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Introducing the Rational Team Concert Shell integration for Windows Explorer

The recent milestone of Rational Team Concert 4.0.7 includes a brand new integration and tool: the Rational Team Concert Shell for Microsoft Windows Explorer. With the RTC Shell integration, you can now source control files and folders from within Windows Explorer (initial support in Windows 7 only).

So who could use this tool? Anyone using Rational Team Concert. If you want to quickly edit and check in a file without starting up an IDE, or if you want to use RTC to manage your documents and don’t really need an IDE at all, or if you want the richness of RTC’s source control management right within your Explorer, then RTC Shell is for you.

We’ve kept in mind that this integration will likely be used by a wide variety of users. So while we have provided for simplified user actions, we have also tried to add a lot of the RTC functionality that you see in the rich clients. How you use it is up to you in the end.

The RTC Shell Control Panel

We’ve tried to make RTC Shell as integrated into the explorer as we could. At the same time, we’ve also tried to keep it simple and intuitive. To that end, there’s a Control Panel for RTC Shell that installs in your Desktop folder and opens right in your Windows Explorer. The Control Panel lets you manage your Jazz artifacts: you can get connected to the Jazz repository, perform source control operations, or work with a simple artifacts navigator. You can tailor your RTC environment via preferences. It comes with built-in help for ease of use.

You can launch the RTC Shell Control Panel from your task tray, or from the Start Menu. You can also launch it from your Desktop (where it is installed).

Managing Jazz Artifacts

The Get Connected and Source Control pages in the Control Panel let you perform a host of RTC operations: joining your team, sharing your work, loading your repository workspaces, and so on. However, if you want finer-grained control on your Jazz artifacts, then you would use the Manage Artifacts page. This is a simplified version of the Team Artifacts view found in the RTC rich clients; it lets you work with your workspaces and sandboxes.

Source Controlling Files and Folders

The Explorer context menu for files and folders has a top level menu for Rational Team Concert. Using the sub-menus of this menu, you can perform source control operations. To start with, you need to set your sandbox, which is your work area in the file system that you want RTC to track and keep synchronized with the Jazz Team Server. Operations such as share and load will automatically set your sandbox, or you can also use the Set Sandbox menu on your folder of choice. Once you’ve set a sandbox, you will be able to share top level folders under the sandbox with Jazz components, check-in, deliver, lock, unlock, associate work items with your changes, show history, compare, view Jazz properties, and so on.

The files and folders that you work with will have specific visual cues. Shared files have an orange cylinder icon. Local changes have a yellow square. Incoming and outgoing changes have arrows.

We’ve kept the actions via the context menu simple and intuitive. In most cases these menus will support all the source control operations you need. However, if you want the sophistication of a rich client, you could use the Pending Changes view.

The Pending Changes view

Like the Control Panel, the Pending Changes view is also integrated into your Explorer. To get to the Pending Changes view, you need to navigate to View > Explorer Bar > Pending Changes on the Explorer menu. If you need finer-grained control on your source control operations, then this view is for you. It lets work directly with change sets and supports a multitude of operations on change sets such as suspend, resume and discard. It supports a richer integration with work items, letting you submit your changes for review, or resolving your work items on delivery of changes.

Quick status

Finally, if you want a quick status of your connections and changes, then left clicking the RTC icon in the task tray will bring up the status view.

Download, try, and give us feedback!

To try the Rational Team Concert Shell, download the Web Installer from the Rational Team Concert 4.0.7 page and choose the Rational Team Concert Shell from the installer’s launchpad.

With the shell integration, we’re hoping to make the life of an RTC user simpler, while retaining a lot of the power of RTC’s source control. If you download and try it out, please share your experiences with us via forums or by filing a bug or enhancement request. As we work our way toward a final release, your feedback will help us prioritize features and improve the user experience.

Sreerupa Sen
Component Lead for the Rational Team Concert client for Microsoft Visual Studio IDE