When working on any web projects, organization is key. Perhaps when you are working on your own, using a handful of tools to be sure that you are on top of things is not a priority – it could in fact become a waste of time. However, once you start collaborating (the key word) with others on projects, it is crucial that you establish a system of communication. Between the projects, tasks, milestones and tickets, you’re sure to be left MIA if email and chat programs are your paths to international communication.
A very popular web-based project management tool is Base Camp by 37 Signals. Although its price tag is not at the attractive end at the spectrum, when you are ready to work with a group and are bidding for bigger projects (with a goal of making more profit), Base Camp’s monthly charge is a small price to pay for a significant increase in efficiency and productivity. The long list of alternatives (both open-source and commercial) could be discussed at another point, the one aspect that I wanted to pay close attention to is tracking issues and bugs.
Without a doubt, one of the best and most popular bug tracking tools is Bugzilla. The free and open-source application can be installed on any server and provides a web interface to be accessed from any browser. However, aside from an interface that could confuse a designer or two, Bugzilla’s main problem is that it requires ‘root’ access on the server it is installed on, which virtually eliminates the vast majority of web hosting providers. If you are not willing to invest in a dedicated server (see my posts on the different types of hosting), or at least a Virtual Private one, nor setup your own server at the home or office, then you’re in a need of an alternative – ideally one that runs entirely using PHP and MySQL.
Look no further, for the ever-progressing planet of the beautiful open-source brings you WebIssues; an open-source, self-hosted issue tracking and team collaboration tool by Michał Męciński. Just visit the website, download the zipped file to be unarchived and uploaded to your server (preferably under a sub-domain such as bugs.mywebsite.com). You’ll need to do edit the configuration file and type in the address and login of the database that you’ve created for the application to use. After that, download and install your WebIssues client (available for Linux, Mac OS and Windows) and start reporting bugs.
As oppose to a strictly web interface, WebIssues provides a powerful access via the desktop client. Think of it as replacing your webmail with a desktop email client; performance is much better, the options are much easier to access and far more advanced, and searching/filtering is a walk in the park.
Some of the main features, besides the aforementioned desktop client access, include:
- Easy searching, filtering and sorting of all issues
- Fully customizable issue types, which allows you to tailer the interface for your particular projects
- Different permission levels and security
Perhaps more importantly, WebIssues strength lies in it’s strong database structure, and its easy-to-use API which allows you to add to it as you see fit. With time, not only will the application itself improve, but developers contributing will introduce even more features and enhancements that we could all benefit from. After the inclusion of an extensive system for reports, as well as a basic web interface, it’s hard to see WebIssues being outdone by any competition.
A core part of a team’s collaboration on web projects consists of tracking all of the bugs that arise, otherwise finishing off projects will become an impossibility. The free, open-source WebIssues allows you to do precisely that, regardless of the OS you use, while hosting it on your own server.
NOTE: WebIssues was first spotted by Omar Mohamed (website under construction), a web developer from Helwan, Egypt.