Top 5 Gantt chart templates to try free for 2023 – with examples Whatever the project, a Gantt chart keeps you running to schedule and budget. We explain how to write one, and review the top free Gantt chart templates for SMEs. Written by Helena Young Updated on 15 August 2023 Our Research Our expert team of writers and researchers rates project management software against the factors small businesses care about most - value for money (for both small and growing teams); depth of features; ease of use; quality of templates and ability to customise them, plus help and support when problems need resolving. Written and reviewed by: Helena Young Lead Writer Our independent reviews are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers. Using a Gantt chart template is an excellent way to improve project scheduling. Delays can be costly, but a Gantt chart can ensure the successful delivery of business KPIs and a streamlined budget – two important factors for project managers that are even more vital in today's economic downturn.Gantt charts display each task as a horizontal bar to manage resources more effectively. The position and length of the bar shows the start date, duration and end date of the activity. If any activities overlap, the manager can see where a bottleneck might occur and plan accordingly.Following twelve months of researching project management software, our experts have picked out the five best free Gantt chart templates for project members to download for free. Best Gantt Chart Templates, at a glance monday.com (free trial) – Best choice for organising multi-phase projects, such as businesses launching a new productClickUp (Free Plan) – Best for resource-stretched teams with fewer than 3 membersSmartsheet (free trial) – Best for organising projects with multiple sub-contractorsWrike (Free Plan) – Best for developer teams who are working remotely and need to prioritise communicationAsana (free trial) –Best for teams with a consistent output without deadlines, such as content production In this guide, we’ll explain the specific strengths, user requirements, and potential limitations of each Gantt chart template to help you chart a path to success. We'll also provide examples of how you might put a Gantt chart template to use, so you can understand what it looks like in practice, not just theory. This article will cover: What is a Gantt chart? Best Gantt chart templates How to create a successful Gantt chart (with examples) How to use a Gantt chart template Our research methodology Verdict What is a Gantt chart?Gantt charts are used in project planning to monitor team progress. They are more easily understood once you’ve seen what they look like.As our Gantt chart templates show, the idea is to design a colour-coded graph that illustrates when a task needs to be completed within the overall project timeline. That way, project members can easily spot where there is a conflict and a delay might occur.There are multiple ways you can organise a Gantt chart, such as into phases or by department, so it's important to find the right template before you go ahead and start planning.Because Gantt charts let you see a timeline of your project, they’re also helpful for working out the order that tasks need to be completed. That’s why you might also have heard a Gantt chart being described as the Critical Path Method (CPM).The critical path is the leanest route towards project completion and focuses on the deliverables that absolutely must be completed on time for success to be achieved. Best Gantt chart templatesMost project management providers, like monday.com and ClickUp, have Gantt chart templates due to their growing popularity with entrepreneurs in the past decade.Users can download each template in just a few clicks, and start populating their timelines almost instantly.However, every PM platform boasts its own unique spin on the Gantt chart concept. That means it may or may not be suitable depending on your business’s unique objectives.That’s why all of our choices are based on important factors identified by our users such as ease of use, data visualisation, and collaboration.Most importantly, all of our chosen templates are available with either a free trial or a free plan. You won’t need to spend a penny to test them out.1. monday.com Gantt Chart template (free trial)Best for organising multi-phase projects, such as businesses launching a new productThe monday.com Gantt chart has all the trimmings you’d expect. All tasks are given due dates and organised into colour-coded horizontal bars so you can check the status of each activity at-a-glance.But as you can see in the above screenshot, monday's template also comes pre-organised into stages. This makes it unrivalled for multi-phase projects that require the skill sets of numerous departments, such as a product launch.You’ll be able to get a full visualisation of every task involved in a project, without responsibilities becoming confused. We’d especially recommend it for heavily-regulated industries where you need to tick all the boxes, such as if you’re launching a healthcare product.Luckily, monday’s clean layout ensures things don’t get complicated when teams are collaborating on the same work plan for several months. In fact, data visualisation is the app’s strong suit.We gave monday.com 5 out of 5 for presentation during our latest research round, as opposed to Smartsheet which scores just 3.5 due to its clunkier, spreadsheet display format. Pros Set up an automated notification to tell you when a particular milestone or phase is completed Our results found monday.com gets the highest customer rating with 4.5 out of 5 Custom widgets are available via the dashboard. You can use these to track things like budget or project progress Cons No time tracking tools available so you’ll have to do your own timesheet reporting Gantt view is only available with the monday.com Standard plan (£10 per month) You might also like.. free action plan templates Action plan templates are another great way to map tasks and reach a larger business goal. Learn more about action plan templates 2. ClickUp Gantt Chart template (Free Plan)Best for resource-stretched teams with fewer than 3 membersWe recommend the ClickUp Gantt template (click to try) for small teams prioritising resource management to meet a deadline. For