What is a Version Control System?
A Version Control System (VCS) or Version Control Software is a system created for tracking and managing the changes in source code. VCS tracks changes made in a codebase over time, allowing users to access different versions of a file or project.
A version control system manages changes or collects files or documents over time for software development, application development, document management, website development, and data analysis.
Version control software effectively helps with the following tasks –
- Avoids conflicts when multiple people are working on the same project simultaneously.
- Provides a mechanism to merge changes made by different contributors.
- Provides a backup mechanism that allows users to restore an earlier version of their project or files if something goes wrong.
- If anything goes wrong after making changes, you can return to the earlier version or undo your changes, which is the best way to safeguard your data.
- VCS systematically organizes data, such as who made specific changes, where and when these details are available, and the data is easily accessible.
- With VCS, branching and merging are made more manageable, allowing you to organize everything without interfering with each other’s changes.
- It is possible to track the changes to the code, who made them, and when they were made without version control. Without VCS, it would be extremely difficult to undo changes, combine changes done by different developers, and check out a code so that other developers could not remove or overwrite what one developer was currently adding.
Thus, developers or VCS users can keep track of every change they make using version control software, which is the best way to work faster and smarter.
Table of Contents
- Uses of Version Control Systems
- Types Of Version Control Systems
- Best Version Control Systems
Great Uses of Version Control Systems for Projects
Using a version control system can be truly productive when working on a project as it makes the following options possible –
Using a version control system (VCS), multiple people can work on the same codebase simultaneously without overwriting each other’s work. VCS allows team members to create, edit, and merge changes into a shared codebase.
As the codebase evolves, VCS records all changes made to it, making it easy to revert to previous versions, view changes made by different contributors, and analyze how the code has been modified.
If something goes awry, you can roll back to a previous version or restore that part of the changes from the earlier version. This protects against data loss and enables you to experiment with new features without worrying about damaging your codebase.
VCS allows you to create branches to test new codes and then merge them back into the main codebase if the changes are successful. This feature enables developers to experiment with new features and ideas without affecting the main codebase.
VCS tracks who made changes to the codebase, when the changes were made, and what changes were made. This promotes accountability among team members and makes it easy to identify who made a specific change.
Faster Release Cycles:
VCS enables you to identify and fix bugs promptly, experiment with new features, and release new code versions more quickly and confidently.
VCS can improve development teams’ collaboration, code quality, and productivity. It is an essential tool for software development projects of any size.
Types Of Version Control Systems
Version control systems can be classified into three types with their specific features –
- Local Version Control System
- Centralized Version Control System
- Distributed Version Control System
Local Version Control System
A Local Version Control System (LVCS) manages changes to files within a local repository on a user’s computer. It is commonly used by individuals or small teams of developers working on a project who need to keep track of changes made to the files. The downside to this system is that all files are only available locally, so people away from the location cannot access them. Furthermore, if there is an issue with the local database, it could result in losing the version changes tracking process.
Overall, LVCS provides a simple and effective way to manage file changes within a local repository, making it easier for individuals and teams to keep track of their work.
Centralized Version Control System
A Centralized Version Control System (CVCS) stores and manages file changes in a central repository accessed by multiple users worldwide. The basic architecture of a CVCS involves a central server that holds the master copy of the files, and multiple users can access and modify those files.
In a CVCS, developers can check out and check in files to the central repository, and the system keeps track of changes. CVCS often relies on a central server to manage and track changes. If you are unfamiliar with the command, there are many paid software that provides GUI to manage the push and pull requests, such as GitKraken. One of the popular examples of CVCS is Subversion (SVN).
Distributed Version Control System
In Distributed Version Control System (DVCS), each user has a complete copy of the project’s codebase on their local system, including the entire history of changes made to the files, which they can work on and modify without needing to be connected to a central server.
The DVCS multiple users work on the same code base simultaneously, allowing them to work independently from their branch and merge their changes without overwriting each other’s changes, thereby preventing conflicts.
