3. Clients

Perforce provides access to the repository and tracks state on a per-client basis. In Perforce terms, a client is a specification that maps files and directories from the repository to the local machine. Each user can have multiple clients, and each client can access different or overlapping parts of the repository. The client also specifies the root directory of the file tree that it maps, and it specifies the machine that the tree lives on. Thus, working on multiple machines requires that multiple clients be used.

Clients may be accessed via p4 client. Running this command with no arguments will bring up a client template in an editor, allowing you to create a new client for your work. The important fields in this template are explained below:


This is the name of the client spec. It can be anything you want, but it must be unique within the Perforce server. A naming convention that is commonly used is username_machinename, which makes it easy to identify clients when browsing them. A default name will be filled in that is just the machine name.


This can contain a simple text description to help identify the client.


This is the local directory that will serve as the root directory of all the files in the client mapping. This should be a unique location in your filesystem that does not overlap with other files or Perforce clients.


Most of the default options are fine, though it is usually a good idea to make sure that the compress and rmdir options are present and do not have a no prefix on them. Details about each option are in the Perforce docs.


This handles CR-LF conversions and should be left to the default unless you have special needs for it.


This is where the server-to-local file mappings go. The default is

//depot/... //client/...

This will map the entire Perforce repository to the Root directory of your client. DO NOT USE THIS DEFAULT! The FreeBSD repo is huge, and trying to map and sync it all will take an enormous amount of resources. Instead, only map the section of the repo that you intend to work on. For example, there is the smpng project tree at //depot/projects/smpng. A mapping for this might look like:

//depot/projects/smpng/... //client/...

The ... should be taken literally. It is a Perforce idiom for saying this directory and all files and directories below it.

A Perforce view can contain multiple mappings. Say you want to map in both the SMPng tree and the NFS tree. Your View might look like:

//depot/projects/smpng/... //client/smpng/...
	  //depot/projects/nfs/... //client/nfs/...

Remember that the client is the name of the client that was specified in the Client section, but in the View it also resolves to the directory that was specified in the Root section.

Also note that the same file or directory cannot be mapped multiple times in a single view. The following is illegal and will produce undefined results:

//depot/projects/smpng/... //client/smpng-foo/...
	  //depot/projects/smpng/... //client/smpng-bar/...

Views are a tricky part of the learning experience with Perforce, so do not be afraid to ask questions.

Existing clients can be listed via p4 clients. They can be viewed without being modified via p4 client -o clientname.

Whenever you are interacting with files in Perforce, the P4CLIENT environment variable must be set to the name of the client that you are using, like so:

% export P4CLIENT=myclientname

Note that client mappings in the repository are not exclusive; multiple clients can map in the same part of the repository. This allows multiple people to access and modify the same parts of the repository, allowing a team of people to work together on the same code.

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