CVS—Concurrent Versions System v1.12.13: 10. Multiple developers
[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10. Multiple developers

When more than one person works on a software project things often get complicated. Often, two people try to edit the same file simultaneously. One solution, known as file locking or reserved checkouts, is to allow only one person to edit each file at a time. This is the only solution with some version control systems, including RCS and SCCS. Currently the usual way to get reserved checkouts with CVS is the cvs admin -l command (see section admin options). This is not as nicely integrated into CVS as the watch features, described below, but it seems that most people with a need for reserved checkouts find it adequate.

As of CVS version 1.12.10, another technique for getting most of the effect of reserved checkouts is to enable advisory locks. To enable advisory locks, have all developers put "edit -c", "commit -c" in their .cvsrc file, and turn on watches in the repository. This prevents them from doing a cvs edit if anyone is already editting the file. It also may be possible to use plain watches together with suitable procedures (not enforced by software), to avoid having two people edit at the same time.

The default model with CVS is known as unreserved checkouts. In this model, developers can edit their own working copy of a file simultaneously. The first person that commits his changes has no automatic way of knowing that another has started to edit it. Others will get an error message when they try to commit the file. They must then use CVS commands to bring their working copy up to date with the repository revision. This process is almost automatic.

CVS also supports mechanisms which facilitate various kinds of communication, without actually enforcing rules like reserved checkouts do.

The rest of this chapter describes how these various models work, and some of the issues involved in choosing between them.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.1 File status

Based on what operations you have performed on a checked out file, and what operations others have performed to that file in the repository, one can classify a file in a number of states. The states, as reported by the status command, are:

Up-to-date

The file is identical with the latest revision in the repository for the branch in use.

Locally Modified

You have edited the file, and not yet committed your changes.

Locally Added

You have added the file with add, and not yet committed your changes.

Locally Removed

You have removed the file with remove, and not yet committed your changes.

Needs Checkout

Someone else has committed a newer revision to the repository. The name is slightly misleading; you will ordinarily use update rather than checkout to get that newer revision.

Needs Patch

Like Needs Checkout, but the CVS server will send a patch rather than the entire file. Sending a patch or sending an entire file accomplishes the same thing.

Needs Merge

Someone else has committed a newer revision to the repository, and you have also made modifications to the file.

Unresolved Conflict

A file with the same name as this new file has been added to the repository from a second workspace. This file will need to be moved out of the way to allow an update to complete.

File had conflicts on merge

This is like Locally Modified, except that a previous update command gave a conflict. If you have not already done so, you need to resolve the conflict as described in Conflicts example.

Unknown

CVS doesn't know anything about this file. For example, you have created a new file and have not run add.

To help clarify the file status, status also reports the Working revision which is the revision that the file in the working directory derives from, and the Repository revision which is the latest revision in the repository for the branch in use. The `Commit Identifier' reflects the unique commitid of the commit.

The options to status are listed in Quick reference to CVS commands. For information on its Sticky tag and Sticky date output, see Sticky tags. For information on its Sticky options output, see the `-k' option in update options.

You can think of the status and update commands as somewhat complementary. You use update to bring your files up to date, and you can use status to give you some idea of what an update would do (of course, the state of the repository might change before you actually run update). In fact, if you want a command to display file status in a more brief format than is displayed by the status command, you can invoke

 
$ cvs -n -q update

The `-n' option means to not actually do the update, but merely to display statuses; the `-q' option avoids printing the name of each directory. For more information on the update command, and these options, see Quick reference to CVS commands.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.2 Bringing a file up to date

When you want to update or merge a file, use the cvs update -d command. For files that are not up to date this is roughly equivalent to a checkout command: the newest revision of the file is extracted from the repository and put in your working directory. The -d option, not necessary with checkout, tells CVS that you wish it to create directories added by other developers.

Your modifications to a file are never lost when you use update. If no newer revision exists, running update has no effect. If you have edited the file, and a newer revision is available, CVS will merge all changes into your working copy.

