my minimalistic agile issue tracker

I don’t know if you share my point of view, but I have a confession to make: I hate issue trackers. I usually work on small projects with small teams, and I find monsters like Bugzilla or Redmine an overkill.

Another thing is that in my head the word “issue” has a bitter taste. I prefer the word “task” instead, because it doesn’t make much difference to me when I’m implementing a new long-expected feature or fixing an annoying bug.

Finally, we live in the world of agile development and my issue tracker should be as flexible as I want it to be.

It took me a lot of time to realize that the issue tracker of my dream has always been right into my browser.

A spreadsheet, really?

Right, I picked a Google Docs spreadsheet to track my tasks/issues.

Well, it’s free, it’s intuitive, it’s hosted in the cloud, but can be stored locally. It allows multiple users to share their work, and is available on Android/iOS. It’s a perfect choice in terms of flexibility and simplicity to me.

Now, a few words about the philosophy of my issue tracking.

I like kanban methodology. I think it’s great for small agile projects. So I tried to make issue tracking look somewhat “kanbanish”.

Every issue has a simple lifecycle and can be in one of the following states:

To visualize progress I use color marks - every status has it’s own visual style that is applied automatically after the status changes.

Sometimes I need to store extra information about the issue/task, e.g. if I should discuss it with the team or mention in the e-mail to the customer. That’s why the issue tracker can have arbitrary number of columns for your own special needs. The only limitation is that the status column must be called “Status”.

I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. If I need to add comments on the issue (e.g. why it is blocked or why it’s reopened) I use “Comments” (Alt+F2). They are easy to add, easy to read and you can comment every cell separately. Also if you want to see only the issues assigned to you - Google Docs “Filters” will help you.

final form

Here’s an example of my issue tracker for a tiny project:


I have five columns: issue ID, a special column for short marks, a short description, then whom it’s assigned to and issue status. No priorities or deadlines: if they are really important - they can be a part of description marked with bold font style or written in caps.

I like the idea I’ve shamelessly stolen from Anthony Stevens - to strike-though closed issues. I also made font color lighter to visually distinguish them from the blocked issues.

I’ve created a template to create new spreadsheets issue trackers easily so feel free to use it if you like it. I have no idea of how to get the direct link to the spreadsheet template on Google Docs so just search for “Minimalist Issue Tracker”.

Here’s a link to the template (thank you, Derek!).

Let your code be bug-free!

Posted on 2012-08-02

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