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The Best Issue Tracking Tools for Software Development

The Best Issue Tracking Tools for Software Development

Issue tracking is a critical part of the development process. However, it can be tedious, frustrating, and a productivity-suck.

Fortunately, plenty of tools out there facilitate and streamline the process. Unfortunately, too many tools exist, and they all have different opinions about the best way to tackle issue tracking (you know what they say about opinions: everyone's got one).

Software development issue tracking tools significantly vary in their functionality, from tools strictly designed for bug tracking to tools containing full project management functionality.

In this article, we'll take you through some of the most common tools for tracking software development issues and highlight their key features and why you may or may not find them helpful.

1. Jira

Jira is one of the biggest and most-established players in the industry. It offers many software development-centric features, with issue tracking being one of its main draws.

Key features include:

  • A single source of truth for bugs and issues, making them easy to track and resolve
  • Bugs and issues are quickly captured, assigned, and prioritized
  • Customizable workflows
  • Notifications can be configured to update team members of status changes automatically

But Jira does have some notable drawbacks for teams working in GitHub. For one, it lacks seamless integration with GitHub, so your overall source of truth is distributed, even if you have a single source of truth for bugs and issues. And while it has access to the Atlassian suite of tools, many of the table-stakes ones, such as planning poker, are not built into Jira by default.

Jira is also infamously complex which makes it challenging for organizations to adopt. Often teams find they need to hire a dedicated team member just to set up and manage their Jira workspace!

2. GitHub Issues

GitHub Issues is often one of the first issue-tracking apps devs use due to its being part of GitHub's basic feature set. While its native GitHub integration is incredibly impactful in keeping developers focused, GitHub's issue tracking is still a fairly basic feature in comparison to other tools you may try.

Key features include:

  • Integration directly into GitHub
  • Highly flexible custom fields for issue tracking, including metadata like iterations, priority, dates, notes, and links
  • Issues are viewable, created, and managed from any device

GitHub Issues' direct integration with GitHub makes it easy for developers inside GitHub to get up and running with issue tracking right from the get-go. Despite this, it lacks many project management features other tools have, such as offering insight into your team's productivity. If you're already working with GitHub issues and want more productivity and project management features, Zenhub is a great way to add these features seamlessly without leaving GitHub.

3. Wrike

Wrike is probably one of the most flexible project management tools out there, with one of its many use cases being issue tracking. While it's not a tool designed strictly for the software development process (which can have its drawbacks), its strengths are in how it facilitates the documentation and labeling of issues.

Key features include:

  • The ability to create highly detailed, custom request forms
  • Requests automatically become tasks, which can be flagged with varying levels of priority
  • Task hierarchies make it easy to build in subtasks, like testing
  • Customizable statuses and workflows enable issues to be accurately labeled in every step toward resolution

But being a jack-of-all-trades means being a master of none – especially when it comes to tools created for a broader audience. What it has in project management capabilities, it lacks in agile reporting functionalities. If your team is interested in generating reports for keeping stakeholders in the loop or tracking productivity over time, Wrike may not be suitable for your team.

4. Linear.app

Linear is known for being a fast-moving issue tracking tool that works to remove blockers for your team. While it's known for being lightweight and fast, it is not as strong in its project management capabilities as other similar tools.

Key features include:

  • Highly-detailed issue tracking of every branch and Line Break. Track whether work is high-risk or blocked, what dependencies (if any) are likely to slow it down, and what pull requests, have already been released.
  • Correlating and analyzing Git data, plus code, project data, and team data to generate team-oriented metrics to facilitate efficient issue resolution.

While Linear might be a valuable tool alongside project management software, it doesn't provide the breadth of services teams need by itself. This means using it could require a lot of context switching and manual coordination, which can potentially eat up some of the value it provides as a "fast-moving" tool.

5. Trello

Yet another member of the Atlassian family, Trello is often suggested as an issue tracking tool due to its Kanban board nature – a common format of organizing issues.

Key features include:

  • 100+ supported integrations
  • Kanban-style boards
  • Very customizable through add-ons (note: these cost extra)

Trello is a very lightweight tool that is easily customizable to fit the needs of a software team. However, since you'll have to pay for every additional feature you want, note that its add-ons can add up. Depending on your team's needs, purchasing a tool with base features catered to issue tracking may be more cost-effective.

6. Zenhub

As a tool built for keeping software teams productive, Zenhub contains some of the best features of all of these tools combined. Zenhub is lightweight in its ease of use while still enabling granularity when it comes to customizing workflows, labeling, and creating issue documentation. It also contains powerful reporting capabilities and real-time roadmaps, so there's no need for a separate project management tool to get a high-level view of your team's project progress. All of Zenhub's features are accessible directly inside of GitHub, enabling your team to stay more productive by preventing context switching between tools.

Key features include:

  • Connect strategy to code with Zenhub's browser extension that is built directly inside GitHub's interface
  • Gain insight into your team's productivity with Zenhub reports, including burndown charts, velocity tracking, release reports, cumulative flow charts, and control charts.
  • Enable remote-friendly collaboration on story point estimation with Planning Poker
  • Automate tedious processes and reduce busywork with automated sprint planning and workflow automation

If you're looking for an integrated tool that tracks and organizes issues and can give you insight into how your team works so everyone can work more productively together, why not give Zenhub a try for free?

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