Chapter 2. Using the ClearCase
Command Line Interface

This chapter presents an overview of the principal programs in ClearCase's command-line interface: cleartool and clearmake.

Using cleartool

Note: Much of the information in this section is available on-line, in the cleartool manual page.

cleartool is the main CLI tool for interacting with your organization's data repository. cleartool has a rich set of subcommands, which create, modify, and manage the information in VOBs and views.

cleartool Subcommands

Table 2-1 lists all the cleartool subcommands, organized by function. The complete list can be quite daunting, because much of ClearCase's extensive feature set has been incorporated into this single tool. On a day-to-day basis, however, you'll probably use fewer than a dozen commands.

Table 2-1. cleartool Subcommands

cleartool Subcommands


Working with Views



display configuration specification


edit configuration specification


list VOB objects and view-private objects in a directory


list view-private objects


list view registry entries


create view-tag or VOB-tag


create and register a view


print working view


recover a view database


update the format of a view database


remove a view-tag and unregister a view on the local host


remove a view storage area or remove view-related records from a VOB


set the configuration specification


create a process that is set to a view


start or connect to a view_server process



Working with Version Tree Structures



create permanent new version of an element


create view-private, modifiable copy of a version


change the type of an element / rename a branch


describe VOB object


select objects from a directory hierarchy


create VOB hard link or VOB symbolic link


list version tree of an element


create a new branch in the version tree of an element


create a branch type object


create a directory element


create an element


create an element type object


move or rename an element or VOB link


convert a checkout to reserved status


remove a branch from the version tree of an element


remove an element from a VOB


remove the name of an element or VOB symbolic link from a directory


remove a version from the version tree of an element


cancel a checkout of an element


change a checkout to unreserved status


list version tree of an element graphically



Working with Derived Objects and Configuration Records



display configuration record


compare configuration records


list derived objects


remove a derived object from a VOB


wink-in a derived object

Working with Meta-Data and Annotations and Type Objects



list type objects


attach attributes to VOB objects


create an attribute type object


attach a hyperlink to a VOB object


create a hyperlink type object


attach version labels to versions


create a version label type object


remove an attribute from a VOB object


remove a hyperlink from a VOB object


remove a version label from a version


remove a merge arrow from versions


remove a type object from a VOB


rename a type object



Working with Event Records



modify comment string in existing event record(s)


list checkouts of an element


list history



Working with the Contents of Versions



annotate lines of text file with timestamps


compare files or versions of an element


determine what files require a merge


merge files or versions of an element


compare files or versions of an element graphically


merge files or versions of an element graphically



Administrative Commands



change the storage pool to which an element is assigned


lock a VOB object


list locks


list storage pools


list view registry entries


list VOB registry entries


create a VOB storage pool or modify its scrubbing parameters


attach a trigger to an element


create a trigger type object


create and register a versioned object base


activate a VOB


change permissions or ownership of a VOB object


change owner or groups of a VOB


update the format of a VOB database


create an entry in the VOB storage registry or view storage registry


remove a storage pool from a VOB


remove trigger from an element


remove a VOB storage directory


rename a VOB storage pool


report on VOB disk space usage


deactivate a VOB


unlock a VOB object


remove a VOB or view from the storage registry



Miscellaneous Commands



change current working directory


print working directory


help on cleartool command usage


display a ClearCase manual page


summary information on cleartool subcommands


quit interactive cleartool session


create a subprocess to run a shell or other specified program

For example, the following set of cleartool subcommands fulfills a typical developer's day-to-day needs:

mkview, edcs 

to create a new view, and then adjust its configuration


to start working in a view

checkout, checkin, uncheckout 

to create new versions of source files (or change your mind)


to create new version-controlled elements

lscheckout, lshistory, lsvtree 

to determine what other work is currently taking place, and to determine what work has taken place in the past

diff, merge, findmerge 

to work efficiently in a parallel development environment

Getting Help

When you do need to use a cleartool subcommand with which you're not familiar, you can take advantage of several on-line help facilities:

  • Syntax summary — To display a syntax summary for an individual subcommand, use the help subcommand or the -help option:

    % cleartool help               (syntax of all subcommands)
    % cleartool help mklabel        (syntax of one subcommand)
    % cleartool mklabel -help       (syntax of one subcommand)

  • Manual pagescleartool has its own interface to the UNIX man(1) command. Enter cleartool man command_name to display the manual page for a subcommand.

  • Permuted index — The file /usr/atria/doc/man/permuted_index contains the same information as the permuted index printed in the CASEVision™/ClearCase Reference Pages.

  • Whatis' file — File /usr/atria/doc/man/whatis contains summary information from the manual pages. Use the apropos subcommand to extract information from this file.

cleartool Usage Overview

You can use cleartool in either single-command mode or interactive mode. To invoke a single cleartool subcommand from the shell, use this syntax:

% cleartool subcommand [ options-and-args ]

When entering a series of subcommands, you may find it more convenient to type “cleartool” without any arguments. This places you at the interactive-mode prompt:


You can then issue any number of subcommands (simply called “commands” from now on), ending with quit to return to the shell. cleartool commands can be continued onto additional lines with the backslash (\) character, as with UNIX shells.

