Pivotal Tracker Quirks That Really Grind My Gears

This started as the 509th blog post comparing Pivotal Tracker and Trello (345 unique Google hits for “Pivotal Tracker vs. Trello”, and 163 for “Trello vs. Pivotal Tracker”) but I kept obsessing about a few UI issues with Pivotal that, a month into using it at a new job, are still driving me crazy.

Accidental Projector Mode

After I wrote a first draft of this post, a colleague asked “Wait, where is the little arrow to expand the story? Your Pivvy looks weird.”  It turns out…my first day, I put Pivotal into “projector mode” while playing around and promptly forgot I had done so.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 9.43.51 AM

This had several terrible side effects.

It removed the tiny arrow on each story that allows you to expand it in-column.  Therefore, every time I wanted to view a story, I had to let it take over the entire screen.  Also, Pivotal doesn’t allow for “command-click” opening in a new tab.  Imagine trying to use Pivotal Tracker this way, when the thing you do most is drill into particular stories and then return to the project view.  It was horrible.

Another fun projector mode behavior – double clicking a story takes over the entire window with that story. To return to the project I have to click back.  Two full page loads.  I’m happy to report that outside of projector mode, it just expands the story.

Opening multiple tabs

Even with the projector mode mystery solved, I often want to open multiple cards/stories at the same time. Why?

  • I’ve written the same thing down in different ways on multiple stories in the same epic, and I want to consolidate it.  
  • Sometimes I can’t remember which of several stories contains a certain requirement.  
  • Someone stops by my desk and wants to take a look at a few things, but I don’t want to lose my current state.

The project view naturally constrains stories to a single column, so you can usually only expand or preview one at a time.  If you get lucky and they are in adjacent columns, you have to use relatively small slides to get them positioned side by side.  So all I want to do is open stories in a new tab, and let my window manager do the hard work of putting them side by side.  Pivotal seems to have a Javascript click event handler that always refreshes the current page.  This behavior also makes it harder to keep the original project open for reference because has been replaced by whichever story I drilled into.

And yes, preview mode works in Pivotal in the case I’m only interested in the details of one story. 

Tiny Goddamn Controls

Click the tiny dialogue box on the left to open a preview mode, or click the tiny arrow to expand (or as I recently discovered after exiting projector mode, you can double click).

Eng-Papa_-_Pivotal_TrackerThe similarly tiny box in the upper right allows me to select the story, and therefore multiple stories, to move to another project or similar.  

Based on the clickable areas on a card – eyeballing it, “see more” and “select” are each about 1/20th of the width and 1/10th of the height. Tough to target with a mouse.  

I Want Candy

  • Trello allows for preview of attached images. This is hugely helpful, both in finding a familiar card, or opening the right attachment of a particular card.  Pivotal does slightly modify the preview icon if the card contains attachments, which is nice. Still, being able to choose a thumbail “cover image” would make it far easier to target a familiar card.
  • I loved the Card Aging option in Trello.  My feeble human brain may believe we’re firing on all cylinders, but this feature shows me nobody has edited a card in a long time.  

More Hotkeys!

Most of the hotkeys are focused on column management.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 10.17.47 AM

I want story focused hotkeys: Open, close, next, previous, select, expand, jump to labels, jump to tasks, jump to comments.


Dear Pivotal Tracker Product Managers, I hope I fit into one of your target personas and this inspires you to bump a few stories out of your icebox.   Thanks for reading!