Foundation Server vs. Visual SourceSafe
Microsoft’s high-end source control system is Visual Studio Team System Foundation Server. This comes with not only the sophisticated source control system for large teams, but also includes bug/work-item tracking, build automation, providing a site for the project, reporting, etc. But all this also comes at a price – both literally and metaphorically.
Literally: it costs a lot. It’s included with the high-end MSDN that costs over $10K. Metaphorically: it needs Windows Server operating system, preferably its own server. Server piece, client piece, administration, etc. etc. All this is good and useful for large development teams and organizations.
However, Visual SourceSafe 2005 is fine for small teams. For the independent developers or the hobby developers who want to develop a few products and manage the source properly, Visual SourceSafe more than does the job. If you ever want to migrate to Foundation Server at a later time, the migration path is available.
The best thing is Visual SourceSafe 2005 integrates well with Visual Studio 2005 (so does the Foundation Server, of course). Let’s look at the integration between SourceSafe and Visual Studio.
SourceSafe and Visual Studio
Following are the telltale signs of a Visual Studio 2005 installation currently not integrated with Visual SourceSafe (or any other source control system) are:
- The ‘File’ menu in Visual Studio will NOT have ‘Source Control’ menu item.
- If you right-click on the solution in Visual Studio, you won’t see any source control related menu items.
You will also notice two other things that are shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2:
As shown in Figure 1, you will not see a SourceSafe as one of the options in the Open Project window (File – Open Project/Solution).
Figure 1. Open Project dialog box without SourceSafe installed.
As shown in Figure 2, you will not see any Source Control plug-in selected (from Visual Studio, use Tools – Options – Source Control menu)
Figure 2. No Source Control plug-in selected
So, at this point, even if you had Visual SourceSafe installed somewhere, Visual Studio wouldn’t know about it. You have three options with regards where you install the Visual SourceSafe 2005:
- Install it on the same computer where you are doing the development. This works well for the independent or hobby or one developer situation.
- Install it on a server computer on the LAN. This works well for the small teams that work out of the same geographic location. Independent developers could also use this scenario to separate the source machine from the development machine.
- Install it on a server, which can also be accessed via Internet (http/https). This works for smaller teams that are geographically spread out.
You can, of course, continue the development from Visual Studio without it knowing that the project files are in SourceSafe. You will simply check-in and check-out the files and projects from the Visual SourceSafe Explorer and leave Visual Studio completely out of it. But that takes out ease of source management from Visual Studio.
Selecting the SourceSafe SourceControl plugin
Once you installed SourceSafe, you will see two options under Source Control (as shown in Figure 3) when you choose Tools – Options from Visual Studio 2005.
Figure 3. Selecting a SourceSafe plugin
From the control plug-in dropdown, you can choose ‘Microsoft Visual SourceSafe’, if you installed the SourceSafe on the local machine or on the LAN. You can choose ‘Microsoft Visual SourceSafe (Internet)’ if you have installed it on a web server.
Once you choose the source control plug-in, you will see additional menu items under Source Control – Environment and Plug-in Settings (as shown in Figure 4). From the Environment item, you have an option to choose automatic settings for ‘Independent Developer’.
As can see from the checked options, the environment will be optimized for the independent developer: every thing is obtained when a project is opened, everything is checked in when a project is closed, some of the unnecessary dialog boxes are not shown in your interaction with the Visual SourceSafe.
Figure 4. Settings for the Independent Developer
After the above configuration is completed, you will see a ‘Source Control’ menu item in the File menu of Visual Studio. The submenu of this ‘Source Control’ contains all kinds of menu items that deal with SourceSafe.
Right-clicking on the solution in the Solution Explorer window will also show the source control related menu items. And finally, as shown in Figure 5, when you open a Solution/Project, one of the options you have is the SourceSafe. Double-clicking on that icon will let you open the solutions/projects that are currently in the Visual SourceSafe database.
Figure 5. Open Project dialog box after setting up SourceSafe