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OpenCDSS / Version Control

This documentation discusses version control protocols for OpenCDSS software projects.


Version control is essential to any software project. Most professionals that work with electronic content implement version control in some form, such as naming documents with the date and saving backups of files. No modern software project should be implemented without version control.

CDSS software products have historically used various approaches to implement version control. For example, TSTool used Subversion for version control for many years and was converted to use Git/GitHub in recent years, and use of Git/GitHub was refined in the OpenCDSS project.

In contrast, StateMod development used dated folders for each copy/version of the software and code had to be loaded into Git/GitHub as part of the OpenCDSS project.

A major task within OpenCDSS has been to migrate CDSS software to the Git version control system, with cloud hosting on GitHub. The open source Git system is a widely-used version control system, especially for open source projects. The organization of files within each repository must be consistent with the development tools used for the software. General conventions are also used, such as implementing files to explain repository contents.

OpenCDSS GitHub Account

The OpenCDSS GitHub account has been created to house public OpenCDSS Git repositories. The OpenCDSS account currently only houses public repositories. Private repositories may exist in other GitHub accounts such as those of contractors and are typically transferred to OpenCDSS account when a project is complete.

Git Training

Significant resources are available on the internet for Git training. However, based on experience, Git training materials specific to OpenCDSS were needed in order to provide context for the skills of water resources professionals who are new to version control tools and Git. The following Git training documentation applies across OpenCDSS software and will be enhanced over time as experienced is gained from OpenCDSS software teams. Git is an acquired skill and requires ongoing use and continued learning based on first-hand experience, in particular to deal with branching and merging with teams.

Git Workflow

OpenCDSS is using a feature branching model Git workflow for software projects. In this simple approach, the master branch in each repository is the most up to date. Bug fixes and new features are worked on in a feature branch, where the name of the branch should be something like 1-bug-topic, where the number agrees with the issue number entered in the GitHub repository issues page.

The new feature or bug fix should be tested by the developer, after which it can be merged with the master branch. External inputs such as code submission through issues or GitHub pull requests should be evaluated, integrated, and tested before committing to the master branch. Ongoing development can be indicated by using dev at the end of the software version.

Periodically, the master branch is used to create a software release, at which time a Git tag is created. Rather than maintain multiple parallel branches of major versions, bug fixes are typically made to the master branch and the code is moved forward.

A challenge for OpenCDSS is to integrate traditional software project "to do" lists with repository issues list and overall workflow. Implementation of the OpenCDSS Workflow is intended to address this challenge.

Git Repository Naming Conventions

Git repositories that are included in OpenCDSS generally follow a naming convention that is intended to minimize confusion within and external to OpenCDSS. For example, repositories for StateMod are named:


The follow guidelines should be considered when naming repositories:

  • Repositories associated with a product should have the same start to the names to clearly indicate a related group of repositories.
  • The first part of the repository name is cdss to indicate that the application is part of CDSS.
  • The second part of the repository name indicates the main product type:
    • app - application
    • lib - library, can be followed by a modifier, such as lib-dmi-hydrobase for HydroBase Data Management Interface (DMI) library
    • util - one or more general utilities
  • A product name follows, such as statemod for the StateMod modeling software.
  • If necessary, a language or other modifier follows, such as fortran for StateMod:
    • helps to quickly identify the main development environment, skill set that is needed, and programming language
    • in some cases, facilitates different languages to be implemented for the same product, such as different language to access HydroBase web services (java, js, python, etc.)
  • Additional modifiers can be added to the main product, such as doc-dev for developer documentation, doc-user for user documentation, and test for automated tests.

Multiple repositories are typically used for a product, for several reasons:

  1. Repositories can become unwieldy if they are too large, especially if a large number of contributors require someone to merge content for many content types.
  2. It is convenient to require that contributors to a component repository only need to be skilled at the tools needed for that repository. For example, if a contributor only contributes to StateMod documentation, they don't need to concern themselves with understanding the software code development environment. This is particularly relevant for large, complicated development environments.
  3. Using different repositories allows permissions to be controlled at a more granular level. For example, a contributor with write access to documentation and test repositories may not have write access to the code repository.

GitHub Projects

GitHub projects can be created at the account level (OpenCDSS) or repository level, and provide a way to manage project work items. OpenCDSS is experimenting with GitHub projects as a way to allow OpenCDSS management who are not software developers to engage in higher-level project management, such as prioritizing funded work, while allowing software developers to work at a more granular level via GitHub issues (see next section). GitHub projects allow tracking issues in a "to do", "in progress", and "done" dashboard, integrate with GitHub repository issues, and also allow additional "cards" to be added to track project backlog.

A project can be defined for each product, either as a project outside any repository, or a project associated with the main code repository. The most appropriate approach for OpenCDSS projects will be evaluated over time given experience working with projects and repositories. Currently, the only project that is defined is for StateMod. Refer to each product's information to learn whether a GitHub project is defined.

GitHub Repository Issues

GitHub provides an Issues tracker at the repository level, and this is one of the primary ways that contributors to the repository manage the work related to the repository. Note that issues are not stored with the repository - they are a feature provided by the GitHub website in addition to the standard Git repository.

GitHub provides default issue "labels" that can be associated with an issue, such as bug, enhancement, duplicate, etc. Although the default issues are useful, they do not provide enough information to allow a developer, development team, or product manager to understand priority and estimated level of effort to address an issue. GitHub projects provide features to indicate priority in that high priority issues may be added to the current project dashboard. However, it is useful to understand priority and size at the issue level in cases where a GitHub project is not used and because GitHub projects don't indicate size. Therefore, for OpenCDSS, the custom labels shown in the following table are typically added to the default labels for each repository. The colors generally follow the pattern of hot colors for "more important" or "big" issues, and cool colors for "less important" and "small" issues. The description for the label, which is shown in the issue editor, helps understand the context of the label by usingPriority or Size. GitHub users that are able to edit issue details should select a label from each of the three groups in order to indicate issue type, priority, and size:

Issue Group Issue Label                  Description Color Color RGB
Type bug GitHub default for bug
Type enhancement GitHub default for enhancement
Type task Something that needs to get done. black #000000
Priority low Priority: planned for future green #00ff00
Priority medium Priority: normal maintenance and enhancements yellow #ffff00
Priority high Priority: next release if possible orange #ffa500
Priority critical Priority: highest priority red #ff0000
Size XS Size: 2 hours or less green #00ff00
Size S Size: day or less cyan #00ffff
Size M Size: 2-3 days blue #0000ff
Size L Size: more than 3 days yellow #ffff00
Size XL Size: needs to be split red #ff0000
Size XXL May use this in the future to allow XL to be something like 4-14 days. If XXL is used the XL color can be orange and XXL can be red, or use pink or another color for XXL.