A Beginner’s Guide to Version Control

What is Version Control?

Version Control, also known as Revision Control or Source Control, is a system that records changes made to a file or set of files over time. This allows you to recall specific versions later. It is a crucial tool for software developers, allowing them to track and control changes to their code.

Why Use Version Control?
  • Collaboration: Version control allows multiple people to work on the same project without stepping on each other’s toes. Changes made by one person do not overwrite the work done by another; instead, they are merged.
  • Versioning: With version control, every change is tracked and timestamped, allowing you to revert to a previous version of your project if needed. This means you can experiment and make changes without fear of irreversibly altering your code.
  • Backup: Version control acts as a form of backup. Every change is saved, meaning you can easily recover your work in the event of a system crash or data loss.
Types of Version Control Systems

There are primarily two types of version control systems:

  • Centralized Version Control Systems (CVCS): These systems use a central server to store all files and enables team collaboration. It works on a single repository to which users can directly access a central server. Examples include SVN and CVS.
  • Distributed Version Control Systems (DVCS): These systems do not necessarily rely on a central server to store all the versions of a project file. In DVCS, every contributor has a local copy or “clone” of the main repository – that is, they have the full history of the project on their hard drive. Examples include Git and Mercurial.

Using Version Control: A Simple Workflow

Let’s consider Git, a popular distributed version control system.

  • Initialize: To start using Git, initialize it in your project directory with the command git init.
  • Add: After making changes to your files, add them to the staging area with git add filename.
  • Commit: Next, commit your changes (saving them to the project history) with git commit -m “Commit message”.
  • Push: If you’re working with a remote repository, you can then push your changes to it with git push.
  • Pull: If others have made changes to the remote repository, you can update your local repository with git pull.

To summarize,
Version control is an indispensable tool in modern software development, facilitating team collaboration, providing a history of changes, and offering a backup of your work. Whether you choose a centralized system like SVN or a distributed one like Git depends on your project needs, but the core principles remain the same. Version control is all about managing changes over time.