Top 10 Best Version Control Systems
There are numerous popular version control systems options available, each with a distinct set of benefits and drawbacks. Your distinctive requirements and preferences will determine the best version control software for you.
The following are some of the best version control systems –
Git is an open-source and widely used distributed version control system (DVCS). Linus Torvalds initially created it in 2005 to manage the development of the Linux kernel. Yet, over time, it became the software industry’s one of the most popular version control systems.
Git provides tools for committing changes, branching, and merging code. Git branches are cheap and easy to merge while collaborating with other developers, as well as creating and managing repositories of their source code. With its distributed model, developers can work independently on code and merge their changes later.
Git Key Features:
Here are the key features of Git that make it popular among developers –
1. Distributed Architecture
Git is a distributed VCS, which means that every developer has a local copy of the entire codebase, making it easy for developers to work on code offline and merge their changes later.
Git allows collaboration with a team member on the same codebase without overwriting each other’s work. It integrates with various collaboration tools, such as issue-tracking systems, code review tools, and continuous integration and deployment platforms. This makes Git easy for developers to work on the same codebase, even when located in different parts of the world.
3. Fast and Lightweight
Git is designed to be quick and efficient, even with a larger codebase; it is known for completing operations instantly. In addition to being fast, Git is also lightweight in terms of its memory usage. Since Git stores change to files rather than entire file copies, it requires less disk space and memory than other version control systems that store complete copies of each version.
4. Branching and Merging
Git facilitates the creation of multiple branches of code to maintain a separate set of changes. This feature allows for experimenting with changes and parallel developments. Additionally, its powerful merging capability makes it easy to merge changes of different branches.
5. Staging Changes
You can do this by adding a change to the staging area or, in simple terms, by “Staging” change; it can be as specific as a single changed line in a file, leading to precise commits. If, after staging a change, you decide you don’t want it to include in the next commit, you can “Unstage” it.
6. Track History
Every change made to the repository, including when the changes are made, who made the change, what changes, etc., can be tracked from the history. This makes it easy to review accountability, and changes can be reverted to the previous version if necessary.
7. Reverting Changes
Git allows developers to revert changes made in a previous commit, undoing the changes made to the codebase.
SVN (Apache Subversion)
Apache Subversion (commonly referred to as SVN) was developed by the Apache Software Foundation. SVN is a centralized version control system that allows developers to manage changes to their software projects over time. It is distributed under the Apache License, an open-source license allowing users to use, modify and distribute the software freely.
Subversion helps developers to manage their source code, documentation, and other digital assets. It enables multiple developers to collaborate on the same codebase simultaneously and provides a centralized repository for storing all code versions. This makes it easier to manage changes, collaborate with others, and maintain a clear history of all modifications made to the code.
SVN Key Features:
Here are some key features of SVN.
1. Centralized Model
There is a central repository that holds the latest version of the code. All files and their versions are stored in a central repository.
SVN keeps track of every change made to the code, allowing developers to keep track of changes to their code over time. If an error occurs or a feature needs to be rolled back, it is easy to revert to a previous code version.
3. Branching and Merging
SVN allows developers to create multiple branches of their code, which then be worked on independently. When the modifications are completed, merging these branches back together is possible.
4. Access Control
SVN provides granular access control, allowing project administrators to control who can access the code and what they can do with it. This means users can be granted or denied access to specific files or directories within the repository.
SVN keeps a complete record of all changes made to files, including who made the changes with the timestamp when changes are made. This can be useful for debugging or auditing purposes.
SVN is available on multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. This makes it easy to set up and manage repositories on different operating systems and collaborate with developers using different platforms.
Overall, SVN is a powerful tool for managing software projects, particularly for teams that work in a centralized environment and need strict control over who can access the code. However, it might not work or be better suited for distributed teams or projects requiring frequent branching and merging.
