Monday, 21 January 2008

Why I Hate Perforce: 1. The Background

I'm about to post a few articles explaining why Perforce and I just don't get on in many ways. But before I do I feel it is important that I make the background for these criticisms clear.

I've been using revision control systems for well over ten years. Initially I had brief outings with Microsoft Delta and then a longer and more painful experience with Microsoft SourceSafe on Windows even when sharing code among only three developers. Perforce is definitely a big improvement over these!

Once I learnt about CVS I started using that. Initially just for me on UNIX and Linux but later on shared projects that needed to compile on Windows too. I was forced to learn about tagging, vendor branches (and later why they suck in CVS) and merging. CVS wasn't perfect but it did work. I understood how it worked fundamentally, even to the point of fiddling around by hand in the repository when it became absolutely necessary.

I keenly watched the development of Subversion and periodically tried to import our CVS repository into it. I recommended to others starting new projects that they should choose Subversion rather than CVS.

I started a new job where everything was kept in a Perforce depot. I was used to the CVS workflow and initially felt a little out of water. It gradually dawned on me that many issues I had with Perforce were impeding or adding risk to my work. In the end I decided that some of these issues were fundamental in the Perforce design.

Of course Perforce has some very good features. It is certainly better than CVS in many ways. Perhaps I'll write articles about these too in the interest of fairness.

Because I come from the world of CVS it is quite likely that I'll accidentally use CVS terminology rather than Perforce terminology in these articles but I'll try not to!

Of course I may have missed features in Perforce or alternative techniques that invalidate some of points. If I have then please let me know via the comments.

Some of the scripts I use to work around the shortcomings I see in Perforce are available via my web page.

I should probably also note that I've also played with various other systems such as Bitkeeper, Clearcase, Arch, Bazaar, Darcs, Mercurial, SVK and Git. Of these the one I've tried to use most is Git and I would like to use it more given the chance.

Now read Part Two.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been around a long time as well, and although I'm not too worried about your upcoming posts being unfair based on your comments about 'out of fairness,' typically I've learned that most people who poo poo a source control tool, either didn't use it correctly, didn't read the manual or online help, or were using it to do development it wasn't designed to do, well. Like those who leave the strangest comments on forums about the Agile methodology. Makes you wonder if they have ever read a book on the subject, before putting it down. I realize Perforce has its disadvantages over some other more recent commercial tools, but it is also loved by many. I can't speak to the open source tools as we have always needed a professional tool. I look forward to reading more.