For instance, imagine that you checked out revision 1.4 and started editing it. In the meantime someone else committed revision 1.5, and shortly after that revision 1.6. If you run update on the file now, CVS will incorporate all changes between revision 1.4 and 1.6 into your file.

If any of the changes between 1.4 and 1.6 were made too close to any of the changes you have made, an overlap occurs. In such cases a warning is printed, and the resulting file includes both versions of the lines that overlap, delimited by special markers. See section update—Bring work tree in sync with repository, for a complete description of the update command.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.3 Conflicts example

Suppose revision 1.4 of `driver.c' contains this:

 
#include <stdio.h>

void main()
{
    parse();
    if (nerr == 0)
        gencode();
    else
        fprintf(stderr, "No code generated.\n");
    exit(nerr == 0 ? 0 : 1);
}

Revision 1.6 of `driver.c' contains this:

 
#include <stdio.h>

int main(int argc,
         char **argv)
{
    parse();
    if (argc != 1)
    {
        fprintf(stderr, "tc: No args expected.\n");
        exit(1);
    }
    if (nerr == 0)
        gencode();
    else
        fprintf(stderr, "No code generated.\n");
    exit(!!nerr);
}

Your working copy of `driver.c', based on revision 1.4, contains this before you run `cvs update':

 
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

void main()
{
    init_scanner();
    parse();
    if (nerr == 0)
        gencode();
    else
        fprintf(stderr, "No code generated.\n");
    exit(nerr == 0 ? EXIT_SUCCESS : EXIT_FAILURE);
}

You run `cvs update':

 
$ cvs update driver.c
RCS file: /usr/local/cvsroot/yoyodyne/tc/driver.c,v
retrieving revision 1.4
retrieving revision 1.6
Merging differences between 1.4 and 1.6 into driver.c
rcsmerge warning: overlaps during merge
cvs update: conflicts found in driver.c
C driver.c

CVS tells you that there were some conflicts. Your original working file is saved unmodified in `.#driver.c.1.4'. The new version of `driver.c' contains this:

 
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(int argc,
         char **argv)
{
    init_scanner();
    parse();
    if (argc != 1)
    {
        fprintf(stderr, "tc: No args expected.\n");
        exit(1);
    }
    if (nerr == 0)
        gencode();
    else
        fprintf(stderr, "No code generated.\n");
<<<<<<< driver.c
    exit(nerr == 0 ? EXIT_SUCCESS : EXIT_FAILURE);
=======
    exit(!!nerr);
>>>>>>> 1.6
}

Note how all non-overlapping modifications are incorporated in your working copy, and that the overlapping section is clearly marked with `<<<<<<<', `=======' and `>>>>>>>'.

You resolve the conflict by editing the file, removing the markers and the erroneous line. Suppose you end up with this file:

 
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(int argc,
         char **argv)
{
    init_scanner();
    parse();
    if (argc != 1)
    {
        fprintf(stderr, "tc: No args expected.\n");
        exit(1);
    }
    if (nerr == 0)
        gencode();
    else
        fprintf(stderr, "No code generated.\n");
    exit(nerr == 0 ? EXIT_SUCCESS : EXIT_FAILURE);
}

You can now go ahead and commit this as revision 1.7.

 
$ cvs commit -m "Initialize scanner. Use symbolic exit values." driver.c
Checking in driver.c;
/usr/local/cvsroot/yoyodyne/tc/driver.c,v  <--  driver.c
new revision: 1.7; previous revision: 1.6
done

For your protection, CVS will refuse to check in a file if a conflict occurred and you have not resolved the conflict. Currently to resolve a conflict, you must change the timestamp on the file. In previous versions of CVS, you also needed to insure that the file contains no conflict markers. Because your file may legitimately contain conflict markers (that is, occurrences of `>>>>>>> ' at the start of a line that don't mark a conflict), the current version of CVS will print a warning and proceed to check in the file.

