I’ve been using the defect tracking / customer support software FogBugz – brainchild of blogging A-lister Joel Spolsky – for a few years now and I’ve been a big fan. I’ve used it for work as well as for home projects such as my beloved John’s Background Switcher and it’s made my life a million times easier. Anybody who writes software, whether for money or fun, needs some form of bug tracking in their life if they want to remain organised (even a simple spreadsheet will do). But FogBugz is much more than a mere bug tracker though.
I also use it to handle all the email that comes into my web site. I get frequent requests for new features or help with my background switcher (as well as random emails about all sorts) and that all gets fed directly into FogBugz. This means I can track each person’s request from replying to them for clarification and having a conversation, turning it into a feature for a future version of JBS that I can estimate, decide which version to put it in, implement it (it also hooks into my source control) and create a release note that turns up in the release notes (not surprisingly). It does this all without any thought from me and I don’t need to keep a hundred things in my head at once (I can manage about 7 then things start to fall out of it). The chance of me screwing something up, not replying to someone or completely forgetting about a suggestion gets reduced to zero. I also use the discussion forum functionality when I run beta tests of JBS so when people find a problem I can turn that into a bug and fix it with full circle visibility (i.e. I can look at the bug and go directly to the forum post or see the code change I made to implement it and so on).
While I don’t use FogBugz at my current place of work (although I would if I could) if I were to run my own company I know I could use it to handle everything from customer support to defect tracking and release management. Nice.
When Fog Creek requested beta testers for the long awaited FogBugz 6 I jumped at the chance. Having seen an alpha version running on Joel On Software I knew it contained a Wiki which would plug a hole that FogBugz 5 had. While it was great for tracking features, bugs and emails, writing a spec and documentation would happen outside FogBugz which was less than ideal. Integrating a Wiki would be cool.
So for the last couple of months I’ve been testing and using FogBugz 6 and despite being initially a bit shocked by the redesign (mostly because once you get used to something any change seems scary – see below) I like it and really think it’s a big step forward.
The wiki implementation is great and it’s encouraged me to sit down and write some specs for big features for JBS (about time too) as well as keeping notes like my list of beta testers and such things in one handy place. When combined with community users – which means anybody can create an account in my FogBugz and I can give access to wikis and discussion forums of my choosing – I’ll be able to interact much more closely with people using my software.
There are loads of new features which you can read all about in Fog Creek’s What’s New page but one of the really cool ones is ‘Evidence-Based Scheduling‘. It’s a rather clever way of predicting the probability that you’ll be able to ship versions of your software by certain dates. Each developer can estimate how long each task and, taking into account how accurate each developer has been in past estimates, you can see a fancy graph that lets you see the probabilities. Like the following which shows that it’s 94% likely that I’ll be able to release JBS 3.2 on October 3rd if I work solidly on it from now until then (which I won’t):
The more releases you go through the more accurate it will be and the more confident you’ll become with it. It’s rather clever and something I’d love to use at work where release dates are a lot more important than on my own projects.
There are more new features than you can shake a stick at (including a much more powerful search system) and I’m really impressed by it. I’ll continue recommending FogBugz to anybody who’ll listen with more enthusiasm than ever as it’s quite simply the best solution I’ve come across for managing the whole product development process (not just the software development part, I mean everything) by a country mile. Fog Creek now offer a hosted version of FogBugz so you don’t even have to set up your own server if you don’t want to. There’s no excuse to not give it a try – you won’t be disappointed.