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Graphical File Revision Control for Non-Techies?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the binary-file-cvs dept.


EagleEyez asks: "Packages like Subversion and CVS are great for code and version control for programmers and developers, but what about for design and creative teams? I'm trying to help my company streamline part of the creative process, but haven't seen a software package that does version control, check-in/out, e-mail notifications, etc. that is specifically tailored toward images and basic HTML content. Full fledged document management tools might work, but they seem a bit much and tend to focus more on office docs. Does anyone have any recommendations?" There are a few projects moving in this direction, they just may not be as usable as some would like. More detail in the full article.Photographers (those using digital cameras or film photographers who edit their photos on computer) might also find revision control useful. From bmcent1: "As an amateur photographer seeking a way to better organize files, it occurred to ask Slashdot: 'What methods are digital photography enthusiasts using to organize the torrent of files that build up over time?' I'm a huge Linux fan, and although I use Photoshop, I would like to use a Linux storage server as the back end and could use Linux EXIF/IPTC tagging tools such as XnView to help organize if they perform as well as commercial products like IMatch.

What tools do you use? How do you manage your workflow and the files that build up as a result? I shoot RAW and keep the original. Post processing usually produces a .PSD file and then any crops are kept separate in case I want to adjust and reprint later. This means a minimum of three files per image and more if I have different crops.

Have people successfully used versioning file systems like EXT3COW or revision control systems like Subversion as an aid to their digital photography workflow?"

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Tortoise (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926716)

Allow me to solve your problems right now: [] (For CVS Servers) [] (For Subversion servers)

Tortoise will tell your users everything they need to know about the files status right through Windows Explorer. Teaching them how to do checkins and tree updates is also quite easy, thanks to the customized right-click menu. Advanced options like diffing, merging, and branching are still available through the submenus, but your users should be able to get their work done without resorting to those. (At least, not until they're ready.)

Of course, the fact that these are graphics designers may complicate issues somewhat. If they're using a Mac, they won't be able to use Tortoise. In which case, my next recommendation falls on SmartCVS: []

SmartCVS is great for Macintoshes, although it does take slightly more training than Tortoise. The only problem you may run into, however, is that SmartCVS chokes on massive directories of files. I don't know if this problem has been fixed or not, but it was a serious problem for one of the source trees I worked on. (Think gigabytes of data spread across thousands of files.)

CVS/SVN are by no means perfect solutions, but I can't think of anything better off the top of my head. Hope this helps!

Re:Tortoise (2, Informative)

Kristoffer Lunden (800757) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926763)

I've had at least one very non-techie customer in a project working with us remotely via TortoiseSVN and that worked just fine. It's by no means as good as it could be (for this use), but if you can set it up for them and explain Commit and Update, you are probably set.

Re:Tortoise (1)

Bat_Masterson (250306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927377)

Does this address the requirement to change control pictures and other binary data?

Re:Tortoise (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927541)

I have been told that SVN is good at handling binary files. So TortoiseSVN can conceivably work for keeping track of photographic image files. That being said, I'm not really sure if it's the best solution for something like that. My first thought would be to develop a Content Management Database of some sort that would keep track of the image information, as well as link all the associated images into the same record.

e.g. You'd probably want to keep the PSD "negative", JPG distributions, and PNG thumbnails all in a single unit, with the information about the image applying to all of them. A CMS could conceivably be designed to do this, but I don't do professional photography, so I don't know of any CMSes like this offhand.

Re:Tortoise (1)

gordyf (23004) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927962)

I can definitely vouch for TortoiseSVN's usefulness - I have used it on some of my own projects, and it's really easy enough for anyone. A great example of a well executed piece of software.

Re:Tortoise (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 8 years ago | (#14932287)

I can definitely vouch for TortoiseSVN's usefulness - I have used it on some of my own projects, and it's really easy enough for anyone. A great example of a well executed piece of software.

I agree that SVN, especially the Tortoise front-end, is really easy to work with. One caveat if you're working with binary files and have multiple developers: Make sure you have a recent server which supports file locking! SVN didn't originally support this; text files were merged together at commit time. You can't merge binaries. Our EEs found the lack of locks to be a major drawback a few releases ago when they were trying to work on schematics. They opted to stick with PVCS rather than work out some kludgy out-of-band method (ie., patch pumpkin [] ) to prevent simultaneous edits to one file. Once file locks were supported they were happy again.

Of course, if you're working with people not used to version control, there's the little issue of training them to actually remember to lock the files before they start working on them...

Subversion + Tortoise Setup Guide (2, Informative)

fbg111 (529550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929159)

And here's a guide [] for setting up Subversion and Tortoise on Windows, really easy.

