5 Free Bug Tracking Software Solutions to Cut IT Costs

Bug tracking (also referred to as “issue tracking“) is essential to delivering quality software and web development projects. Bug tracking software allows teams to submit, process and track issues to resolution.

A major consideration when evaluating bug tracking systems is deciding between free or paid software. Free or open source solutions can significantly reduce costs, but they might have a limited feature set and/or support.

Still, not every business is ready to invest in a comprehensive project and issue management platform. And, researching the various options requires a significant time investment.

Luckily, we’re here to help. In this post, we outline five free bug tracking software solutions that can help streamline your issue management strategy and cut IT costs.

Free or Open Source Bug Tracking Software Systems

MantisBT

MantisBT is built on PHP and is compatible with Linux, Windows and Mac OS X systems. Teams can download and maintain MantisBT on their own internal servers or purchase MantisHub hosting for a monthly or annual subscription fee (which covers the cost of backups, upgrades and support).

The “My View” display in MantisBT shows unassigned bug tickets, a project timeline (similar to an activity feed) and lists recently modified and resolved tickets. Users can collaborate on issues through messages or bug ticket comments and can stay apprised of team activities via RSS feeds.

Free bug tracking capabilities include:

  • Time tracking: Track the time from creation to resolution
  • Access controls: Set up role-based access for users
  • Notifications: Set up email alerts for bug updates and comments
  • Reporting: Print, export and share reports and graphs
  • Source code integration: Git, Subversion

Viewing issues in MantisBT

MantisBT is completely free to use. It allows for an unlimited number of users and has no restrictions on the number of issues or projects that are tracked in the application.

Bugzilla

Bugzilla is written in Perl and is compatible with Linux, Windows and Mac OS X systems, though Linux is the recommended operating system. Teams can download the application to run on their internal servers.

Free support is available in the form of online documentation and newsgroups (public discussion forums). Organizations can purchase support services (consulting, training, customization and hosting) through various contractors that are listed on the Bugzilla site.

From the Bugzilla main page, users can file a bug, access open bugs assigned to them and view help documentation. Teams can collaborate on resolving issues by commenting and sharing attachments and can also “watch” other users, which allows a user to piggyback on another user’s emails.

Administrators can also set user permissions, allowing them to define which users or teams can see and edit specific bugs.

Free bug tracking capabilities include:

  • Time tracking: Estimate the hours required for the bug fix, set a deadline and track time to resolution
  • Reporting: Set up automatic reports to run on a designated schedule (hourly, daily, weekly etc.)
  • Duplicate bug detection: When a user files a new bug, Bugzilla will search for similar bugs already in the database to avoid duplicate bug tickets
  • Customizations: Create custom fields in bug database to customize the application and workflows to project or industry-specific needs

Bugs from the last 24 hours in Bugzilla
 

Bugzilla is completely free for any number of users. Teams can create an unlimited number of projects and track an unlimited number of bugs.

Redmine

Redmine is built on Ruby on Rails and is compatible with Linux, Unix, Mac OS X and Windows systems which have the Ruby framework installed. Users download the application and install the bug tracker on their own internal servers.

Support services for Redmine users include access to forums and chatrooms as well as extensive online documentation. Teams can purchase additional support services (custom development, training etc.) as well as hosting services through various commercial offerings listed on the Redmine site.

Using Redmine, teams stay connected via activity feeds and email notifications. Users can post messages and share files and track progress on group projects via Gantt charts and calendars.

Free bug tracking capabilities include:

  • Role-based access control: Define user permissions for access to bugs and projects
  • Customizations: Create custom fields (text, drop-down lists, checkboxes etc.) to configure bugs and projects to team workflows
  • Time tracking: Track time per user, bug type or project
  • Source code integration: Subversion, Git, Bazaar etc.

Open issues in Redmine
 

Redmine is completely free for an unlimited number of users. The application does not limit the number of issues or projects that you can create and track.

YouTrack

YouTrack is a bug tracker offered by JetBrains (a provider of developer tools and software). It is available as both a cloud-based service and a stand-alone server.

Users can track both individual and team progress with a live dashboard, which updates in real time, so teams stay on the same page. Additionally, YouTrack supports both Scrum and Kanban methodologies. It includes both Scrum and Kanban boards, backlog tools, sprint planning, Work-In-Progress (WIP) limits and reports such as burndown and cumulative flow charts.

Free bug tracking capabilities include:

  • Notifications: Set up email or IM notifications for issue updates, resolution or user comments (loop someone into a discussion with an @username mention)
  • Smart search: Apply filters and tags to organize issues by status; search database by those filters, bug ticket number or keyword
  • Reporting: Supports four types of reports—issue distribution, timeline, time management and state transition. Users can clone, download or share reports
  • Time management: Includes timed issue, iteration and project tracking; ability to track time per user; Set up a pomodoro timer

Issue dashboard in YouTrack
 

YouTrack is free for teams up to 10 users. The free cloud version includes 10GB of storage, but does not allow users to create private projects. The free stand-alone version only restricts custom logos. Support is provided for free version customers. Larger teams in need of more space, private projects and/or unrestricted logos can try the bug tracker free for 30 days.

Pivotal Tracker

Pivotal Tracker is a cloud-based bug tracking solution geared toward agile software development teams that follow the scrum methodology. It can scale from small project teams of three users to enterprise-sized teams of over 50 members.

The platform is designed to improve productivity by centralizing teams’ issue management strategies, allowing users to have a clear view of short and long-term responsibilities.

From the Project Page, users can stay on top of each project they’re involved with by viewing backlogs and tracking progress on user stories. Teams can create and assign points to user stories and track progress through various reports.

Free bug tracking capabilities include:

  • Task boards: View items in backlog, drag and drop tasks to different columns on the board to represent progress, such as “reviewing” or “testing”
  • Notifications: Set up in-app or email notifications for updates to stories and projects
  • Reporting and analytics: Although it is a scrum-based tool, Pivotal Tracker includes both burndown, cumulative flow and lead and cycle time reports

Multiple project view in Pivotal Tracker
 

Pivotal Tracker is free for up to three users. The free package includes two private projects and 2GB file storage. Larger teams who need additional file storage and projects can purchase a paid version of the software (and try it free for 30 days).

When Should You Invest in Paid Software?

Free, open source bug tracking software can help an organization reduce their IT costs and increase team productivity. It can be a great stepping stone for organizations that are just starting out or that don’t have a budget for a robust PM system. But it isn’t right for everyone.

As a business grows, its needs change and the upkeep involved with maintaining an open source bug tracker on your internal servers may outweigh the initial cuts in cost. Additionally, a growing team often requires a level of support that isn’t available with these systems.

If your team is anticipating growth you may consider investing in one of the free versions of the paid bug trackers listed above. These systems can provide the flexibility required to support the needs of your growing team. Rather than outgrowing the tools, you can upgrade to the paid packages as needed.

If your team requires PM capabilities outside of bug tracking, you may need a more comprehensive project and issue management system. Platforms such as SpiraPlan offer bug tracking within a suite of other applications that include:

Next Steps

If you’re interested in learning more about free bug tracking software or want more information about any of the systems listed in this article, please contact me at eileen@softwareadvice.com. I am available to answer any questions you might have and when you’re ready, can help you start your software selection process.

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