Using command-line Subversion to access project source files

Getting started with command-line Subversion

If you are participating in a development project that is using Subversion for version control, you will need to use Subversion to access and change project source files. You can browse the source code online to view a project's directory structure and files by clicking on the Subversion link in the left navigation pane for the project.

The Subversion page displays with three subdirectories: branches/, tags/, trunk/ and one README file. The README file gives a top level view of the Subversion repository. You can click Access options to view the Subversion client setup instructions. You must have a Subversion client installed on your local machine.

Getting a local working copy for your project: svn checkout

To get a "working copy" of the latest source files, you must check out the source files, a process which copies the files onto your system from the repository. In your shell or terminal client, type:

svn checkout https://(projectname).(domain)/svn/(projectname)/(DIR) (projectname) --username [type-user-name-here]

Enter your user password when prompted. This should be the same password associated with your user account on this site. Not specifying the directory will checkout the entire project source code. You may want to checkout the 'trunk/' directory as it has the working 'www/' folder.

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --quiet (-q), --non-recursive (-N), --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

See Basic Work Cycle, Initial Checkout, Working Copies

Note: If your site is not SSL (Secured Socket Layer) enabled, use http instead of https to perform a Subversion operation. For example, to checkout the latest source code from a project's repository, use this command:

svn checkout https://(projectname).(domain)/svn/(projectname)/(DIR) (projectname) --username [type-user-name-here]

Working with files in the Subversion repository

Once you have checked out a local copy of the project repository, you can edit the existing files, create new files and directories, and delete files locally. Any changes you make affect only your local copies of the project files until you commit your changes back to the Subversion repository.

Adding files/directories from your working copy to the repository: svn add

You can add a new file to the repository after you have first created and edited it in your working directory or add a directory with or without it's contents using


This will add files/directories to your working copy and schedule them for addition to the repository. They will be uploaded and added to the repository on your next commit. If you add something and change your mind before committing, you can unschedule the addition using svn revert.

Switches: --targets FILENAME, --non-recursive (-N), --quiet (-q), --config-dir arg, --auto-props, --no-auto-props

See Examples on adding files/directories

Viewing the content of specific files with revision and author information: svn blame

You can view the author and revision information in-line for the specified files by typing:

svn blame FILENAME

Each line of text is annotated at the beginning with the author (username) and the revision number for the last change to that line.

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

Viewing the content of specific files: svn cat

At times, your working copy may be obsolete as compared to the repository or you may have modified your local working copy. In such cases, you will want to see the differences in the content of a specific file before you commit your changes or decide edit your working copy. Running svn cat FILENAME will automatically fetch the HEAD revision from the repository. This subcommand is mainly used to retrieve a file as it existed in an older revision number and display it on your screen. Alternatively, you can browse the source code of your project on this site to do the same.

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

Cleaning up the working copy: svn cleanup

Sometimes, you may get a "working copy locked" error. To remove the locks and recursively clean up the working copy, use svn update.

Switches: --diff3-cmd CMD, --config-dir DIR

See svn cleanup

Copying file or directory in a working copy or in the repository: svn copy

Your project may require you to make use of legacy documents. For example, you may want to use an already existing HTML file and use its code as reference to maintain the look and feel of the product while creating fresh content. Instead of creating a file from scratch, you can simply copy this file using svn copy, save it under a different name and change the content. You can copy a file from the repository to your local working copy or vice versa. You can also copy files from within your local working copy. Subversion does not support cross repository copying. Use svn copy SRC DST to achieve this.

Switches: --message (-m) TEXT, --file (-F) FILE, --revision (-r) REV, --quiet (-q), --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --force-log, --editor-cmd EDITOR, --encoding ENC, --config-dir DIR

See svn copy

Deleting a file or a directory from your local working copy: svn delete

You may want to delete unwanted files from your local working copy. Using svn delete FILENAME schedules it to be deleted. The actual deletion of the file in the repository takes place only when you commit.

Switches: --force, --force-log, --message (-m) TEXT, --file (-F) FILE, --quiet (-q), --targets FILENAME, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --editor-cmd EDITOR, --encoding ENC, --config-dir DIR

Viewing the differences between files: svn diff

You can use svn diff to display local modifications in a specified file in your working copy against the one in the repository. In the command prompt, type:

svn diff (PATH of the file) (URL of the project's repository)

For example, to compare a locally modified file "index.html" against the one in the project's repository, type:

svn diff $SRC/...../index.html https://(projectname).(domain)/svn/(projectname)/trunk (projectname) --username [type-user-name-here]

Alternatively, you can go to the directory where the file belongs and type:

svn diff (FILENAME)

This will display the difference with the revision number.

