SUMMARY - bug tracking software

From: Sue Oemcke (
Date: Mon Nov 22 1993 - 15:09:56 CST


My apologies for the long delay in getting the summary out to you. I
received lots of replies and pursued quite a few of them, hence the delay.

Thanks to everyone who replied to my post. The original question was:

>I am at present looking for a problem tracking system to handle
>our user requests. We would get on average about 30 a day. The
>requests vary a lot in complexity, ranging from changing the printer paper
>to installing and debugging systems and software.
>Currently we use a set of scripts which guide the user to some
>extent and they can select various categories. This is then handled by
>one person using xmh and various mail boxes, they then farm out the
>requests. We don't have an system to insure that jobs don't get lost.
>Ideally we'd like something with an X interface
>which is very easy to use. We cater to a wide range of users, some
>being very knowledgeable, whilst others are very naive. We'd like
>something that could be used by both groups and those in between to
>lodge their requests and keep them informed of the progress. We'd
>also like a system to keep track of the requests once we have them,
>who is doing them, what they did to solve a particular problem, what
>requests are outstanding etc.
>I have done a search in the archives and found a summary by
> (Jim Murff) dated Thu, 18 Feb 93 11:01:40 PST
>In this summary Jim mentions a number of trackers which were
> perl - write your own
> gdbm - can be used with perl
> problem
> request
> flealist
> qmh
> netlog(v2.0)
> misc - commercial products
>We have had a look at GNATS, its ok, but the user interface is not suitable
>for most of our users. PITS sounds very interesting, but is not available a
>Is there anything new available, preferably public domain,
>but commercial is ok if it isn't too highly priced? If so could you please
>point me in the right direction.
>Thanks in advance.
> Sue
>PS If anyone wants the orginal message Jim sent I have a copy.

I received the following pointers and replies.
The bare bones of what I received. For more detail see below.
        request - ascii based - works well
* Support Request - ascii and GUI - demo promised soon
*** requete - GUI very nice - seriously considering this one
        nearnet ticket system - didn't try, needs informix database
*** tkgnats - GUI for gnats - seriously considering this one
        netlog - ascii based - works well

        Apriori from Answer Computer - not cheap
        Action Request System - from Remedy - commercial - not cheap
* Qmail - commercial - sounds great, reasonable cost
        Quantum - commercial - sounds good, not cheap
        CustomerQ from Quintus - commercial - not cheap

*** - seriously considering using, both requete and tkgnats have advantages and
disadvantages over the other. So we are testing them both out to see which one
suits us better. We will need to customise both of them for our needs. Its just
a matter of which one will do the job we want with the least amount of
alteration and time.

If there is sufficient interest in this I will send a summary on our findings,
with lists of their respective advantages and disadvantages.

* considered - Support Request - waiting for a demo to be set up
               Qmail - sounds great but will see how the free ones go, also
its primarily a 'back end' and we'd like some type of front end for users.

-------------------------------------------------------------------- Phone +61 8 201 3637
Dept of Computer Science Fax +61 8 201 3626
Flinders University of South Australia
  / \
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide
South Australia 5001


More indepth information on the various problem trackers we tried.

request - A nice simple system, easy to build and use.
   Available from The version of request you want is
        The version I got was ascii terminal based.
            I designed and my Senior Programmer coded a program several years
ago that meets all of the specifications you are interested in. We've done
a lot of work debugging and enhancing it since then.

        SR/XSR Utility Highlites:

        - Allows users to place requests and assign priorities, review
          progress and add updates.

        - Allows privileged users (i.e. MIS) to assign the request to a
          support person, add updates, modify priority levels, monitor
          progress and close the request.

        - Supports ASCII based terminals and a GUI interface.

        - Supports management summary reports including outstanding requests,
          closed requests, requests that have aged for a period of time
          without updates, and time worked totals.

     The program which is called "SR" (Support Request), and XSR for the GUI
version, has been very successful in this environment. The users like it a lot
and we can manage a large number of requests with limited resources.
        Now the bad news, it is not public domain and I have not yet considered
releasing it as such. However, this type of software develoment is done for
internal benefit and we will not market it for profit. If you are interested
in more detail, please contact me directly. I will take this up with my staff
today and discuss "lending" the code to non-profit institutions.

        I would like to know how this code would work in other environments
and am also interested in feedback that would help us improve our utility. We
did try to design and code this to be flexible. We have it compiled on Sun3,
Sun4 and MIPS platforms (so far).

