Project Management & Bug Tracking for Linux

Assorted list of project management, bug tracking, trouble-ticketing and help-desk management packages for Linux.

Terms & Definitions

Trouble Ticketing
Trouble-ticketing systems usually confine themselves the the fairly simple domain of tracking independent work items, and possibly assigning them to one of several people. Tasks are treated independently of each other, and usually have a very limited set of states: "open", "in-progress", and "closed". Most are e-mail based; newer ones are web/Java based.

Help-Desk Management/Call Tracking
Most Help-Desk Management systems are similar to Trouble-Ticketing systems, except that they add a mechanism for looking up formulated answers to commonly occurring problems. These systems can also maintain detailed information about the problem originator, provide call tracking (time spend on the phone), time-tracking (hours spent solving the problem), and may include mechanisms to automatically bill the client for hours worked.

Bug Tracking
Bug-Tracking Systems are similar to Trouble-ticketing systems in that they track independent tasks. However, bug tracking systems usually define a greater number of roles and responsibilities, (e.g. "programmer", "integrater/builder", "tester", "tiger-team manager"), and limit the powers of each role in advancing the task to its next state. Many bug-tracking systems are integrated with version-management or configuration-management suites.

Workflow Management
Workflow Management systems are similar to Bug-Tracking systems in that they also define a variety of roles and authorities. However, they tend to be more strongly integrated with document management systems, allowing different roles to create, modify and deliver version-controlled documents. Some also provide job-costing or cost-estimation features. Others provide integration with accounting systems for order tracking and/or inventory management. At the extreme high end lies SAP/R3 (not available on Linux).

Project Management
Project Management Systems distinguish themselves from all of the above in that they track inter-related tasks and usually provide a mechanism for scheduling and reserving resources, as well as automatic minimization of time-lines or costs by re-arranging schedules. "Gantt chart" is a keyword here.

The Packages

All of the packages below run on some form of Unix; some may require a port to Linux. Note that some are freeware or shareware, while others are commercial products. I have arbitrarily sorted these into a a quirky order, based on a purely personal & incompletely-informed & biased opinion.
PTS (Project Tracking System)
The PTS allows tasks to be tracked within a workgroup. PTS is a purely web-based system, using mSQL as the backend database engine. The interface itself is written with PHP/FI. Thus, the system can be accessed from any operating system that provides a tables-capable web browser. Supports hierarchical (nested) tasks.

Do not confuse this PTS with another, by the same name, listed below.

WISE (Web-Integrated Software Environment) Version 1.0
The WISE package hails from NASA. A fully-customizable task-tracking package. The WPL (WISE Programming Language) allows the sequence of stages that a task goes through to be configured in a completely flexible manner. In addition, roles with password-restricted role-privileges can be defined so that only certain individuals/groups can make changes, approve, advance, etc. any given task from stage to stage. The interface is entirely web-based, the project information is stored in an mSQL database. Includes ability to generate time-history graphs and summary bar charts. Since the interface is entirely web-based, tasks and reports can be accessed and managed from any operating system that supports a web browser.

The original distribution will not compile under Linux. A patched version can be found here: wise-1.0e.tar.gz. The lsm is here. This patched version includes a sample template appropriate for bug tracking, including roles for the defect originator, developers, builders, testers and managers.

FootPrints
UniPress Software, Inc. has released a Linux version of its FootPrints (TM) helpdesk automation software. This Java/WWW-based package records and tracks problems, solutions, bugs, change requests, and any related information, and makes the information available to anyone with access to the Internet or Intranet.

FootPrints is fully customizable, extending the product's functionality beyond a helpdesk system to a custom tracking system. Fields may be created and named to fit the specific needs of a specific project. With support for character, integer, float, choice, date, mail, website and ftp field types, users are able to easily alter and then automatically integrate new fields into the FootPrints desktop.

As of May 1997, the FootPrints Starter Pack includes the server software and 3 licenses and is priced at $1995. Additional licenses are available at $495 each.