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --old OLD-TARGET, --new NEW-TARGET, --extensions (-x) "ARGS", --non-recursive (-N), --diff-cmd CMD, --notice-ancestry, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --no-diff-deleted, --config-dir DIR

See Examining History, svn diff

Exporting a clean directory tree on your local machine: svn export

You can extract an unversioned copy, that is, a clean directory of a tree, on your local machine from the project repository or from within your local working copy. To get a clean directory of an older revision from the repository, type:

svn export [-r REV] [PATH]

This will export a clean directory tree from the repository specified by URL, at a revision REV (if specified), otherwise at HEAD, into PATH. If PATH is omitted, the last component of the URL is used for the local directory name. Alternatively, you can also export a clean directory tree from the working copy specified by PATH1 into PATH2 within your local machine. This will preserve all local changes, but will not copy files under version control. To achieve this, type:

svn export PATH1 PATH2

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --quiet (-q), --force, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

Getting help on subversion: svn help

Subversion offers you help within the command-line interface. To get help on a specific subcommand, type:

svn help [SUBCOMMAND...]

Switches: --version, --quiet (-q)

Contributing your changes to the SVN repository

After making changes to files and/or directories locally, you must commit those changes to the SVN repository.

Committing your changes: svn commit

To commit your changes into the shared repository, type:

svn commit -m "Type your justification here"

If you do not include a description of your change to the file, you will be prompted to add it by invoking your file editor before svn can complete the commit action or you will get a "Commit failed" error. All commits are logged automatically and posted to the project's commits discussion.

Switches: --message (-m) TEXT, --file (-F) FILE, --quiet (-q), --non-recursive (-N), --targets FILENAME, --force-log, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --encoding ENC, --config-dir DIR

See Commit Your Changes, editor-cmd

Importing an unversioned file or tree in the project repository: svn import

You can recursively commit an unversioned file or tree into the project repository using svn import. Parent directories are created in the repository as required. The following command will recursively commit a copy from the PATH to the URL. If PATH is omitted "." is assumed.

svn import [PATH] URL

Example: To create an unversioned directory (D) with a file on your local machine. Navigate to your Subversion page by clicking the Subversion link in the left navigation pane for your project. Note that NEWDIR is not listed under Browse source code. To import D into your project's repository, type:

svn import -m "Type your message here" D http://(projectname).(domain)/svn/(projectname)/NEWDIR

Refresh the page. Note that D is listed under Browse source code. Click D to see the file.

Switches: --message (-m) TEXT, --file (-F) FILE, --quiet (-q), --non-recursive (-N), --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --force-log, --editor-cmd EDITOR, --encoding ENC, --config-dir DIR, --auto-props, --no-auto-props

Printing information about paths in your working copy: svn info

You will from time to time need specific information about files in your working copy to execute certain subcommands. Typing svn info will print exhaustive but useful information about items in your working copy paths in your working copy, including: Path, Name, URL, Revision, Node Kind, Last Changed, author, Last Changed Revision, Last Changed Date, Text Last Updated, Properties Last Updated and Checksum.

Switches: --targets FILENAME, --recursive (-R), --config-dir DIR

Viewing list of directory entries in the repository: svn list

Before starting work on a project or fetching a 'working copy', you may want to see the contents i.e. directories and files in your project's repository or view directory entries in your local working copy. You can type svn list [TARGET...] in the command prompt to view the same. Alternatively, you can view your project's repository by navigating to the Software configuration management page within your project.

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --verbose (-v), --recursive (-R), --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

Viewing commit log messages: svn log

You can view the individual file/directory histories of the files/directories in your 'working copy' or the repository to track revision information by typing:

svn log [PATH]

The result is a display of the file's/directories' revision information, starting with the most current revision with information such as the commit messages and the author name. Alternatively, you can use this site to view the commit log messages for individual files in your project repository. Click the Subversion link from the left navigation pane of your project. The Subversion page appears. Search for your file inside the directories under Browse source code and click the filename. This will display a page with commit log messages.

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --quiet (-q), --verbose (-v), --targets FILENAME, --stop-on-copy, --incremental, --xml, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

See svn log

Merging changes: svn merge

You can run the svn merge command to tell Subversion to merge the latest versions of files from the repository into your working copies.

