High Programmer > Alan De Smet > Windows Development > Visual SourceSafe: Microsoft's Source Destruction System > Versions/Revision/Source Control Systems

Versions/Revision/Source Control Systems

by Alan De Smet

Originally my article "Visual SourceSafe: Microsoft's Source Destruction System" included a list of a few source control systems I thought were noteworthy. Since then, various people have asked me to include other systems. Since I really had experience with so few systems, I erred on the side of including them. On the down side, this was making the original article a bit unweildy. So, here's a list of source control systems I'm familiar with, along with a few comments.

BitMover's BitKeeper

Multiplatform. Proprietary. Prices range from free (for open source software) and up.

Linus Torvalds chose BitKeeper to manage Linux, one of the world's most widely distributed development efforts. However, BitMover has proven unusually aggresive and withdrew their support for Linux because a Linux developer also worked on a competing product. In my mind this sort of behavior makes them deeply untrustworthy, and I would avoid this system.

Reliable Software's Code Co-Op

Windows only? Proprietary. $150-$200 per seat.

Was suggested to me by someone at the development company. The web site suggests that a key focus appears to be distributed work; individual nodes are large self-sufficient. Occasional synchronization can be done over a network or email. It appears to share many of the goals of BitKeeper.


Multi-platform. Open Source. Free.

CVS has its problems, but it's powerful, stable, reliable, transparent, and free (both in price and freedom). How to work around CVS's weaknesses are well documented. If you're using CVS under Windows definitely check out the excellent (if complex) front end WinCVS. For something a bit less complicated you might want to see TortoiseCVS; it exposes CVS as a Windows Explorer extension. If you're experimenting with CVS for the first time you'll find the book Open Source Development with CVS useful. Despite the name the book is useful to anyone using CVS. Even better, the key chapters on usage are available free online. Until recently this was my suggestion. I now recommend Subversion. GNU arch

Multi-platform? Open source. Free.

One of the newcomers to be Free Software options.


Multi-platform. Proprietary. $800 per seat per year.

I'm not very familiar with Perforce, but someone from Perforce very politely inquired about being added. High speed appears to be a key design element. Looking over their promotional material, I get the distinct sense that they're targetting ClearCase users unhappy with the speed.


Multi-platform. Proprietary. $200 per seat per year.

A relatively new system that appears to tightly integrate a bug/issue/change tracker. It also appears to support distributed changes (being able to check things in without access to a cenrtal server). On of their developers kindly asked to be included, so here it is.

IBM Rational ClearCase

Multi-platform. Proprietary. $4,250.

I've heard it's big, slow, complex, requires a custom file system, and really demands a dedicated administrator. But I know developers who swear by it's power. I gather that it's truly industrial strength source control.

SourceGear Vault

Windows with limited Linux support. Proprietary. $289 per seat per year.

I don't know a lot about SourceGear Vault, but they were nice enough to ask about inclusion in the list, so here you go. SourceGear developed the SourceSafe extension SourceOffSite, so they're clearly familiar with the problems in SourceSafe. They set out to develop a superior replacement. They promise the ability to import your SourceSafe repository with all historical information, useful if you're migrating away from SourceSafe.

Borland's StarTeam

Multi-platform. Proprietary. Unknown price.

Another product I'm not too familiar with, but they nicely asked about being included. It looks like they're trying to integrate with lots of other commonly used tools like Microsoft Project. They provide a free evaluation download, the bad news is that they want lots of information, the good news is that you get to download it immediately instead of waiting for a salesman to call.

Subversion (SVN)

Multi-platform. Open source. Free.

Subversion as explicitly designed to replace CVS as the open source source control system. It's what the open source world has largely switched to. It's not perfect, but it's better than CVS, having fixed most of CVS's glaring weaknesses. This is my recommendation. Version Control with Subversion is a good introduction to Subversion. For those people on Windows, you might be interested in TortoiseSVN which provides Windows Explorer integration with Subversion.

TLIB Version Control

Windows. Proprietary. $225 per seat.

Another addition at the polite request of the publisher.

Computers : Software : Configuration Management : Tools

This DMOZ Open Directory Project category collects information on many source control systems. If you're considering a source control system it's definitely a good place to start.

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