example, an accounting department planning your annual payroll.This is because of the ClickUp workflow tool called ‘Workload’. It enables you to view the level of free time each team member and how it might impact project status. If you notice your team doesn’t have capacity to complete a task, you can simply adapt and plan accordingly.Unlike with Smartsheet, which requires some menu diving to set up, this is available in just a few clicks and can even be automatically calculated to save on admin time.Another thing we like about ClickUp is its real-time editing. Through the drag-and-drop action and changes are instantly shared with the team so project progress is always up-to-date. Monday.com and Wrike also offer this feature, but it’s not available with Asana or Smartsheet. Pros No hidden fees and a ‘free forever’ promise means multiple users can use ClickUp for zero charge Clickup’s instant-messenger style chat with means you can update the rest of your team immediately if a task needs shelving Asana, monday.com, Wrike, and Smartsheet do not offer live chat, whereas ClickUp does, so you can get instant help if you run into difficulties Cons Free plan allows just ‘100’ uses of the handy Workload feature per team - unsuitable for bigger teams Your team can only view your Gantt chart 100 times per month on the free plan You might also like.. free RACI chart templates If your priority is effective resource allocation, check out our guide to the top free RACI templates. Learn more about RACI chart templates 3. Smartsheet Gantt Chart template (free trial)Best for those organising projects with multiple sub-contractors, such as construction SMEsSmartsheet is the best PM system for CPM, otherwise known as the Critical Path Method. Critical paths in Gantt chart project management are the longest sequence of activities that must be finished on time in order for the entire project to be complete.Nearly 9 out of 10 construction projects are currently delayed by more than 100 days due to poor project scheduling. Let’s say you are a construction manager building a new housing development. You know that certain subcontractors need to be brought in to build the walls before a plumber comes to fit faucets.Calculate this task sequence using the Smartsheet Gantt template as a way to see where each supplier needs to be plotted within the overall project timeframe. You can do this effortlessly thanks to a unique Smartsheet feature; the ‘display hierarchy’ tool. In the sheet's primary column, indent rows to visually organise tasks by their importance. So, if you’re working with lots of different suppliers, you’ll be able to keep a strict watch to ensure that all tasks are allocated with enough time to avoid overlaps and delays.We highlighted another good template to use for this purpose in our guide to the top project plan templates for SMEs. Action plans break down project goals into practical, easy-to-follow steps similarly to Gantt charts. Pros Spreadsheet format means Smartsheet is easy to master - especially with Microsoft Excel experience With Smartsheet’s customisable approach you can implement workarounds for features not provided, like budget tracking Cons There are some third-party solutions, but Smartsheet does not offer any form of time tracking We scored Smartsheet much lower than monday.com for collaboration (3/5 vs. 3.8/5) 4. Wrike Gantt Chart template (Free Plan)Best for developer teams who are working remotely and need to prioritise communicationAs the above Gantt template indicates, Wrike is a fuss-free project management tool that we think is best-suited to remote working teams due to its project message board function. Project Message Boards within PM platforms generally work in the same way that platforms such as Slack do, where users can start threads and other users can contribute through comments. They are well-suited for Gantt charts, which tend to lack the space for detailed notes or information.By simply posting a message about a project query you might have, you can eliminate time wasted in lengthy meetings by getting a quick answer from colleagues. Used alongside other collaboration tools from Wrike, like task comments, project planning will be a lot smoother.It’s a great, time-saving solution that’s particularly beneficial if you have lots of dependent tasks that rely on other deliverables. Neither ClickUp, Asana, monday.com or Smartsheet provides this feature. Pros We scored Wrike 5 out of 5 for data visualisation, putting it ahead of Smartsheet in terms of presentation Wrike has seven pricing plans to choose from (Smartsheet has just three) making it perfect for long-term use and scaling Wrike’s ‘rollup’ feature condenses longer timelines into more digestible datasheets Cons Wrike is one of our lowest-scoring platforms for customer support with a result of just 1.8 out of 5 While it’s great for collaboration during the project, Wrike has no channels for post-project feedback, unlike monday.com 5. Asana Gantt Chart template (free trial)Best for teams with a consistent output without deadlines, such as content productionAsana does not actually offer a Gantt chart maker. Instead, its template is called a timeline. All of the core features remain such as task dependencies, guest access, and task reminders. However, Asana does also come with some noticeable distinguishers.Chiefly, the timeline view is not designed to handle large stacks of data. Instead, the sheet resembles something more like a calendar. As the above example shows, its format is bright and big, with eye-catching colours and team member headshots awarded to each task.Because of this, we think it works better for project scheduling small tasks within a wider plan. For example, if you are a digital agency that needs to keep track of your content production and output over an entire fiscal year.Also worth mentioning is Asana has a resource-management tool – unlike monday.com or Wrike – called ‘Upcoming Tasks'. This provides a view of each team member's jobs for the week and makes it easier for managers to keep tabs on task status. Pros Asana’s modern template massively outperforms Smartsheet for data visualisation - despite costing considerably less post-trial Asana’s timeline view is drag-and-drop. Users can effortlessly change things like the due date of a task Cons Asana’s timeline view is not