Recently, we moved from one project/bug system to JIRA with GreenHopper. The system is highly programmable with lots of plugins and so far, we have made good strides forward. It’s not perfect by any means, but so far, so good.
One area I have not been thrilled is the GreenHopper interface. Some people here love it, but I was having a harder time. There was something about the interface that I just didn’t like. Specifically, I think it was the way the menus and navigation worked. It looks like this:
All of those arrows drop down a menu and you can combine them to navigate to whatever view you want. I found this UI endlessly confusing. One of the engineers here loves it, but I think it might be geared towards that engineering type of mind. (Read: The Inmates are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper). I found myself not using the UI because of this problem.
Then I stumbled upon this desktop software called JIRA Client from ALMWorks. The UI of this tool is a tree.
This was a 100 times more effective for me to find what I am looking for. I can nest the filters and create my own structure. The UI seems quite polished. Although it certainly doesn’t do everything, it seems well worth the $100 to navigate the JIRA issues. The only mistake they made was not using the tree as pure navigation. They combine the tree with a tab system.
The big problem with this is that I now have 40 tabs open without realizing it. There seems to be no benefit to having the tab open. It just creates clutter. I am using the tree for navigation, but because of the tab system, the tree nodes do not become LIT. This is when a node is highlighted in some way to indicate that you are navigated currently to that item. This faux pas doesn’t hinder my usage of the tree, so I just have to close 40 tabs every once in a while.
Another benefit is that the system is synchronized, so I don’t need to make a server call for each request. It caches the results locally and syncs every couple of minutes. This makes the system MUCH faster than using the browser UI. Speed is truly the most important feature of any system.
On the downside, I find some things that could be improved. One is the way it renders fonts. There is no way to increase the font size. Right now, the font is pretty small, so I have a hard time reading the details. Secondly, the preview pane is only available on the bottom. Based on my screen resolution (1920×1080), I would be much better off if the preview pane was on the right. I’d be able to read much more without scrolling.
I just tried to login to their forums to post that as an idea, but unfortunately, the system says they are not allowing any new people on the forum. (Not sure what that is about)
Jira Client is the kind of model that I think is pretty valuable. There is a cloud service like GMail, Jira, DropBox, Google Docs, etc and there is a thick client on the desktop to edit the file. I think Microsoft is trying to do this with SkyDrive and MS Office, but they have a long way to go. For now, I am impressed with this one example.