Using Visual SourceSafe – What can VSS do?

This article is a part of SourceSafe / VSS Tutorial

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History preserving
File Difference
Project/Folder Difference
Easy Collaboration


In a nutshell, you can use VSS to keep your files, including the previous versions, in a central repository/database. Although VSS is mainly used by software developers, it can be used by anyone working with computers. VSS can store any types of files, such as source code, project plans, specification documents, database objects, and your kitchen design blue print.

History preserving

Let’s say you have a file, c:\work\proposal.doc. Do you have a bunch of related files that look like:

Or several related folders that look like:

A version control system, such as VSS, can completely eliminate the need of backing up your files in the above mentioned way.

SourceSafe keeps all your versions you checked in (if “Store only latest version” option is not selected). And best of all, under normal circumstances, you see only the latest version, which make your file management much easier. Whenever you need previous versions, you can use the “Show History‚Ķ” feature to access all the previous versions as shown in the following figure:

History of SourceSafe / VSS
(History of Visual SourceSafe / VSS)

You can see who and when did what change and do Get and View operations on the versions.


File Difference

VSS can visually diff non-binary files, such as your C#, ASP.NET or Java source code. Word and Excel files are binary files and cannot be diffed in SourceSafe. You can view the differences between local file and any version in the VSS database, two previous versions in VSS, any two local files or any two files in the VSS database.

You can see which lines are newly added, which lines are deleted and which lines are changed, as shown in the following screenshot:File Difference in Visual SourceSafe / VSS

(File Difference in Visual SourceSafe / VSS)


Project/Folder Difference

Project difference feature allows you to see the differences between your local folder and VSS project, two local folders or two VSS projects:

Project Difference in Visual SourceSafe / VSS

(Project Difference in Visual SourceSafe / VSS)

The diff result shows you which files are only in the local folder, which files are only in the VSS database and which files are different. You can do version control operations, like check out, get and view, directly in this interface. There is also a powerful feature called Reconcile All, which can synchronize your whole local folder and VSS database.


Easy Collaboration

VSS makes team collaboration easy and intuitive.  When you add/check in a file to the VSS database, the file is available to other users. The team members, if they have sufficient permission, can see the latest or the previous versions of the file and can also make changes to the file. When you have multiple team members, this is really useful. Everyone can access the latest files and make changes without worrying about working on the outdated files or overwriting the changes made by other members.

When “Allow multiple checkouts” option is selected, VSS also supports parallel development, which allows individual team members to work on different parts of a file at the same time.

Allow Multiple-Checkouts in Visual SourceSafe / VSS
(Allow Multiple-Checkouts in Visual SourceSafe / VSS)


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  • Mahesh

    Can we use the multiple checkout feature to edit a excel sheet that we want to edit by different people?

  • cnlinkuk

    This is a very good tutorial.

    Just wonder how many people are still using the VSS, i am sure i am not the only one heading into it according to the company’s requirement.

  • Vj

    Nice explanation

  • shubham srivastava

    excellent intro

  • sam desilva

    gud article

  • Jalil Khokhar

    Well explained featured howeveer I am not achieving the comfort level of using the Allow Multiple Checkout. Nevertheless, will give it a try.

  • sunil

    Hi ….
    very good article

  • Rick

    In answer to Neha’s question – with the “multiple checkouts” VSS will allow 2 or more people to simultaneously work on DIFFERENT PARTS of the the same file. When the first (chronologically) checkin is done, the entire file is accepted as is. When the second (an subsequent checkins are done, VSS senses the new changes and merges with the first version – provided there is no conflict. If there are conflicts, VSS provides a mechanism to decide which to keep.

    Although an interesting feature, I would recommend against the multiple checkouts in most cases. The the code files are that large and complicated to where more than 1 person would be working on at the same time, perhaps they should be split.

    An example of when this might work OK is if there’s a graphics person doing the GUI and developer working on the code in an ASP.NET app. Embedded code vs. codebehind in ASP.NET is a whole different discussion (I perfer the latter in most cases).

  • Neha

    Can you please tell me wat exactly does “Allow mmultiple checkouts does”? I didnt basically understand how different parts of files can be worked on? does it mean working on multiple files at the same time?

  • Arun

    Nice introduction