P4EXP, the Perforce Plug-in for Windows Explorer enables standard SCM functions from the familiar file management environment of the Windows Explorer. An artist, administrative employee, and even a full time developer with no client application training will find they can version their work easily with no formal training. P4EXP works in all versions of Windows from Windows 2000 through Vista.

If you installed P4V with the default settings, P4EXP is already available. If not, browse to the Perforce downloads page, and select the Plug-in for Windows Explorer from the Plug-ins and Integrations page. Run the installer, and select the P4EXP plug-in for installation.

Let’s see P4EXP in action. We are going to drop in on John Wakeman, who is going to perform a quick edit on a source code file he updates regularly. To make it easy to locate and open the file, he has a shortcut to his jw_dev workspace on his desktop. The workspace is the folder where he stores the files that reside in Perforce.

John double-clicks the shortcut and sees the files that he needs to revise. First, John configures P4EXP. To make visualizing the file status easier, he right-clicks the file, navigates to the Perforce menu, chooses More, Preferences, and chooses “Show file state icon.” Now the file icons will display indicators of each file’s status. For example, when he checks a file out to make changes, the file icon will display a red check mark. To reduce the confirmation dialogs that are displayed for each Perforce operation, he chooses the “Show only error messages” option.

To increase performance, he has the option to deselect “Check server to update file information.” He can then manually refresh the file information whenever he wishes. To further reduce server load, he can restrict the Explorer plug-in to his workspace folder.

Now he’s ready to do some work. EBolt is the file that he needs to update, but he wants to work on the most recent version and his version is out of date as indicated by the yellow triangle. John right-clicks the file, chooses Get Latest Revision and Perforce sends the latest version of the file to his computer. He notices the icon has changed to a green dot, showing that he now has the latest version.

John wants to know if anyone else is working on the file, so he right-clicks the file and chooses Properties. By selecting the “Checked Out By” tab, he can see that Joe Coder has checked it out. That won’t be a problem, because Perforce will keep track of both users’ changes, ensuring that no one’s work will be lost or overwritten.

Next, John decides he wants a quick look at how much the file has changed over time. Navigating back to the Perforce menu, he sees a couple options for comparing versions of this file, along with a feature that displays a file’s entire change history. He chooses File History, drags version one onto version ten, and sees that a couple lines have been added and others have had minor changes. If he needs a more in-depth look at the each revision, he can launch the Time-lapse View tool by right-clicking the file.

He is ready to make his edits, so he checks EBolt out from the Perforce menu. This time the icon has changed to a red check mark to indicate the file is open for edit. John double-clicks the file to open it, then changes a constant for an upcoming test. He saves his changes and closes the file.

To check his changes into Perforce, he returns to the Perforce menu and chooses Submit. If he decides he no longer wants the changes he made, he can choose Revert. He does want to keep the change, so for now he completes the changelist description, and clicks Check In. Once again, the file icon in his Windows Explorer menu changes to indicate that the file is checked in and up to date in is workspace.

Some of these operations such as Checkout, Revert and Remove from workspace can be performed on more than one file at once if needed. If you need more in-depth SCM functions than the basics provided by P4EXP, right-click the file and choose Show in P4V. For details about P4V, the full-featured Perforce graphical user interface, go to the Perforce web site.

This concludes our overview of the P4EXP plug-in. You will find additional detail in the P4EXP online help. If you have any specific technical questions, please contact support@perforce.com.

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