Jesper Nohr founded Bitbucket in 2008 as an independent startup company. Atlassian acquired Bitbucket in 2010, and it has since become a popular choice for software development teams looking for a web-based version control system. Bitbucket’s integration with other Atlassian tools, such as Jira and Confluence, makes it a powerful collaboration platform for teams working on software projects. In addition to Bitbucket Server, Atlassian also offers Bitbucket Cloud, a hosted version of the software that runs in the cloud and is available as a subscription service.
Bitbucket Server is a Git server and web interface that allows teams to collaborate on code and manage repositories while controlling access to the code. It is built with Java and Apache Maven, and it offers many of the same basic Git operations as other web-based version control systems, such as reviewing and merging code changes.
Bitbucket Key Features:
Bitbucket offers a wide range of features, making it easy for developers to work together on the same code while maintaining high security and performance standards.
1. Pull Requests
Bitbucket provides a collaborative environment for developers to review and merge code changes using pull requests. This feature allows team members to provide feedback, suggest improvements, and ensure code quality.
2. Continuous Delivery
Bitbucket Pipelines will enable developers to automate their build, test, and deployment processes. This feature provides a streamlined way to manage the entire software development lifecycle in one place.
Bitbucket offers two-step verification and IP whitelisting to protect user accounts from unauthorized access. It also provides merge checks to ensure code quality and prevent errors.
4. Code Search
Bitbucket provides a powerful code search functionality that lets users quickly find relevant code snippets and files in their repositories. Code search in Bitbucket is a powerful tool that can help developers find specific pieces of code quickly without browsing through files manually. This can save time and improve productivity, especially when working with large and complex codebases.
5. Hosting Static Websites
Bitbucket supports hosting static websites, making publishing documentation, project information, or any other content easy.
6. Code Snippets
Bitbucket provides a feature for sharing code snippets, allowing users to share and collaborate on small pieces of code quickly. With Bitbucket’s Code Snippets feature, users can create and store snippets of code that can be reused in different parts of the project.
7. Smart Mirroring
Bitbucket provides Smart Mirroring, which improves performance for distributed teams by caching frequently accessed repository data at remote locations.
Overall, Bitbucket offers comprehensive features for managing and collaborating on development projects while maintaining high security and performance standards.
Matt Mackall, the creator of Mercurial, announced the project on April 19, 2005, in response to the announcement by Bitmover that they were withdrawing the free version of BitKeeper. The Linux kernel project had used BitKeeper for version control, and the loss of the free version prompted Mackall to create a replacement system. Mercurial was developed as a distributed version control system and is written in Python with similar aims to Git, initiated by Linus Torvalds just a few days earlier. Both Git and Mercurial have since become popular choices for version control in software development projects.
Mercurial distributed nature allows for more flexibility and robustness in collaborative development. Every developer has a complete copy of their code repository, including the entire history of changes. The advanced branching and merging capabilities make it easier for developers to manage changes and work on multiple project versions simultaneously. The integrated web interface also simplifies the process of accessing and sharing project data.
Mercurial Key Features:
Here are some key features of Mercurial –
1. Distributed Architecture
Mercurial has a distributed architecture where each developer has a copy of the entire repository. This allows developers to work offline and push their changes to the main repository when prepared.
2. Branching and Merging
Mercurial provides powerful branching and merging capabilities, allowing developers to work on multiple features parallelly without interfering with one another’s changes. In Mercurial, it is easy for developers to create new branches, switch between them and merge the changes from one branch to another.
Mercurial is designed to be lightweight and fast, making it ideal for small to medium-sized projects. It has a small footprint and does not require a lot of system resources, making it easy to install and use.
Mercurial is cross-platform and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems, allowing developers to work on different platforms without worrying about compatibility issues.
Mercurial is a powerful and flexible version control system with many features to help development teams collaborate effectively and efficiently.
Perforce is a version control system (VCS) first released in 1995 by Perforce Software, Inc. Christopher Seewald founded the company; he initially built this software for his development projects.
Over the years, Perforce has become a popular VCS tool used by software development teams worldwide. Its main features include –
1. Centralized Architecture
Perforce has a centralized architecture where a single server stores all the files and their revisions. Developers check out files from the server to make changes and then check them back in when they are done. This allows developers to work on the same files simultaneously without interfering with each other’s changes.
