The world increasingly runs on software, and the companies behind it continue to grow larger and larger. As a result, code and agile project management services have become cornerstones of keeping the world spinning.
Not only are they used to maintain and improve the codes that make our lives easier, but they also connect developers around the world. They enable remote working, allowing companies to hire beyond their immediate borders.
Code Repositories also host source codes for millions of projects, whether it’s open or closed source. This, in turn, has spurred innovation and provided unprecedented learning opportunities for amateur and professional developers.
But as effective as these services are, they are not equal.
Jira and GitHub are two tools that have made a name for themselves by providing these services. However, with some overlap in their respective capabilities, project managers and individual developers often have to make a choice.
In this article, I will go over the strengths and weaknesses of each tool, and at the end of it, you will know which one is right for you and your needs.
Even though they tend to come up in the same conversation, Jira is significantly different from GitHub. It is an issue-tracking tool that enables software developers to keep track of bugs in their codes. This emphasis on bug tracking is one of the reasons it draws comparison with GitHub.
However, there is another side to Jira. It is also a project management tool used by teams of varying sizes to plan, track, and release software.
Owned by the Atlassian Corporation, an Australian company that develops software development products, Jira is renowned for simplifying the complex nature of software project management.
Companies and businesses that adopt the tool get software that comes with everything they need to break their work into manageable units. In turn, they can release stable versions of their product to customers.
It comes in four packages, Jira Work Management, Jira Software, Jira Align, and Jira Service management. All serve different purposes within the software development and project management journey.
Jira is written in Java and uses a WebWork 1 technology stack, a Pico container, and an Apache OFBiz entity engine. It has SOAP, XML-RPC, and REST interfaces and comes in multiple human languages.
Written boldly on GitHub’s landing page is the phrase “Where the world builds software.” Humblebrag aside, it is the leading code collaboration and version control system in the world.
It means alongside bug tracking and project management, GitHub is a source code repository with continuous integration and several collaboration features. Overall, it is a software development and project management tool.
GitHub came into existence in February 2008 and has since mushroomed into the world’s largest host of source code, resulting in its acquisition by Microsoft in 2018.
Companies and individuals alike host their codes on the platform for open and closed source projects. Besides being cloud storage for code, users can also browse and download public repositories and make contributions like feature requests and code reviews.
GitHub’s collaborative design also includes social networking functions like wikis, feeds, and followers.
The service also offers a self-managed version of its services and features for businesses and organizations named GitHub Enterprise. You can install it on company hardware or a cloud service.
As a service for version control, GitHub runs on Git, a software developed by the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds. Other programming languages that make up the service include Ruby on Rails and Erlang, which primarily make up its user interface.
Also Read: GitHub vs GitLab
Issue tracking is one of the leading aspects of software development that links both services. Here is how they compare with one another.
Jira provides four distinct methods to track issues on the platform. Managers and business owners can adopt anyone based on how their team works, informed by variables such as individual roles, project type, and customer needs.
These methods are –
- Issue Navigator – issue tracking via global search, suitable for advanced Jira users and project administrators.
- Jira Boards – issue tracking via a visual overview of a project. The platform offers two types, Scrum and Kanban, suitable for managing and tracking issues from different teams in one place.
- Jira Queues – customer service teams can track ongoing issues using customizable queues to filter tickets.
- Issue Beacon – issue tracking app that combines the best features from other methods. It is suitable for all types of projects and user-friendly for all kinds of users.
As you can see, tracking and managing issues are pretty easy with Jira. There is an efficient, simplified process that suits different teams and projects.
GitHub’s issue tracking solution, Issues, collects customer requests for bug fixes, features, and enhancements. It also integrates with sources like Intercom and Canny, making it possible to import them into project boards.
Issues has additional features and functionalities such as title and description, color-coded labels, and comments. It also comes with Milestones, which allow you to pair problems with a specific feature or project phase.
There is also an Assignee functionality for specifying the responsible party for an issue. Other features include a search function, references, and notifications.
However, GitHub’s issue tracking system requires technical expertise, making it unfriendly to non-technical people. It also only offers simple Kanban boards and allows a maximum of 25 repositories to one board, which can be restrictive for large teams.
GitHub might be where the code is, but Jira software is more user-friendly and better suited for cross-functional teams when it comes to issue tracking.
Interesting Post: GitLab vs Jenkins
Third-party integrations save teams time and shorten the development cycle. Here is how Jira and GitHub compare in this category.
Expectedly, GitHub integrates well with third-party applications and custom tools for building your projects and automating your workflow.
First, there are the apps. The Microsoft-owned version control system supports integration with over 370 apps, including 30% of the most popular apps in the world. These include Microsoft Teams, Slack, Trello, Zoom, and Google Forms.
It also has workflow tool integration. GitHub Apps, which have granular APIs and built-in webhooks, give developers greater control over what they build. They are accessible from a dedicated marketplace, where you can search for whatever your project needs across multiple categories.
