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Open Source Project 'GForges' Ahead

A new version of GForge, the open source software project development and management tool, was released this week with features developers hope will help it better compete with commercial products.

GForge is a fork of the open source version of the SourceForge.net (SF.net) application that powers the world's largest open source software repository of the same name and which is part of VA Software .

New features in version 4.0 include role-based access controls, which are intended to clean up and simplify project access into roles; a time tracking task manager; "dozens of pretty graphs and charts in hundreds of combinations" to boost reporting features; and support for the code versioning tool Subversion.

Web Services in GForge 4.0 have also made an appearance with the Tracker, Group and User API exposed as a SOAP Web service. The release notes classify the Web Services code as being "raw," which is something that will be improved on.

The original GForge release was forked from the last open source version of SourceForge.net 2.6. The latest enterprise version of SF.net, known as SourceForge Enterprise Edition (SFEE) 4.1 and released in June, is no longer an open source product and is a complete rewrite.

Tim Perdue, GForge Group president and lead maintainer of the GForge project, was one of the original founders of SourceForge. According to Perdue, GForge is applying a lot of pressure to VA Software's SFEE. He doesn't explicitly hope to take market share from SFEE by reminding users that GForge is the "real" basis of SF.net, because he believes the project is getting a lot of traction on its own.

"It's heavily used in government and military by the likes of NASA, the Navy, Army, Air Force, in the electronics industry with Fuji, Sony, and Pioneer, and all over the world, which is pretty exciting," Perdue told internetnews.com.

Perdue has calculated from statistics gathered from publicly known GForges, that there are at least 100,000 registered GForge users out there with prospect of many more unknowns since many organization use the application behind a firewall.

"The trick now is to improve the software, so it's genuinely useful and contributing to software development. The next step is to develop clients that use it, like a full command line interface," Perdue continued. "I still want a 'fat client,' too."

That said, Perdue's plan for GForge is no less ambitious than to make the application even more powerful and feature rich.

"My biggest goal is still to make GForge like a faceless network application, akin to Apache or an LDAP server -- and SOAP starts us down that path," Perdue explained. "There will be a lot of different ways to interact with GForge and the existing HTML/Web interface will become less important over time."

GForge is not the only open source SF.net fork that's out there in production usage. The GNU Project, also has an SF.net fork by the name of Savane (GNA.org), which is now powering the Free Software Foundation's GNU Savannah Free Software repository. Earlier this year, it had been expected that Savannah would be moving to the GForge platform, but the GNU developers ultimately decided against that.

Perdue said he only noticed a couple of weeks ago that they never switched.

"It would have been nice to see another fork shut down."



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