Today Tasktop 1.6 and Mylyn 3.3 are released, the next evolution of the popular task management tool for Eclipse. For those who haven't used Mylyn, the open source task management offering, it's the perfect way to try out the task focussed approach. Meanwhile Tasktop gives you extra certified connectors and integrates with your mail and calendars. To see the difference, check out the feature comparison matrix on the Tasktop site.
CEO Mik Kersten describes the issues that Tasktop solves in his latest blog entry. Here he describes how the task management layer helps developers to focus on what's really important:
Within this layer, Mylyn provides the task management APIs that integrate the IDE with the various ALM systems in play. Tasktop and Mylyn connectors provide the integrations with a team’s tools for change management, source code configuration management, build and release management, and test and quality management. Tasktop 1.6 completes the layer by automating the linking and tracking of task across the very wide variety of commercial and open source ALM tools.
To summarize, Tasktop have seen that IDE integration isn't something that vendors have focussed on, and have provided a way to get important systems like bug tracking into your Eclipse IDE.
I just had to chance to try out the latest version of Tasktop this morning. The first thing that you'll see when you start it up is the new welcome page. For novice users this will be a nice addition, providing a good guide on how to use Tasktop properly.
The new Task Federation feature allows you to link across multiple systems that have integrated with Tasktop. So now it's possible to link, import and migrate across your repositories. This could be useful for you as you convert an email to a user story, and link your bugs to the user story. Or if you simply use multiple bug tracking systems, you can link between them now.
On top of this there's better automated time tracking available, and with the Time Tracking dashboard, developers and managers will gain better visibility into progress.
Users of Mylyn will be happy to hear that there is now full support for Eclipse CDT for your C/C++ projects.
I spoke briefly to Mik Kersten about today's announcement:
DZone: If this announcement has just brought Tasktop to someone's attention, why should they use it?
Mik Kersten: If you’re already an Eclipse Mylyn user, the main reason to add Tasktop to your Eclipse install is that it will take the productivity boost that you got from Mylyn to the next level. Whether or not you’re a Mylyn user, consider Tasktop if you need an integration with a commercial ALM or collaboration tool, support, or one of the task-focused collaboration features that it provides, such as the ability to turn email threads into user stories in your ALM tool. The most notable new features in Tasktop 1.6 are cross-repository linking and time tracking for the task editor.
DZone: You seem to be helping customers to understand how to use Tasktop more. Is this a result of feedback you've got from customers? Can we expect more ease-of-use changes in future?
Mik Kersten: Whereas the focus of Mylyn is to provide a framework, APIs, and reference implementations for task management, the goal for Tasktop is to provide a streamlined product experience. We’re now seeing enough large scale and enterprise adoption that this additional level of refinement is important to help support our latest crop of new users. We’re staying true to our “less is more” mantra and keeping the experience lightweight and slick. In this respect, my favorite new feature in Tasktop 1.6 is the unique getting started dashboard that we’ve added. In addition to being a learning portal for all the key Tasktop and Mylyn functionality, we’ve baked the typical learning path into the experience. This helps ensure that the new user is comfortable with the Task List before they move on to more advanced functionality, such as configuring task-focused web browsing. And yes, we do have more ease-of-use efforts underway. For example, we’re working on a new query wizard in Tasktop that will automatically set up your Task List according to the people that you collaborate with. So while the full power of configurability remains in Mylyn, we will continue to make it easy to adopt best practices with the additional guidance and automation that Tasktop provides.
DZone: Can you tell us about any future connectors that Tasktop will provide? If I have an idea for one, where do I go to add a request?
Mik Kersten: Later this fall we’ll see ThoughtWorks Mingle and IBM Rational ClearCase connectors. Three are more in the works as well. To stay up-to-date on connectors and vote for additional ones check out http://tasktop.com/connectors
DZone: What is the most popular connector/use of Tasktop that you are seeing among users?
Mik Kersten: In terms of volume of feedback via requests, it’s still Bugzilla. This could in part be explained by the fact that Mylyn and Tasktop users can happily work without needing to use Bugzilla’s Web UI. The may 2009 Eclipse Community Survey also indicated that Bugzilla was the most popular bug and issue tracker, and the adoption numbers that we have closely match to that survey’s results.
The Benefits of a Task Focussed User Interface
Although I had written about the benefits of Mylyn and the task focussed user interface a while back, I only got a chance to start using it in my development organisation recently thanks to a new connector becoming available for our bug tracking system. Since I've started using it I've noticed definite improvements in how fast I address a bug.
It works really simply - as you're working on a bug you mark it as active. From there, your views are all filtered to show only what you deem to be important for the context of the bug. As you open a class, it will be added to the context, but you can always remove it if you think it's unnecessary.
While another bug comes in, and I want to investigate, I think mark the new one as the active one. The best part is, that when I come back to the original bug and mark it active, I see all the files that I had originally associated. You'll find out a lot more bout my experiences with Mylyn in a future article. For now, why not check out the excellent Eclipse Live tutorial on using Mylyn.