Update: 1/26/2017: This piece has been updated to reflect emerging free construction software made available over the past year. Now, there are ten options instead of eight.
Managing a construction project is a huge endeavor. When broken out into its parts—project management, bid management, reporting, etc—the entire process can seem overwhelming.
While construction management software offers a holistic solution to all of these problems, it can be expensive (for example, from our own estimations, construction bidding software costs an average of $1,468 and a median of $750).
While I can’t recommend choosing seven different software options to solve seven different problems, these free and open source construction management software quick-fixes can patch up your manual construction processes—without you having to spend a dime. They are listed below in alphabetical order.
As I mentioned in “The Top 6 Free and Open Source Project Management Software for Your Small Business,” 2-Plan is a phenomenal free and open-source project management solution. Their 2-Plan Desktop version is particularly good for construction because it is robust enough to handle complicated projects with tightly-aligned deadlines.
2-Plan Desktop syncs with iOS, offers work breakdown and project breakdown structures, forecasting options, and top-down and bottom-up planning, along with free extensions (risk management is likely most interesting to construction professionals).
Unfortunately, like the other options listed above, 2-plan is tough to learn—they offer no support except for an extensive, difficult-to-navigate manual.
Have you used 2-Plan before? Leave a review!
For construction companies looking for a lightweight scheduling software application that runs on Windows, Android, and iOS, definitely check out Efficient Calendar Free.
The calendar application is essentially a system that combines calendar functionality, task tracking, and project management in one spot. It’s all locally hosted, which is great for construction companies worried about cloud security issues.
The local hosting can be a problem though; Efficient Calendar does not import .ics files. For people hoping to import their iCalendar, look elsewhere!
If you’re a large construction firm with a civil or EPC client base, consider downloading Estimate before shelling out the big bucks for construction estimating software.
Estimate is another free and open source construction software solution for estimating. It’s largely an analytical tool; use it to estimate how long your project will take, do cost analysis, and tender evaluation. Take these features to the next level with industry-specific calculators for electrical, tile, concrete, maintenance, and more, all included in the software.
Estimate complete free package even offers the tools to audit your own business, manage your documents, and control your material resources.
Want to spend no dollars and zero cents on a cost estimating software? Enter Estimator Application.
It’s not a particularly pretty piece of software—it’s really mostly a spreadsheet with pre-filled out equations largely used by contractors—but it’s a handy tool particularly for construction companies looking to estimate larger projects and use that data to produce proposals. The application syncs with Excel and runs on Java so it can be used from anywhere.
The only drawback of Estimator Application is that it is difficult to learn how to use. There is no support, and the tutorial is somewhat clunky to get through.
GenieBelt is a fully functional construction management system that costs users absolutely nothing. That’s right: unlimited users and unlimited tasks. Users can opt to pay for more file storage (the free version comes with a hard cap on 50 files and only a one month audit trail), but the software is robust enough to handle most small construction business’ needs.
GenieBelt provides a bird’s eye view of all your projects, visual displays for project progress, document management, tasks, space for drawings, and in-app communication features.
More importantly, GenieBelt’s Android and iPhone apps are just as functional as the main app. Users get notifications on site, can report in, and update tasks while out on the field.
For users who want to upgrade to have more files, storage, and a full audit trail, pricing starts at £20 (about $30) per project per month.
Open Workbench has gone through many iterations; you may have known it as “Project Manager Workbench (PMW) or Project Workbench (PW). Either way, it’s been available to the public as a piece of open source software since 2000. It’s most direct competitor? Microsoft Project. (If you’re interested in other competitors, check out our list of the best Microsoft Project alternatives.)
Open Workbench is a project management tool that focuses on effort more than scheduling requirements, so this may be a new project management approach for construction managers. With that said, Open Workbench is almost feature-to-feature the same when compared to Microsoft Project; it’s an incredibly robust free alternative.
Unfortunately, CA Technologies has largely abandoned Open Workbench (going as far as shutting down its original promotional site). This means that CA Technologies is not actively updating the file. However, Open Workbench still gets 50 to 150 downloads per day and still has an active help forum.
OrangeScrum is a free, open-source project management tool with a robust community that is always adding new features and add-ons for the software.
OrangeScrum is a project management tool and not specifically a construction management tool, but unlike many project management tools it is geared toward the construction industry, among others. The tool is best for small- and medium-sized businesses.
The software simplifies project management and allows users to create and manage unlimited projects, users and tasks. It also aims to help you collaborate with remote teams and offshore partners and clients. It features resource and task planning, monitoring and control, as well as file sharing through Dropbox and Google Drive.
Wrike is another general free project management tool, but it is also adaptable for a construction manager. Wrike creates “building blocks of work,” breaking up larger goals into smaller pieces with due dates and files that can be attached. You can track your overall progress in a construction project with this tool.
The software also enables you to initiate work with a request forms function, allowing you to prioritize projects with your team and get them done faster.
Wrike has a strong collaboration aspect to it, allowing you to view everyone’s changes to documents in real time. It also enables you to upload or link and edit documents in just about any format and through services provided by Microsoft, Google and Dropbox. There’s a live activity stream providing real-time updates on project activity if you like tracking your project on the go.
For small construction companies with a tech-savvy crew, OpenDocMan is an incredible free and open-source document management system. Companies must self-host on LAMP or WAMP. Running through Apache/IIS, users can use OpenDocMan for any number of functions, including hosting an unlimited number of files, file expiration, revision history, and detailed search.
OpenDocMan offers upgraded versions, including an option that includes hosting and training. While OpenDocMan is largely intuitive, there is a learning curve for new users.
At the end of the day, construction managers are better off paying for integrated construction management software. Instead of mashing together different software options for different tasks, they should invest in one central option, cutting down on costs and procedure.
But with that said, these four options will help your construction business fix problems relating to cost estimating and drawing, documenting, and project management. I’m sure there are other great free and open source construction-specific software options available—what did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!
And if there’s construction management software that should have made this list—or definitely doesn’t belong here—leave a review to let us know!
Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.