2. Branching and Merging
Perforce allows developers to create multiple branches of their code, isolating different software versions or working on various features simultaneously. Developers can merge changes from one branch to another, keeping their code in sync and preventing conflicts.
3. File Locking
Perforce provides a file-locking mechanism that allows developers to prevent others from modifying a file while working on it. This ensures that conflicts are minimized, and developers can work on their code without worrying about changes from others.
4. Code Review
Perforce includes a code review feature that allows developers to review each other’s code and provide feedback. This helps ensure high code quality and errors and bugs are caught early in development.
In addition to its core VCS functionality, Perforce has expanded its offerings to include collaboration tools, project management software, and code review capabilities. The company has also developed integrations with a wide range of other software tools used in the software development process.
Bazaar is a distributed version control system that allows developers to manage project changes over time. Canonical – the company behind the Ubuntu Linux distribution initially developed this software, and now the Bazaar team maintains the same.
In Bazaar, the entire repository is distributed among all the developers with a working copy. Each developer has their local copy of the repository, and changes can be made independently without affecting the main codebase until they are merged. Bazaar allows users to work with both centralized and decentralized workflows. It supports remote branches and local branches, allowing developers to work in a distributed fashion while still being able to collaborate on a central repository.
Bazaar Key Features:
Some of the key features of Bazaar include –
1. Distributed Model
Each developer has a copy of the project’s code repository, allowing them to work independently and merge changes later.
2. Branching and Merging
Bazaar provides robust branching and merging capabilities that make it easy to work on multiple branches and merge changes.
Bazaar has a small footprint and is designed to be easy to install and use. Bazaar supports lightweight checkouts, so users can check out only the needed files instead of the entire repository; this reduces disk space requirements and speeds up the checkout process.
There are GUIs available for Windows, Linux, and OS X, as well as documentation in various formats.
Bazaar supports central and distributed source code management, making it easy for teams to transition from an existing tool without disrupting their workflow.
Overall, Bazaar is a powerful tool for managing software projects, particularly for teams distributed across multiple locations or working simultaneously on different project parts.
AWS CodeCommit is a fully-managed Git repository hosting service that enables teams to collaborate on code in a secure and scalable manner. By leveraging AWS CodeCommit, developers can store and version their code in a centralized repository wholly incorporated with the rest of the AWS ecosystem.
In addition to its native integrations with AWS services, AWS CodeCommit supports a wide range of third-party plugins and tools through its open APIs. This allows developers to customize their workflows and toolchains to meet their specific needs while still taking advantage of the security and scalability of the AWS platform.
AWS CodeCommit Key Features:
Some of the key features of AWS CodeCommit include the following –
1. Git-based Repositories
AWS CodeCommit is built on top of Git, providing all the benefits of Git, including fast and efficient version control.
2. Secure and Scalable
AWS CodeCommit uses AWS’ security and compliance infrastructure, which means that repositories are highly secure and scalable.
3. Fully Managed
AWS CodeCommit is fully managed by AWS, which automatically scales to handle large amounts of code and users while being highly available.
4. Collaboration Features
AWS CodeCommit includes features like access control, pull requests, and code reviews, making it easy for teams to collaborate and manage code changes.
5. Integration with AWS Services
AWS CodeCommit integrates with other AWS services, such as AWS CodePipeline, AWS CodeBuild, and AWS CodeDeploy, which makes developing, testing, and deploying applications on AWS easier.
Overall, AWS CodeCommit is an excellent choice for teams looking for a scalable and secure version control solution that integrates seamlessly with the rest of the AWS ecosystem.
TFVC (Team Foundation Version Control)
Team Foundation Version Control (TFVC) is a centralized version control system developed by Microsoft. In TFVC, all files are stored on a central server, and team members typically have only one version of each file on their local development machines. Historical data, including previous versions of files and changes made to those files, is maintained only on the server.
