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Improving the Usability of SVN Externals

From: Mark <mark.kinsley_at_ultra-sml.com>
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2008 08:32:46 -0700 (PDT)

Our company recently moved over from VSS to svn/TortoiseSVN. The
transition has been remarkably painless thanks to the excellent TSVN
user interface, the new system is on the whole vastly superior to VSS.
There was initial concern about the lack of an equivalent to the 'VSS
Copy' feature but we have found that svn:externals provides a
(theoretically) more controlled mechanism for managing the sharing of
data between projects. I have been promoting the use of svn:externals
but find that in practice they are a bit tricky to use and prone to
user error due to the slightly obscure implementation as a folder
property. I would like to suggest some changes to improve the
usability of the externals feature. I sincerely believe these changes
would be much appreciated by many users.

Repository Browser:

1. When a folder is expanded, its properties could also be retrieved
and any externals listed together with the folder contents. The folder
icon for externals should be different to indicate that it is a link
to a different repository location (local or remote). This has
previously been discussed but was thought to be too much overhead to
fetch properties for each folder (http://tortoisesvn.tigris.org/
servlets/ReadMsg?list=dev&msgNo=19904). It is however only necessary
for a single properties query for each expanded/parent folder so would
thus be a relatively minor overhead. (Each svn list would require a
single svn propget query).

2. When a repository folder is right mouse button dragged and dropped
in the repo browser a new context menu item ‘Add External Link’ could
be added. The ‘Add External Link’ would bring up a dialog allowing
entry of externals details using the path of the dropped file as the
target path. (The dialog would allow user to specify whether an
absolute or relative reference is created & whether the head or
specific revision number is used).

Windows Explorer Shell:

3. The overlay icon for svn:externals folders should ideally be
different to normal SVN folder icons to show that it references a
different repository location. Ideally it should be similar to that
used in the repo browser discussed above (in 1).

4. The context menu could also offer to 'Add External Link' to an
existing working copy. This would bring up a similar dialog as
suggested in 2.

Ideally it should be possible to add and maintain svn:externals
references without having to manually edit the folder properties

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Received on 2008-09-22 17:41:55 CEST

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