Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Bug Tracking Systems (BTS) have their origin in software development, but they can serve as important and useful tools in every team environment. For this reason the names Issue Tracker or Ticket System have become more appropriate.

BTS may function as a central point of communication for any team. They can increase the productivity and accountability of each employee dramatically by providing a documented work flow and allowing for positive feedback on good performance. They usually reduce downtime and production costs while increasing efficiency and, most importantly, customer satisfaction.

The open-source project Bugzilla, for example, provides an easy to use, easy to maintain and cost effective solution with a rich feature set that easily can compete with its proprietary counterparts. Bugzilla's Web interface allows cross-platform use while the XML and e-mail interfaces enable automatic error reporting. Not only can the automatic error reporting be included in the development of a new product, but it also can be integrated easily into an existing product.

This article provides an overview of how introducing Bugzilla can help your team work together and communicate more efficiently. Bugzilla uses the term bug, so I will stay with this notation throughout the article, but don't forget, it's not only about bugs, You can use Bugzilla for any task you need to track.

Teamwork

Bug trackers aid the whole product life-cycle. In the case of software development environments, this usually consists of software design, implementation and testing. From testing, the work flow takes it course either back to design or on to implementation for bug fixing. In the best of all worlds, at some point an error-free product leaves this cycle and gets shipped to a customer. In all other worlds, the customer is part of the development cycle and submits bugs.

Everyone in the team needs to effectively keep track of upcoming issues. Designers and developers need to be notified about new bugs and reminded of existing ones. Managers need a means to distribute upcoming bugs to the right developer and quickly acquire the status of the project. Integrators and testers need to know which issues already have been resolved and therefore require consideration in the next build and test cycle. Customers want to be able to rapidly report bugs and receive an update of their status, while help desk operators need to be able to respond quickly to such customer demands.

Most companies come to the point where they start to track those issues by way of e-mail or spreadsheet lists—some even use sticky notes. At some point, the number of issues outgrows these approaches and the number of forgotten or unresolved issues demands a better solution. Let's follow one of those teams on their path to introducing Bugzilla as its in-house BTS.

Preparations: Getting Organized

As with every software product, the introduction of a BTS in an existing work flow requires initial thought and planning. The goal is for all participants to accept and use the new system, meaning that its introduction should have only a positive impact on their daily work.

Figure 1. The Bugzilla title page: choose New in the footer to report a bug quickly.

Figure 2. Every bug belongs to a Product, which is subdivided into Components.

As with most BTS, bugs in Bugzilla concern a component, which belongs to a product. A bug also may have a version and a milestone attached. Before introducing the new system, thought must be put into how its structure fits in to your daily work flow. All possible upcoming issues in your work flow should have a set place, including problems with Bugzilla itself. It often makes sense to include even trivial organizational issues that can have a large impact on development. If having sufficient blank CDs in your office is critical, you may include a shortage as a bug in Bugzilla.

Products are the main category and usually represent actual shipping products or services. You also should have a number of special products that reflect your internal work groups, like System Administration or Office Supplies.

Components are sub-sections of a product. Among others, a software product may have GUI and Database components. Your special product, system administration, may have the components Intranet Web Site, Shared Drive and Printers, to mention a few. Each component has at least one designated user that receives the error reports. Naturally you want to ensure that the workload is distributed evenly.

Versions refer to the version of your product where the bug occurred, while milestones represent target times for a bug to be fixed by. This does not necessarily need to be a date; it can be something like “When boss returns from holiday”.

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Vermis - new open source issue tracker

Lukasz Cepowski's picture

Hello,

I would like to introduce the project that I'm working on for a few months :)
Project is called Vermis (lat. bug, worm). It is an Open Source issue tracker
and project management tool for software developers and project managers that
has been created for improving quality of code, efficiency and speed of
development. Designed as a standard web application written in PHP (Zend Framework and Doctrine ORM), it can be
used on almost any platform and hosting service, including Windows, Linux and
more.

Project is available here http://vermis.diabloware.com
The online demo is here http://vermis.diabloware.com/demo

The long term goal is to compete with commercial products like Jira and other
open source software like Trac, Redmine, Mantis, Bugzilla etc.
Vermis is being distributed under terms of GNU General Public License, so you
can use it both in open and closed source projects.

