Edition is free for download and use.
Unfortunately the software does not cover the more advanced and new aspects of event management software, such as social media integration and mobile app use, as well as key features such as ticketing and vendor management. So, you take what you can get when it comes to OpenConf.
Whether you want to host offline native software or run your event management system online, Jolly Tech has you covered with their free edition of EventLeaf. If you are running a PC with Windows Vista or higher and accept no warranty or tech support, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of EventLeaf.
Jolly Tech’s new free event management software is an updated version of their own “EventTrack” which was solely an online platform, but which can now be run offline on your system at your command. All of the old features, such as on-site event attendee registration and badge creation, have been retained with a newer, more polished look.
RSVPify may be geared towards weddings, as advertised on the main page, however it is easily adaptable to any type of event. This option offers a free plan which covers up to 100 RSVPs, a custom URL, customization options, data imports, and many other features.
To unlock unlimited RSVPs, unlimited guest tracking, and high-end features you have to upgrade to a paid plan starting at $8.99 a month.
Event Espresso Lite is a free WordPress plugin version of the paid full version. Despite being a free plugin, Event Espresso Lite is a solid option for event managers to integrate their registration and event management process with their WordPress website, making for a more seamless transition between event management functions and your main site.
This version is currently on its third generation but is soon to be replaced by Event Espresso 4.
Open Source Options
VSIS ConfTool, ConfTool’s open source system, is available through a free license for noncommercial events. It is intended for academic and nonprofessional event planners.
For up to 150 participants, it offers a customizable registration form, file uploading and online submissions, and online review forms. At a conference, you can use it to check in attendees.
For payment processing other than cash, check, or bank transfer, you’ll need the pro edition.
This box office and ticketing software is aimed at small venues and charity organizations. It allows you to sell tickets online, including e-tickets with barcodes, as well as have POS capability at the box office.
The system is customizable with templates, allowing you to set seating charts and pricing categories. It has a ticket taker interface for entry, too.
Odoo’s open source event app has a slew of features for every stage in the event planning process.
You can create event pages with a user-friendly editor, and make agendas for each event. Sell tickets online at multiple levels, promote using automated emailing and social media integration, and track site success with Google Analytics.
Odoo also offers SEO tools and landing pages, and integrates fully with the rest of the Odoo suite of apps.
This tool was created for scholarly conferences. With OCS, you can create a conference website, call for paper submissions, post papers in a searchable format, and register participants.
After the conference has come and gone, it also has online discussion abilities to keep the conversation going.
For those who are particularly tech-savvy, OpenConferenceWare requires a Rails application.
It’s customizable, and is a platform where anyone can list sessions for an event, create and update proposals, subscribe to a feed, show rooms, and create a profile. Administrators can create and change events, set proposal deadlines, and manage rooms and sessions.
OSEM has a broad array of capabilities in an open source format.
With it, you can build a website for your event and a detailed schedule for attendees with session information pages as well. Attendees can use it to register and submit proposals, while planners can track everything from registrations to venues to sponsorship in the administrator dashboard.
Bonus List: Pass the Fees to Attendees
Beyond the purely free software out there, there is also software that forwards the cost to event guests, making the software itself free for you. Below is a comprehensive list of these systems. Most are totally free for events that don’t charge admission, but have fees for paid events that can be rolled into the ticket price.
Standard features include event websites, online registration, payment processing, email communication, social media integration, and analytics. They also tend to be easy-to-use, but not customizable.
Here are the 13 software options in this category (free for free events are marked with an *):
- Attendly*: set your own booking fee, plus 2.9% + $0.30 for payment processing
- Brown Paper Tickets: $0.99 + 3.5% of the ticket price, which includes Brown Paper Tickets’ credit card processing—event managers who use their own payment processing get 2.5% back
- Eventbee*: $1 to $2 per ticket, depending on features, plus payment processing fees
- Eventbrite*: 2.5% of the ticket price plus $0.99 per ticket, plus a 3% payment processing fee, but your attendees pay only the 3% processing fee (not those related to ticket price) if buying through one of Eventbrite’s mobile apps
- Eventgrid*: 2% online ticket fee, plus 2.9% + $.30 credit card processing fee
- Eventzilla*: $1 per attendee plus processing fees
- Picatic: choose your fee with their FairPay system, plus credit card fees
- PlanetReg*: $0.50 + 2% of the cost of each registration, capped at $9, plus processing fees
- rsvpBOOK: $2.95 to $3.95, or $1.99 for nonprofits, depending on look and feel, plus processing fees
- Ticketbud*: $0.99 + 2% per ticket, plus card processing (2.9% for the Ticketbud system)
- Ticketleap*: 2% + $1 for online sales plus 3% credit card processing fee if you use Ticketleap Payments (you pay your own processing fees separately if you use PayPal or Authorize.net), no fee for onsite sales
- UTicketIt*: 2% of ticket value + $.99 per ticket, plus 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction to process payments
- ZapEvent*: $1.30 per registration plus 4.9% of the order total
- Bizzabo: Pricing for Bizzabo ticketing is flexible and under the control of the event manager running the software.
If you want to learn more about how much event management software costs across the spectrum, check out our complete pricing guide.
And did we miss any free and open source options? Please let us know in the comments.
Looking for Event Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Event Management software solutions.