You also have GitHub Actions, which has tools for automating workflow and enabling continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD). They are similarly accessible from the GitHub Marketplace, and you can search for specific automation processes via keywords and categories.
Likewise, Jira Software supports integration with third-party apps and services, giving you and your team much-needed flexibility during development.
Asides from efficient integration with other Atlassian products like Trello, there is additional support for integration with over 580 apps. These include common apps like Gmail, Dropbox, Zoom, Slack, and several others.
Users who wish to transition from GitHub to Jira or simply want to pair them have a marketplace app that integrates with Jira Cloud. With this, teams can track branches, commit messages, and pull requests within the Jira platform.
It is not just GitHub either. Jira integrates with other DevOps tools like GitLab, BitBucket, and Jenkins.
The issue tracking software also offers integration with automation tools, called Templates. They are searchable in well-formatted categories and filter support.
Both do an excellent job of reliably integrating with third-party tools and offer plenty of automation that streamlines workflow. This one is a tie.
Jira is a commercial software under Proprietary License. Users need to license it to run on-premises or as a hosted application.
There are different types of licenses available to customers. For Jira Software and Confluence, you can license up to 20,000 users per site, ideal for ultra-large development teams. There is also the Jira Work Management Standard and Premium license, which supports 10,000 users per site.
Others include Jira Service Management Standard and Premium, with 5,000 users per site.
These licenses are all paid except for Developer licenses. They are available for free to self-managed license holders that wish to use the service for non-production installations.
Since GitHub is a code hosting platform and mostly free, licensing takes a different meaning here. Software licenses are set by the owners of repositories, with the option of making them open or closed source.
By default, users can view and fork public repositories, even if it is not open source. However, you still own the rights to your code, and no one can legally distribute it, reproduce it, or create a derivative of it.
To make your software open source and truly free for use and distribution, you have to license it.
Although it is not the complete list, GitHub supports three main types of Open Source licenses, MIT, Apache, and GPL. Each one offers different levels of restriction to users and protection to the developer(s).
Furthermore, the software development platform also provides developers with detailed information on how to license their code on a dedicated website.
GitHub wins this one. The platform itself is free and users still get plenty of license-free access to multiple software.
A solid user base often reflects the quality of a product and provides reliable community support. Which service is better in this regard? Let’s find out.
With more than 65 million users and three million organizations hosting their code on GitHub, it is the world’s largest host of source code. It also has more than 200 million repositories, of which over 28 million are public.
These massive figures make GitHub the top destination for anyone looking for a platform to develop their coding skills with plenty of community support on offer.
There is an extensive catalog of code to browse and download, and you can familiarize yourself with the code structure of some of the world’s biggest companies.
Of the over three million organizations on GitHub, 72% of the Fortune 500 companies in the world are users. It includes Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Dell. It also houses repos for other notable companies, including many Fortune 500 businesses.
This provides a rare opportunity for developers and prospective employees to gain valuable insight into their processes and collaborate with experienced engineers.
Jira is by no means a slouch when it comes to its user base. Since its initial release in 2002, it has amassed more than 65,000 customers, including global brands like Cisco and Visa.
The issue tracking and project management tool is also used by Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, Lyft, and many more. Its roster of companies elevates Jira as a reliable and quality product and a marketable tool worth learning for developers.
Also, there are active online communities on platforms like Reddit and Atlassian Community if you need help.
With more than 65 million users, GitHub is the clear winner in this category. Besides that, its support for over 200 programming languages is a big plus for developers.
Jira has valuable collaboration features, which is why it is the go-to product for several small, medium, and large organizations.
It is for agile teams that require an up-to-date overview of tasks in an intuitive interface. The platform delivers this through Kanban and Scrum boards, both useful for continuous workflows and structured work sprints.
Additionally, Jira also has a task management scheme that allows managers to define tasks and assign them to team members. It comes with due dates and reminders for easy tracking and task history and reporting to assess progress.
What’s more, Jira allows users to see who is working on a task in real-time via emails and event updates in terms of internal communication. It also provides integration with third-party apps like HipChat for real-time communication.
Also Read: Jira vs GitLab
Best known for its code collaboration tools, GitHub allows code owners to share their code with the world in public repositories. It is also possible to do the same with a select group of people privately.
The code hosting service has several features that aid collaboration, such as Pull Requests. It enables you and your team members to suggest code changes, see what exactly was changed, review, and comment on code line by line.
Its bug tracking solution, GitHub Issues, is also an efficient collaborative feature that enables managers to allocate tasks to up to ten people. There are also real-time notifications for team members when you assign tasks or request a review.
Furthermore, GitHub allows you to customize permissions for teams by defining users’ level of access to code and data.
The platform also functions as a social networking site, with features like feeds, followers, and a social network graph to show off the forks of a repository.
I am going to call this a tie even though they have different strengths. Jira is better when it comes to task-based collaboration, while GitHub excels with code-based collaboration.
