The Future of Visual SourceSafe

A few months ago, I mentioned in Roadmap
for SourceSafe and Beyond
 that the SourceSafe feature team is planning
to do more than just fix bugs in the next release of VSS.  I did not provide
too many details.

I can now confirm that a new version of Visual SourceSafe will be included in
the Whidbey release of Visual Studio. 

Here are a handful of previously-unannounced features and feature enhancements
that you can expect to see in the next version of Microsoft Visual SourceSafe:

·         Remote
-- The new version of VSS will support remote access through
firewalls via https.  This is similar to an Outlook 2003 feature that enables
people to access mail outside the firewall, without RAS.  Remote access makes
working from a remote location much easier. This includes remote teams (for example,
with offshore development) as well as simpler scenarios like telecommuting or doing
development work while traveling.

·         Performance,
Scalability, and
Productivity --
The new version of Visual SourceSafe will include improved performance and scalability
for large projects and will make common operations faster and asynchronous, so you
can start working more quickly on large projects and be productive while source control
transfers are taking place.

·         Other
New Features
 -- SourceSafe Whidbey will include improved merging
UI, support for Unicode file content viewing and merging, re-vamped source control
for web service and web site projects, and a “check out local version” feature.

·         Future
-- We will provide more information about the next version
of SourceSafe in the coming months.

Stay tuned.

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Comments (46)
  1. Stefan Koell says:

    Seems that Visual Source Safe is not forgotten at all. Hopefully we will also find features like: basic bug tracking and feature request management and a better storage system (SQL or MSDE maybe), active directory user integration, …

  2. Phil says:

    I would love it if offsite performance was improved, and it looks like it will be. Will it be faster (or as fast) as SourceGear SourceOffsite.

  3. Thanks for the update! I’ll be looking forward most of all to the remote support, though I’m certain I’ll also appreciate the improved merge UI as well.

  4. Hi Korby, nice to hear about Unicode support. Can you tell us anything about enhancements of the general GUI (not only the merge UI) of the Visual Sourcesafe Explorer? The current GUI seems to be designed for 640×480 screens and 8.3 filenames. Resizable dialog boxes would be really nice, but PLEASE at least make those dialogs larger (and wasn’t there at least one listbox or treeview without a horizontal scrollbar?)

  5. Thomas Tomiczek says:

    OK, simple answer: I belive it when I see it.

    Dont take me wrong, but I have heard the mantra of somehting ocming for a way too long time in this respect. SourceSafe has been the black sheep inVS.NET for so many years I dont really remember.

    So waht does this post do? Give me some hope and keep me away from buying into Vault for another month or two. Definitly. Make me believe something is coming? Only then I have a screenshot of the new version at least, better seen it in action.

    I really want this to happen, but I can hardly believe it. Not after this long time.

    Now you guys just need to provide Active Directory integration and SQL Server as datastore, and maybe we finally are on the right track.

  6. Mike Weiss says:

    Speed and Branch / Merging are my biggest complaints.

    VSS needs a better branching and merging system, something like Perforce or ClearCase. It needs to be faster, easier to merge, and handle moves/deletes.

    Better (or just faster) searching and reports.

    The annotate command!!

    Better management of working directories.

    Changesets (like Perforce, Subversion, Vault) would be nice…


    // Mike
    // Remove "Hormel" from my email address

  7. Trevor Wagenfuehr says:

    First, a little background. I am a former PVCS user that loved the power of PVCS, but bailed to VSS when PVCS failed to evolve to support the richer integrated GUI IDE model of development. (And still has not evolved sufficiently IMHO)

    Comming from PVCS, my biggest gripe about VSS is the lack of proper branch support.

    The whole Share / Pin / Branch model is very innefficient when attempting to support parallel development /bug fixing of multiple versions of a product composed of multiple sub-projects.

    If you adopt the Share / Pin approach, the new project is not sufficiently isolated from the master version when generating reports. (You continue to see revisions on the master project until a file in the branched project is branched) You then suffer bloat in the database when the file is branched.

    I you adopt the Share / Branch approach, the amount of file system space required to store the branched project can get obscene in a very short time (and lead to instability of the VSS database itself)

    We use the former approach to help put off the database bloat problem, but the reporting problem is an large obstacle when trying to manage the branched project.

    I’ll be honest and say that VSS is probably not going to support our needs much longer, but the pain of adopting and migrating our existing product development lines a new source control system has kept me from bailing… But I have seriously considered it…

    I do have positive comments too though!

    IMHO, VSS is still the easiest tool on the market for developers to use on a day-in day-out basis and has right mix of features for the typical developer to get their work done. This is what it ultimatly comes down to doesn’t it?

    Keep up the good work. (And make it easier to manage these multi-project / multi-version beasts that are so common now days)

    Trevor Wagenfuehr

    P.S. If you need a beta tester to give brutal feedback….

