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Introducing Visual SourceSafe

Microsoft Visual SourceSafe is a file-level version control system that permits many types of organizations to work on several project versions at the same time. This capability is particularly beneficial in a software development environment, where it is used in maintaining parallel code versions. However, the product can also be used to maintain files for any other type of team.

Visual SourceSafe supports cross-platform development by allowing collaborative editing and sharing of data. It is designed to handle the tracking and portability issues involved in maintaining one source control base, for example, a software code base, across multiple operating systems. For developers, Visual SourceSafe accommodates reusable or object-oriented code. It makes it easier for you to track the applications that use particular code modules.

At a minimum, Visual SourceSafe does the following:

  • Helps protect your team from accidental file loss.

  • Allows back-tracking to earlier versions of a file.

  • Supports branching, sharing, merging, and management of file releases.

  • Tracks versions of entire projects.

  • Tracks modular code (one file that is reused, or shared, by multiple projects).


The current release of Visual SourceSafe is fully compatible with database versions 6.0 and earlier.

Version Control and File Sharing

Visual SourceSafe allows the quick and efficient sharing of files among projects. The organization of files into projects makes team coordination intuitive. When you add a file to Visual SourceSafe, the file is stored on the database and made available to other users. Changes that have been made to the file are saved so that any user can recover an old version at any time. Members of your team can see the latest version of a file, make changes to local file copies, and save new versions in the database. When a set of files is ready to deliver, Visual SourceSafe makes it easy to share and obtain different versions of the selected set of files.


Using the Visual SourceSafe automation interfaces, you can write extensions based on Visual SourceSafe as needed for your environment. Extensions are usually provided in the form of stand-alone applications written to the automation interfaces. You can also extend Visual SourceSafe functionality by writing an add-in or plug-in that is compatible with the integrated development environment (IDE) of the third-party program that will run the software package.

Parallel Development

Visual SourceSafe supports parallel development and cross-platform development techniques. Such support allows individual team members to complete different parts and versions of a project at the same time, instead of being stalled while waiting for each to other to finish certain tasks. Two- and three-way file merging operations are supported, and Visual SourceSafe includes a number of mechanisms for resolving merge conflicts. File merge operations enable independent work without the need to synchronize changes with those made by other individuals.

In support of parallel operations, Visual SourceSafe also includes a label promotion feature to advance files as needed to different versions of a project. It also supports the use of share, pin, and branch operations for parallel development on a project over an extended period of time.

Developer Support

More and more, developers are accessing Visual SourceSafe functions from their development environments within third-party programs. Visual SourceSafe can be easily integrated with Visual Studio and other development tools, such as Microsoft Access. Visual SourceSafe supports a developer environment in many ways by allowing:

  • Setting of folder policies to enable group development scenarios.

  • Bug fixes

  • Easy transition to a new release of an existing project

  • Batch/nightly builds

  • Automation of source code control events

  • Access to automation interfaces

  • Source control over slow connections

  • Configuration of new projects for isolated Web development

  • Addition of a new Web developer to an existing team Web project

  • Tracking of programming modules to allow reusable or object-oriented code

Database Maintenance

Visual SourceSafe provides a number of powerful database maintenance tools to keep your databases operating efficiently and securely. It supports archival and restoration through easy-to-use wizards, as well as several command line-based maintenance utilities.

In This Section

  • Visual SourceSafe Reference
    Provides technical information about Visual SourceSafe, including details about commands, initialization variables, shortcuts, maintenance tools, dialog boxes and wizards, and automation interfaces.