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HP-UX 11i Version 3: February 2007

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rcs — change RCS file attributes


rcs [options] file...


rcs creates new RCS files or changes attributes of existing ones. An RCS file contains multiple revisions of text, an access list, a change log, descriptive text, and some control attributes. For rcs to work, the user's login name must be on the access list, except if the access list is empty, if the user is the owner of the file or the superuser, or if the -i option is present.

The user of the command must have read/write permission for the directory containing the RCS file and read permission for the RCS file itself. rcs creates a semaphore file in the same directory as the RCS file to prevent simultaneous update. For changes, rcs always creates a new file. On successful completion, rcs deletes the old one and renames the new one. This strategy makes links to RCS files useless.

Files ending in ,v are RCS files; all others are working files. If a working file is given, rcs tries to find the corresponding RCS file first in directory ./RCS, then in the current directory, as explained in rcsintro(5).


rcs recognizes the following options:


Appends the login names appearing in the comma-separated list logins to the access list of the RCS file.


Appends the access list of oldfile to the access list of the RCS file.

-c "string"

Sets the comment leader to string. The comment leader is printed before every log message line generated by the keyword $Log$ during check out (see co(1)). This is useful for programming languages without multi-line comments. During rcs -i or initial ci, the comment leader is guessed from the suffix of the working file. Note, a comment leader is inserted at the beginning of each line of log information. The comment leader is determined by the suffix used with the file name, as in foo.c, or foo.sh, or foo.p. Note you can specify a different comment leader through the "rcs" command. The following table shows the comment leader associated with each file name suffix:

SUFFIXFILESComment Character
CC Header'*'
""empty suffix'#'
nilunknown suffix'""'


Erases the login names appearing in the comma-separated list logins from the access list of the RCS file. If logins is omitted, the entire access list is erased.


Creates and initializes a new RCS file, but does not deposit any revision. If the RCS file has no path prefix, rcs tries to place it first into the subdirectory ./RCS, then into the current directory. If the RCS file already exists, an error message is printed.


Locks the revision with number rev. If a branch is given, the latest revision on that branch is locked. If rev is omitted, the latest revision on the trunk is locked. Locking prevents overlapping changes. A lock is removed with ci or rcs -u (see below).


Sets locking to strict. Strict locking means that the owner of an RCS file is not exempt from locking for check in. This option should be used for files that are shared.


Associates the symbolic name name with the branch or revision rev. rcs prints an error message if name is already associated with another number. If rev is omitted, the symbolic name is associated with the latest revision on the trunk. If :rev is omitted, the symbolic name is deleted.


Same as -n, except that it overrides a previous assignment of name.


Deletes ("obsoletes") the revisions given by range. A range consisting of a single revision number means that revision. A range consisting of a branch number means the latest revision on that branch. A range of the form rev1-rev2 means revisions rev1 to rev2 on the same branch, -rev means from the beginning of the branch containing rev up to and including rev, and rev- means from revision rev to the head of the branch containing rev. None of the outdated revisions can have branches or locks.


Quiet mode; diagnostics are not printed.


Sets the state attribute of the revision rev to state. If rev is omitted, the latest revision on the trunk is assumed. If rev is a branch number, the latest revision on that branch is assumed. Any identifier is acceptable for state. A useful set of states is Exp (for experimental), Stab (for stable), and Rel (for released). By default, ci sets the state of a revision to Exp.


Writes descriptive text into the RCS file (deletes the existing text). If txtfile is omitted, rcs prompts the user for text supplied from the standard input, terminated with a line containing a single . or Ctrl-D. Otherwise, the descriptive text is copied from the file txtfile. If the -i option is present, descriptive text is requested even if -t is not given. The prompt is suppressed if the standard input is not a terminal.


Unlocks the revision with number rev. If a branch is given, the latest revision on that branch is unlocked. If rev is omitted, the latest lock held by the user is removed. Normally, only the locker of a revision may unlock it. Somebody else unlocking a revision breaks the lock. This causes a mail message to be sent to the original locker. The message contains a commentary solicited from the breaker. The commentary is terminated with a line containing a single . or Control-D.


Sets locking to non-strict. Non-strict locking means that the owner of a file need not lock a revision for check in. This option should not be used for files that are shared. The default (-L or -U) is determined by the system administrator.

Access Control Lists (ACLs)

Do not add optional ACL entries to an RCS file, because they are deleted when the file is updated. The resulting access modes for the new file might not be as desired.


The RCS filename and the revisions outdated are written to the diagnostic output. The exit status always refers to the last RCS file operated upon, and is 0 if the operation was successful; 1 if unsuccessful.


Add the names jane, mary, dave, and jeff to the access list of RCS file vision,v:

rcs -ajane,mary,dave,jeff vision

Set the comment leader to tab* for file vision:

rcs -c'tab*' vision

Associate the symbolic name sso/6_0 with revision 38.1 of file vision:

rcs -Nsso/6_0:38.1 vision

Lock revision 38.1 of file vision,v so that only the locker is permitted to check in (see ci(1)) the next revision of the file. This command prevents two or more people from simultaneously revising the same file and inadvertently overwriting each other's work.

rcs -l38.1 vision,v


All rcs command options are available to anyone whose name appears in the file access list, including those to add and delete names in the access list, change strict locking, etc. If these options must be restricted, other security methods should be employed. Also see previous note regarding Access Control Lists.


rcs was developed by Walter F. Tichy.

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