  8. Bob Ainsley says:

    I notice that there is one major feature missing from your roadmap…source code that doesn’t get corrupted. Sigh.

  9. JohnW says:

    Is the version included on PDC Whidbey functional? I get an error about no default database and nothing works!! Did I miss something?

  10. John, for the PDC release of VSS 2004, you have to open an existing database or create a new one from the command line using the MKSS utility. Yes, it’s hoaky. For the Beta 1 release, there’s a good chance (hint hint nod nod) that this step will be unnecessary. For more information, see section "5.19. Visual SourceSafe "Whidbey" Technology Preview does not create a SourceSafe database during setup" in the VSS 2004 readme, which is located in your SourceSafe installation directory.

    Or, save yourself 30 seconds and keep on reading…

    "To start a Visual SourceSafe client, you must point to an existing database on your computer or network. If you install Visual SourceSafe 2004, a default database is not created automatically.

    To create a default database

    1) Click Start, click Run, type "cmd", and then click OK.
    2) At the command prompt, navigate to the Visual SourceSafe 2004 Installation Directory (usually, C:Program FilesMicrosoft Visual SourceSafe 2004).
    3) Type "MKSS.exe [foldername]", where foldername is the location where you want to create the VSS database. "

    Note: in the past, it was necessary to run MKSS.exe in conjunction with a couple of other utitlities (ddconv and ddupd) to convert and update the mkss-created database to the latest version of VSS. Your version of MKSS bundles all of these steps together.

  11. Greg Hurlman says:

    While not the most important thing, I think the "gee it would be nice" feature that sticks in my mind is the ability to keep a website updated with checkin/diff information, ala CVSWeb or Perforce’s P4Web… with bright orange "RSS" buttons, of course.

  12. Atli Oddsson says:

    According to the comments you give, Korby, I would assume that VSS will still be a file based solution with all it’s problems (no server side timestamp, no chance to put a central .NET object which watches VSS events etc.). Is that correct?

  13. theCoach says:

    What the product really needs, IMHO, is to be part of an overall Development Framework. The pit of success should factor in here well. In VS there should be a New Project Wizard foa a type of project called somthing like Microsoft Best Practice Project Development, which makes it difficult not to use current best practices with regard to Bug tracking, versioning, builds, Unit testing, testing, project scheduling. I remain hopeful that MS will shoehorn some of their internal products into creating a robust development framework, which includes things like profiling, code coverage, project management, bug and feature tracking, change management, spec management.

  14. John Saunders says:

    I hope that the new VSS will solve my greatest problem with the product: fixed-size dialog boxes aimed at 640×480 screens!

    Please allow the dialog boxes to be resizable, and to remember their sizes! You can even leave the default at 640×480 if only you’ll allow the dialogs to resize!

    It would be nice to be able to use the Share dialog with projects/files with names longer than two characters…

  15. James Sears says:

    Great to read a blog from someone close to development of SourceSafe.

    I agree with a lot of whats said above. Branching is slow. Merging is badly documented and not fully integrated. Yada Yada. But the biggest problem, and not just according to me, but to Microsoft’s own US based VSS support staff (the techy people who respond to a Phone Incident), is SourceSafe’s architecture.

    Put simply: SourceSafe doesn’t have a transactional database behind it. So until that is fixed there will always be the possiblity (high) of files getting corrupted due to network / client problems. Until the architecture is fixed SourceSafe will always be a second rate product.

  16. Simon says:

    Nice to know that SourceSafe is being updated, but what about better integration with Visual Foxpro, as this has always a been a problem.

  17. DGolick says:

    THe big thing source safe needs is improved branch and merge management. In the real world we need to do releases and patches on releases while developing the next release(s).

    Also change source safe to use a real transactional database rather than the file system with managled names for files.

  18. DaveG says:

    Just dreaming but…

    Any possibility of having some form of configuration management in VSS?

    (i.e. defining tasks that can contain versions of one or more files, and until the task is "released" it does not show up in the build)

    That feature revolutionized my development productivity, and now even mid size shops cannot afford SCM-enabled repositories.

  19. Andreas Hassmann says:

    I am just trying Source Safe on a computer graphics project. That means files that are by

    far larger than in a software development project, and a lot of them. What impact do I have to fear while the project grows? Does anyone has experience with large databases in Source Safe? I would appreciate your comment very much. Thank you,


  20. The maximum recommended database size is 3-4GB. That being said, my team, which authors documentation in Word, has maintained and relied upon VSS databases as large as 18Gb for several years now.

    Use Exclusive Checkouts—Graphics files are binary. Neither SourceSafe nor any other source control provider that I know about can merge differences between two different versions of a binary file. Thus, you need to stick with the default (at least in VSS 6.0) exclusive checkout mode. In other words, you shouldn’t enable two designers to check out the same file simultaneously. If you were developing text files, such as C# class files, you could do so.

