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January 12, 2001
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Page 1 - Story

Page 2 - Resources

Meet Bugzilla -- Mozilla's Secretary of Bug-Busting & Feature Requests Lizard

By Mike Angelo - 12 January 2001 (C)

Have you come across an annoying bug in Mozilla 0.7 or a recent Mozilla daily build? Or, is there perhaps a feature you would like to see in the Mozilla browser-suite that is not in there now? If so, Bugzilla might be just the Mozilla World's, cabinet-level lizard for you.

Bugzilla is the Mozilla Project's designated lizard for quality control (aka quality assurance, QA) and technical support. But, before you waken this lizard there are some things you should know about Bugzilla, his care, his handling, and his feeding.

Perhaps foremost is that Bugzilla is for Mozilla products only. It is not for Netscape 6 or other products that are based upon Mozilla but adapted by other software developers such as Netscape or NeoPlanet. If you yank on Bugzilla's frail tail to bother him about a non-Mozilla product, do not be surprised if you experience the dragon's hot, fiery breath -- or he might simply ignore you.

However, if the bug exists in Mozilla as well as another Mozilla-based product, then it's OK to report that bug. But you should report it as the Mozilla bug, not the bug in the other product.

The trick here is that if you find a bug in Netscape 6 or some other Mozilla-based browser, see if you can reproduce that bug in a recent Mozilla Milestone or daily build. If so, and if the bug is not a duplicate of an already reported bug, you are in the Bugzilla zone.

Another important Bugzilla-taming element is to not bother the lizard with bugs about which he already knows. Reporting a bug that already has been reported to Bugzilla by someone else could expose you to some dragon-breath flames. However, if you have additional information about a bug, Bugzilla likely might find that helpful in his pest control endeavors.

Actually fire-breath and all, Bugzilla is a pretty friendly fellow and will not devour you for screwing up. Bugzilla prefers to use his fire-breath for barbequing bugs. If you are in doubt, the lizard wranglers would rather have a duplicate bug reported then have a bug go unreported because someone was afraid of reporting a duplicate bug.

Don't forget to check the Mozilla Milestone release notes. Obviously if the bug is listed there, the Mozilla developers already are aware of it. So, no need to report the bug to Bugzilla. Another handy place to find already reported bugs is the Most Frequent Bugs Web page.

Also when dealing with the bug-squashing lizard, please be careful to distinguish between bugs and enhancements. In simpler terms a bug is something that does not work right. The Mozilla people more formally define a bug as a way in which the Mozilla client software's actual behavior deviates from the expected behavior, normally determined by specifications from the W3C, IETF, and contributors. (Mozilla QA Home Page -- link in Resources section at end of article.)

Please do not confuse bug and feature as some developers are alleged to confuse them, Feature: Euphemism for bug (q.v.). Dysfunctional attributes in a product are often "explained" away by apologists with the phrase "It's not a bug, it's a feature." As a result, "it's a feature" became a shorthand expression for "it's a screwed-up situation," or synonymous with "it's a bummer." (The Microsoft Lexicon or Microspeak made easier -- link in Resources section at end of article.) When you are working with Bugzilla, please call a bug a bug and a feature (enhancement) a feature (enhancement).

These bug-reporting cautions are important because Bugzilla is an interactive database open to the general pubic, the general Mozilla community, and the Mozilla developers. Of course the level of access one has to Bugzilla depends upon to which of these groups one belongs.

Anyone can surf over to the bug lizard (link in Resources section at end of article.). Anyone can ask Bugzilla what bugs and requests-for-enhancements (RFE) have been filed with the bug-stomping lizard. And anyone can check the current status of a particular bug or RFE. However, you need to open a Bugzilla account before you can start reporting bugs or making requests for enhancements (new features).

The Mozilla people have published several Web pages to help get you get started using and working with Bugzilla. You should at least look over these Mozilla Organization Web pages before you start using Bugzilla. It's likely that will make your interacting with this database easier and more fruitful. Also it will make it lots easier for the lizard-wranglers to find and fix the bug you report, or to implement the enhancement you request.

It certainly is not mandatory that you read any of these documents before you report a bug or request an enhancement. If you like you may go right to Bugzilla. It's your choice.

Start your Bugzilla learning experience with the Bugs page. This page will give you a quick overview of the way Bugzilla operates (Life Cycle Of A Bug) and some important Bugzilla jargon (Anatomy Of A Bug). (Link in Resources section at end of article.)

Next, check the Mozilla Bug Writing Guidelines. This Web page will help you to make an effective bug report. And that makes it easier for the Mozilla developers to find and fix the bug.

The Bugzilla Helper is a good tool that will help you to actually report a bug or request an enhancement.

You will find these links and more in the Resources section.

(Note: Special thanks to the Mozilla folks for their technical assistance in writing this article. However, any errors that might be in this article are ours, not theirs.)

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