TFVC also supports branching and merging, which allows developers to work on separate copies of the code without interfering with each other’s changes. You can create branches on the server and use them to isolate work on new features, bug fixes, or other development tasks. Once you complete the work, you can merge changes into the main codebase.
TFVC Key Features:
Here are some of its key features –
1. Centralized Repository
TFVC uses a central server to store the source code repository and other artifacts, making it easy to manage and track changes easily and ensuring all team members work from the same codebase.
2. Branching and Merging
You can create branches on the server and use them to isolate work on new features, bug fixes, or other development tasks. Once you complete the work, you can merge changes into the main codebase.
3. Code Reviews
TFVC allows developers to review each other’s code, providing a mechanism for catching bugs and ensuring code quality.
4. Centralized Repository
TFVC stores the source code repository and other objects on a central server. This simplifies managing and tracking changes and ensures all team members work from the same codebase.
Overall, TFVC provides robust features for managing source code and related artifacts in software development. It is especially useful for organizations with large codebases requiring a structured development process with tight controls over access and permissions.
Beanstalk is a great option for outsourcing projects, as it provides a centralized platform for remote teams to collaborate and work together on projects. The browser-based interface and cloud infrastructure make it easy for team members to access the software from anywhere. The integration with messaging and email platforms can facilitate efficient communication and collaboration.
Beanstalk’s enterprise-class security features and high performance and reliability make it an ideal option for startups and businesses looking for version control software that can support their growth and development. With its role-based access control and audit logs, Beanstalk can ensure that your code and other digital assets are secure and compliant with industry standards.
Beanstalk Key Features:
1. Robust Security
Beanstalk offers robust security features such as encryption, two-factor authentication, and password protection. These can help ensure your code and other digital assets are secure and protected from unauthorized access.
Beanstalk provides flexibility regarding team size, as it can support both small and large teams. It also offers repository and branch-level permissions, which allow you to control access to specific areas of your codebase for different groups and individuals.
With Beanstalk’s Integrations feature, users can connect their repository with different third-party devices and services, such as project management tools, bug trackers, and deployment services. This integration can streamline workflows, automate tasks, and improve collaboration between team members.
Beanstalk monitors the health of the servers hosting the repositories, ensuring that they are running smoothly and performing optimally. Users can monitor their repository and server performance in real-time, helping to identify issues and prevent downtime.
Therefore, Beanstalk is a fast and reliable continuous integration and deployment version control platform.
RCS (Revision Control system)
RCS, or “Revision Control System,” is a version control system that manages changes to files, source code, and other digital assets over time. Walter Tichy developed this command-line tool in the early 1980s, and it was primarily used on Unix-based systems.
The RCS system stores individual revisions of a file or group of files, allowing developers to track changes to the content of those files over time. This enables multiple developers to work on the same codebase simultaneously and keep track of the changes made by each individual.
RCS Key Features:
Here are the key features of RCS –
1. Version Tracking
RCS stores individual revisions of a file or group of files, allowing developers to track changes to the content of those files over time.
2. Delta-based Storage
RCS uses a delta-based approach to store changes between revisions, and each revision contains the differences between itself and the previous version. This makes it efficient in terms of storage space and enables fast retrieval of prior versions.
3. Branching and Merging
RCS supports branching and merging, allowing developers to create alternative codebase versions and then merge those changes back into the main branch when ready.
4. Automated Backups
You can configure RCS to automatically back up files and revisions, ensuring that you do not use essential data in the case of hardware failure or other issues.
Overall, RCS provides a robust set of features that make it a helpful tool for managing changes to source code and other digital assets over time.
A version control system is essential for software development and other collaborative projects. It enables users to track changes made to their files over time, revert to previous versions, and collaborate with others seamlessly, and many more vital options.
There are many different version control system options, each with unique features and benefits. Git is currently the most widely used version control system, with many popular hosting services such as GitHub and GitLab built around it. At the same time, other VCS include Subversion (SVN), Mercurial, Perforce, etc. Each system has strengths and weaknesses; the preferred option depends on the project’s specific needs.