Issue Tracking Software

A crucial component of a successful software project is feature tracking. Bugs, issues, defects, requirements, tasks: whatever they’re called, they need to be recorded, tracked, and dealt with.

At we started off with the free IssueTracker Starter Kit from the folks at Microsoft. This is a very simple, bare-bones application which gets the job done, but has some really useful features missing, at least in the version out-of-the-box. For example, you cannot view all tasks across all projects, only grouped by project. The Search feature is basic too, requiring SQL-like syntax (e.g. LIKE %crash%) to find matches.

Eventum is a well-featured system, running best on LAMP, but working on Win32 also. Particularly nice are the built-in time-tracking features, which allow a project manager to see at a glance where time is being spent on the project. It has email integration to allow issues to be created automatically, and for users to receive notification when they are assigned an issue. It also features integration with CVS, though Subversion support would bring it more up-to-date.

There are obviously free offerings like Bugzilla, but the interface sucks, and it’s very unfriendly. A well-featured system I have used at a previous company is FogBugz (from Fog Creek software, of Joel On Software). It’s therefore very usable: to bring up the page for Issue #51, for example, you simply type ’51’ in the search box, and hit Enter. It sports RSS feeds of issues, and has email, CVS, and Subversion (and even VSS) integration, allowing you to match up bugs fixed in code with the entries in the issue tracker. Sadly, it’s not free.

Another system which looks nice is OnTime from AxoSoft. The single-user version is free, though additional users are rather pricey. It has a WinForms client in addition to the Web interface, so provides for a much richer interaction. It also has Visual Studio integration, so bugs can be managed from the location where they will be fixed: inside the IDE. Its feature list is pretty impressive; clearly, the focus is on .Net development teams.

All in all, what I want from issue tracking depends on the context. The ASP.NET IssueTracker works well for my own needs for personal projects. When projects become more comples, and there is a need for time tracking too, then Eventum or OnTime look good options. For ease-of-use, FogBugz probably comes out top.

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