TortoiceCVS (0)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926718)

It even has a cute tortoise as the logo :)

Re:TortoiceCVS (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926738)

It even has a cute tortoise as the logo

I thought Logo used a turtle, not a tortoise.

Re:TortoiceCVS (1)

RalphSleigh (899929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926809)

It did.. But that was some kinda drawing tool? and this is a cvs client...

Re:TortoiceCVS (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926855)

[Logo] did.. But that was some kinda drawing tool?

This, my friends, is exactly why Logo is useless as an introductory programming language.

Re:TortoiceCVS (1)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929730)

I didn't start out learning Logo, I started out with BASIC. But I've done Logo programming. It was a very good introductory language. Taught me all about functional programming, abstraction, and how not to use line numbers.

I still think it's kinda cool. :)

Subversion (3, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926792)

Is your friend. Very happy with binary files (in fact it treats binary and text the same and uses a binary diff algorithm). Lots of hooks to add pre-post processing so you can do whatever you want in terms of extracting file data.

CVS is binary-stupid - if you have a lot of binaries it is really ineffecient.

Re:Subversion (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927215)

Just uuencode your binary files before you check them in with CVS. Makes for some really interesting diffs too.

MediaWiki (3, Insightful)

vossman77 (300689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926842)

MediaWiki [] (a la Wikipedia) has reat revision control for HTML and image content. I use it for almost everything (thesis, wedding information, blog). It's also really easy to use!

Re:MediaWiki (3, Informative)

*BBC*PipTigger (160189) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929954)

If you are (or someone you know is) moderately familiar with Perl, I would highly recommend [] over MediaWiki.

TWiki supports standard XHTML 1.0 in combination with traditional wiki-style markup (e.g., *important text* for bold in TWiki as opposed to '''important text''' as bold in MediaWiki).

TWiki runs via standard CGI scripts and uses an RCS back-end for tracking document revisions and facilitating roll-backs.

TWiki was designed to support a thorough plug-in architecture and a great deal of the functionality included in the latest stable release (TWiki-4.0.1 from 07 Feb 2006) is provided through plug-ins.

There are lots of skins too (driven by CSS) which are easy to install if you don't like the default.

I've recently gotten into deploying and administrating installations of both TWiki and MediaWiki. I have also been modifying lots of the code of each while working in Sony's R&D department. Management decided to abandon MediaWiki (and possibly also Confluence shortly) in favor of TWiki's advantages. I'm working on some specialized new plug-ins for our intranet to aid project management. I highly recommend TWiki for collaborative web pages where you might want to extend the functionality.

MediaWiki is simple and clean and very well-suited to encyclopedic content. If that fits your problem-domain (i.e., you don't need to make substantial functional enhancements), it is a nearly ideal choice.

This [] site can be extremely helpful in evaluating wiki alternatives too.

I hope that helps. =)


Re:MediaWiki (1)

LadyLucky (546115) | more than 8 years ago | (#14950481)

I would recommend Confluence, from [] . It's free for personal or open source use, and not that expensive for commercial use.

Best Wiki I have ever used.

Version Cue (2, Informative)

DingoBueno (461129) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926872)

Well...since you already use photoshop, I'd have to suggest Version Cue [] . It's made precisely for your purpose. I've used subvserion, myself. But I've also fought and lost the same battle when it come to non-techie conversion. Best of luck...

Re:Version Cue (1)

Quarters (18322) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926892)

He doesn't say anywhere in his post that his company uses Photoshop.

Re:Version Cue (1)

stu42j (304634) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926938)

The second submitter, bmcent1, mentions Photoshop.

Alienbrain (3, Interesting)

LightningBolt! (664763) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926904)

Often used in game development for asset management. Commercial. []

It's got a nice gui which has preview functionality for many standard audio/video data formats. As a programmer using Perforce at the time, I was never a huge fan of it. But it seemed the artists and game designers were able to use it fairly effectively.

Two things ... (3, Insightful)

jgrahn (181062) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926909)

1) It seems to me, from using version control and watching others use it, that there is no substitute for understanding. Fancy GUIs help to some extent, but to really use revision control, you have to be willing to think, to learn, and to adapt the way you work. (Is that is the same as being "a techie"? Perhaps.)

For images, video and other non-text data, I suspect that it doesn't matter if you use Subversion's "superior" support for binary data or CVS's "inferior" one. I believe you will have problems, no matter what -- concepts like branching and merging are meaningless for those. Possibly there are dedicated tools for such things.

