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Story tickets with subtasks / to-do lists

Posted by Andy Singleton on Fri, Jan 04, 2013

We just released a frequently requested feature - an implementation of Story tickets with subtasks. You can use the subtasks in a Scrum planning process, or you can use them as an informal to-do list. To see this new feature, go to the Tickets/Planner UI, and open a ticket by selecting the little triangle on the side. This opens a “task tray” under the ticket. You can write into the form to make a list of subtasks. You can create a to-do list in a few seconds, right there in the task tray. You can also drop other tickets into the task tray.

task tray resized 600

Tasks move with the parent Story ticket. So, if you sort the Story, or move it to the Current column, or to a different milestone, the tasks go with it. Use this relationship to make a list of tasks that should be completed before you release the parent Story.

You can also see the Tasks on the “Related Tickets” tab of the parent Story ticket, and you can add or edit tasks right inside the Story ticket.

related tickets resized 600

The tasks are complete tickets, so you can assign them, discuss them, and see them in Cardwall and List views.

list view resized 600

In the old Outline view, parent and child tickets are only loosely related, and child tickets do not move with the parent. The Outline parent tickets create an “epic” relationship, where you can release each tasks separately on the way to completing a major feature. We’re going to remove the old Outline UI in favor of the more modern Planner, but will offer a way to build the Epic relationships. Many Outline users told us that they wanted “move with the parent” behavior. So, now you have it with the expanding tasks on the Planner. Please switch over to the Planner UI.

Here are two ideas for using Stories and Tasks:

1) You can use Stories and Tasks in a classic Scrum planning process where you write Story tickets, and put them in your backlog, without tasks. The Story ticket describes the function, not the implementation. It includes a summary of the user goal and functional requirements, for example “I am a user and I want X, so I use the system do this action…” Then, after you pull a ticket over to the Current work column, you expand it by adding more detailed implementation tasks. Then you finish all of the tasks, and close the parent Story.

2) You can use this to make your backlog smaller and easier to handle by grouping several backlog tasks together under one functional story. You can drag and drop tickets into the story tray under a parent ticket. The Tasks are hidden in the Planner view, but are still fully functional tickets in the other views.

We thank André Mendonça for implementing this feature - get it for free with Assembla Renzoku!

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Is it possible to create a ticket and assign it as being a subtask of a (previously created) story without having to leave the 'create ticket interface'?  
It seems that currently it's only possible to assign (existing as well as newly created) tickets to Stories by dragging them to a story in 'Outline' view.

posted @ Monday, January 07, 2013 4:58 AM by Robert

I was surprised that when I changed the status of the parent (to closed) the children didn't follow. I am not sure if I should have been.

posted @ Monday, January 07, 2013 5:44 AM by rossisen

* The answer to your first question is: No. However we can internally discuss about that and see if we can develop such solution. In meantime, you might want to try to do that by using the Planner tool. In there you can do that quite fast. 
* For the second matter: you can assign an existing ticket as subtask of another (making the another automatically as a Story) from the ticket details page, in the Related Tickets tab. 
We already have an internal ticket to accomplish that. We already foresaw that issue and it'll be fixed soonish.

posted @ Monday, January 07, 2013 6:34 AM by Leandro N. Camargo

@Leandro, Thanks.

posted @ Tuesday, January 08, 2013 10:08 AM by Robert

I discovered the new subtask feature today. It's a great functionality, but the overlap with the Child task functionality is quite confusing.  
It would have been much better to extend the behavior of the Child tickets instead. Is there any way of moving towards that at this point? 

posted @ Wednesday, January 09, 2013 4:36 AM by Gabriel R.

The Outline feature WILL be missed. The planner is awesome, but it doesn't work with multiple milestones.  
I like to set up milestones for each sprint, and juggle with the tickets as needed. It would be great if the planner could show more columns/milestones than New, Backlog and Current. 

posted @ Wednesday, January 09, 2013 4:40 AM by Gabriel R.