    Don’t use Keyword Expansion in graphics files—The VSS keyword expansion feature was designed for text files. The introduction of VSS keywords into a binary file can corrupt it. For more info about VSS keywords, see

    Analyze Weekly—You should Analyze your database once a week to resolve any data corruption issues. If you don’t run Analyze on a large database regularly, doing so after a long lapse can take FOREVER. For more information about Analyze, see

  21. Ken Brubaker says:

    Whidbey VSS Secrets?

  22. Mike Johnson says:

    Will it be purchasable as a seperate product? We use 2003 Professional and would like to upgrade to teh new VSS version when available.

  23. I really find Thomas Tomiczek’s comment above disturbing.

    Why would this information put you off buying a better alternative?

    This roadmap is really saying that VSS will still be miles behind its competitors, like SourceGear Vault. Sure, Vault has it’s problems, the biggest of which are reliance of IIS (with all of its quirks) and MSSQL/MSDE, but overall Vault really is a very compelling package. It also delivers more than this roadmap promises to deliver for VSS.

    Does everything have to be labelled Microsoft, no matter how crappy?

    Don’t get me wrong, I use VS.Net 2003 daily, I’m not a troll. I’ll probably never use VSS again though.

  24. Chris S. says:

    You mention access through firewalls with HTTPS.

    Will the certificate authority be configurable?

    I know my development team had some interesting stuff come up with another MS application when we were trying to use SSL, which it supported, but only through predefined certificate authorities which did not include the one that issued our certificates (it’s an internal security thing). In any case, it will be good if this option is configurable and not hardcoded into the new vss app.

  25. Chris — You can use a signed certificate issued by a CA on your network, purchase one from a company like VeriSign, generate one for yourself using CertServ, a sweet little utility available in Windows Server, or you can generate one using makecert.exe, which ships with the .NET Platform SDK (PSDK). That’s kind of a bummer that the other unmentioned product didn’t allow you to choose your own CA.

    Robert — If I thought you were a troll, I probably would have deleted your comment. I think your comments are as valuable as any other for both me and other readers.

    No, not all developer tools have to be labeled Microsoft. That, in fact, is why my team (both VSS and Visual Studio Core) has gone to such extraordinary lengths (and believe me, they are extraordinary) to enable integration with products like Vault, PVCS, ClearCase and many other exceptionally usable and able source control products. Vendors of these products are and have been involved in planning VS.NET at a very, very early stage and I think I can safely say that they value their relationships with Microsoft in general and the Visual Studio team in particular.

    I do not get paid to push SourceSafe boxes by hyping it up on my blog. In fact, my blog is in no way connected to my compensation or work plan…[deep in thought] but maybe it should be…! Anyway, I’m not trying to *sell* Visual SourceSafe but I am committed to providing the best documentation and latest news and information about VSS to as many customers (VSS users and otherwise) as possible. I’m priviledged to be in a position to provide this information and I try to do so quickly and with as little bias as possible without losing my job.

    In my humble and personal opinion, I think it’s really cool that you’re passionate about Vault because it demonstrates that you recognize the value of source control in the development process.

    If you have any thoughts or questions about the non-VSS source control features in Visual Studio .NET (ie, Check in/Check Out, the Change Source Control dialog, Pending Checkins dialog box, etc) please leave your comments on a related post, if available, or email me offline and I’ll work them into a future one.

  26. Nicolas K. says:

    Source Safe is great as it is. I’m afraid that changing it will make it unstable !

    VSS performance is surprisingly bad when working with large source code bases.

    Source Offsite is a great COMplement 😉

  27. ShadowChaser says:

    The one thing I’m confused about is how the new SourceSafe update fits in with the Visual Studio 2005 Team System. Are they seperate products, or is SourceSafe a module within the larger Team System?

    Will the new source safe still require integration with Windows File Sharing? You did mention external developer support (yay) but didn’t explicitly say that you won’t need to do strange things like VPN login to domains and whatnot. I’d very much like to detach my source safe server completely from the file server! Will the HTTPS support require an IIS server?

  28. The next version of Visual SourceSafe (which I just call VSS "Whidbey") is a completely different product from the source control application that is integrated into Visual Studio 2005 Team System (codenamed "Hatteras"). Different codebases, different architectures, different developers sitting in different states, etc.

    VSS remains a great and ever-improving source control solution for teams of 5 or less.

    Source Control Services for Visual Studio Team Foundation is an enterprise-class source control provider. A customer described it to me this way, "So VSS is to Hatteras as Access is to SQL Server". It’s not a perfect comparison but it’s apt. For more information about Hatteras, see

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