        Please let me know if you would like additional detail. We ended up
writting our own package because we could not find anything that fit our needs. (Nick Nickerson)

   It works on a sun. Never been tried on another machines.
   The last version of requete (request in french because there is
   already a request program) is available at

   You need wafe-0.96 which is already installed at
   (binady for sun) in lude-crim/wafe-0.96

   It uses dbm as the database.
   You will certainly have problem because your the first one... to
   use this software.
        From: Pierre Laplante <>

We have had a few problems building and running requete. It is very nice, has a
great interface. We are still working through some of the things. At present we
are tossing up going with requete or with tkgnats. Both we'll have to customise
to some extent, each have advantages and disadvantages.

There is the ticket system the university of harvard is using and this system
is according to one of there staff members free, available and you can get it
in source code version from Harvards anonymous ftp account.
one nice system for that is the NEARNET ticket system. (I got that hint from an staff member from Harvard;)

(some features: copy of ticket is mailed to reporter and mailing list (sysops)
                 tickets stay open until problem resolved
                daily extracted list of open tickets mailed to a mailing list
                weekly, monthly summary of tickets and time to resolution
available at: pub/nearnet-ticket-system-v1.3.tar
Exert from the README file
The system is built on the Informix Relational Database running on a SUN
Sparcstation. It uses Embedded-SQL (in C) package to interface to the mail
system (currently MMDF). The system includes the necessary definitions for the
Informix "forms" front-end, which is used for ticket data entry and searching.
The system also includes C code to provide finger-based access to tickets in
the database.

apriori - commercial
apriori made by answer costs $60k +
Really good. uses an expert system to help users/help desk solve
their owen problems, and or submit them if they cannot find the
problem+solution in it's data base.
         imatron! (Peter Cooke [Orca])

We use Apriori from Answer Computer -- but it's not cheap
at all. Runs on Sun/HP/IBM RS6K -- Openwindows/Motif/MS Windows/
lots of terminal emulations.
It does call tracking, problem management, etc.
Maria Barnum
NETLOG(v2.0) - the JvNCnet trouble ticketing system, is now available
                via anonymous ftp from (~ftp/pub/netlog-tt.tar.Z).
                This software runs on Unix systems, and is NOT ba.
sed on any
                database. It is fast, efficient and has been in use at JvNCnet
                since 1990. NETLOG uses an open, update, close ticketing
                mechanism. This software is part of the NOCOL (Network Operation
                Center On Line) package developed at JvNCnet. The other portion
                of JvNCnet's package, "netmon" (for network monitoring) will be
                available shortly. Questions to
BY FAR THE MOST POPULAR - we are tossing up between this one and requete,
mentioned earlier.
  "tkgnats" may prove useful....
   Also it may be possible to use gnats with a different user interface
   for getting the initial problem report. I've been considering this,
   since the shell version is minimal, and the emacs version appears to
   be kinda buggy.
        Dan Stromberg - OAC-DCS <>
   I found the answer to ALL your problems :) . GNATS has a GUI.
   Look for Tkgnats. Can be gotten from harbor.ecn.purdue /pub/tcl/code/tkgnats.
   You will need tcl/tk toolkit distribution.(avail at -
   /tcl/tk3.2.tar.Z. (I got this info from Sunworld Mag.) (Jim Murff)
   use GNATS, which, IMHO, is a very tidy system
   for problem tracking, if you use, say, Perl or Tkcl to build a snappy,
   little, friendly user interface to the GNATS tools send-pr, etc. That
   way, you, as a sysadmin, would get all the advantages of GNATS, while
   the users would have a happy interface. (Tony Kocurko)
   Steve Simmons <>
You might want to look at the tcl/Tk front end to gnats written by Mike
Hoegeman ( It requires wish (Tk), but the users at
our site are *much* happier with the X front-end to gnats than the
curses front end that I had written for them before. :-) The tkgnats
is quite nice.
You mentioned that you looked at gnats but did not like the interface. We
also had the same concern. I wrote a simple Xwindow front end using the Xview
library. I have attached the uuencoded source code. I am sure it could use
some improvement, but it appears to satisfy our users. It requires that
you have at least xview3.0 available. Sorry, no man page, but it should
be fairly easy to use.
We had a little trouble building this and got busy with other things, as usual.
Mail Rod if you'd like the code as I may not have it all.
        Rod Rebello, titan!
                        ******* (Julian Dryden)
Cygnus is proud to announce the first public release of its internal
bug-tracking system, GNATS (GNats: A Tracking System). It is based
upon the paradigm of a central site or organization which receives
problem reports and negotiates their resolution by electronic mail.