@Gabriel R. I second this.  
@Assembla Are you guys looking into introducing the on-fly-creation of Tickets as has been implemented on the Planner page? (btw: 'Report issues' on some pages (?))  
For instance it's not possible to create an on the fly ticket on the Card wall; whereas the Card wall is my main workspace on Assembla. I've set it as my opening page through an Application Shortcut I created in Google Chrome.

posted @ Wednesday, January 09, 2013 7:22 AM by Robert

@Gabriel - Great feedback!. Unfortunately, we are supporting lots of client needs and won't be able to merge subtask and child ticket associations at this time, but hopefully this will occur in the future. As for your 2nd post, I can't promise you anything immediate, but internally the Product team is discussing allowing users to select what Milestone they see in the last column of the Planner. Would this support your use case?  
@Robert - Thanks for the feedback. We will look at ways of making it easier and quicker to add tickets from the Cardwall.

posted @ Wednesday, January 09, 2013 8:38 AM by hank lander

Internally, subtasks are implemented as a type of child association. However, our users were very clear that they wanted tasks to move with the parent story. So, we made a special "Task" relation with this extra behavior. So, now, we have the two variants in the system (loosely related Child, and Task). How far do we want to go in adding an outline view where you can manage the more loosely related child tasks, in the task tray or the related tickets tab? We decided not to do it in this release because we didn't want to confuse people. This is a design problem that requires careful thinking. 
Yes, we will make it possible to show other milestones on the Planner, so you can work on them with the AJAX UI. Our current plan is to offer a pulldown field to select a milestone to appear in the "Current" column. 
Yes, we will provide a popup form for adding tickets to the Cardwall. The key technology is to match the filter used on the Cardwall (milestone, and our new tag filter), so that when you add a ticket, it drops into the cardwall view and doesn't just disappear.

posted @ Wednesday, January 09, 2013 8:43 AM by Andy Singleton

@Andy Great news the selectable Current column directly in the Planner. Not quite _multiple_ columns, but we'll see. 
The Related Tickets flow could be simplified and enhanced with this UI design 

posted @ Wednesday, January 09, 2013 10:29 AM by Gabriel R.

Subtasks added from the **Title > Add** interface should keep all properties from parent ticket. 
Currently, the Assigned to, Type and Feature information are not copied over. 
I made a bug report here, but it was closed as it was considered …an enhancement request.

posted @ Wednesday, January 09, 2013 10:33 AM by Gabriel R.

@Andy Thanks. Good to hear.

posted @ Thursday, January 10, 2013 6:34 AM by Robert

@Gabriel - Thanks for raising this your point about copying over more fields to subtasks. We will look into it.

posted @ Thursday, January 10, 2013 8:19 AM by hank lander

Nice, that sounds like a step in the right direction, Assembla was a nightmare to use with epics for quite a while now. 
But this looks like I'll still have to use both outline and planner to work with epics, and I have remember where and how to create the different kinds of child relations, or else tickets will not show up correctly.  
I wonder, do teams not use epics any more, or was it just so much more important to provide other features (none of which I'm apparently using at all) in the last 12-15 months? 

posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 5:41 AM by bernhard

It would be nice if subtasks would work with ticket filters that group tickets by story, currently subtasks are marked as a story, which screws this up.

posted @ Monday, February 04, 2013 6:24 AM by Bernhard

I would also love to see a way to group by story on the list view.

posted @ Thursday, February 07, 2013 5:08 PM by Jeremy Moore

i'm also in for "group by story on the list view". it only works for the deprecated outline story. 

posted @ Friday, February 08, 2013 8:47 AM by Thomas Chille

it will also be nice and very helpful to visualize the ticket type (story vs. subtask) on the cardwall. as the list view already does.

posted @ Friday, February 08, 2013 8:53 AM by Thomas Chille

@Gabriel R. +1 
If Outline is removed, I WILL also missed it. 
Before removing it, the Planner needs to support multiple milestones and should hide the 'child' tickets to regroup them under their 'parents'. 
Right now, in the Planner, even if there is child tickets defined, they are not shown under their parents. 
Also, it will need to support child-child-* tickets. Outline can do it so if it's removed, Planner should support it. It's really useful! 

posted @ Saturday, February 09, 2013 10:11 AM by Baptiste Augrain

@Gabriel, we are working on these updates. Thank you for the feedback.

