Mercurial 101 as an Umbraco developer

Saturday, Dec 11, 2010 3 minute read Tags: umbraco mercurial
Hey, thanks for the interest in this post, but just letting you know that it is over 3 years old, so the content in here may not be accurate.

Mercurial 101 as an Umbraco developer

You may have read the post that the Umbraco codebase is being moved from a CodePlex TFS server to CodePlex Mercurial (link) but what does that mean as an Umbraco community member?

First up, a Mercurial primer

While there are fancy GUI tools for working with Mercurial (such as TortoiseHg) I’m going to do a quick run down on what you need to be able to use from the command line to work with Mercurial. Personally I find it easier (and quicker) to work on the command line, but if you’d prefer to learn about TortoiseHg jump over to their doco, or read Shannon’s guide to using TortoiseHg :).

Commands you need

There are three things you need to be able to do if you’re grabbing the code from Mercurial, clone, update and view history: (Note: This is not covering doing changes, just how to get the code and navigate around it)

  • hg clone
  • This how you get a copy of the codeplex repository onto your machine. This may take a little while, we’ve got a lot of history (sic) in there that you’ll be getting
  • hg update
  • This is how you’ll get to the release that you want to view the code for. Say you want to work with v4.5.2 then you want to do hg update Release-4.5.2
  • hg serve
  • This is an interesting command as it’ll spin up a webserver (http://localhost:8000 by default) which allows you to view the repository history. You can hit the url in your browser and browse change sets, commits, etc. This is a handy way to find out what you want to update to without having to go to CodePlex

A command line tip

One of the really nice things about the Mercurial command line tools is that you can use shorthand to execute a command. Basically when you type a command in shorthand Mercurial will try and find the command that matches it, so for example if I was to type hg up Release-4.5.2 Mercurial will see that I’ve typed up and that up only matches the update command.

If you don’t supply enough characters, ie: hg c then Mercurial will tell you that it doesn’t know what you were trying to execute.

Named branches as awesome

Anyone who’s tried to bugfix Umbraco or wanted to compile a version themselves will appreciate the pain which the TFS structure was causing (this isn’t a bash at TFS, it wasn’t entirely TFSs fault that it was hard, it was a combination of different factors, so don’t take this as a diss at TFS). Now with the migration it should be a whole lot easier.

Say you find a bug in your 4.5.2 install and you want to try and debug it yourself. Here’s how you’d go about it:

  1. Open up your favorite console (cmd.exe, powershell, etc) and navigate to a folder you want to put the Umbraco source
  2. Execute: hg cl; hg up Release-4.5.2;
  3. Open the .sln file in Visual Studio

Yes, it’s just that easy! Now you can debug the code to your hearts content.


This was just a quick walkt through of how the move to Mercurial with Umbraco is going to make it simpler for developers to interact with the Umbraco source code.

Happy Hacking :)