The database itself is simply an ordered repository for problem
reports; each PR receives a unique, incremental `PR number' which
identifies it throughout its lifetime. GNATS manages this database
with specialized tools written for this specific application. Future
releases will contain support for configurable fields, a front end for
the administrative tools, and possibly a GUI.

Although it's been used at Cygnus as a software bug-tracking system,
it is sufficiently generalized so that it could be used for handling
system administration issues, project management, or any number of
other applications.

GNATS is available from in /pub/gnu as gnats-3.00.tar.z.
If you do not have GNU Zip, it is also available as gzip-1.0.5.tar.

GNATS offers support for:

  * an organized database/archive of submitted problem reports,
    entirely based on electronic mail

  * automatic acknowledgement of problems received and distribution to
    support personnel

  * responsible parties who need not be local users (another
    department, company, or just someone on the Net that maintains the
    software, should it be used as a software bug-tracking system)

  * a problem report submission engine which can be used to submit
    bugs to any support site using GNATS based on the categories supported
    by that site. In other words, you can use the same program to submit
    software bugs to Cygnus, system problems to your system administration
    team, and internal software problems to that department, all with a
    single bug-submission program.

  * a discrete, compact distribution mechanism for the tools needed to
    submit problem reports, so that "mini" distributions can be
    included in other software packages

  * support for different kinds of contracts or submitter categories

  * GNU Emacs modes for querying, editing, and submitting PRs

  * a very fast query mechanism

  * built-in security, with PRs containing confidential or proprietary
    information tagged as such

  * support for contractually agreed-upon response times, with a
    mechanism to notify those responsible when that time has elapsed

  * a library of routines to make it easy to write other tools to
    perform actions on the database

  * multiple "states" (the life-cycle of a bug report):
        open (not yet handled)
        analyzed (the problem has been verified/discovered)
        feedback (a solution has been returned to the submitter)
        closed (the issue has been resolved)
        suspended (work has been postponed)

  * extensibility to support sophisticated text search engines for
    deciding who should be responsible for a PR (e.g., running a fuzzy
    text searcher on the PR to decide)

Although this is numbered "3.00", it is in many ways still beta
software. Given that it has never been exposed for any great lengths
of time to an environment other than that at Cygnus, we look forward
to your ideas and suggestions for changes in functionality or
enhancements, and of course your bug reports. Please send all
problems and inquiries to the address `'.

- --
Brendan Kehoe
Cygnus Support, Mountain View, CA +1 415 903 1400

Action Request System - commercial
We are using Action Request System from Remedy Corporation.
This package is very easy to use. Easy to configure and is designed for this
type of task. You can reach them at:
        Remedy Corporation
        1965 Landings Dr.
        Mtn. View, CA 94043
        (415) 903-5200
        FAX: (415) 903-9001
Bill Barnes
        "The Action Request System ... manages a timely
        resolution of problems and support requests. ...
        It is an efficient tool for tracking and reporting
        a variety of issues, information, and problems."
Nora B. Hermida
Qmail - commercial
   mh based group mail management tool. Allows any number of users to interact
   with a queue of messages. Limitless number of queues can be setup. Queue specific
   scan listings and titles are supported, plus a number of other items. Email
   David for more info, he sent me a 2 page postscript document on Qmail. Qmail is
   designed to support management of multiple mail requests by a number of people.

No demo available, however David has been most helpful, sending lots of info.
Qmial sounds like a great system for organising the 'back end' of problem
        "David R. Hieb" <David.R.Hieb@InternetOne.COM>
Quantum - commercial - Australia based around $17K
It has an extensive help system, solutions database, offers support for software
management, keeping track of stock and report writing.
Demo available on request.
Runs on most platforms -Unix, Xenix, VMS, LAN's
Contact person - Tim OReagan, Support Solutions Pty Ltd,
Snail mail address - Suite 13, 283 Penshurst St, Willoughby, NSW 2068, Australia
Ph +61 2 4172300 toll free +61 008 803231 fax +61 2 4176629
Quintus --- has a product called CustomerQ that we like. It is not cheap
but it is worth it for our uses.

Quintus Corporation
800-542-1283 (Rickey K. Ewing)

Thanks to:
----------- (James M. Sharp) (Nick Nickerson) Michael Fendt
imatron! (Peter Cooke [Orca])
Dan Stromberg - OAC-DCS <> (Jim Murff)
"David R. Hieb" <David.R.Hieb@InternetOne.COM> (Tony Kocurko)
Steve Simmons <> Nora B. Hermida
Tom Reingold <> Rex Walters
Rod Rebello, titan! (Julian Dryden) (Rickey K. Ewing)

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