Bugzilla vs. Mantis

Update 6/2011: I’ve never been impressed by bug trackers – tools like Bugzilla and Mantis have excellent features but horrible designs, and products like Sifter and Lighthouse had decent designs but lost all powerful functionality. There’s finally a product that has both, and it’s awesome – https://snowy-evening.com/.

View Mantis in use.
View Bugzilla in use.

I began using Mantis in mid-2002 when I first began developing complicated PHP applications. It was nice to start out with and had some useful features, but as the years passed and the projects came and went, I really found out what I liked and didn’t like.

Interface

In early 2005 I started using Bugzilla for projects at Wells Fargo, and immediately I found it more to my taste. Both were relatively easy to setup, although prior knowledge of CGI file permissions is required for Bugzilla. I found Bugzilla easier to read – it had a cleaner interface that was easier to customize. The colors and plain text was very easy on the eyes and was laid out in a manner that made a bit more sense to me. The excessive whitespace in Bugzilla really helps separate the fields, whereas mantis connects them all in several large tables which draws my attention to corners and sections of the page that I shouldn’t even look at.

As of the 2.20+ releases of bugzilla, it’s easier to change certain field values without editing any config files. In mantis you need to edit a php file in order to change some of the field options, as well as the more advanced options. Bugzilla lays all of the major options you might need into a single page, and allows you to access a web-based interface for changing certain field values.

In addition to a better templating system, Bugzilla makes it easier for you to customize it.

Tools

Bugzilla has a much better report tool, as it provides better customization of report queries, and has much more powerful reporting code. Mantis can show some excellent statistics by default that might take a minute to generate in Bugzilla, but Bugzilla makes up for that by having a much more powerful set of tools.

Mantis sends update emails when actions are taken on bugs, which is a great feature to have. Bugzilla has a feature that I cannot live without – whining. Setting up scheduled, automated emails with saved searches is an excellent way of reminding someone about bugs that need some action taken. There is also a default whine available to remind yourself about bugs that have sat around too long – I don’t see any type of automated email reminder system in Mantis.

The single tool that I LOVE bugzilla for are the Flags. The ability to flag (or “label”) a bug and run searches off of those flags is a feature that I have come to rely on. I can set a bug as “follow-up” or “possible-fix-needs-testing” or “blocking-some-release”. The ability to set labels like that make bug management and reporting a lot easier. The lack of this feature is the one thing that really makes using Mantis difficult. To properly manage my bug queue I need to be able to keep the bugs separate, while keeping them assigned to me. Labelling a bug as “awaiting approval” would be so helpful, so that I can easily spot and begin work on bugs not yet waiting for anything.

Other Usage Differences

I think Bugzilla has a better advanced search interface, providing more dynamic options. Javascript is effectively used to update the advanced search panel fields when you make certain selections. It’s a bit easier to create new searches as well as edit existing items, and it’s easier to access searches you’ve saved. Mantis allows for saving of “filters” but that’s about it. While useful, it requires a bit more work when saving and using multiple filters. Also, I don’t believe that mantis allows you to bookmark your search.

Mantis seems to have several steps in a process that don’t need to be there. I don’t want an entire page to tell me “Operation Successful” after I do something. Bugzilla displays a page that confirms the change, but also shows either the bug you just edited or the next bug on the list, reducing the number of pages I need to click though. When I view a bug in Mantis, I need to click an edit button before I can edit it, but by default, not all of the fields are available to edit. I need to click edit advanced in order to edit every field available. Bugzilla has a single view page, that allows you edit any field you have without clicking extra buttons.

The last, but maybe least important issue is that Mantis doesn’t have the ability to connect with CVS, LXR, and Bonsai.

Overall

Overall, Bugzilla is just simpler to manage from the reporter, developer, and admin levels. It reduces the time one spends sorting their bugs and managing their queue, which really helps as you have more time for development work. It seems much easier for bugs to slip through the crack with Mantis, as Bugzilla was really designed to prevent that.

The only feature that Mantis has (with versions .19+ anyway) that Bugzilla needs, is the ability to generate change logs. However, it wasn’t too hard to toss together a perl script using the Bugzilla tables.

Update:

03/07/2006 – Two additions to this. Bugzilla will turn bug numbers in your notes into links automatically, while Mantis does not. Bugzilla prints out a list of people notified via email when an action is taken on a bug. I can guess who got an email in Mantis, but I like it when it’s printed out in front of me.

Possibly related posts:

  1. Using Bugzilla Effectively: for Contractors

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