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Assembla provides an extensive and comprehensive cloud-based collaboration platform for technology teams, especially in a world in which so many of us are using globally distributed programmers and related technology experts.
In this tutorial, I'll guide you through Assembla's extensive feature set and walk you through getting started with its 30 day free trial.
Assembla's capabilities are massive in scope and thus difficult even to outline in an introductory tutorial, but I'll do my best to help you get started.
Its major features are as follows:
- Task & Issue Management: Help your team efficiently organize releases, squash bugs, and manage your development process. Assembla's task management tools will help you work smarter and faster.
- Team Collaboration: Eliminate the need for lengthy email chains and centralize all communication with classic collaboration tools like wikis, message boards and file sharing.
- Project Management: Put your complete project into a workspace and deliver code, tasks and documentation. Collaborate with clients, track time expenditures for billing and control permissions.
- Subversion & Git Hosting: Effortlessly browse files online, compare revisions, merge code and maintain a sustainable codebase across your team.
When Envato Tuts+ asked me to write this, I'd actually not heard of Assembla before, but it hosts over 100,000 commercial and open-source projects and is used by over 800,000 users in more than 100 countries. I find it's often helpful for readers to write about something from the position of being a newbie. Still, as I explored its breadth and scope, I was a bit embarrassed for not knowing more about it until now.
How Much Does It Cost?
When you sign up, you are automatically enrolled in a 7-day free trial that gives you unrestricted access to all the great features Assembla has to offer. During your trial, you have the option to cancel at any time. Personal plans begin at $24 per month.
Free, open-source community projects can use Assembla for free if they keep everything open to the public.
Before I dive in to the walk-through, please let me know if you have any requests for future Assembla tutorials or questions and comments on today's story. You can post them in the comments or reach me on Twitter @reifman or email.
Sign Up With Assembla
To get started, visit the Assembla website and click Create my Home Base. You'll be asked to register:
There's a simple four-step wizard that will ask for your name and type of project:
Then, you get to name your first project space. For my example, I created a sample space for my Envato Tuts+ open-source series on building your own startup with PHP, around my Meeting Planner concept:
Then, you choose a repository. Which service you wish to use is up to you. Assembla supports Subversion, Git and Perforce:
When you're done, click Go To My Space:
Your Meeting Space
Here's what your initial space will look like. As you dive in to Assembla, you'll notice its broad feature set throughout. It's an incredibly broad and sophisticated service.
Check out the installed tools on your first space: Tickets, Messages, StandUp reports, File Sharing, Wiki pages and source code sharing:
Initializing Your Source Code Repository
To synchronize your code tree, you'll need to copy your public key up to your profile on Assembla:
$cd ~/.ssh $ cat id_rsa.pub ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAABIwAAAQEAtDEeDtUHZyRwj1BDL/iI18E6IP7ZxqRVBxyeJyv8PZ6gt8XMfbhntpeWvwxzTFOA1p7kyCiwQPBQFM+F9MUK6BrmeczV9GCsiCbYwu6DW1Pcke6xh/xUZFrrHwQUCWvl0MaTDtUs8ZGv7uyuXFnmb10QAhDUBAI5gUBu12Mr5c1tn2LeiNdo8RE+KecwqScebOEMO8mY2NsOh67HgwDhAPvv30T8OrXmT29sN3VejfxGRmCJh/pPm1FmkHWAgnXrRG5MOywGdEOjC3MlEUnlkoeZfLCviZlcUAexcZuQi/vWH3TfXsX75LuzxcHibORQL0kNnWsoKyTTf8HQdahV1Q== Jeff@249.sub-75-216-41.myvzw.com
Once you've pasted it in, you'll see it reflected in the SSH Public Keys list:
Then you can use Assembla to initialize your code repository there:
$ cd meeting-planner/ $ git init Initialized empty Git repository in /Users/Jeff/Sites/meeting-planner/.git/ $ echo "# My Space" >> README.md $ git add README.md $ git commit -m "first commit" [master (root-commit) 58427bf] first commit 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+) create mode 100644 README.md $ git remote add origin firstname.lastname@example.org:meeting-planner.git $git push origin master Counting objects: 3, done. Writing objects: 100% (3/3), 224 bytes | 0 bytes/s, done. Total 3 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0) To email@example.com:meeting-planner.git * [new branch] master -> master
For the purposes of this tutorial, I just created a sample readme for my new repo above.
Inviting Team Members
Next, I invited one of the editorial gods at Envato Tuts+, Tom McFarlin, to join my workspace.
Of course, Assembla allows you to control access permissions and other aspects of their involvement in your projects:
Adding team members is easy:
Here's the member list when you're done:
Assembla is a big tool to come up to speed on. As you go, you'll be presented with regular blog posts that help you learn more quickly and keep up with new features:
Let's continue into Assembla's depths to learn about more of its features.
As a project manager, ticket management is one of the most important tools for any collaboration tool. Issues come up, you log them and then you track them through investigation, development and resolution:
Assembla offers a rich array of features that support ticket management.
The ticket management area has a wide variety of related views and features to help you manage your projects. Here's the tickets navigation menu:
Creating a New Ticket
Whenever there is a new issue, team members can create new tickets to track them:
Here's an example view of ticket lists in Assembla:
Assembla also supports Kanban Cardwalls, which Wikipedia reports is a scheduling system for lean and just-in-time (JIT) production. Envato Tuts+ uses them for internal writing and editing processes.
You can create Milestones for key stages of your project such as requirements complete, code complete, launch, etc.
As your project migrates through various stages, as tickets are added, resolved and closed, Assembla offers a variety of metrics and reports to help you assess progress:
You can watch the activity on your projects across your team on the Streams page. It's akin to an automated Twitter page for all the activity between team members on your project:
Assembla helps you manage team communication as well. You can easily send messages to team members:
Creating a new message is easy:
You can also upload files and share them as you need:
Managing uploaded files is easy as well:
In workplace collaboration services, it's easy to lose track of where key information is. The Wiki tool helps you build pages to assemble project information in easy-to-browse pages:
StandUp reports let team members report what they're working on and highlight any challenges that they need to discuss. And they help simplify the complexity behind reporting progress.
Here's an example StandUp report showing what you did, what you'll be working on and what roadblocks exist:
As you use Assembla more with multiple project spaces, the Dashboard will give you a bird's eye view of what's happening across your network:
In addition to all these features that help you run your projects, Assembla also offers an advanced Workspace Portfolio which helps you directly interact and share your progress with clients.
Engaging clients with more visibility into your processes creates a partnership relationship, in which clients, agencies, service providers, and individual collaborators are all invested in the quality and speed of the assets produced.
Collaborate with clients to select the important tasks for each day or week, accept requests, and communicate to get the right details about each task so that the team always focuses on what is important to the client.
Client relationships fraught with frustration become partnerships laden with satisfaction:
Overall, Portfolio provides all the tools you need to be more transparent and responsive when developing for clients.
I hope you've found this broad-based overview of Assembla's workspace tools intriguing. To recap, Assembla offers a comprehensive set of collaborative project management tools for technology teams to be successful:
- Spaces to manage individual projects
- Integrate team membership
- Source code and revision control
- Ticket management and metrics
- File Sharing
- Wiki Pages
- StandUp Reports
- And more...
After reading this article, you should everything you need to know in order to give Assembla a try. Once done, please let us know and post your questions and comments below.