posted @ Monday, February 11, 2013 9:05 AM by adam feber

Please don't remove the Outline view. 
I use "story" tickets as features, and child tickets as tasks in the implementation of that feature. 
Right now I use the Outline view to add a new task to a feature, and also to see what tasks a particular feature has outstanding. 
I'm sorry if I'm not getting it, but somehow I'm not at all clear how the Planner improvements help me do those things?

posted @ Tuesday, February 12, 2013 9:23 AM by Nicholas Bellerophon

This is a move in the right direction, but as many others, I'm really worried that I'll miss important capabilities when the outline is retired. The outline is rather mediocre, but it offers capabilities that no other view offers so far. Among them: 
- multi milestone management (where is the long awaited multi-team feature???) 
- epic/story management  
(1) Tickets hierarchy 
We use Scrum and really need Epic, Stories and tasks. In Assembla this translates into Parent ticket, Child ticket and Subtasks. Note that Parent ticket is also called "story" in assembla, which confuses the hell out of scrum users. 
The essence of this grouping is to reduce the backlog size which otherwise quickly become unmanageable. Unfortunately, the current implementation actually makes things worse, as they *increase* the number of objects. Specifically, the fact that every item is a vanilla ticket is painful. This is clearly visible in the List where subtasks are displayed alongside stories and epic. In the planner view, subtasks are correctly lumped under their story, but stories are display alongside epics. 
Our requests: 
R1. Clearly display ticket type among "subtask, story, epic". Allow to edit. Story should be default type. 
R2. In the Planner, display stories under their epic (expanded by default), display subtasks under their story (collapsed by default, as it currently is) 
- Note: the Outline offers that today with the "Show subtasks in Milestones" option! Simply migrate this feature to the Planner!! 
R3. In the List, offer an optional grouping mode similar to the previous item 
R4. In Planner, when dropping a ticket into another ticket, the relationship should be derived from the ticket type. Currently, it always creates substasks :~( 
(2) Planner & multiple backlogs 
We have multiple teams working of a single backlog. That makes the Planner useless. Even a drop-down selection of current would not be good enough, as it would prevent us to move a ticket from one team to another. What we really need is multiple current columns. I would also want to save predefined arrangements to quickly change perspectives. 
(3) New ticket in planner 
The current New ticket layout is mediocre. We have an "Inbox" milestone which all new tickets defaults to. Any refresh of the page makes the new ticket disappear. I would suggest: 
R5. Using the left column space for Inbox (a la IceBox in Pivotal Tracker) which would be a user defined milestone 
R6. Displaying a new ticket box on top of every column (inbox, backlog, current 1, current 2, etc). Creating a new ticket would then automatically assign it to the corresponding milestone, saving multiple clicks. 

posted @ Wednesday, February 13, 2013 10:24 AM by Gael

+1 to Gael's comments 
We have the exact same problems, and tried discussing those with Assembla support for about 1.5 years now.  
I decided that I am not in the target group for Assembla's ticketing. Once they fix the export, I'm probably out.

posted @ Thursday, February 14, 2013 6:54 AM by Bernhard

We have been working through the story and epic concept step by step. I think you will like the result. We will replace the outline with a logically consistent view of "epic" planning. Here are the things that we are currently working on. 
Before we remove outline, we want to bring in new features such as: 
* Epic type, which includes the less tightly bound stories as child tickets 
* Epic builder on the Related Tickets tab. We have a task panel there now. If you select epic type, it should be clear how to build your plan there by adding story-level tickets, and we will provide some sort of outline view. 
* On the Planner view, different behavior for epics, compared with the default stories. Epics will link to the epic builder view on related tickets. 
* Selectable milestones on the planner columns, so you can get the side-by-side view for any two milestones. This is ready to release. 
* In-place addition of new tickets to any view. I'm not sure we want them on every column, but we need this on Cardwall for example. That would provide a UI element that could be included in other places. 
We also need to handle the case of "multiple teams working from a single backlog." It's a very important case for a big project. For the last four months, we have had a team dedicated to this feature, and it is almost ready for release. The simple way to do this is to tag all tickets by team, and then have filtered views (eg, select "Team X" on the cardwall or planner). So, we added tagging and filtering for that. However, we also added a concept of "Child spaces", so that each team can have a sub-project that shares a view of the tickets that are tagged for that team. So, you can sort the full backlog, and then easily drop into the team view. 
I saw the note from Gael "Inbox" milestone. The Planner assumes that new tickets go to <no milestone>. The Planner will work a lot better if you 
remove the default milestone for new tickets. 
If the simple CSV ticket export isn't good enough (for example, because you need attachments), we have an API that will do a full export. We will share open source scripts that will suck out the tickets, and you can modify them to write the tickets into your new location.