If you use release 1.04 or later of pcl-cvs (a GNU Emacs front-end for CVS) you can use an Emacs package called emerge to help you resolve conflicts. See the documentation for pcl-cvs.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.4 Informing others about commits

It is often useful to inform others when you commit a new revision of a file. The `-i' option of the `modules' file, or the `loginfo' file, can be used to automate this process. See section The modules file. See section Loginfo. You can use these features of CVS to, for instance, instruct CVS to mail a message to all developers, or post a message to a local newsgroup.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.5 Several developers simultaneously attempting to run CVS

If several developers try to run CVS at the same time, one may get the following message:

 
[11:43:23] waiting for bach's lock in /usr/local/cvsroot/foo

CVS will try again every 30 seconds, and either continue with the operation or print the message again, if it still needs to wait. If a lock seems to stick around for an undue amount of time, find the person holding the lock and ask them about the cvs command they are running. If they aren't running a cvs command, look in the repository directory mentioned in the message and remove files which they own whose names start with `#cvs.rfl', `#cvs.wfl', or `#cvs.lock'.

Note that these locks are to protect CVS's internal data structures and have no relationship to the word lock in the sense used by RCS—which refers to reserved checkouts (see section Multiple developers).

Any number of people can be reading from a given repository at a time; only when someone is writing do the locks prevent other people from reading or writing.

One might hope for the following property:

If someone commits some changes in one cvs command, then an update by someone else will either get all the changes, or none of them.

but CVS does not have this property. For example, given the files

 
a/one.c
a/two.c
b/three.c
b/four.c

if someone runs

 
cvs ci a/two.c b/three.c

and someone else runs cvs update at the same time, the person running update might get only the change to `b/three.c' and not the change to `a/two.c'.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.6 Mechanisms to track who is editing files

For many groups, use of CVS in its default mode is perfectly satisfactory. Users may sometimes go to check in a modification only to find that another modification has intervened, but they deal with it and proceed with their check in. Other groups prefer to be able to know who is editing what files, so that if two people try to edit the same file they can choose to talk about who is doing what when rather than be surprised at check in time. The features in this section allow such coordination, while retaining the ability of two developers to edit the same file at the same time.

For maximum benefit developers should use cvs edit (not chmod) to make files read-write to edit them, and cvs release (not rm) to discard a working directory which is no longer in use, but CVS is not able to enforce this behavior.

If a development team wants stronger enforcement of watches and all team members are using a CVS client version 1.12.10 or greater to access a CVS server version 1.12.10 or greater, they can enable advisory locks. To enable advisory locks, have all developers put "edit -c" and "commit -c" into all .cvsrc files, and make files default to read only by turning on watches or putting "cvs -r" into all .cvsrc files. This prevents multiple people from editting a file at the same time (unless explicitly overriden with `-f').


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.6.1 Telling CVS to watch certain files

To enable the watch features, you first specify that certain files are to be watched.

Command: cvs watch on [-lR] [files]…

Specify that developers should run cvs edit before editing files. CVS will create working copies of files read-only, to remind developers to run the cvs edit command before working on them.

If files includes the name of a directory, CVS arranges to watch all files added to the corresponding repository directory, and sets a default for files added in the future; this allows the user to set notification policies on a per-directory basis. The contents of the directory are processed recursively, unless the -l option is given. The -R option can be used to force recursion if the -l option is set in `~/.cvsrc' (see section Default options and the ~/.cvsrc file).

If files is omitted, it defaults to the current directory.

Command: cvs watch off [-lR] [files]…

Do not create files read-only on checkout; thus, developers will not be reminded to use cvs edit and cvs unedit.

The files and options are processed as for cvs watch on.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.6.2 Telling CVS to notify you

You can tell CVS that you want to receive notifications about various actions taken on a file. You can do this without using cvs watch on for the file, but generally you will want to use cvs watch on, to remind developers to use the cvs edit command.

