Re: Document Management?

Subject: Re: Document Management?
From: Sandy Harris <pashley -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 20:45:48 -0400

"Decker F. Wong-Godfrey" wrote:
> > I'd suggest checking out either Microsoft Visual Source Safe (VSS) or
> > Revision Control System (RCS). Both provide similar functionality--a
> > repository of documents that keeps track of all versions, and provides
> > locking functionality.

In the beginning was SCCS, Bell Labs' Source Code Control System. I'm
not sure it was the first such system, but it was the first one I saw,
and I think the first widespread one, late 70s.

One of the universities -- Purdue, I think -- wrote an open source
equivalent, RCS for revision Control System not long after. That's
been the standard on Berkeley-derived Unixes ever since, and is in
any Linux distribution.

> I'd also take a look at CVS ( .

CVS is more-or-less a networked RCS. It uses RCS for the storage,
builds some management and networking features on top of it. It
is also open source, and also included in almost any Unix or Linux

> If you're
> running in a cross-platform environment and you've got a good IT
> department, CVS is probably the way to go.
> Here's some quick reasons why CVS might be right:
> CVS is built on open standards ...
> CVS has a GUI client for Microsoft Windows machines.
> OS X has an integrated CVS client in the Developer Tools.
> Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD all have clients for CVS.
> The CVS server and clients all come with source code, ...
> The price is just right: FREE.
> The support can't be matched by Microsoft ...
> ... If you want to have your document repository to be accessible
> on a WAN, or to be able to give telecommuters a way in to your
> repository via the Internet, I don't think there's any choice. ...
> The upside: CVS is robust, fulfills all your requirements and is free.
> The downside: CVS will require you to have some capable IT hands ready
> to get things underway. Getting it running will be hard, but once it's
> up, it's bulletproof.

I agree with all Decker's reasons. See the archive for posts of mine
suggesting CVS for similar problems, for similar reasons.

However, I think he missed a downside consideration that may be vital.
RCS and CVS are designed to work with text. Instead of storing every
version of a doc, they store a base version and some lists changes
(called diffs) that let them re-create any other version on command.
This saves space and lets them include commands to, for example,
print all the changes between version 2.3 and 2.7.

This does not work for non-text files, e.g. MS-Word docs. For those,
you have to store all of every version. not just diffs, and CVS does
not provide any way to do version comparisons.

For source code or for documentation in any format that stores
files as plain text -- HTML, XML, SGML, ... -- I'd recommend
CVS without hesitation.

However, if you're using Frame, Word, Word Perfect, ... and are
therefore stuck with a binary format, I'm not sure CVS is right
for you. Experiments with save-as to get a MIF or RTF format
might be worthwhile.

Another place to look is Larry McVoy was a
senior person at Sun, now works with Linux a lot. From the
mailing lists, he seems extremely sharp. Bitkeeper is his
replacement for CVS. There's been considerable controversy
about it -- why is Linus using a non-open-source product to
manage Linux kernel development? -- but even the people who
are up in arms about licensing issues seem to agree it works

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Document Management?: From: Elizabeth Smith
Re: Document Management?: From: John Locke
Re: Document Management?: From: Decker F. Wong-Godfrey

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