posted @ Thursday, February 14, 2013 1:36 PM by Andy Singleton

Abandoning the Outline view and forcing the move to the planner is a bad idea for the foreseeable future. And the outline tool is BUSTED right now which making the service unusable for us. 
Support told me they may or may not fix it. This is CRAZY. 
I can't figure out how I would ever use the new planner. It doesn't support anything I use from the Outline view (multiple milestones, child tickets in stories, etc.). As others (more learned in the terminology [ epic? ] then me) have pointed out. 
Because of the bugs in the Outline view since last week I haven't been able to do anything with tickets. Just checked this morning and still not fixed. 
Couple of more days and I gotta consider other options. 

posted @ Sunday, February 17, 2013 7:10 AM by Jason Lieblich

@Andy Great news! We can wait for the new features to arrive! 
I have one small comment however, regarding the "inbox" milestone issue: as long as it's possible to change the default milestone for new tickets, then it should also be possible to choose what milestone to view in the left column in planner, as per Gaels R5.  
So, the feature you mention, "Selectable milestones on the planner columns, so you can get the side-by-side view for any two milestones", should actually include the first column as well. Otherwise, as Gael states, new tickets created here will disappear.

posted @ Monday, February 18, 2013 4:44 AM by Jess Johannessen

Yeah i am not liking the new one.. i like the old one.. i want to use the hierarchy of the old one and like the hours it adds up. not sure how best to use this new one..

posted @ Tuesday, February 19, 2013 4:32 AM by Chau Nguyen

As a whole team both internal and client, we have to protest with the situation regarding the deprecation of the 'Outline View' without having a sufficiently capable alternative. The Planner view is not displaying child tickets, which was the only way before we had 'Subtasks' (beta version). This means that for us to use the Planner, we will have to re-create hundreds of tickets from our roadmap, as subtasks! 
Additionally, the fact that Outline view is "broken" well before Planner has all the capabilities needed is extremely frustrating! 
We will need to look at alternative solutions if this not addressed as a matter of urgency.

posted @ Friday, February 22, 2013 5:46 AM by S Nath

I have to complain also. How to manage Stories now?. Outline is not working as it was and new Planner is not satisfying the needs. 
It is really frustrating that, after 2 years working with Assembla and managing close to 10000 tickets, now I am not being able just to create a Story, so no way to manage the PBLog that it is supposed I have to create urgently

posted @ Monday, February 25, 2013 10:29 AM by Jesus Camunez

We will fix the Outline today. It has been broken for a few weeks because of a problem with the form to submit a new ticket. We are fixing that now. 
I can see that the Outline view provides an important planning capability. It allows you to organize your tasks under stories (really epics), and schedule them for implementation when you are ready. We don't handle this well on the Planner right now, and the Outline relationships are not visible on the Planner. I have a complete plan to upgrade Outline to a newer AJAX technology, and make it compatible with Planner, and provide a simliar view on the related tickets tab of the parent ticket.

posted @ Monday, February 25, 2013 12:01 PM by Andy Singleton

It's hard to release a child ticket from a story, you can drag em in but not out.. I think I get what you're trying to do .. make it more compact and quick ?

posted @ Monday, February 25, 2013 5:14 PM by Ben Ritchie

Outline view is extremely critical for us. Creating epics to manage a set of Stories is crucial for managing them all together. I create tickets only using outline view and when I'm now trying to switch to planner view to create tickets, I'm super confused! 
Also, I'm unable to create child tickets using Outline view. Going to every ticket and associating parent after creating the ticket is a painful way of associating. Can you guys fix it soon and also keep the Outline view a little longer till you guys figure out how those functionalities are best reflected in Planner view? Thanks!

posted @ Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:24 AM by Venu Gooty

We fixed the new ticket submit on the Outline view. We also started implementing a new version that will have the same features for building epics, but better javascript UI.

posted @ Monday, March 04, 2013 9:18 PM by Andy Singleton

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