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13.7. Collaborative Work

13.7.1. Working in Groups: groupware

Groupware tools tend to be relatively complex to maintain because they aggregate multiple tools and have requirements that are not always easy to reconcile in the context of an integrated distribution. Thus there is a long list of groupware that were once available in Debian but have been dropped for lack of maintainers or incompatibility with other (newer) software in Debian. It has been the case of PHPGroupware, eGroupware, and Kolab.
All is not lost though. Many of the features traditionally provided by “groupware” software are increasingly integrated into “standard” software. This is reducing the requirement for specific, specialized groupware software. On the other hand, this usually requires a specific server. More interestingly, Citadel (in the citadel-suite package) and Sogo (in the sogo package) are alternatives that are available in Debian Jessie.

13.7.2. Collaborative Work With FusionForge

FusionForge is a collaborative development tool with some ancestry in SourceForge, a hosting service for free software projects. It takes the same overall approach based on the standard development model for free software. The software itself has kept evolving after the SourceForge code went proprietary. Its initial authors, VA Software, decided not to release any more free versions. The same happened again when the first fork (GForge) followed the same path. Since various people and organizations have participated in development, the current FusionForge also includes features targeting a more traditional approach to development, as well as projects not purely concerned with software development.
FusionForge can be seen as an amalgamation of several tools dedicated to manage, track and coordinate projects. These tools can be roughly classified into three families:
  • communication: web forums, mailing-list manager, announcement system allowing a project to publish news;
  • tracking: task tracker to control progress and schedule tasks, trackers for bugs (or patches or feature requests, or any other kind of “ticket”), surveys;
  • sharing: documentation manager to provide a single central point for documents related to a project, generic file release manager, dedicated website for each project.
Since FusionForge is largely targeting development projects, it also integrates many tools such as CVS, Subversion, Git, Bazaar, Darcs, Mercurial and Arch for source control management or “configuration management” or “version control” — this process has many names. These programs keep a history of all the revisions of all tracked files (often source code files), with all the changes they go through, and they can merge modifications when several developers work simultaneously on the same part of a project.
Most of these tools are accessible, or even managed, through a web interface, with a fine-grained permission system, and email notifications for some events.