Command options may appear in any order, but all options must precede any non-option arguments (typically, names of files, versions, branches, and so on). If an option is followed by an additional argument, such as -branch /main/bugfix, there must be white space between the option string and the argument. If the argument itself includes space characters, it must be quoted.

Command Abbreviations and Aliases

Many subcommand names and option words can be abbreviated. A command's syntax summary indicates all valid abbreviations. For example:

lsc·heckout (in printed manual pages)
lsc/heckout (in on-line manual pages)

This means that you can abbreviate the subcommand name to the minimal “lsc”, or to any intermediate spelling: “lsch”, “lsche”, and so on.

A few cleartool commands have a built-in command alias. For example, checkin's alias is ci; similarly, checkout's alias is co. These commands are equivalent:

% cleartool checkin test.c
% cleartool ci test.c

Command Options

cleartool commands use multiple-character options, such as - all, - default, and - comment. Long options can always be abbreviated; as with commands, the minimal abbreviation is always three characters or fewer, and any intermediate spelling is valid: you can abbreviate - delete to -del, -dele, or - delet.

Options that are commonly used in standard UNIX commands have single-letter abbreviations. For example, you can abbreviate -directory to -d. The others options in this category include -all, -recurse, -long, and -short.

Options rigorously distinguish between type objects and instances of those types. For example:

-brtype ... 

Specifies a particular branch type object.

-branch ... 

Specifies a particular branch — that is, a particular instance of a branch type object, within the version tree of some element.

Pathnames in cleartool Commands

Many cleartool commands take one or more pathnames as arguments — typically, the name of a file or directory element, or a view-private file, or a derived object that you've built with clearmake. You can use either kind of standard UNIX pathname: full or relative. In many cases, you can also use a ClearCase extended pathname:

/vobs/proj/test.c                    (standard full pathname)
/view/akp/vobs/proj/test.c      (view-extended full pathname)
                             (version-extended full pathname)
test.c                           (standard relative pathname)
test.c@@/RLS2.0          (version-extended relative pathname)
test.c@@/main/LATEST     (version-extended relative pathname)
../lib/libsort.a                 (standard relative pathname)
                         (version-extended relative pathname)
hello.o                 (standard pathname to derived object)
                        (extended pathname to derived object)

For both full or relative pathnames:

  • Your current view automatically resolves a standard pathname to a particular ClearCase object (this is called transparency):

    • The standard operating system pathname of an element implicitly references the version selected by your view.

    • The standard pathname of a derived object references the one built in your view. (Users in different views can build makefile targets independently; different derived objects produced by such builds appear at the same pathname in the respective views.)

  • A view-extended pathname references the object that another view sees at a standard pathname.

  • A VOB-extended pathname references an object using VOB database identifier. The most commonly-used is a version-extended pathname, which references a particular version of an element using its unique version-ID (for example, test.c@@/main/bugfix/4) or using a version label (for example, test.c@@RLS2.0). Other kinds of VOB-extended pathnames include:

    hello.c@@               (extended pathname to element object)
    hello.c@@/main/bugfix    (extended pathname to branch object)
                           (extended pathname to derived object,)
                                   (incorporating a unique DO-ID)
    DesignFor@566         (extended pathname to hyperlink object)
    Merge@268               (incorporating a unique hyperlink-ID)

(Strictly speaking, the extended names for hyperlinks are not “pathnames”, since hyperlinks do not appear at all in the operating system's file namespace. Syntactically, however, cleartool treats hyperlink names like other pathnames.)

For more information on ClearCase pathnames, see the version_selector and pathnames_ccase manual pages.

Command-Line Processing

In single-command mode, the cleartool command you enter is first processed by the UNIX shell. The shell expands file name patterns and environment variables, and it interprets quotes and other special characters. cleartool processes the resulting argument list directly, without any further interpretation.

In interactive mode, cleartool itself interprets the command line similarly, but not identically, to the UNIX shells. In particular, it does not expand environment variables and does not perform command substitution ( `...`). For details, see the cleartool manual page.

Event Records and Comments

Each change to a VOB (checkin of a new version, attaching of a version label, and so on) is accompanied by the creation of an event record in the VOB database. Many cleartool commands allow you to annotate the event record(s) they create with a comment string. In some cases, your comment is appended to a ClearCase-generated comment. All commands that accept comment strings recognize the same options:

-c comment-string 

Specifies a comment for all the event records created by the command.


The command prompts for a comment, which will be placed in the event records for all objects processed by this command.


For each object it processes, this command prompts for a comment to be placed in the corresponding event record.


(“no additional comment”) For each object it processes, the command creates an event record with no user-supplied comment string.

Examining Event Records

cleartool includes several commands that display event records, optionally including the comment strings: lshistory, lscheckout, lstype, lslock, and lspool. See the fmt_ccase manual page for a description of the simple report-writing facility built into these commands.

The chevent command revises the comment string in an existing event record. See the events_ccase manual page for a detailed discussion of event records.

