Sunday, July 29, 2007


Gus Mueller:

All e-mail to goes through FogBugz which is a huge huge time saver for me. I can turn e-mails into bug reports, file them away, respond, easily see previous e-mails from the reporter, and generally do everything I need to do when I’m wearing my support hat. It’s all easy and does what I need and want it to do.

I’m especially interested in what Gus thinks since he’s also a solo Mac developer. In this case, our solutions couldn’t be more different. I tried FogBugz a few years ago, since it was getting rave reviews, and just couldn’t stand it. (Thanks to Fog Creek for offering a full refund with no questions asked.) At the time, I liked Trac somewhat better for issue tracking, but of course Trac doesn’t handle support e-mails. I can see how something like FogBugz would be useful for a setup involving multiple developers and support people, but for me I see no need for it. I’ve never had a problem with support e-mails falling through the cracks, and my entire e-mail history is easily accessible in EagleFiler. Web-based bug trackers vary from terrible to pretty good—and FogBugz is certainly towards the good end—but I’ve yet to find one that I actually liked using. Part of it is that for this kind of highly interactive work I think it really helps to have a desktop interface. It may also be that I have a certain way that I like to work, and the Web-based trackers that I’ve used are rigid in making me change my style to fit theirs. I’m currently using OmniFocus as my issue tracker and am loving it. It’s also rigid, in a way, but the workflow that it enforces happens to be a close match to what I’ve always tried to achieve with other tools.

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Trac *can* handle support emails, turning them directly into tickets using a utility called email2trac. I use it myself. You set it up as an alias in your postfix/sendmail/etc install, and it just dumps emails with a low enough spam score right into trac as tickets.

Trac has built into it a setup for sending out notification emails, so you can close the circle if you want.

I'm interested to know how you set up OmniFocus to track bugs. I understand it's currently in development or I'd give it a go myself.

I currently track my support issues in Apple Mail and while it works fairly well when the support burden is low it can become a bit of a nightmare after major new releases. I considered using Trac and even Bugzilla but they all seemed too involved to set up and maintain for my purposes.

When our company had to make the transition from using Mail to something that worked (heh), we choose HelpSpot. It's another great piece of web based help desk software. We evaluated FogBugz first, but it lacked some required features at the time (1.5 years ago). HelpSpot has been amazing and version 2.0 (which we are currently beta testing) is even better!

Fred: Thanks for the correction. I don’t think email2trac existed when I last used Trac.

Jamie Longstaff: In OmniFocus I have one project folder for each product, and within it I have a project for each functional area (including things like Bugs, Documentation, Localization, and Web Site). The projects are ordered by priority (i.e. fix bugs before adding features). Within each project, the individual actions are ordered by priority. Of course, it works like OmniOutliner so it’s very easy to move things around. On the contexts tab I have one context per product, with nested contexts for each release (including alphas and betas). So I use contexts to schedule when each action will be completed, and I end up with a historical record of what changed in each version.


Thanks for the information! I'll keep my eyes on the development of OmniFocus...

You also might want to check out Eventum from the MySQL folks. It offers email integration, some decent roll-up views, and there are scripts for subversion support (although I'm a Git convert now =).

For folks who DO like FogBugz - or ALMOST like it - a free, open-source issue tracker that has a similar approach is BugTracker.NET. (Disclaimer: I'm the author). It handles the email integration the same way. Has the same dedicated screen capture utility. It's less rigid than FogBugz, more customizable, but at the same time, less polished.

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