The perfect small issue tracker: Roundup

February 13th, 2009

All software products have bugs, and we need a way to keep a track of them.

A couple of months ago I needed one of these “issue trackers”, as I was having trouble remembering all the things that needed fixing in something I was working on. There are a couple of… famous? … trackers, Bugzilla and Trac. And Bugzilla is crap.

Maybe I should qualify that…

As you may have gathered from my previous post I’m quite “in” to user interface design, and user experiences with software in general. To illustrate Bugzilla’s failings I need you to imagine something. You’ve just found that if you right click in Firefox while eating a clementine then it crashes. So you go to report a bug. Go on, try and report it. Another site to sign up to?! Unless you enjoy breaking things, or are particularly accident prone, then you probably won’t be reporting a bug again.

(As an aside, I think one of the usability problems with the web today is that everywhere wants your email and a password. Users are lazy*, and by building even the slightest barrier between where the user is now and where you want them to be, is going to turn some away. And then there are the practical concerns: I don’t want everywhere to have my email. And if every other site needs a password, then even the best of us are going to lapse into using the same one in multiple places, an obvious security risk. This is the problem that OpenID is trying to solve, but that comes with its own set of problems.)

So you complete the sign up process. In front of you is a webpage. It looks like this:

Screenshot of Bugzilla

You are fucked. Now it’s easy for me to criticise. What solutions do I offer? At the moment: none. I’m happy up here on my soapbox. One day I’ll help.

I’ve had no direct experience with Trac so I can’t really comment, but essentially for my needs it is overkill. The search begins for an small open source bug tracker. Mantis suffers similar problems to Bugzilla; this is scary. I could go through the rest but there is one common theme: the user interfaces are appauling.

So how has Roundup got it so right?

Screenshot of Roundup

Screenshot of Roundup

So slightly scary, I admit. But you can see that we need a title, priority and description. Done. The only bad thing is that more people don’t use it (and that searching for “Roundup something” will get you hundreds of poorly written “Top 10″ blog posts).

It’s easily extensible (as you will see in my next post) but keeps the core simple, so it’s perfect for keeping track of bugs, or just your daily todo list. And it runs reasonably quickly even on something with just a 266Mhz processor.

I really do recomend it for your small to medium to large projects. Oh, and it’s documentation is top notch.

* See also: “All generalisations are false”

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