Command: cvs watch add [-lR] [-a action]… [files]…

Add the current user to the list of people to receive notification of work done on files.

The -a option specifies what kinds of events CVS should notify the user about. action is one of the following:

edit

Another user has applied the cvs edit command (described below) to a watched file.

commit

Another user has committed changes to one of the named files.

unedit

Another user has abandoned editing a file (other than by committing changes). They can do this in several ways, by:

  • applying the cvs unedit command (described below) to the file
  • applying the cvs release command (see section release—Indicate that a Module is no longer in use) to the file's parent directory (or recursively to a directory more than one level up)
  • deleting the file and allowing cvs update to recreate it
all

All of the above.

none

None of the above. (This is useful with cvs edit, described below.)

The -a option may appear more than once, or not at all. If omitted, the action defaults to all.

The files and options are processed as for cvs watch on.

Command: cvs watch remove [-lR] [-a action]… [files]…

Remove a notification request established using cvs watch add; the arguments are the same. If the -a option is present, only watches for the specified actions are removed.

When the conditions exist for notification, CVS calls the `notify' administrative file. Edit `notify' as one edits the other administrative files (see section The administrative files). This file follows the usual conventions for administrative files (see section The common syntax), where each line is a regular expression followed by a command to execute. The command should contain a single occurrence of `%s' which will be replaced by the user to notify; the rest of the information regarding the notification will be supplied to the command on standard input. The standard thing to put in the notify file is the single line:

 
ALL mail %s -s "CVS notification"

This causes users to be notified by electronic mail.

Note that if you set this up in the straightforward way, users receive notifications on the server machine. One could of course write a `notify' script which directed notifications elsewhere, but to make this easy, CVS allows you to associate a notification address for each user. To do so create a file `users' in `CVSROOT' with a line for each user in the format user:value. Then instead of passing the name of the user to be notified to `notify', CVS will pass the value (normally an email address on some other machine).

CVS does not notify you for your own changes. Currently this check is done based on whether the user name of the person taking the action which triggers notification matches the user name of the person getting notification. In fact, in general, the watches features only track one edit by each user. It probably would be more useful if watches tracked each working directory separately, so this behavior might be worth changing.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.6.3 How to edit a file which is being watched

Since a file which is being watched is checked out read-only, you cannot simply edit it. To make it read-write, and inform others that you are planning to edit it, use the cvs edit command. Some systems call this a checkout, but CVS uses that term for obtaining a copy of the sources (see section Getting the source), an operation which those systems call a get or a fetch.

Command: cvs edit [-lR] [-a action]… [files]…

Prepare to edit the working files files. CVS makes the files read-write, and notifies users who have requested edit notification for any of files.

The cvs edit command accepts the same options as the cvs watch add command, and establishes a temporary watch for the user on files; CVS will remove the watch when files are unedited or committed. If the user does not wish to receive notifications, she should specify -a none.

The files and the options are processed as for the cvs watch commands.

There are two additional options that cvs edit understands as of CVS client and server versions 1.12.10 but cvs watch does not. The first is -c, which causes cvs edit to fail if anyone else is editting the file. This is probably only useful when `edit -c' and `commit -c' are specified in all developers' `.cvsrc' files. This behavior may be overriden this via the -f option, which overrides -c and allows multiple edits to succeed.

Normally when you are done with a set of changes, you use the cvs commit command, which checks in your changes and returns the watched files to their usual read-only state. But if you instead decide to abandon your changes, or not to make any changes, you can use the cvs unedit command.

Command: cvs unedit [-lR] [files]…

Abandon work on the working files files, and revert them to the repository versions on which they are based. CVS makes those files read-only for which users have requested notification using cvs watch on. CVS notifies users who have requested unedit notification for any of files.

The files and options are processed as for the cvs watch commands.

If watches are not in use, the unedit command probably does not work, and the way to revert to the repository version is with the command cvs update -C file (see section update—Bring work tree in sync with repository). The meaning is not precisely the same; the latter may also bring in some changes which have been made in the repository since the last time you updated.

