Subversion Basics

We use Apache Subversion for version control. For a complete reference on Subversion see the Subversion Book. You can browse our repository in your web browser.

This page gives instructions on performing basic development tasks using the Subversion Command-Line Client. This instruction assumes you have Apache Subversion installed.


You begin using Subversion by copying a directory from a remote repository to a local directory on your file system. This is known as a checkout of a working copy.

Subversion uses a copy-modify-merge model meaning that you can add and edit files and directories in your working copy like any other files on your system, but you should use subversion commands for everything else such as svn copy and svn move instead of the operating system commands.

Sub-commands and Abbreviations

Subversion commands can be run from a command shell such as Bash on Linux. The subversion client command is svn followed by optional sub-commands, options, and arguments.

Show the program version and modules

$ svn --version

Run a sub-command

$ svn <subcommand> [options] [args]

Most sub-commands take file and/or directory arguments, recursing on the directories. If no arguments are supplied to such a command, it recurses on the current directory (inclusive) by default. (from svn help)

The following is only a partial list of sub-commands relating to this instruction. For a complete list, see the Subversion Book, or use svn help.

Client Configuration

Committers need to configure their Subversion client to handle the differences in line endings of text files on different operating systems.

There are instances where Subversion may need to open an editor. You need to have the environment variable EDITOR set to the editor you would like to use. To set it for the current terminal session in Bash (your path may differ):

$ export EDITOR=/usr/bin/vim

Repository Layout

The Odf repository layout uses the following top-level directories branches, site, tags, and trunk.

Getting the source code

From the parent directory of where you want the working copy. In this example the odf-trunk directory will be created if it does not exist.

$ svn co odf-trunk
A    odf-trunk/tools
A    odf-trunk/tools/dev
A    odf-trunk/tools/dev/
A    odf-trunk/tools/dev/cws-list.txt
A    odf-trunk/tools/dev/
A    odf-trunk/tools/dev/web-list.txt
A    odf-trunk/tools/dev/
Checked out revision 1145818.

"A" indicates file or directory is "Added" to working copy

Basic Work Cycle

Adding a File

After creating the file "test-file.txt" in the working copy.

$ svn status
?       test-file.txt

? indicates test-file.txt is not under version control

Scheduling a file for addition to repository

$ svn add test-file.txt
A         test-file.txt

$ svn status
A       test-file.txt

"A" indicates file is scheduled for addition

Running a diff

$ svn diff
Index: test-file.txt
--- test-file.txt   (revision 0)
+++ test-file.txt   (revision 0)
@@ -0,0 +1 @@
+This is a test file for svn-basics.

Property changes on: test-file.txt
Added: svn:eol-style
   + native

Committing a file

$ svn commit test-file.txt -m "added test-file.txt"
Adding         test-file.txt
Transmitting file data .
Committed revision 2.

Update the working copy

$ svn update
U    test-file.txt
Updated to revision 3.

"U" indicates an "Update" to a file or directory

Modify the file (this example uses the vim editor)

$ vim test-file.txt

Check the Status

$ svn status
M       test-file.txt

"M" indicates the file has been "Modified"

$ svn diff
Index: test-file.txt
--- test-file.txt   (revision 3)
+++ test-file.txt   (working copy)
@@ -1,2 +1,3 @@
 This is a test file for svn-basics.
 This is a new line added by someone else.
+This line added by me.

Resolving Conflicts

Suppose someone edits the same line as you before you commit

$ svn update
Conflict discovered in 'test-file.txt'.
Select: (p) postpone, (df) diff-full, (e) edit,
        (mc) mine-conflict, (tc) theirs-conflict,
        (s) show all options:

This is just like if you had ran the svn resolve command

Selecting df displays this:

--- .svn/text-base/test-file.txt.svn-base   Sun Jul 17 17:38:52 2011
+++ .svn/tmp/test-file.txt.tmp  Sun Jul 17 21:35:09 2011
@@ -1,2 +1,7 @@
 This is a test file for svn-basics.
 This is a new line added by someone else.
+<<<<<<< .mine
+This line added by me.
+This line is added by someone else also.
+>>>>>>> .r4
Select: (p) postpone, (df) diff-full, (e) edit, (r) resolved,
        (mc) mine-conflict, (tc) theirs-conflict,
        (s) show all options:

If you choose e, Subversion will launch an editor with both sets of changes included for you to edit. You can save your changes in the editor and then select r (for resolved).

G    test-file.txt
Updated to revision 4.

"G" indicates "merGed"

Committing the Changes

Only Committers can commit directly to the repository. The following example shows using your Apache ID and password.

$ svn commit test-file.txt --username your-name --password your-password \
  -m "added new line"
Sending        test-file.txt
Transmitting file data .
Committed revision 5.

For further information see the Basic Work Cycle page from Subversion Book.

Committing Changes By Others

See the Applying Patches section of the Committer FAQ page.

Example similar to one on Committer FAQ:

Issue #43835:
Added some cool new feature.
Submitted by: John Doe <>

Using the -m (--message) option only allows a single line log message. To commit a multi-line message use the -F (--file) option (with a previously created file) or use neither -m or -F and an editor will be started.

Creating and Submitting Patches

See the Sending in Patches section on the Contributors Tech Guide page.

Create the patch file from svn diff where your-patch-name.patch is the full path to the patch file to create.

svn diff > your-patch-name.patch

Further Information

For more information see:

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Apache "ODF Toolkit" is an effort undergoing incubation at The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), sponsored by the Apache Incubator. Incubation is required of all newly accepted projects until a further review indicates that the infrastructure, communications, and decision making process have stabilized in a manner consistent with other successful ASF projects. While incubation status is not necessarily a reflection of the completeness or stability of the code, it does indicate that the project has yet to be fully endorsed by the ASF.

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