Bazaar: DVCS for Dummies


I like Bazaar (bzr). It doesn’t make me popular in the Mercurial-centric Pythonosphere. It doesn’t make me a 1337 über hacker like git would.

However, it does meet the most important criteria: It just works for me.

Now for the big disclaimer: Most of the projects I use bzr to manage fall into 1 of 2 categories:

  1. Projects with small teams (1-4 developers)
  2. Public projects where I just want to grab the source and maybe maintain some local patches

If I needed to somehow manage a project with dozens or hundreds of contributors (like Gnome or the Linux Kernel), git would probably look a lot more appealing to me. After all, it was designed for large code bases with lots of contributors and branches.

I’ve seen lots of git cookbooks popping up lately, so I thought I’d explain my bzr workflow for the 2 use cases I list above.

1. Starting and sharing a project with a small team

Prerequisite: You’ve created a directory with some code in it.

  1. Turn your source code directory into a bzr repository:

    ~/src/foo$ bzr init

  2. Add you source files:

    ~/src/foo$ bzr add

  3. Commit:

    ~/src/foo$ bzr ci

  4. Push my changes to a remote location* other team members can access:

    ~/src/foo$ bzr push –remember sftp://some/file/server

Done! My favorite part is that besides the --remember option, bzr just does what you expect without any flags or configuring. The --remember option simply tells bzr to use that location for future push commands (so you can drop all the typing after “push”).

For more information check out the excellent bazaar documentation on sharing code.

2. Getting the code for an open source project

Unfortunately most big bzr-hosted projects are on Launchpad which makes for a pretty boring demonstration:

~/src$ bzr branch lp:terminator # yawn

To make matters worse, non-Launchpad hosted projects are nearly as dull:

~/src$ bzr branch

In each case bzr will create a new directory for you using the last part of the source path (terminator & trunk respectively). You can optionally give it a second argument to put the branch in a different location. The destination can even be a remote server!

~/src$ bzr branch http://source/branch sftp://destination/branch

Ok now I’m just showing off. I’ve never found a use for that feature. 😉 However, I do appreciate that a location is a location to bzr regardless of whether that location is the local filesystem or a remote server. It just works how you’d expect it.

Chapters 4-6 of Bazaar’s documentation give some excellent examples of various collaboration workflows.

Bonus Feature: Subversion mode!

So its not really Subversion mode, but bzr does support pulling repositories via the checkout command and updating your working copy from the remote repository via the update command just like Subversion. As you would expect, the commit now sends changes directly to the remote server.

While I’ve used this feature mainly to make transitioning to bzr easier for Subversion users, Bazaar’s documentation has some excellent techniques for making advanced workflows easier using checkouts.

    • ** SSH Tips:

    • bzr+ssh is faster than plain old sftp but requires bzr to be installed on the server.
    • Setup ssh connection multiplexing using ControlMaster in ~/.ssh/config and leave an ssh session active to speed up bzr operations.