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --non-recursive (-N), --quiet (-q), --force, --dry-run, --diff3-cmd CMD, --ignore-ancestry, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

See svn merge, Resolve Conflicts (Merging Others' Changes), Branching and Merging: Common Use-Cases for Merging, Best Practices for Merging

Working with the repository

Creating new directory: svn mkdir

To create a new directory in your working copy, type:

svn mkdir PATH

To create a new directory in your project repository, type:

svn mkdir URL

The final component of the PATH or URL determines the directory name. A directory in the repository is created with an immediate commit, so it requires a commit message

Switches: --message (-m) TEXT, --file (-F) FILE, --quiet (-q), --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --editor-cmd EDITOR, --encoding ENC, --force-log, --config-dir DIR

Moving a file or a directory: svn move

You can move a file or a directory within your working copy or within your project's repository using svn move SRC DST. This command is equivalent to an svn copy followed by svn delete. Moving a file or a directory within your working copy moves and schedules it for addition for the next commit. Moving a file or a directory within your project repository is an atomic commit, so it requires a commit message.

Switches: --message (-m) TEXT, --file (-F) FILE, --revision (-r) REV, --quiet (-q), --force, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --editor-cmd EDITOR, --encoding ENC, --force-log, --config-dir DIR

Working with properties

Subversion has a number of specific properties that affect or determine it's behavior. You can modify, commit, and revert property changes just like the contents of your files. You can delete, edit, print, list, set a property from files, directories or revisions from your local working copy or your project's repository.

See Properties, Unversioned Properties, Meta-data Properties, svn propdel, svn propedit, svn propget, svn proplist, svn propset, Hook Scripts

Resolving conflicts: svn resolved

You may get a conflict while updating your local working copy. You will need to resolve the conflict. After resolving, type svn resolved PATH.... to tell your working copy that the conflict has been "resolved."

Switches: --targets FILENAME, --recursive (-R), --quiet (-q), --config-dir DIR

See Resolve Conflicts (Merging Others' Changes)

Reverting your changes: svn revert

As you work with Subversion, you will realize that svn revert PATH... is equivalent to a Ctrl Z on Windows. You can:

NOTE that not providing any target may result in loss of changes in your working copy.

Switches: --targets FILENAME, --recursive (-R), --quiet (-q), --config-dir DIR

Getting status of files/directories: svn status

It is a good practice in version control to review your changes before committing them to the project's repository. You can run svn status to print the status of the files and directories in your working copy. This will result in a coded eight column output. It is humanly impossible to draw an 'error-free' conclusion from the output as each column has an exhaustive legend. To make this task simpler and simultaneously see an example, type svn help status in your command prompt.

Switches: --show-updates (-u), --verbose (-v), --non-recursive (-N), --quiet (-q), --no-ignore, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir

See Examine Your Changes

Switching your working copy: svn switch

You can update your working copy to mirror a new URL using svn switch URL [PATH]. You can move a working copy or a part of your working copy to a new branch. You can use this subcommand as a shortcut for branching.

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --non-recursive (-N), --quiet (-q), --diff3-cmd CMD, --relocate, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

See Switching a Working Copy, Branching and Merging and svn switch

Updating your working copy: svn update

As a good version control practice, it is recommended that you update your local working copy with the project repository everyday using:

svn update [PATH...]

The updated items listed with their current status indicated as follows:

Switches: --revision (-r) REV, --non-recursive (-N), --quiet (-q), --diff3-cmd CMD, --username USER, --password PASS, --no-auth-cache, --non-interactive, --config-dir DIR

See Update Your Working Copy, Merging Conflicts By Hand

Branching and tagging

A project's trunk is usually used for the main line of development whereas branches are usually used for variations on that line. A branch is an ongoing line of development. In a Software Development Life Cycle, branches are often used when a public release of a software product is due, to allow testers to work on the release candidate so that new development can go on independently of the testing. Branches are also used for experimental work and a complete code rewrite. Tagging is a way of marking a group of file revisions as belonging together. Though branches and tags are created using the svn copy subcommand, branches and tags are different things. A branch represents multiple revisions while a tag represents a single revision.

The Subversion repository for your project hosted on this site supports branching and tagging your source files. Tagging and branching are easy and practical 'copy' operations for Subversion.

To create a branch or tag project files, type:

svn copy SRC DST -m "Type your message here"

See Branching and Merging