available on the free plan. You’ll need to pay £10 per month for Asana Premium Subtasks don’t automatically inherit their parent’s timeframe. You’ll need to manually add this in We analysed tens of popular software review sites, including TrustPilot, and found Asana scores lowest for customer satisfaction How to create a successful Gantt chart (with examples)Gantt charts provide a visual layout of how each component of your project plan will slot together to create the most time and cost-efficient workflow. It lists everything from start and end dates, to task status, to team member responsibilities.Because Gantt charts provide so much information in a simple visual, they are incredibly useful for project managers. In one quick glance, you can see how the team is performing, and where a delay might occur, to adapt accordingly.Below, we'll take you through the Gantt chart building process in five simple steps. To make things easier, we'll also use a hypothetical business case study so you can see what each stage looks like in a real template example. Gantt chart example: The Startups Inn Scenario: The Startups Inn is a rural pub based in Essex, owned and managed by Joe SmithGoal: To launch a new beer product in time for the festive season and entice new customers to the pub Step 1. Decide on a SMART goalYou can't make a Gantt chart without first establishing what you want to achieve by building one. As a first step, decide on a SMART objective for the entire team to aim towards. To have a SMART goal, the stated target must be:Specific: (clearly define the goal using quantitative data)Measurable: (explain how you'll track your success)Achievable (set a goal that's attainable based on available resources)Realistic (set a goal that's relevant to your industry and skillset)Time-bound (set a specific deadline)Example: The Startups Inn wants to launch a new product. It sets the following SMART goal: “By November 1st, The Startups Inn will successfully launch and promote its new product, attracting a minimum of 200 new customers and achieving a festive sales revenue increase of at least 10% year-on-year.”Step 2. List the tasks involvedBefore you begin to build your Gantt chart, you'll need to know the steps involved to achieve your SMART goal. As part of a team brainstorming session, list every project task you'll need to complete to achieve your goal. Clarify:How long the task will take to completeTask start date and end dateWho is responsible for delivery of the taskHow that task relates to other tasks (dependencies)Whether there are subtasks within the task (meetings, approvals, deadlines, etc.)Example: Below are five hypothetical tasks that Joe Smith has listed for The Startups Inn to successfully launch the new product, attract new customers, and achieve their goal by the start of the festive trading period:1. Product development: Define the new product, source suppliers, and create a prototype2. Market research: Analyse competitor pricing, offerings, and marketing strategies3. Marketing strategy: Define marketing channels and design promotional materials4. Event planning: Train staff to prepare and serve the new product efficiently5. Sales tracking: Track weekly product sales and monitor customer feedbackStep 3. Organise the tasksOf course, most project plans are not as simple as a list of tasks to complete in order to achieve your overall goal. Some tasks will be dependent tasks, which means they rely on the completion of other tasks before they can begin. These are best thought of as sub-tasks, and should be classified as such.Some organisations colour-code their Gantt charts by activity type to make it easier for different departments and team members to decipher their role. For instance, within The Startups Inn's project it has both marketing activities and sales activities, so this might be a good way to categorise each task and sub-task.Example: The screenshot below, built using the ClickUp Gantt chart template, shows what Joe Smith's above list of tasks looks like when organised and colour-coded into different activity types:Step 4. Schedule each taskNow it's time to input when each task involved in the project will start and end. Luckily, most templates (including the ClickUp Gantt chart template) let you add a start date and end date as a preset column, so you can do this easily in just a few clicks.Example: The Startups Inn has set a deadline of November 1st to achieve its goal of launching a new product. Owner, Joe Smith might start by plotting out each task based on when it needs to be completed by. Assuming a start date of September 1, here's what that two-month outline might look like:Month 1: Product development and Market researchMonth 2: Marketing strategy and Event planningMonth 3 (after November 1st): Sales trackingStep 5. Input each task into your templateThe final step is to take your list of tasks and sub-tasks, and turn them into a Gantt chart. If you're using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, this will be a very fiddly process involving moving around cells and highlighting rows. But if you're using project management software, here's where you'll get your money's worth.Most project management software brands (including ClickUp) allow you to automatically update a Gantt chart as you update your task list. This will save you hours of time that might have previously been spent labouring over a spreadsheet document.Example: Here's what the above task list that Joe Smith came up with for The Startups Inn's product launch, transformed into a Gantt chart format:Why use a Gantt chart?Gantt charts are specifically designed to help project managers plan work around deadlines and optimise resources. Here are three ways that Gantt charts can improve the project planning process:1. Gantt charts give a complete overview of project progressMost Gantt charts are organised like a calendar. Depending on the timeframe, they track project progress over weeks, months, or even years. Because every task is already plotted out with a unique delivery date, project members can monitor every task's status and identify any potential problems with delivery before they even arise.2. Gantt charts are great for team workingGantt chart users see exactly how their duties align with other members of the team, which makes them a great tool for team-working. With