5 Free Software PHP Issue Trackers

If you are using version control in your development, your team or self is most likely wanting to use an issue or bug tracker for your development. There are alternatives to a dedicated product like whiteboards, spreadsheets, email folders or a super memory. However for this article we will compare dedicated issue trackers, and to be more specific, 5 PHP based trackers that are released as free and open source software.
All evaluation was done using PHP5.2.6 on Apache 2.2.9, MySQL 5.0.67.

Mantis


Web: http://www.mantisbt.org/
Requirements: PHP 4.3. Supported databases are MySQL with stated support for Postgress, MSSQL, DB2 and Oracle.
License: GPL
The current stable release of Mantis is 1.1.6, but don’t let the version number fool you, it has been around for around 8 years.
Mantis has the features any large or small team is likely to require.

  • Projects and sub projects with per project customisation of issue categories, versions, work flows and user access levels.
  • Email notifications and issue monitoring
  • Detailed search ability
  • Issue notes (public and private) and file attachments
  • Ability to define issue relationships with parent and child issues, mark duplicates and related issues

Extras include version control, wiki and even twitter integration. The issue search or filters is a very powerful feature.
The downsides of Mantis are the interface and documentation. The interface has not changed in many years, and while perfectly functional can be off putting to non technical users. In places the documentation is out of date or contradictory. The forums are active and helpful should you require any.
There are reporting capabilities but be aware for graphs, jpgraph is required and it could have licensing issues for many uses.
Install is relatively painless with a stepped process that check for minimum requirements, sets up the admin user etc.

Eventum

Web: http://dev.mysql.com/downloads/other/eventum/
Requirements: PHP 5.1. Supported databases is MySQL.
License: GPL
Eventum is a product of MySQL and used internally by them, so should scale very well. The current version is 2.2 and like Mantis it has been around a number of years, though updates are not as often.
Eventum has all the core features that are expected and it is much the same as the feature list above for Mantis. There is CVS & SVN integration but not for wikis. Email integration in creating issues and system monitoring is good. The user interface is functional, not too cluttered and overwhelming for a new user. The administration side did not make immediate sense, but has the power for fine grained control.
Again the install is easy and its requirements are packaged with the download.

Bugs the Bug genie

Web: http://www.thebuggenie.com/
Requirements: PHP 5.1. Supported databases is MySQL.
License: MPL 1.1
Initially the name put me off, but it has one of the nicer looks sites and a recent major release. The current version is 2.0.1. This application does have a few years of history but not many developers and seems to no longer have its previous commercial supporter.
The feature list is fine, but it does not have the fine levels of detail that Mantis and Eventum does. To use the application is very easy. Issue reporting and administration is straight forward, very well laid out, with a very modern looking interface. New non technical users would love it.
A major downside is that documentation is almost non existent, and it does not seem to have a large user base at this time. The final issue is that the software is copyright Zegenie Studios, but their site is down because it had been hacked.

WHUPS

Web: http://www.horde.org/whups/
Requirements: Horde framework 3.2+. PHP 4.3+. Most databases are supported.
License: BSD license
The bug tracking system for the Horde project. The current version is 1.0, but again it has been around a number of years.
Another powerful system with lots of features and great set up flexibility. Aimed at a more technical audience with a plain interface. Some of the terminology is unusual, queues not projects as a top level. Documentation to limited to explain this and other features. The stepped process to create an issue is a little painful, and handled much better in an app like Bugs. The query builder is powerful but the reports are not so. Requires the Horde framework which requires PEAR.

phpBugTracker

Web: http://phpbt.sourceforge.net/
Requirements: PHP 4.0.6+. Supported databases are MySQL, PostreSQL and Oracle.
License: BSD license
The latest release is 1.0.3 but this was released in October 2007.
phpBugTracker is not as powerful as some of the other systems in terms of control of what is recorded for an issue or the level of access controls. Unfortunately in the standard install the user interface is also pretty average. Unlike most of the other systems there is a template system which would make visual modifications easier without PHP code changes (it uses Smarty). Overall a basic system that showed promise when I first encountered it, but seems to have stalled in development.

Other PHP Systems

Flyspray – http://flyspray.org/
FireAnt – http://chaozz.nl/software/fireant/
zenTrack – http://www.zentrack.net

Non PHP Systems

Of course there are systems that are not coded in PHP. 2 of the best known are:
Bugzilla – http://www.bugzilla.org/ (Perl)
Trac – http://trac.edgewall.org/ (Python)
So if PHP is not essential, check them out.

Summary

Mantis, Eventum and WHUPS are very powerful issue tracking systems and any of them would satisfy the requirements of a small or large team, especially if the user base is mainly technical. Personally I found Mantis the best overall system in front of Eventum and then WHUPS, but not by much. Mantis also has the easiest technical requirements with PHP4, multiple databases and less outside dependencies.
If someone could combine the power of any of these 3 systems and the front end from Bugs there would be a definite winner.
If you have small projects where the user interface of the tracking system is an issue, then try Bugs.

2 thoughts on “5 Free Software PHP Issue Trackers

  1. Gunnar Wrobel

    Just wanted to note that “Whups” from http://www.horde.org reached version 2.0.0 last year in April and got a nice set of new features.

    Whups uses “queues” as it can handle incoming requests via e-mail – pretty much like OTRS.

    We successfully use it within the Horde LLC to handle incoming customer requests.