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by Johnathan Skinner - Game Developer, March 2002

Code Co-op is a simple-to-use and affordable version control system by Reliable Software. Geared toward smaller- to medium-sized projects, the server-less system maintains a full, up-to-date copy of a project database and updates check-ins over a LAN or even through e-mail for remote development (using Microsoft Outlook). This makes it most useful for teams that have people in several different locations or that use sometimes-connected machines such as laptops.

Code Co-op is available for Windows 9x/NT 4/2000/XP and has a quick and simple installation and setup. It has an easy-to-use GUI, direct integration with Microsoft Visual Studio, and an optional command-line interface. Some of the GUI layout is a little strange, but it has lots of good tool tips and helpful message boxes that make it easy for users to figure out pretty much everything without needing to refer to the documentation. I am impressed by the help docs, though, as they are well written and include lots of clear and relevant screenshots. The tutorial guides you through setting up your first project. Technical support is also available via e-mail, and Reliable responds quickly. The company is also known to post new fixes for bugs within a few days of finding the problem.

Boasting a reasonable price tag of $159 per user, Code Co-op is well suited for a small development team. It also saves you the cost of purchasing a server machine. One really nice thing about the server-less model is that you control when the project database is update. You know those times when you need to check out and edit a single file, but then discover that someone else has already made a change to it? You'd need to pull down the latest version of the entire project and recompile it just to change a single line. Code Co-op cures this headache by keeping an entire copy of the project database on each development station, allowing team members to update it at any time they're ready.

But the server-less model does have its drawbacks. While Code Co-op does maintain a full version history for both text-based and binary files, a project with hundreds of megabytes of binary resources (such as art or sound files) all under source control is going to fill up everyone's hard drives really quickly. However, for projects with only a few binary files and mostly just code under source control, Code Co-op should work quite well.

Code Co-op's lack of administrative options may make it less than ideal for larger development teams (more than about 10 people using source control). The only permission control available changes a user to an observer (in which case he or she cannot make changes to the project). Typically, a small team wouldn't need anything beyond that, but a larger team often needs more advanced options.

Reliable Software's Code Co-op 3.2 is an excellent version control system for a small development team. A free 31-day full-featured trial version is available for download from Reliable's web site.