Plastic SCM Pays Attention to Detail in Source Code Management

Codice Software's Plastic software configuration management system helps teams of any size to manage the development process. However, the sheer number of features means it takes some time to get acquainted with the package.

Codice Software€™s Plastic SCM is the Cadillac of software configuration management. The only downside I see to it is the sheer number of features that bring with it a lengthy learning cycle to become acquainted with everything it can do.

Plastic SCM 4.1 was released in April 2012, and supports both merge and lock models. It can operate either as a central server or as a distributed server. The product also includes both a command-line version and a GUI. In other words, it allows pretty much any configuration that teams need or want. It is free for small projects up to 15 users.

Codice Software uses a short iteration cycle, and as such does multiple minor releases per year. As a result, dozens of new features have been released since the last major update at the end of 2011. The accompanying slide show demonstrates some overall big-picture features of Plastic SCM.

For this review, we tested out several specialized features that will benefit development teams. Normally, I only look at new features, but I have reviewed some especially useful features here, as well.

IT managers should note that Plastic SCM is primarily focused on managing development branches. Departments where developers work on independent branches that are then merged back together will especially benefit from using Plastic SCM. Departments that don€™t already work this way can expect a short amount of training time as developers come up to speed on the concept of working on a separate branch.

Indeed, I was skeptical about this orientation around application branches. However, the more I tested Plastic SCM, installing the system on two different computers for different users, the more I saw that this is indeed a powerful approach. My tests showed that when branch development is done correctly, it allowed me to easily pick and chose which features should be merged into the final release of my software development project.

As is typical of source-code management tools, Plastic SCM can be fully integrated into different integrated development environments (IDEs). I tried out the integration with Visual Studio 2010, and it worked great after I figured out the trick of telling Visual Studio to switch to the version control I used (in the Options dialog box under Source Control -> Plugin Selection).

After I chose Plastic SCM, Visual Studio switched right over, and I was able to immediately create a repository in Plastic SCM and check all my code in, and then continue using Visual Studio as I normally would. Additionally, Plastic SCM integrates with the new Visual Studio 2012, as well as Eclipse.