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Pragmatic Version Control Using Subversion

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Wed, 30 Mar 2005

This is an archived blog post. I've switched to using WordPress as my blogging software and have not migrated all my old posts. I believe strongly in not letting an old link die, so this page continues to work. Please do visit mikemason.ca/blog to read newer posts.

Shelving Subversion

My colleague Clinton Begin asked me whether Subversion supports shelving. This is something that the new Visual Studio may have as part of its “Team” features, and is basically a way for a developer to put aside a set of changes come back to them later. Storing shelved changes in your version control tool is pretty sensible—your repository is reliable, backed up, and not liable to disappear if someone pinches your laptop.

So can you do this kind of thing with Subversion? You betcha. Here’s roughly how it would work:

  • Whilst working on adding the new “frobscottle” feature Alice decides she’d like to shelve her current working copy changes. Her project, codenamed “xyzzy,” is checked out from svn://svn.acme.com/xyzzy/trunk.

  • Needing somewhere to store her changes, Alice branches the trunk to create svn://svn.acme.com/xyzzy/shelves/alice/frobscottle.

  • Alice uses the Subversion switch command to switch her working copy from the trunk to the new frobscottle branch. When switching, Subversion preserves any changes you’ve made to the working copy.

  • Alice checks in her working copy. The changes will be safely stored under the shelves directory.

  • Alice switches her working copy back to the trunk and works on something else. In future if she wants the shelved frobscottle changes she can merge from the branch to her trunk working copy, then commit the changes back into the main code line.

There are a few details you’ll need to get right—you may need to create the new branch from an older revision on the trunk rather than from the head—and it’s less pretty than a “shelve” button in a GUI, but it’ll work great and you’ll understand exactly where your changes actually are.

Posted 22:24, 30 Mar 2005.  

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