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The book "Open Source Development with CVS, 3rd Edition" is available under the GNU General Public License and a copy in pdf format is served at Read the first two chapters (~100 pages). At the very least

Sourceforge has an excellent overview of CVS and how it is used for accessing and staging the projects hosted at Sourceforge

Provide yourself with a local CVS client (e.g. on Windows TortoiseCVS is a nice environment to begin with). First get familiar with the tool; read "Basic Usage of !TortoiseCVS" in the !TortoiseCVS User's Guide.

The default installation of the CVS client is pre-configured to enable anonymous read-only pserver-based access, this allows me to retieve files from Sourceforge's CVS servers. Each project on Sourceforge is served in its own independent CVS repository, each project repository is isolated from all other project repositories.

Using !TortoiseCVS on Windows to obtain a module from the CVS server

  1. Create a new folder as your working area and either right-click or go to the file menu to select "CVS > Checkout !TortoiseCVS"
  2. !TortoiseCVS includes a command to check itself out from the repository on Sourceforge. Select this for an example of checking-out the files for a project. You should see a checkout log screen like the following:
      In C:\cvs\sourceforge: c:\Program Files\TortoiseCVS\cvs.exe -q -z3 checkout -P TortoiseCVS
      cvs checkout: Empty password used - try 'cvs login' with a real password
      U TortoiseCVS/Readme.Overview.txt
      U TortoiseCVS/admin/casestudy-questions.txt
      U TortoiseCVS/admin/publicity.txt
      U TortoiseCVS/admin/sitemap.png
      U TortoiseCVS/wxw/lib/vc7/wxmsw25d_core.pdb
      Success, CVS operation completed
  3. Successfully completing the step above demonstrates that !TortoiseCVS is working and you can access repositories from Sourceforge. The next stage is to checkout another project you want to use. In your working area, either right-click or go to the file menu to select "CVS Checkout..."
  4. Enter the details below in the "Checkout Module" window, module tab (this example brings down the source for CMFBibliographyAT project from the Plone Collective on Sourceforge). Information on the CVS commands for anonymous checkout from the collective project repository are provided on the project's Sourceforge pages
    • CVSROOT: (get this right and the rest populates automatically)
    • Protocol: 'Password server (:pserver:) (populates automatically)
    • Server: (populates automatically)
    • Repository folder: /cvsroot/collective (populates automatically)
    • User Name: anonymous (populates automatically)
    • Module: CMFBibliographyAT you need to enter this, or type . to checkout everything
  5. The following is the equivalent from the command line (all on one line):
      C:\cvs\sourceforge>cvs -z3 co CMFBibliographyAT
  6. B. From the "Checkout Module" window you can select the revision tab to specify the HEAD, a special branch, tag or time/date stamp version of the source from the repository.