ConSol* CallManager
The CallManager from ConSol* is a Helpdesk application coupled to an RDBMS back-end. Written in Java 1.1, its highly portable: it runs on Solaris 2.x, Linux, HP-UX 10.x, SGI Irix 6.x, IBM AIX, Windows/NT, Windows95 and others. The database access is through JDBC, and so any database with JDBC drivers is supported (this includes most of the usual Linux favorites).

SIS
The SIS package accepts problem submissions via a web page. A summary table can be viewed as a web page. This is a good basic package, although the current version (Version 0.5) is missing some important features, such as summary table by problem type, by owner, by originator, etc.

Synchronize on Linux
The Synchronize from Crosswind Technologies package provides the ability to schedule appointments, meetings distribute agendas and memos, assign and track tasks, and send out reminders. Users can access individual and group calendars, use pop-up notes, and access automatically updated to-do lists. Commercial product.

GNATS aka PRMS
The GNATS/PRMShails from the GNU folks. Venerable old command-line, e-mail based system. Widely used. Latest production version appears to be 3.2, dating to December 1993. The latest beta is 4.0, dating to December 1996. Support available from Cygnus Solutions. Latest enhancements include wwwgnats, a web interface, and Tkgnats, a Tk interface. Offical GNATS v3.2 FTP Site.

Do not confuse with the GNU GNAT tool, which is an Ada95 compiler.

RUST (Requests, Users, and Sys-admin To-do Tracking System)
The RUST E-mail based trouble-ticketing system. Supports multiple mailing lists. Designed for and deployed as part of a help-desk automation tool. Newer versions include an X11-based GUI, and a simple web interface. Actively maintained.

frontdesk
A mail sorting / trouble ticketing system. See http://sunsite.unc.edu/pub/Linux/system/mail/mailhandlers/frontdesk-0.1.lsm

The LSM entry reads: "Frontdesk is a set of scripts that put incoming mail into threaded queues which can be accessed via the web. Very useful for customer support and bug tracking. Some work needed to get this to work. "

PTS (Problem Tracking System)
The PTS An X11R5/6 & Athena widget based application. No longer in active development. Not to be confused with similarly names web-based PTS system above.

The Official PTS FTP Site

MS Project on Linux
Microsoft Project has been reported to run under the Willows Software emulation package; it also runs well under Wabi. Some comments from an user:
    >It has severe problems with handling resource balancing, which was
    >supposedly one of the reasons for going with a full-scale PM package.  
    >The project I'm on at work used to be tracked using MSP; they've moved to
    >using spreadsheets, because it just isn't adequate for managing large
    >projects.  The PM crew probably ought to be using something like Project
    >Workbench, which is apparently a *far* sight better than MSP.
    
Pluses include that MSP supports Gantt charts, minuses is that this is a non-configurable, single-user system in the Windows tradition.

Open Track
The OpenTrack defect and enhancement tracking system comes from OSF. Defects/change requests are stored in a flat-file system. Includes a TCL interface.

Available on source-code form, but has not been explicitly ported to Linux. Does not appear to be in active development, or to be supported. Latest version, 3.03 appears to date to December 1995.

REQ
The REQ request system, e-mail based. A set of perl scripts, with tcl/tk and emacs interfaces. Pluses: multi-OS support. Minuses: Current version lacks ability to easily support multiple mailing lists.

Latest version that I can find is Version 1.2.7 from November 1994, at above URL.

NEARNET
The NEARNET Ticket System. Based on the MMDF mail system, no sendmail support. Requires Informix database. Version problems?: Version 1.3b from May 1994, although above URL gives the same version, but much larger size, and a 1996 date.

Queue-MH
The Queue-MH is a set of MH-based scripts for tracking problem reports using the MH mail system.

MARS
The MARS (Machine Automated Response System) seems to be an old, e-mail based trouble-ticketing system. Development appears to have stopped in October 1993; that is the date on the seemingly latest version.

Other Resources


Thanks to Christopher B. Browne, cbbrowne@unicomp.net, chris_browne@sdt.com
http://www.hex.net/~cbbrowne SAP Basis Consultant, UNIX Guy
for help in assembling this page.
Last modified 23 June 1997 -- Linas Vepstas linas@fc.net
Copyright (c) 1996, 1997 Linas Vepstas. All rights reserved.
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