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Version Management with CVS - the CVS manual
by Per Cederqvist et al.
Paperback (6"x9"), 216 pages, 8 figures
ISBN 0954161718
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4.4 Tags--Symbolic revisions

The revision numbers live a life of their own. They need not have anything at all to do with the release numbers of your software product. Depending on how you use CVS the revision numbers might change several times between two releases. As an example, some of the source files that make up RCS 5.6 have the following revision numbers:

ci.c            5.21
co.c            5.9
ident.c         5.3
rcs.c           5.12
rcsbase.h       5.11
rcsdiff.c       5.10
rcsedit.c       5.11
rcsfcmp.c       5.9
rcsgen.c        5.10
rcslex.c        5.11
rcsmap.c        5.2
rcsutil.c       5.10

You can use the tag command to give a symbolic name to a certain revision of a file. You can use the ‘-v’ flag to the status command to see all tags that a file has, and which revision numbers they represent. Tag names must start with an uppercase or lowercase letter and can contain uppercase and lowercase letters, digits, ‘-’, and ‘_’. The two tag names BASE and HEAD are reserved for use by CVS. It is expected that future names which are special to CVS will be specially named, for example by starting with ‘.’, rather than being named analogously to BASE and HEAD, to avoid conflicts with actual tag names.

You'll want to choose some convention for naming tags, based on information such as the name of the program and the version number of the release. For example, one might take the name of the program, immediately followed by the version number with ‘.’ changed to ‘-’, so that CVS 1.9 would be tagged with the name cvs1-9. If you choose a consistent convention, then you won't constantly be guessing whether a tag is cvs-1-9 or cvs1_9 or what. You might even want to consider enforcing your convention in the ‘taginfo’ file (see section B.6 Taginfo).

The following example shows how you can add a tag to a file. The commands must be issued inside your working directory. That is, you should issue the command in the directory where ‘backend.c’ resides.

$ cvs tag rel-0-4 backend.c
T backend.c
$ cvs status -v backend.c
File: backend.c        Status: Up-to-date

Version:         1.4   Tue Dec  1 14:39:01 1992
RCS Version:     1.4   /u/cvsroot/yoyodyne/tc/backend.c,v
Sticky Tag:      (none)
Sticky Date:     (none)
Sticky Options:  (none)

Existing Tags:
rel-0-4          (revision: 1.4)

For a complete summary of the syntax of cvs tag, including the various options, see section G Quick reference to CVS commands.

There is seldom reason to tag a file in isolation. A more common use is to tag all the files that constitute a module with the same tag at strategic points in the development life-cycle, such as when a release is made.

$ cvs tag rel-1-0 .
cvs tag: Tagging .
T Makefile
T backend.c
T driver.c
T frontend.c
T parser.c

(When you give CVS a directory as argument, it generally applies the operation to all the files in that directory, and (recursively), to any subdirectories that it may contain. See section 6 Recursive behavior.)

The checkout command has a flag, ‘-r’, that lets you check out a certain revision of a module. This flag makes it easy to retrieve the sources that make up release 1.0 of the module ‘tc’ at any time in the future:

$ cvs checkout -r rel-1-0 tc

This is useful, for instance, if someone claims that there is a bug in that release, but you cannot find the bug in the current working copy.

You can also check out a module as it was at any given date. See section A.8.1 checkout options. When specifying ‘-r’ to any of these commands, you will need to beware of sticky tags; see section 4.9 Sticky tags.

When you tag more than one file with the same tag you can think about the tag as "a curve drawn through a matrix of filename vs. revision number." Say we have 5 files with the following revisions: At some time in the past, the * versions were tagged. You can think of the tag as a handle attached to the curve drawn through the tagged revisions. When you pull on the handle, you get all the tagged revisions. Another way to look at it is that you "sight" through a set of revisions that is "flat" along the tagged revisions, like this:

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