First Looks: Mingle 2.0

I have Mingle 2.0 upgraded in our test environment and have been going through the new features, upgrade woes, and some remarks from the peanut gallery. Here's the rundown on this Agile planning tool.


Upgrading was a bit of a pain. To do the test I backed up our Mingle db and restored it to sandbox database on the same MySQL instance and installed a clean copy of Mingle 1.1. Then upgraded 2.0 over top of it (once the 1.1 was working with the new db). 

Mingle didn't know what port I originally installed on (my test install was on 888) and defaults to 8080. This can be confusing to a user who's installing an upgrade and didn't perform the original install or doesn't know what port was originally used.

I have unlocker running and it briefly kicked in on some .rb file (it flashed by so quickly you couldn't tell what it was). Didn't seem to be a problem but the Mingle upgrade killed off a whole bunch of processes running on my desktop. For example WinZip, Unlocker, and my anti-virus were all killed off (which might explain the brief flash of Unlocker as it went down) during the install. I know it's "traditional" to shut down all running processes during an install of something new, but I think it's a little over the top to shut them down for you (and especially since it did it without warning)

After the install browsing to localhost:888 failed. I checked the logs and found it had a problem trying to add a column to the db that was already there. After a 10 minute restore/reset (with a couple of well-placed reboots after each install) the install finally worked.

It was painful and luckily I was working on a test database. For sure I recommend doing a backup and upgrade over a temporary working database. Then if all goes well, backup your production db and do the upgrade (backing out if it doesn't work). Don't get too torqued if the browse to the instance doesn't work after the upgrade, just reboot the server (I know, pretty severe) and it should be all fine when you get back.

All in all, the upgrade wasn't horrible. You'll probably want/need to go in and make some mass changes to cards and stories in play in order to leverage the new features but it's fairly quick and painless with the Web 2.0 UI they've built on.

For sure check out the Mingle forums on upgrading/installing as there are a few people trying it on different systems and experiencing various pain points.

New Project Creation

The new project creation screen is basically the same. They have upgraded the Agile hybrid, Scrum, and Xp templates to version 2.0 (but only left the Xp 1.1 template, not sure why here). A minor change in the UI in 2.0 is they added a header/footer with the "Create Project | Cancel | Back to project list" links which is handy.

Project Admin

There's some minor shifts in project admin that are both cosmetic and functional. The Project Settings screen now has the SVN repository info separated out and adds a new field, Numeric Precision. This lets you deal with precision in your numbers on cards, stories, etc. By default it's set to 2 but you can increase it if you need it. I don't recall seeing this as a high priority feature but whatever. It's there now.

Like I said, the Project Repository settings (for integration into source control) has been pulled out into it's own screen. This is for good reason. The first thing you do is pick the version control system you're using from a drop down. Only Subversion is supported in this release, but you can see where it's going (perhaps with support from 3rd party providers). Somewhere in my browsing today I saw TW announce a future release to incorpoate Clear Case or some other SCM so others won't be far behind.

They've introduced the notion of "Project variables". Think of NAnt properties or something that can be used in cards or views. For example you can create a project variable called "Current Release" and give it a value of "1" or "3.2 GA" or whatever (with various data types including numeric, text, date, etc.). Wherever you use this it'll just replace that value. Then you can change en-mass "3.2 GA" to "4.0 RC1" or something and anywhere it's being used it gets swapped out.

The new advanced admin feature is recaluating project aggregates. We'll talk about aggregates later but if you find the numbers might be out of whack, go to Advanced prroject admin to recalculate them.

In 1.1, any view could be saved. From the "Saved views & tabs option" you could take a view a make a tab out of it. Now the feature is called "Favorites & tabs". Favorites are saved views that have not been added as tabs and there's two tables here to show you tabs vs. views. Tomatoe, tomatoe.

Card trees are available to edit or delete so let's talk about this in-depth.

