Flyspray: One of those web-based bug tracker

Working with Mantis has been sweet. It was a project manager’s delight – full-blown features and a powerful back-end.

However, if you are concerned with usability, it can be a nightmare. Getting Mantis to display the barebones essentials required too much editing. Mantis, after all, doesn’t (yet) have a templating system to make it easier to customize & remove fields.

Task type (bug, feature, task) wasn’t also built-in – custom fields have to be used (which will prove later on to be a templating horror), or maybe recycle the not-so-often used Severity field.

Most agonizing is in customizing the “look” of Mantis. It is bursting in the seams with its sheer number of tables …. probably to make up for its pitiful number of CSS classes?

Enter Flyspray

Flyspray came to the rescue. Well, sort of. All the pertinent fields are in plain view – due date, target version, percent completed, and yes, task type.

It is also highly customizable – numerous classes & ids are meticulously included to make the CSS fanatic in you real proud. In a short amount of time, I was able to transform Flyspray’s horrendous default template to something utterly glorious.

Exit Flyspray

Upon entering more data, however, Flyspray’s weakness started to kick in:

The actual editing of global & project permissions leaves much to be desired. It took a lot of hits & misses before we finally figured out the difference between the project & global permissions (even where & how to edit them, for that matter).

A function similar to Mantis’ My View or Trac’s My Tickets was conspicuously missing. This is a page where users can see all the issues assigned to them, regardless of project. In the forums, however, we were informed that this is not needed, as there is an advanced search feature which can be used to search for tasks assigned to them. Oh … oh okay.

Most painful is the lack of support for subprojects. I’m still wondering if the Flyspray team never realized that people with more than 20 projects will want to use their product. Unfortunately, I am one of those people, and I have to play with prefixes just to get those damn projects ordered right. And did I mention that the project switch drop down is now extending near the end of my browser window? Really.

Meenie, minie …

If you are part of a small team (maybe 5 people) and handling a couple or so projects … yes, Flyspray would probably perfect for you. However, they are not for developers of medium sized to large teams, those handling more than 5 projects, and for Project or QA Managers who use bug trackers intensively for issue, assignment, and project tracking.

Don’t expect much in the future developments either. Based on their roadmap and posts in the forums, their primary customers are the self-managed developers.

And we are left with no choice but to pray to the highest heavens that someday, somehow, the developers of these bug tracking systems will finally listen to the users who actually use it the most.

16 thoughts on “Flyspray: One of those web-based bug tracker”

  1. Have you tried Eventum? It’s not open source though.

    What do you think about Trac? It looks very easy to use.

    Tried Fly Spray a few months ago. There is not a lot of activity in the forums. Something is probably scaring off the users :D

  2. [quote]
    I’m still wondering if the Flyspray team never realized that people with more than 20 projects will want to use their product.

    You are outside the target audience then :P .. btw.. do you know of any bug tracker that implements this the right way ?

  3. I think mantis is a better bug tracker. And it has subprojects. You can even modify the options so when you select a project, another switch menu will appear where you can select the sub project.

    JIRA is another good bug tracker, but very expensive.

  4. Nice review :)

    [quote]will finally listen to the users who actually use it the most.[/quote]

    Well, rest assured that I carefully watch our userbase and adjust Flyspray to their needs in the future. However, since Flyspray is only meant for smaller projects, not having any feature you can think of on purpose, it will never get all features you mentioned, like sub-projects.

    And btw, where is your “utterly glorious” theme? You know, we are looking for a new design for 1.0 and I wouldn’t mind seeing your “suggestion” :)

  5. As the author of a another bug tracker, BugTracker.NET (, I feel compelled to come to the defense of my brethren at Flyspray. It’s hard to design a tracker that is optimized to be a good fit for all scenarios.

    If I add some feature intended to make my tracker a better fit for a structured, corporate environment, I have to also have to make sure that feature can be turned off so that it doesn’t disrupt the simplicity that smaller teams enjoy. So, then, there’s more complexity in the configuration settings too, more of a learning curve, to figure out how to turn that new feature on and off, what it means.

    So, there are tradeoffs with each tracker design, and each tracker balances those tradeoffs a little differently.

  6. I just started using flyspray after about 20 drive-by evaluations and have to say the simplicity is a good feature. Agreed that the project switcher list is going to get my goat sooner or later and there are some other awkward bits in the UI… but it certainly has the basics down, which you can’t say for a lot of the other libre efforts. As for items like “My Tasks” – probably pretty easy to add it for yourself. Understood that you don’t necessarily want to take on “design and code effective bug tracker / to-do list” as a project for yourself, but most of the work is done for you, doing a few add-ons and reports here and there is par for the course. Definitely hearing you on the subprojects though. If you’ve got a particularly complex project you might consider installing an instance of Flyspray just for that project? The compromise is it fractures your personal to-dos into multiple databases..

  7. Thank you for your informative article. I also use fly spray right now. Im having the same problems you have (after a while, you just want more). The nice thing about mantis is its support of workflows. In flyspray, even if the ticket is already assigned to someone, the status remains at feedback. I have to change it manually.

    I still use flyspray but only for light projects. But let me give you some good news, mantis will be supporting smarty templates in its next version. I plan to moving all my projects to mantis when they release it, but will “settle” for flyspray in the meantime.

  8. We evaluated almost every product in the market (exceot very hgh end $$ ones) an shotlisted 2 – Mantis and Flyspray.

    We have ended up using Flyspray for it simlicity and speed, but there are features from Mantis I miss and I am sure will become biggest issues as we get more projects/tasks online.

    The GUIO is both good (fast and easy) and bad (bit unusual/missing some features) but its better than most we looked at.

    Thing like better reporting, more definable views, more multiple actions on selected tasks and would be nice.

    For $ solutio0ns, the best we looked at were

    1. FogBuz from Fog Creek
    2. Waterproof
    3. JIRA

    Lets just hope the tam at FLyspray can balance their gioals of a lightweights tracker with soke more powerful features found in these products

    Shayne Micchia
    IIBC Thailand

  9. Most agonizing is in customizing the “look” of Mantis. It is bursting in the seams with its sheer number of tables probably to make up for its pitiful number of CSS classes?

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