I have used a few project management tools in the past and the one which really convinced me is the award winning Pivotal Tracker (PT). It is hosted in the cloud and is for free so you can start using it right away.
The first thing you and all project members should do is activating the email notification in your profile settings. I don’t understand why this is off by default though. Another thing I also change for every project is using the Fibonacci Point Scale Fibonacci to have a more flexible point system. The points of a story have to be set by the story owner during planning or at least when he starts with the story and should represent the difficulty of the task. PT then “learns” how much story points you are able to achieve in a week which results in a velocity. According to your velocity the stories are then divided into weeks:
So you can already have a schedule without estimating how much hours you’ll spend on a specific story which is always a pain for a developer. But of course there are deadlines so PT offers two kinds of releases. You can add releases with a fix date or without. To add a release simply add a new story, change the kind to “Release” and add a date if you have a fix deadline. Then drag the release under the last story you want to have done for this specific release.
So in the screenshot above I defined the release Beta 1 with the fix date May 7th and it should include the stories up to “User can upload photo”. “User can send message” will already be part of the next release. In this example we see with the blue indicated release that we can achieve the milestone calculated based on our velocity and the points we have given the stories. When the developer for instance says “User can upload photo” is far more work and he changes his estimation to 3 it and perhaps also other stories got re-estimated and the system detects that the release can’t be reached anymore the release shows up in red so you know that you have to react in some kind of way. Bugs and chores don’t have points by default which can be changed and is explained here.
For me the main advantages are that you have a perfect project overview because you never get lost in any detail pages where you have to navigate back and forth. To change the priority of a stories only drag it to the right position. The story details can be edited when you open the story by clicking the arrow:
You can define the kind of the story which can be Feature, Bug, Chore and Release. The story owner has to estimate points depending on the difficulty. Labels can be added on the fly and so on. The states are Not Yet Started, Started, Finished, Delivered, Accepted and Rejected. When a story is delivered the story requester gets notified to either accept or reject the story meaning doing the quality assurance of the story is implemented correctly.
PT has tons of other features like generating reports etc.. So for further information I would recommend the PT website which has a really comprehensive help part. Ah yes, and PT offers a bunch of RESTful APIs for further integration.