Customizing Comment Handling

Each command that accepts a comment string has comment default, which takes effect if you enter the command without any comment option. For example, the checkin command's comment default is -cqe, causing cleartool to prompt you to enter a comment for each element being checked in. The ln command's comment default is -nc: create the event record without a user-supplied comment.

You can customize cleartool's comment-handling with a user profile file, .clearcase_profile, in your home directory. For example, you might establish -cqe as the comment default for the ln command. See the user_profile manual page for details.

Permissions Checking and Locks

All cleartool commands that modify (“write”) a VOB are subjected to permissions checking. The following hierarchy is used, in a command-specific manner, to determine whether a command should proceed or be cancelled:

  • the root user (superuser)

  • the VOB owner (typically, the user who created the VOB storage area)

  • the owner of the element involved in the command

  • the creator of the type object (for modifications to objects of that type)

  • the creator of a particular version or derived object

  • members of an element's group or derived object's group (same UNIX group ID)

For example, the root user always has permission to use commands that modify a VOB. However, if you try to modify an element that you do not own, and are neither the VOB owner nor the root user, cleartool will not allow the operation to proceed.

ClearCase also provides for temporary access control through explicit locking of individual objects, with the lock command. When an object is locked, it cannot be modified by anyone (except, perhaps, for a list of explicitly-exempted users).

For details on permissions-checking and locks, see the ct_permissions manual page.

Exit Status

If you exit cleartool by entering a quit command in interactive mode, the exit status is 0. The exit status from single-command mode depends on whether the command succeeded (zero exit status) or generated an error message (nonzero exit status).

Error Logs

Some of the warning and error messages displayed by cleartool commands are also written to log files located in directory /usr/adm/atria/log. You may sometimes find that a message has been written to a log on another host; this is a artifact of ClearCase's client-server architecture.

Using clearmake

clearmake is the ClearCase build utility, designed to be compatible with many different make variants. We recommend that, you read Chapter 5, Building Software with ClearCase in the CASEVision™/ClearCase Concepts Guide, before reading this section.

Invoking clearmake

You can invoke clearmake using the ClearCase CLI or GUI. The command-line interface is designed to be as similar as possible to other make variants. Single-letter command options have their familiar meanings. For example:


no-execute mode


specify name of makefile


unconditional rebuild

clearmake recognizes additional options (also single-letter) that control its enhanced functionality: configuration lookup, creation of configuration records and derived objects, parallel and distributed building, and so on. For a complete description, see the clearmake manual page.

You can run clearmake as a background process or invoke it from a shell script, just like any other program. (In clearmake output, some names are emboldened, for clarity. On some architectures, running clearmake in the background suppresses this emboldening, but no characters are lost.)

A Simple clearmake Build Scenario

clearmake was designed to let developers in makefile-based build environments continue working in their accustomed manner. The following simple build scenario demonstrates how little adjustment is required to begin building with clearmake.

  1. Set a view — Since working with ClearCase data requires a view context, it makes sense to set a view before starting a build.

    (Strictly speaking, this is not required: if your process has a working directory view context, but not a set view context, clearmake automatically sets the view by executing a cleartool setview -exec clearmake command. See “Setting a View”.)

  2. Go to a development directory — Change to a directory within any VOB.

  3. Edit some source files — Typically, you need to edit some sources before performing a build; accordingly, you checkout some file elements and revise the checked-out versions.

  4. Start a build — You can use your existing makefile(s) to perform a ClearCase build. Just invoke clearmake instead of your standard make program. For example:

    % clearmake                     (build the default target)
    % clearmake cwd.o libproj.a
                        (build one or more particular targets)
    % clearmake -k monet CFLAGS=-g
               (use standard options and make-macro overrides)

    Note: We recommend that you avoid specifying make-macro overrides on the command line. See “Using a Build Options Specification (BOS) File”.

clearmake builds targets (or avoids building them) in a manner similar to, but more sophisticated than, other make variants. Figure 2-1 illustrates the results of a typical build:

Figure 2-1. `clearmake' Build Scenario

clearmake builds a new derived object for each newly-checked-out source file, because no other build could possibly have used your checked-out version.

Note: clearmake does not attempt to verify that you have actually edited the file; the checkout itself triggers the rebuild. As you work, each text-editor “save file” followed by an invocation of clearmake will cause a rebuild of the updated file's dependents, in the standard make manner.

For source files that you have not checked out, clearmake may or may not actually build a new derived object:

  • Sometimes, it reuses a derived object that already appears in your view, produced by a previous build.

  • Sometimes, clearmake winks-in an existing derived object originally built in another view. (It's even possible that a winked-in DO was originally created in your view, but then deleted — for example, by a “make clean”.)

  • Sometimes, changes to other aspects of your build environment trigger a clearmake rebuild: revision to a header file; change to the build script, use of a make-macro override; change to an environment variable used in the build script.

More on Building with clearmake

This manual contains a great deal more information on using clearmake and related software build mechanisms starting with Chapter 10, “Building with clearmake; Some Basic Pointers”.