Re:Two things ... (1)

HelloKitty (71619) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927839)

having version control integrated into explorer greatly simplifies workflow, especially on largescale projects with deep folder trees.

Tools like TortoiseSVN/CVS or perforce's explorer integration are Key for this reason alone.

Perforce... (1)

pixel_bc (265009) | more than 8 years ago | (#14926957)

We have our non-techies (and techies) use Perforce. The win32 client has lots of optins, but is simple enough to use if you don't do anything too crazy.

If your nontechies will only be syncing and modifying, it's a walk in the park.

Photographic Version Control (1)

Bongoots (795869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927066)

PVC? :p

no cvs but svn is cool (3, Informative)

jilles (20976) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927178)

I would say subversion is adequate for version management (not perfect). It fullfills the minimum requirements of a versioning system. CVS on the other hand is unreliable, not really suitable for non ascii content, prone to losing version history on normal development activity such as e.g. refactoring, unable to keep track of changes that concern multiple files and unable to keep track of normal file operations such as directory creation, moving and deletion. Just a few of the reasons why you should no longer use CVS if you care about such things as repository integrity, keeping track of changes in the repository, storing binary content, refactoring your code, etc. If you do care about these things, avoid CVS like the plague. But then why use versioning at all if you don't care about these things? CVS is better than nothing and and svn is way better than that.

Tortoise CVS on windows does a good job of hiding most of the uglyness to end users, it does not actually solve them and users might be tempted to think that storing e.g. large word documents in cvs is good practice. TortoiseSVN, a frontend for subversion similar to TortoiseCVS provides a similar frontend for subversion. Having used both, I would say that the svn version is more feature rich, more actively developed and has the advantage of running on top of a version system that doesn't have any of the problems listed above.

To get started with subversion locally, all you need is tortoise svn. Simply right click on a folder and create a repository and then right click on another folder to add its contents to the newly created repository (using the file:// protocol). If at a later stage you decide you want to share the repository over a network, you can do so with e.g. cygwin ssh + cygwin subversion using the svn+ssh:// protocol. The tortoise svn repository will actually be compatible with that. Alternatively you can set up an apache server (http:/// [http] or svnserve (svn://). For small scale sharing, svn+ssh is easier since it requires nothing more than installing subversion, getting the ssh server going and managing ssh users (which in cygwin are normal windows users).

Due to subversions excellent support for normal file operations, you can actually have only one repository for multiple projects. For example apache projects share the same subversion repository.

Because it is so easy to set up, subversion is really suitable for working on a bunch of files together with others. I use a local repository for working on my work documents and small projects. I even put photo's in subversion. Having a central repository makes it easy to backup as well. This style of working with subversion is reasonably efficient for binary files where the binary diff from version to version is relatively small too. For example, I keep my word documents directory in svn. The total size of an export of this directory is 10 MB. The subversion repository on disk containing the full version history of these files is 5 MB. Compression + storing only binary diffs are the reason that the repository size on disk is actually less than an export of the head of the repository!

git (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14927375)

git would work quite well for this. It knows about binary blob files, so you don't need to worry about diffing them. Easyness for non-tech people is probably not there, though.

Alienbrain (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927825)

The commercial leader in graphical content management revision control is Alienbrain [] . It was originally developed for video game development, where there are many types of unusual graphical assets, from motion capture data to level maps, all with multiple revisions. Now that Avid has purchased Alienbrain, it's also being used for TV and film animation projects.

As with most Avid products, if you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it.

Re:Alienbrain (1)

Will Sargent (2751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14930770)

Seconded. Alienbrain is the single best tool you can get for this kind of work.

Revision control isn't for non-techies. (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927973)

Revision control isn't for non-techies. I've tried using revision control with non-programmers who wanted to work on some LaTeX documents with me, and it was way too confusing for them. The issue isn't a graphical UI versus a command-line UI.

Try LibreSource and so6 (2, Informative)

maxme (946026) | more than 8 years ago | (#14927974)

Try LibreSource and the so6' version management system. [] , it's free, and there is a graphical java webstart client really simple to use.

Maxime Biais

Consider Sharepoint (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14928184)

It might be a bit too advanced for you still, but consider running Microsoft Sharepoint or getting yourself setup with a hosted Sharepoint system. If you are running Small Business Server 2003 or Windows Server 2003, you should have it already installed and setup...

Jason R. Shaver

What I use (1)

kbielefe (606566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14928291)

I get prints of the best ones, delete the worst ones, put the crops in subfolders labeled with the dimensions, burn to CD or DVD depending on size, label it, and stick it in one of those CD carriers that hold about 500 discs.

