Project Management PMC

The Apache Software Foundation

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 AOO 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 aoo-trunk directory will be created if it does not exist.

$ svn co aoo-trunk
A    aoo-trunk/tools
A    aoo-trunk/tools/dev
A    aoo-trunk/tools/dev/
A    aoo-trunk/tools/dev/cws-list.txt
A    aoo-trunk/tools/dev/
A    aoo-trunk/tools/dev/web-list.txt
A    aoo-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 Changes

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

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

In general, you may not have to include always your username or password if you do a proper setup of your ssh key or have subversion store the password.

Always check your changes with "svn diff" and "svn status". Also be careful to specify the files and/or directories you want to change, if you don't specify, SVN will commit all your changes.

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

Commit Message

The examples in the previous sections use a simple commit message with the "-m" option.

This is fine for some quick testing or for large bulk commits of code that you wrote.

We ask that your commits include special tagging to appropriately credit the patch. See the crediting section of the Coding and Commit Conventions of the Apache Subversion project.

Log comments are important. Information like author, where the change start/ends, the date, the bugzilla issue, and the author don't really belong in the code as SVN can keep it much more effectively without altering the coding style. Always try to use a log file for your commits. The previous commit when done by an experienced committer should actually look like this:

$ svn ci -F test-log.txt test-file.c 
Sending        test-file.c
Transmitting file data .
Committed revision 5.

Use of the special fields will enable processing by scripts like the contribulyzer to help quickly identify contributors.

Committing Changes By Others

See the Applying Patches section of the Committer FAQ page. Please use the special fields described in the previous Commit Message section to commit changes supplied by others.

Example similar to one on Committer FAQ:

#i999999# Added some cool new feature.
Patch by: John Doe <>
Suggested by: Jane Brown <>

An alternative way is the following command. It adds a new line with "\n":

$ svn commit -m $'#i999999# Added some cool new feature.\nPatch by: /
  John Doe <>\nSubmitted by: John Doe /
  <>' test-file.txt

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

Merging changes to a branch

New development is done in the "trunk", development area, of the tree. Stable, release branches, are specifically named and can be found in the branches area of the openoffice svn tree. With few exceptions you do NOT do direct commits to the stable, release, branches. Changes, commits, to stable branch are typically only done during a formal release cycle and must be discussed on the "dev" list.

When a new release is in preparation, bug fixes are reviewed, and fixes that have been made to "trunk" get applied to the stable, release, branch. This is done using the "svn merge" command which finds previous changes and replays them. SVN also keeps a record of the specific commits that have been merged so the changes are much easier to track down.

The first step is to do a check out of the stable, release, branch. The following examples use the AOO34 release branch, and assume you want to apply changes from trunk for a new release, maybe AOO341.

You can do a complete checkout of the release branch or you can save some space by using the "--depth=empty" option:

 % svn co --depth=empty aoo-stable
 U   aoo-stable
 Checked out revision 1347362.

This will put a placeholder branch for the AOO34 in directory "aoo-stable".

In the aoo-stable directory, you can keep saving space (rather convenient) until you reach the directory where you want to make changes:

 % svn up --depth=empty main
 Updating 'main':
 A    main
 Updated to revision 1347363.
 % svn up --depth=empty jvmfwk
 Updating 'jvmfwk':
 A    jvmfwk
 Updated to revision 1347366.

At this point, there are svn placeholder entries for /main/jvmfwk.

To do a complete checkout from there:

 svn up --set-depth=infinity
 Updating '.':
 A    source
 A    source/elements.hxx
 A    source/fwkbase.cxx
 ... (and so on)

Now merge the specific revision(s) you want (in this case r1333165):

 svn merge -c1333165 .
 --- Merging r1333165 into '.':
 U    distributions/OpenOfficeorg/javavendors_unx.xml

At this point, you have merged r1333165 into r1347366. (For release from trunk to a new release, it's likely you would be merging a higher revision to a lower existing release revision.)

After you finish merging, check your changes with "svn status" and "svn diff" and commit from the aoo-update directory:

 svn commit -m "Merge r1329539, r1329547, 1333165 - Add Oracle as a Java vendor on unix." distributions/OpenOfficeorg/javavendors_unx.xml distributions/OpenOfficeorg/javavendors_freebsd.xml
 Sending        distributions/OpenOfficeorg/javavendors_freebsd.xml
 Sending        distributions/OpenOfficeorg/javavendors_unx.xml
 Transmitting file data ..
 Committed revision 1347377.

Further Information

For more information see:

Apache Events

Apache Software Foundation

Copyright © 2011-2018 The Apache Software Foundation, Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 | Contact Us | Terms of Use | Privacy

Apache and the Apache feather logo are trademarks of The Apache Software Foundation. OpenOffice, and the seagull logo are registered trademarks of The Apache Software Foundation. Other names appearing on the site may be trademarks of their respective owners.