Drupal as an Issue Tracker - A few options

bug tracker

A decent issue tracker, allowing you and your clients to report issues and track the progress, is key to any successful project. Issue trackers can range from a simple spreadsheet to systems like mantis or JIRA, some free and some paid. So when it comes to selecting a system to use how do you choose? I've worked with numerous trackers over my time (JIRA, mantis, bugzilla, and custom builds to name a few) and they've all had their quirks, at my current agency we looked at, and moved to Drupal to take care of our case tracking needs. Below I'll go through what we currently use and the other options I'm currently looking at.

What I/We currently use

 

Open Atrium (Drupal 6)

http://openatrium.com

The main reason we love this here is how client friendly it is. It’s simple, easy to navigate to use and most of the needed functionality is available out of the box.  Open Atrium uses the Case Tracker module to manage it’s issue tracking functionality. It has served us well for the past couple of years but it also has its drawbacks.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Case tracker included as default
  • Can customise each group (logo/colour)
  • Includes features such as blog, book and calendar
  • Can customise dashboards

Cons:

  • No internal commenting (for giving time estimates, dev details etc to the team only)
  • Built on Drupal 6, so getting outdated
  • No built in reporting functionality
  • No built in export of cases

Now, being on Drupal, it’s possible to develop and add in additional features and functionality, which we have done in places but we’ve found ourselves somewhat limited in what we can do due to the integration between the various components. Due to us using it only as an issue tracker there’s also a few items of functionality we don’t use, such as the shoutbox and blog. The main concern herethough  is that D6 will be soon outdated further when D8 arrives and to carry on developing for it will potentially mean we miss out on functionality that may be useful but unavailable for D6. We’re now looking at Drupal 7 and what’s available there that we can use.

A couple of Drupal 7 options

Open Atrium, for Drupal 7 – with OA work tracker

http://www.phase2technology.com/blog/open-atrium-2-x-alpha-is-here/

http://drupal.org/project/oa_worktracker

There’s been a big push to port Open Atrium (OA) to Drupal for a while now, and an alpha release is here. The link above goes into detail about what’s changed and what’s included so I won’t duplicate it here.  I should put a massive disclaimer here that D7 OA is alpha, and obviously likely to change and improve, my thoughts below are also only my initial findings and first impressions.

I found out about this a couple of weeks ago, installed it and off I went, first things first; there’s no default built in issue tracker. In order to gain this kind of functionality you’ll need to download and install oa_worktracker.

When I first started poking around the system it was quite overwhelming, so many options available to you; spaces, groups, sections, and teams at first glance. Once I managed to gather my bearings I was rather impressed, the UI is clean, mobile ready out of the box, and customisation across the site is extensive.

Moving onto oa_worktracker, again once you get your head around it, it’s simple and clean. It’s another alpha release to likely to change. Ease of use if good but ease of management doesn’t appear to follow; I spent a couple of hours with it and couldn’t find where to manage the issue types and states (i.e Problem, request etc). There were no visible settings on notifications (it was either all or no-one). It looks great but it's nto ready for me.

As I said, both OA and OA worktracker are alpha releases and look great as a community collaboration platform, just not as an issue tracker.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Ready out the box (as a community collaboration platform)
  • Can customise each group (logo)
  • Mobile ready

Cons:

  • Both alpha releases so likely to change
  • Initially not easy to use, takes some time to get use to (client p.o.v)
  • Issue tracker doesn’t feel set for hard core usage, feels more like a task list

 

Case Tracker

This was used for the D6 version of OA. Another alpha release it’s a port of functionality, however it doesn’t seem to all be there yet (such as exposed filters out the box, show closed cases option). It allows you to add case types and states in the same way as D6 and is easy to get to grips with. It’s in a very rough state at the moment, but being an alpha release it can only get better. It's as simple and friendly to use as the D6 version and once complete will be just as useful. 

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Almost ready out the box

Cons:

  • Alpha release so likely to change
  • Still missing functionality that was available in the D6 version

Comment Alter

http://drupal.org/project/comment_alter

This module is used in the OA worktracker to track the changes made to a node. It allows you to add as many fields as you want to any node type that can be altered from comments. It simple, allows a greater level of customisation but due to the basic nature they’ll be a great deal of custom work needed to make it into a fuller fledged issue tracker. It should be used as a starting point to create an issue tracker to suit your needs. Given its usage of the Diff module the changes logged are detailed allowing you to see a full list of changes to the node (something not done in case tracker).

Pros

  • Great customisation options
  • Any fields can be used to track changes
  • Good starting block

Cons

  • A fair deal of custom work needed to turn into a fully fledged issue tracker

The end bit

Each option has their pros and cons, OA looks like a great platform for communities (if not a little confusing at first) but seems like it would be overkill if all you wanted is an issue tracker. Case Tracker isn’t ready yet and will need some additions depending on your requirements and comment alter supplies the bare bones but is by far the most customisable. For my needs (just an issue tracker with a few extra info pages) comment alter is for me, I just need to put the time into creating the full issue tracker.

Title image from http://tracker-bug.blogspot.co.uk