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In Search of a Better Project Management Tool

April 29, 2011

At Six Feet Up, we have been using the web-based project management software Trac since 2005. It has been a great tool for managing tickets and specifications. As the company has grown, so has the scope of our project management tool. We have customized Trac to meet our needs through configuration tweaks, third-party plugins and even a few in-house plugins. We are getting close to reaching the limits of what Trac can do for us.

What Got Us Here?

The biggest issue with deploying Trac for multiple projects is the fact that each instance is its own island. The only built-in feature to integrate each instance is the intertrac syntax, but this only allows you to easily link to tickets and wiki pages in the other instances.

We have a lot of data that is not easily searchable, so this is a big drawback for us. The other big drawback is the way that Trac is configured. The project managers have to get a sysadmin to make changes to certain aspects of the system which should be configurable through the web.

Where to go from here?

Seeing that we were rapidly outgrowing Trac, we started looking at alternatives. One of the best open source options we have seen is Redmine, a project management tool built on top of Ruby On Rails. For our Third FedEx day, David Blewett and I took a deeper look at Redmine to see if we could migrate our existing Trac instances to it.

Redmine Pros

Redmine has some very interesting features that make it very appealing to us, including:

Redmine Cons

While preparing to migrate our data into Redmine, we were seeing if we could configure it to behave in a similar way to Trac. There were some things that we didn't like and a few blockers to our immediate use:


We didn't complete our FedEx day project, but we gathered the information we needed. Once we hit the blocker issues, we looked around at some other options. Most of the open source tools seem rather incomplete compared to Redmine or Trac. One other option would be a paid application like Jira. We watched a video of Jira in action and it certainly looks very nice. But the costs involved are too high. We would be better served to invest the money in improving an existing tool like Redmine.

We still think that Redmine can be our next generation project management tool with a little bit of effort.

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