When using client/server CVS, you can use the cvs edit and cvs unedit commands even if CVS is unable to successfully communicate with the server; the notifications will be sent upon the next successful CVS command.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.6.4 Information about who is watching and editing

Command: cvs watchers [-lR] [files]…

List the users currently watching changes to files. The report includes the files being watched, and the mail address of each watcher.

The files and options are processed as for the cvs watch commands.

Command: cvs editors [-lR] [files]…

List the users currently working on files. The report includes the mail address of each user, the time when the user began working with the file, and the host and path of the working directory containing the file.

The files and options are processed as for the cvs watch commands.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.6.5 Using watches with old versions of CVS

If you use the watch features on a repository, it creates `CVS' directories in the repository and stores the information about watches in that directory. If you attempt to use CVS 1.6 or earlier with the repository, you get an error message such as the following (all on one line):

 
cvs update: cannot open CVS/Entries for reading:
No such file or directory

and your operation will likely be aborted. To use the watch features, you must upgrade all copies of CVS which use that repository in local or server mode. If you cannot upgrade, use the watch off and watch remove commands to remove all watches, and that will restore the repository to a state which CVS 1.6 can cope with.


[ < ] [ > ]   [ << ] [ Up ] [ >> ]         [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

10.7 Choosing between reserved or unreserved checkouts

Reserved and unreserved checkouts each have pros and cons. Let it be said that a lot of this is a matter of opinion or what works given different groups' working styles, but here is a brief description of some of the issues. There are many ways to organize a team of developers. CVS does not try to enforce a certain organization. It is a tool that can be used in several ways.

Reserved checkouts can be very counter-productive. If two persons want to edit different parts of a file, there may be no reason to prevent either of them from doing so. Also, it is common for someone to take out a lock on a file, because they are planning to edit it, but then forget to release the lock.

People, especially people who are familiar with reserved checkouts, often wonder how often conflicts occur if unreserved checkouts are used, and how difficult they are to resolve. The experience with many groups is that they occur rarely and usually are relatively straightforward to resolve.

The rarity of serious conflicts may be surprising, until one realizes that they occur only when two developers disagree on the proper design for a given section of code; such a disagreement suggests that the team has not been communicating properly in the first place. In order to collaborate under any source management regimen, developers must agree on the general design of the system; given this agreement, overlapping changes are usually straightforward to merge.

In some cases unreserved checkouts are clearly inappropriate. If no merge tool exists for the kind of file you are managing (for example word processor files or files edited by Computer Aided Design programs), and it is not desirable to change to a program which uses a mergeable data format, then resolving conflicts is going to be unpleasant enough that you generally will be better off to simply avoid the conflicts instead, by using reserved checkouts.

The watches features described above in Mechanisms to track who is editing files can be considered to be an intermediate model between reserved checkouts and unreserved checkouts. When you go to edit a file, it is possible to find out who else is editing it. And rather than having the system simply forbid both people editing the file, it can tell you what the situation is and let you figure out whether it is a problem in that particular case or not. Therefore, for some groups watches can be considered the best of both the reserved checkout and unreserved checkout worlds.

As of CVS client and server versions 1.12.10, you may also enable advisory locks by putting `edit -c' and `commit -c' in all developers' `.cvsrc' files. After this is done, cvs edit will fail if there are any other editors, and cvs commit will fail if the committer has not registered to edit the file via cvs edit. This is most effective in conjunction with files checked out read-only by default, which may be enabled by turning on watches in the repository or by putting `cvs -r' in all `.cvsrc' files.


[ << ] [ >> ]           [Top] [Contents] [Index] [ ? ]

This document was generated by Derek R. Price on October, 3 2005 using texi2html 1.77.

Derek Price, CVS developer and technical editor of Essential CVS (Essentials line from O'Reilly Press) , and others offer consulting services and training through Ximbiot.