Card trees

Card trees let you define a heirachy that works for your system. You can check out a video here that explains it well. For example, tasks can roll up under stories that roll up into features that roll up in epics. This is the ultimate in flexibility and lets you move things around as sets. There's a new Card explorer that lets you drag and drop cards from the right hand flyout so you can quickly (and visually) move your cards around in the view.

This is great and how I work. I usually break a system down by epics which then might flow into features which are made up of stories (I personally don't like getting down to the task level but YMMV). Now I can lay my project out visually and see where everything fits in and this lets me do things like track stories against a feature or bugs against a story. The notion of Done, Done, Done gets much clearer with Mingle 2.0.


In addition to Card trees there are attributes in cards trees called Aggregates that will allow you to roll up information into swimlanes. For example I can sum up all the story points in a feature or functional areas and in the Grid display, show that value. At a glance I see how many points I can deliver for that group. This is great for say release planning where you create a plan showing the sum of all points for each story in the sprint. Knowing your velocity of say 12, you know you can't drag more than 12 points into a sprint. Nice.

The UI is improved and starts to border on a video game like approach to Agile planning. If you drag an aggregate root, all it's children will follow. This makes for easily positioning things on the screen and moving things around, and is pretty fun to watch. Also I would hope a future feature will be a PNG or JPEG export of the tree (much like the image export from Visual Studio's class designer) as you might need an image for documentation or discussion where you don't have online access to Mingle.


There's a new option on the main screen, configure email settings. This allows you to change where you SMTP server is and who the email comes from and includes a test link. A huge improvement over having to hunt for the config file and edit it by hand. I know screens like this start bloating out the product which is very lean, but I feel it's better served to have configuration this way rather than 100 text files buried in the file system somewhere. And the test feature is nice as it helps you as you go.


I didn't get a chance to look at all the templates but the updates to the include some new transitions. Transitions are one of the lesser-known features of Mingle and lets you set up a pseudo-workflow for Cards. In the new Scrum 2.0 template for example there are transitions that let you do a single click "Complete Development" or "Soft Delete". Transitions have filters and constraints (for example you can only invoke a transition if the card type is a Story and was created Today) and just make it easier to use Mingle. Check out the ones in the new templates and create your own. The new Scrum template includes a new dashboard (the Overview page) with story metrics (project status by points) and new graphs like a burndown chart and % of completed tasks per story. These use the new aggregate functions and quite useful to get a quick overview of the project.


Overall I'm happy with the upgrade. Even though it was a little painful and didn't work initially, in the end it's for the better. The heirachial cards feature is great and there are lots of nice little improvements everywhere (for example the consistent command bar on forms) that make this product even more useful for Agile planning. They spoke of better documentation and I'm looking to integrate Mingle with LDAP. I see there's a new LDAP configuration page but like most Mingle documenation, it's just a rehash of what you might see on the screen or lines in a config file with no real explanation of what is valid and what isn't.

I guess it's part trial-and-error, part knowledge, but I had hoped for more detailed documentation. Perhaps in the future they'll provide something like a wiki interface to the documentation and allow contributions from users to improve the readability of topics and additions of scenarios. To me, that's of the best things with projects like MySQL and PHP (and to a lesser extent the MSDN documentation). Hopefully TW will follow in these footsteps.

With the short release cycles ThoughtWorks employs I don't have to wait a year to see new improvements to a overall good product. Well done guys!

For a list of the top 10 new features in Mingle 2.0, check out this page by ThoughtWorks. Happy upgrading!


  • I'm fighting a similar battle. My upgrade failed also. So far I have not been successful getting it to work. I posted to the forum and we will see if I get any help.

  • Boy, that sure would be handy if any of your developers were working remotely.

  • You really think that 9-month is a short release cycle?? We are releasing each 2 months and are targeting 5 weeks release schedule now.

    Overall Mingle looks like very interesting product. It has nice design concepts and ideas that give it great flexibility. But it is VERY expensive for teams with more that 5 devs. $1,000 for perpetual license for 1 user...

  • For those who are worried about painful upgrades, I recommend exporting your files as .mingle's, uninstalling, reinstalling and reimporting. This worked for us without a hitch.

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