Live Fast, Code Hard, Die Young

I’m happy to announce the first public release of Deployer – a deployment tool that we have been using in house for the past six years (and still continue to use today) to successfully handle updates for several large web sites and applications. It is written in C# using traditional WinForms and .NET 2.0 so it should run on most Windows systems (including Windows XP).

We are releasing this tool for free (and as open source) and hope you will find it useful too. Even though the tool was primarily developed to fit our needs it is pretty flexible and can be used in various situations. For instance, it does not have to be used to deploy a .NET project but can be used on any set of files where you need a little bit of control over what to copy and what not.

Now go ahead and download the tool or check out the source if you are more into that.

First look

So, still curious for more information? Well, let’s take a quick look at the main GUI of the application:

deployer

Deployer is similar to the Windows Explorer and shows the folder structure to the left starting from the root folder of your deployment project. The files in the selected folder are shown in the panel to the right. Files in red have been changed since the last deployment and need to be deployed again. This can be done by selecting them, right clicking and selecting “Add file(s) to queue” and then pushing the Deploy button.

A faster way to deploy files is to simply click the button in the toolbar that states “Queue files modified since last deployment” and then press the “Deploy queue” button next to it. This gives you a pretty quick workflow without having to remember what you have changed. Of course, you need to deploy at least once before you can do this.

Features

So what are the key features of the Deployer then? I would say the flexible deployment rules and the plugin system.

The Deployer determines the deployment method to use based on filters. This means that you can deploy different files using different methods and to different targets using configurable rules. Some files can be sent to one FTP site while others a sent to a completely different server. You can also rename files and folders so that it fits the destination structure.

Out of the box the Deployer has support for deploying files via FTP or to a network file share. However, it is extensible via plugins so you can add your own transfer protocols quite easily if you want. For example, at work we have developed plugins to deploy custom objects via a web service directly into a CMS system.

There is also plugin support for “hooks” which can be used to hook into the deployment procedure to provide special services. We are currently using this to stop and restart a Windows service on a remote server when you need to deploy a new version of it.

Multiple configurations are supported so you can have one for deploying to a test server, one for staging and another for live.

Unfortunately right now some features such as multiple configurations and deployment hooks can not be enabled from the GUI but require some manual tweaking of the project file. Usually this is pretty easy to accomplish since it’s just plain XML and quite easy to understand. Hopefully I’ll be able to implement support for configuring all of this from the GUI in the future.

History

Back in 2004 when I started developing Deployer we needed a tool for uploading files via FTP. Using a traditional FTP client was painful, since you had to go through each folder of a site and pick out the files to upload. We also had to deploy some custom objects to a CMS system by hand which was quite cumbersome… Clearly we needed something better. So, I developed a first version of the tool that used file filters to determine which files to deploy and where to deploy them and the ball started spinning. Soon we needed more features and I continued to work on the code and added things such as comparing database changes, deploying to multiple targets, specifying filter rules in subfolders, having several configurations and so on. This little tool grew into something that we found quite useful at our company. I’m hoping that by releasing it to the community it may help you too.

Download & source

You can download the setup from Github: https://github.com/downloads/pontusm/Deployer/DeployerSetup.exe

If you want to peek at the code and maybe even contribute you can find it here: https://github.com/pontusm/Deployer

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