A bug tracking system is a software application that is designed to help quality assurance and programmers keep track of reported software bugs in their work. It may be regarded as a sort of issue tracking system.
Many bug-tracking systems, such as those used by most open source software projects, allow users to enter bug reports directly. Other systems are used only internally in a company or organization doing software development. Typically bug tracking systems are integrated with other software project management applications.
Having a bug tracking system is extremely valuable in software development, and they are used extensively by companies developing software products.
A major component of a bug tracking system is a database that records facts about known bugs. Facts may include the time a bug was reported, its severity, the erroneous program behavior, and details on how to reproduce the bug; as well as the identity of the person who reported it and any programmers who may be working on fixing it.
Typical bug tracking systems support the concept of the life cycle for a bug which is tracked through status assigned to the bug. A bug tracking system should allow administrators to configure permissions based on status, move the bug to another status, or delete the bug. The system should also allow administrators to configure the bug statuses and to what status a bug in a particular status can be moved to.
The main benefit of a bug-tracking system is to provide a clear centralized overview of development requests (including both bugs and improvements, the boundary often fuzzy), and their state. The prioritized list of pending items (often called backlog) provides valuable input when defining the product roadmap, or maybe just "the next release".
In a corporate environment, a bug-tracking system may be used to generate reports on the productivity of programmers at fixing bugs. However, this may sometimes yield inaccurate results because different bugs may have different levels of severity and complexity. The severity of a bug may not be directly related to the complexity of fixing the bug. There may be different opinions among the managers and architects.
A local bug tracker (LBT) is usually a computer program used by a team of application support professionals (often a help desk) to keep track of issues communicated to software developers. Using an LBT allows support professionals to track bugs in their "own language" and not the "language of the developers." In addition, LBT use allows a team of support professionals to track specific information about users who have called to complain that may not always be needed in the actual development queue (thus, there are two tracking systems when an LBT is in place.)
Some bug trackers are designed to be used with distributed revision control software. These distributed bug trackers allow bug reports to be conveniently read, added to the database or updated while a developer is offline. Distributed bug trackers include Bugs Everywhere, DisTract, and Fossil.
Although wikis and bug tracking systems are conventionally viewed as distinct types of software, ikiwiki can also be used as a distributed bug tracker. It can manage documents and code as well, in an integrated distributed manner. However, its query functionality is not as advanced or as user-friendly as some other, non-distributed bug trackers such as BugZilla. Similar statements can be made about org-mode, although it is not wiki software as such.