Why Vermis exists?
- Jira has a lot of features but it is hard to use, and first of all it is a
commercial software
- Redmine needs RoR which is resource consuming
- Trac needs Python
- Bugzilla needs Perl
- Mantis, hmm i just didn't like it ;)

Why Vermis is better than the other products?
- Vermis is written in PHP and uses MySQL, which is probably the most
widespread and the cheapest web platform nowadays
- It doesn't require any additional software on a hosting server (except
mod_rewrite which is also very popular)
- Currently it has similar functionalities lika Jira
- It growns very fast :)

What Vermis already has?
- Multiple projects in one place
- Web access from any place on Earth
- Public and private projects
- Many types of issues
- Components
- Milestones
- Versioning and the history of changes
- Dynamic grids (issue navigator)
- Many user accounts
- Online registration
- Notes
- File upload
- Comments
- Progress bars
- Email notifications

What Vermis will have?
- API via SOAP or REST
- Graphical reporting
- Burndown charts
- Agile support (Scrum)
- Custom issue types, priorities, statuses, etc
- Dynamic access control list
- Automatic collecting reports from the external applications
- Wrappers for PHP, Java, C#
- many more ;)

I'm inviting to watch, test and use Vermis.
Since version 1.0 RC3 Vermis is its own bugtracker, which is available at http://bugs.diabloware.com
The latest source code you can download from http://vermis.diabloware.com/download
Any questions you can post at the official project's forum which is at http://forum.diabloware.com

I'm looking forward for any feedback, comments and critique :)

Thanks

How to install bugzilla in windows xp service pack-2

Nagesh.Ponnapalli's picture

please tell me How to install bugzilla in windows xp service pack-2

Offline client for Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture

Bugzilla now has a desktop client, Deskzilla, that is able to preload bugs and work offline with later synchronization. It's not developed by Mozilla and though it is a commercial software, it is available for open source projects for free. Screenshots, available on Deskzilla site, show a linux kernel bugs neatly laid out in categories. I wonder when they will have charts and reporting...

Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture

Bugzilla is pretty hard to config/custimize. We use TestTrack Pro by Seapine Software

Another simple option

Jason G.'s picture

I am also on the i-want-something-easier wing. i stumbled upon BugWiki (www.bugwiki.com), and that turned out to be the right thing for me. No install, just a sign-up. Simple to learn, too.

Someone posting fake bugwiki reviews?

Anonymous's picture

Is it just me or is Jason G a BugWiki employee. I have been researching some bug tracking tools recently and everywhere I see, there are some recent comments about how good bugwiki is (twitter, some bug tracker comparisons etc). I look at bugwiki and it's no better than scribbling down stuff in a spreadsheet. I am not saying it's bad (everything has it's uses), but persistent comments stating how great bugwiki is, is pretty darn suspicious. Especially on a post that is a nearly a year old?

Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture

I looked at Bugzilla for my organization, however it didn't do enough in the way of time-tracking and groupware for it to be useful for a single company or a consultant. Instead, I created an enhanced version of Outreach Project Tool (orginally from an Austrian firm) that did everything I needed and more:

Check out the project page or the try the demo site.

Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture

OPT looks nice, though I hadn't stumbled on it ~6 months ago when doing my review. I looked at about 2 dozen; propriatory and OSS, commercial and not. That doesn't even count the ones I rejected without doing the full installation and analysis.

The last time I went through finding an acceptable issue/defect tracker, I had one person perk up; "Great! I already have one written in Access. I can make any changes you want." (There were a few of these already in use by 1 or 2 projects here and there also.)

Ack! No, I've done that too. Mine was even used to track about 800 test cases plus defects/enhancements for a ~30 million dollar project and I will *never* do that again. 'When all you have is a hammer...look around and find other tools!'

Even if you are clever, chances are someone else has a more appropriate tool that almost does the same thing. There's only so many things that you can do with this stuff before turning it into another category of app.

Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture

If you're not a huge fan of Bugzilla (I'm not too keen on the way it's been written), it's also worth considering RT from bestpractical.com.

Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture

One of the really bad things about RT is how

- You enter a Request in RT, people receive an email.
- If people want to add a comment to a Request, they respond to the original email. Usually they'll include the body of the original message in the email.
- If you go back to the RT web interface, you will now have the original Request, and the new response which includes the original message in the email.

Since many conversations will take place via email, and including the body of the previous messages in the email body is a standard practic, this leads to a very very messy and confusing list of bugs in RT.

It would be great if RT would strip the old messages from the emails.

Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture

I couldn't get it to be adopted...even found a company that would ship a custom system and support it. The reason it was rejected? Looks. "It has to be pretty; the executives need that otherwise it won't fly." I understand that if they are the ones deciding on what tool to choose...they only have so much time...yet....

Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture

I don't see why one would need support. I installed Bugzilla, Apache, and MySQL on a Windows NT box at work.

Once I did the initial manual patching to get Bugzilla to work on NT, I haven't touched it since. It has run about a year so far with no problems.
I also changed some of the text to say "My Company - Issue Tracking System" instead of Bugzilla and "zarro boogs" to "no bugs".

There was no official need identified at work, but eventually it became a standard part of our process.

Go work for a small company. They don't spend 4 months of meetings making decisions.

Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

Anonymous's picture
    I don't see why one would need support.

Here's the conversation (in a nut shell) that I went through over Mozilla;

  • Exec: We need something that's ready to go.
  • Me: But the customization is not too bad, and there are commercial companies that can do it.
  • Exec: We don't have the budget.
  • Me: The licence costs for the commercial releases we are looking at are $15,000; base. We can do the work for less and pocket the difference; Bugzilla doesn't cost a thing in licencing.
  • Exec: They don't need to be custimized, and they look good out of the box. Sorry, Bugzilla is not an option because of that.
  • Me: When the other products are rolled out to the whole company, it'll cost much much more.
  • Exec: That's fine; we only have a few people that have to use it, mostly mid-managers and above.

    While this is not entirely true (the commercial app did need customization and the information would be entered and searched mainly by non-managers or lower-level managers), I could not press the issue without causing friction so I dropped it. The executive made up his mind, and short of finding a 2 second patch that made Bugzilla match every function and the look of the commercial closed apps, I was not going to get any traction.

  • Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

    Anonymous's picture

    You must work at my company ;)

    Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

    Anonymous's picture
      You must work at my company ;)

    LOL!

    I've worked at many, and rarely can I get people to listen...or more importantly, act or let me do the right thing. The executive I'm (roughly) quoting is actually a real smart guy and does understand many issues. I'm still puzzled why he took the system that he knew already...except that he knew it already. Human psychology is interesting at times.

    Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

    Anonymous's picture

    er...sorry. Bugzilla, not Mozilla. (Though come to think of it, the conversations can be similar.)

    Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

    Anonymous's picture

    Silly really - I'm sure they'll find some pretty looking solution that doesnt work then!

    Re: Open-Source Bug Tracking with Bugzilla

    Anonymous's picture

    Any comments on Scarab?

    To reply to your comments in the meantime: there are plenty of tools like Bugzilla. Not exactly, but similar enough that people won't care either way.

    The problem is that people are creatures of habit and like to pick sides early. Even though the budget might not allow for an expensive tool, people who want "a name brand" or "this software; I've used it, it works" will find some way to buy it.

    Case in point: ClearQuest. Horrid if not configured. OK if properly configured. At one company: the budget for the software (and the other Rational tools) soaked up any money for customization and maintenance. The result: Nobody wanted to use it, so they didn't, and people ended up rolling their own issue trackers or purchasing additional tools to fill specific needs. No _1_ tool is in consistant use, and they can't share data easily.

    Most of these tools can be modified heavily. The main concern is if the maintenance is acceptable and can the data be moved out of the system easily (no lockin).

    Bugzilla can output to other systems -- if you configure it to do so. Yet, it is better to have one tool and eliminate the duplication.

    Attempting to get people to use a Wiki also causes problems, mostly because it's a good tool that most aren't familar with.

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