Thanks to its features and capabilities, GitHub is easy to use and a simplified version control system. Practically everything you need for code collaboration is at your fingertips, and there is a large community to tap into if you need help.
The user interface, while technical, is friendly on the eyes, and it is easy to set up an account for yourself and your organization. As a result, it is an ideal platform for remote work.
GitHub also supports multiple programming languages, and thus, can be used for any type of project. To put it simply, it just works.
The code hosting service is also available on different platforms. It is primarily web-based, but users can also access it on mobile devices on Android and iOS.
Just as well, Jira is accessible by users on mobile on Android and iOS devices. It is also available on Linux, Windows, Mac, and web-based browsers.
Thanks to a fresh and modern interface, it is also easy to use. Jira has an intuitive interface that enables cross-functional adoption by different teams.
Jira also allows extensive customization, workflow configuration, and easy separation of projects. Additionally, its broad support for third-party integration streamlines software development and supports easier collaboration beyond its proprietary features.
Furthermore, its project management features, such as the Kanban and Scrum boards, make it an ideal tool for planning, tracking, and releasing software.
When setting up Jira for your agile team, everything you need comes out of the box, allowing product release without compromising quality.
This round belongs to Jira. It is much easier to use for non-developers. Its simplification of complex processes in software development allows developers to focus more on writing code instead of managing it.
There are two major product types of Jira Software, Cloud and Data Center. The latter is an on-premise solution for teams that require a self-managed solution.
It offers complete user control over data management, security and compliance, and performance. Jira bills its Data Center solution per year at $42,000 for a minimum team of 500 users.
There is a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied with the purchase.
The Cloud solution, however, is far cheaper and can be billed monthly. It comes in four plans —
- Forever Free – supports a maximum of 10 users and one site limit, 2GB file storage. Perfect for small teams.
- Standard – $7 per user, maximum of 20,000 users, one site limit, 250GB file storage. Fit for expanding teams.
- Premium – $14 per user, maximum of 20,000 users, one site limit, global and multi-project automation, unlimited storage, 24/7 premium support.
- Enterprise – Sales team contract, billed annually, 20,000 users, unlimited site limit, global and multi-project automation, unlimited storage, and 24/7 Enterprise support.
For up-to-date information about the cost of the various plans that Jira offers, please refer to their pricing page.
The basic tier for GitHub is free for individuals and organizations. At $0 per month, you get unlimited public/private repositories and collaborators, unlimited automation minutes for public repositories, and 2,000 automation minutes per month for private repositories.
This tier also comes with 500MB for Packages storage for private repos and unlimited storage for public ones. You also get unlimited access to GitHub Apps and Status checks.
For its paid tiers, GitHub has Team ($4 per user a month) and Enterprise ($21 per user a month) plans.
The Team plan comes with everything offered in the free tier along with Pages and Wikis, 2GB of Packages storage, web-based support, draft pull requests, and more.
Enterprise is a self-managed version of the platform with additional features like GitHub Connect, 50GB Packages Storage, and Advanced auditing. Other benefits include premium support and token, secret, and code scanning.
You can always consult Github’s pricing page for the latest pricing information.
GitHub is the better financial option. You get a lot more for free, and the paid tiers offer significant extra value.
- Both Jira and GitHub run on the cloud and on-premise on a private server
- Both have REST APIs that enable integration with multiple third-party apps and tools
- Both have substantial usage among popular brands
- Both have Android and iOS apps
- Both support issue tracking
- Jira has customizable and different types of dashboards, while GitHub does not and only offers kanban boards.
- GitHub has monthly payments for its Enterprise plan, whereas Jira only offers annual payments.
- Jira was developed with Java and GitHub with Ruby
- Jira is primarily for agile project management, while GitHub is a source code repository
- While GitHub is a version control system, Jira is a bug tracking tool
- Has cloud and on-premise solution
- Offers effective collaboration
- Unlike its alternatives, Jira is easy to use with cross-functional applications
- Supports extensive customization
- Powerful project management and software development tool
- More expensive
- Unimpressive mobile app
- Excellent open source support
- Easy to set up
- Large and responsive community
- Free repositories
- Extensive integration support
- No multilingual interface
- Vulnerable to DDOS attacks
Finally, here we are. I hope you found the comparison between both software development tools helpful.
As you can see, both products, while they have their differences, are excellent products with plenty of valuable features. However, GitHub emerges as the better option overall.
While Jira is better for maintaining user stories and managing a project, GitHub is not far behind and still offers plenty of additional advantages.
GitHub offers source code maintenance and plenty of open source projects for you to join. You can also integrate it with Jira, eliminating the need to choose the bug tracking tool exclusively.
Additionally, GitHub offers a lot more for free, and you get plenty more for your buck at the paid tier. When you combine this with its large user base, the Microsoft-owned code hosting service is, without a doubt, the better choice.
Scott L. Macarthur is a marketing consultant and an online author. He is mostly engaged in providing his expertise to startups and SMBs. He is also an author on TheNextWeb.