powerful PM software like the providers we've recommended, project members even get real-time updates on each task so they can be instantly notified if a change impacts their workload.3. Gantt charts streamline resourcesPoor resource management is a nail in the coffin for project managers. It occurs when a team miscalculates the amount of time or members needed to deliver on a task. Gantt charts allow firms to use their resources effectively as the project timeline shows exactly how and where they are being wasted – and where to adjust accordingly. How to use a Gantt chart templateGetting started with a Gantt chart template can be done in just five simple steps. We'll go through them in the section below, using screenshots from the monday.com Gantt chart template as a guide:1. Choose a Gantt chart template from our five recommended options.Have a read through the reviews above and select the template you think is best for your Gantt chart needs. We went with the monday.com Gantt chart template to begin with, using the monday.com free trial.2. Set up an account with the provider.We typed in our business profile details such as name and email, to set up an account with our chosen project management software (monday.com).3. Add your Gantt chart template.All of the above software offer the ability to turn any list of project tasks into a Gantt chart template in seconds. With monday.com the Gantt chart tab automatically updated itself with every change made on the main task list.4. Share your Gantt chart with fellow project members.Once your account has been set up, it's time to share the template with your fellow project colleagues. monday.com let us do this in just a few clicks, by inviting a new member to view the template via email invitation.5. Assign the tasks to the team member responsible for its completion.As well as being able to add a start/end date, monday.com's Gantt chart template also invited us to allocate each task to the team member responsible for its completion.Why can’t I just use Excel?Spreadsheet apps such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets are commonly used in place of project management software as they often come pre-downloaded to business laptops.Sticking with Excel as a money-saving method is perfectly understandable. But you will be severely limited in how well you can plan your project. Here are the three main reasons we don’t recommend Microsoft Excel for Gantt charts:1. CollaborationIn 2022, 33% of office workers said team messaging had become more of a challenge as a result of hybrid working. Communication has never been more important – but it is also a significant barrier with apps like Excel. Comments are frustrating to add and often missed by other members.Apps like ClickUp give you an internal messaging app that makes this much easier. On top of this, all relevant information including documents, videos, and emails can be stored in the platform so – once your Gantt chart is designed – you can work on every aspect of a project from one easy location.2. Knowledge gapExcel and Google Sheets are not intuitively designed. Analysts often need to partake in specialist coding training programs to understand them – which your team won’t have time for.Smartsheet came out top in this list for usability during our latest round of research, scoring 4.3 out of 5. It features a Gantt chart view where you can automatically view all your tasks without prior setup.3. AestheticsParticularly if there are stakeholders involved (which there nearly always are in project planning) then project management software is much more attractive to look at than Excel.Rather than sharing a clunky and confused page of cells, you can format your plan to ensure it looks professional and accessible for partners or clients to view. How we test project management software for small businessesWe tested 14 project management software to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, customer support, features, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to small UK-based businesses.Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in five main categories of investigation and nine subcategories – in fact, we covered 51 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs of our Startups.co.uk readers.Our main testing categories for project management software are:Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular project management provider. Also, the market position and reputation a project management tool holds.Features: the functionalities and capabilities offered by the project management solution, such as task management and team collaboration.Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the project management solution provider to users, such as phone support and email or chat support.Usability Testing: we get people just like you to test out the products to focus on evaluating the ease of use and user experience of the project management solution.Cost Factors: the financial considerations associated with using a project management solution, including licensing fees, subscription plans, and storage and user limit.The Startups product testing process VerdictWe recommend monday.com to product-based businesses. The app strips back the Gantt format for a lean, phased project schedule that’s ideal for new launches or updates.For small departments with fewer than 3 members, ClickUp’s free plan is a smart solution for checking project progress to meet deadlines.For those managing multiple sub-contractors, we recommend Smartsheet. You’ll easily be able to design a task sequence to keep track of dependent tasks.We recommend Wrike to remote teams. The project message board improves communication so team members can quickly update on a task status.For small business providers, such as marketing teams, we recommend Asana. Its user-friendly timeline view is suitable for day-to-day project planning over large datasheets. Get started with monday.com Download our top-rated Gantt chart template for zero charge Try for free Startups.co.uk is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps Startups.co.uk to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews. Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Tags Templates & Tutorials Written by: Helena Young Lead Writer Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.