If you are faced with modifying your existing applications or developing new components in your organization, your plans for an efficient and organized project need to include a source-code management tool. Recently, TechRepublic contributor Tom Mochal outlined the general benefits of source-code management tools for these kinds of projects.

In the discussion that stemmed from the article, members shared their recommendations for managing source code. Here’s what they had to say.

Freeware options
Several members shared their favorite freeware applications for managing source codes. TechRepublic’s own CIO community editor, Paul Baldwin, for example, suggests browsing SoftSeek’s Web page for several downloadable tools, and member brhubart touted Flashline Component Manager as a useful freeware component.

Further, according to jblack, Microsoft developers can find a good, free Web development tool, Microsoft’s Visual SourceSafe, in the MSDN Resources Kit. But this member makes clear that there’s one caveat: “Be ye forewarned, like all MS products, it goes on vacation every once in awhile, so restarting the client periodically and backing up the database regularly are highly recommended.”

And if you’re looking to save some serious time, member jan.vanovcan recommends Concurrent Versions System (CVS)—an open-source network-transparent version control system. “Before deploying CVS, it took us more than a week to build [an] application—now it takes us only a few minutes.”

You get what you pay for
Several members, however, suggested a cautious approach to these cost-free packages, opting to go instead with a vendor package.

TechRepublic member Brad Carlson, an MIS systems manager with Crate & Barrel, says he feels uncomfortable with using free software for PC development due to possible support problems. Instead, he says: “We currently use Implementer for our IBM AS/400 development staff. I found that to be a great tool if you spend time setting it up for your environments.”

Some members have specific criteria they look for to help them choose between freeware and vendor packages. According to jjakymiw, the choice should be based on the financial support in place for the project. Member Justin Scott, a senior technical consultant with Business Connection in Africa, on the other hand, wants to test the product before incurring great cost for such a management tool. He had great praise for one product group in particular: StarTeam—a group of collaborative products provided for managing integrated code and content applications from a company called Starbase.

“Although StarTeam is not free, it comes with a 30-day evaluation, and it is perhaps the easiest of the PVCS, VSS [MERANT products], and Rational group to install,” he wrote.

Justin agrees that there are limitations to freeware and advised that organizations be mindful of freeware’s limits: “You need a product that is scalable and caters to disbursed groups.”

If you’re looking to spend some money on a high-end product, software developer and architect Kate Carruthers recently explored the marketplace and found that Rational (ClearCase) and MERANT (PVCS Dimensions) were clearly the leaders and felt that the two products were “pretty evenly matched.” Because a lower source-code management tool from MERANT was in place, Carruthers went with the PVCS, adding that the implementation of the tool at her company has been successful.
How important is source-code management for your projects? Is freeware a poor choice for obtaining the right tools? Share your advice with TechRepublic members or voice your own source-code management concerns.