I don't keep the raw images, because I would just post-process it the same anyway, but a subdirectory named raw would make sense for those if you absolutely need them. One of the most important aspects of organization in either the physical or virtual world is knowing what to throw away.

That gives me a disc with directories like original, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, etc. The lab I use for enlargements will print the image from the appropriate directory if I specify that in the instructions.

Personally, I think you're looking for a complex solution to a simple problem. With revision control, you would have to check out the appropriate version and copy it to another medium for reprints. Not to mention the extra complexity of maintaining backups that is inherent to a version control system. Version control has its place, but it is mainly designed for files that need to be changed a lot over time by several people. Images are usually processed by one person right after the shoot, and then never modified significantly again.

Re:What I use (0, Offtopic)

che.kai-jei (686930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929116)

i must protest.

as a person who is consulting for a small design studio, i think you are far too glib.

and your scheme too complex for even one person let alone a small team.

Re:What I use (2, Informative)

Triddle (793231) | more than 8 years ago | (#14929790)

If you use SVN with DAV via Apache then the files in the repository are directly visible as a URL, so viewing a file is as simple as pointing your browser at the repository and traversing the tree of links. No checkout required and you guarantee you are viewing the latest version by avoiding stale local data.

Surround SCM by Seapine Software (2, Informative)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14928516)

Let me start this with a disclaimer. I *am* an employee of Seapine Software, so I'm not exactly a dis-interested third party.

I work on the helpdesk for Seapine Software [] , a small software company that, for a decade, has concentrated on providing easy to use software for managing software development. One of our products is a GUI (we also provide a CLI as part of the package for those who need it) version control system, called Surround SCM [] . It is cross platform, supporting Windows, Linux, Solaris, and MacOS X for both the server and the client.

It is quite feature rich, and specifically, handles versioning of image files very well. It can be used to version any kind of file (text and binary alike), so it can be used outside of the Source Code Management market, that just happens to be our current target market. It is not Free/Open Source software, but compared to other commercial SCM/FVM (Source Code Management/File Version Management) offerings on the market, is very competitively priced.

As I work on the helpdesk, I get a good idea of the relative quality of our products (believe me, products that aren't very good aren't very pleasant to support), and Surround SCM is, from my perspective, a very strong product. We offer a trial download that you can use to evaluate the product for a month, to see if it fits your needs.

Re:Surround SCM by Seapine Software (1)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14931070)

OK, well, since you're claiming that you have an idea of "the relative quality of your products", why don't you actually provide some real comparison with CVS, subversion, darcs, monotone, git, and the GUIs available for those systems. You know, tell us why you think yours is better.

"Go download it and see for yourself" is a lame marketing pitch.

Re:Surround SCM by Seapine Software (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 8 years ago | (#14936792)

    I'll say that I have not tried all the different version control systems that are out on the market. I am familiar with our product, and the problems that our customers run into, because that is what I see on the helpdesk. So, from my helpdesk perspective, what I've seen is that most of our customers seem fairly happy with the product, and need feature assistance, as opposed to customers calling in frustrated that the product doesn't perform as advertised.

    When I used the phrase the 'relative quality', I have no comparisons with other version control producst in mind, but rather just that, compared to other software I've supported, customers calling the helpdesk seem, on average (this is purely subjective, I'll admit) seem to be happier with the product, and encounter fewer problems, than with other products (not specifically version control products, just software in general) I have had to support.

    I really think, ultimately, you read too much into my statement. The bottom line is, I honestly think it's a decent product, and people may want to check it out.

    If anyone is looking for further information about the product ( we have a page which compares Surround SCM with Visual Source Safe, as an example), our website, which I linked in the original post, has a lot of information.

Saving editing changes separately from the file (2, Informative)

orenh (961538) | more than 8 years ago | (#14930847)

Instead of saving an entire copy of the file after every modification, my company has an application called Centico Photo Album that saves only the original version of the file, and then a list (in a database) of all the editing changes that had been made to it. See [] . The motivation for this feature is for backup, since it makes it possible to backup the photos only once in their lifetime, and then have all the editing changes saved separately (so you don't have to burn the files to CD-ROM's ever again, for example). However, it's useful for your purposes too since you wouldn't have to save multiple copies of the graphical file anymore. (Well, the application might create additional copies if it has to, but it would manage them automatically.)

Caveats: this is a Windows application, and it's oriented towards home users, so it might not meet all of your requirements.

ColumbiaSoft Document Locator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14931833)

This is what we use here in our company: []

Visual SourceSafe? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14948190)

Is graphical, and a standalone product. True, its windows only but you didnt specify that limitation.
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