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Version Control with Subversion
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Version Control with Subversion - Properties - Manipulating Properties

Manipulating Properties

The svn command affords a few ways to add or modify file and directory properties. For properties with short, human-readable values, perhaps the simplest way to add a new property is to specify the property name and value on the command-line of the propset subcommand.

$ svn propset copyright '(c) 2003 Red-Bean Software' calc/button.c
property 'copyright' set on 'calc/button.c'
$

But we've been touting the flexibility that Subversion offers for your property values. And if you are planning to have a multi-line textual, or even binary, property value, you probably do not want to supply that value on the command-line. So the propset subcommand takes a --file (-F) option for specifying the name of a file which contains the new property value.

$ svn propset license -F /path/to/LICENSE calc/button.c
property 'license' set on 'calc/button.c'
$

There are some restrictions on the names you can use for properties. A property name must start with a letter, a colon (:), or an underscore (_); after that, you can also use digits, hyphens (-), and periods (.). [31]

In addition to the propset command, the svn program supplies the propedit command. This command uses the configured editor program (see the section called “Config”) to add or modify properties. When you run the command, svn invokes your editor program on a temporary file that contains the current value of the property (or which is empty, if you are adding a new property). Then, you just modify that value in your editor program until it represents the new value you wish to store for the property, save the temporary file, and then exit the editor program. If Subversion detects that you've actually changed the existing value of the property, it will accept that as the new property value. If you exit your editor without making any changes, no property modification will occur.

$ svn propedit copyright calc/button.c  ### exit the editor without changes
No changes to property 'copyright' on 'calc/button.c'
$

We should note that, as with other svn subcommands, those related to properties can act on multiple paths at once. This enables you to modify properties on whole sets of files with a single command. For example, we could have done:

$ svn propset copyright '(c) 2002 Red-Bean Software' calc/*
property 'copyright' set on 'calc/Makefile'
property 'copyright' set on 'calc/button.c'
property 'copyright' set on 'calc/integer.c'
…
$

All of this property adding and editing isn't really very useful if you can't easily get the stored property value. So the svn program supplies two subcommands for displaying the names and values of properties stored on files and directories. The svn proplist command will list the names of properties that exist on a path. Once you know the names of the properties on the node, you can request their values individually using svn propget . This command will, given a path (or set of paths) and a property name, print the value of the property to the standard output stream.

$ svn proplist calc/button.c
Properties on 'calc/button.c':
  copyright
  license
$ svn propget copyright calc/button.c
(c) 2003 Red-Bean Software

There's even a variation of the proplist command that will list both the name and value of all of the properties. Simply supply the --verbose (-v) option.

$ svn proplist --verbose calc/button.c
Properties on 'calc/button.c':
  copyright : (c) 2003 Red-Bean Software
  license : ================================================================
Copyright (c) 2003 Red-Bean Software.  All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions 
are met:

1. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright
notice, this list of conditions, and the recipe for Fitz's famous
red-beans-and-rice.
…

The last property-related subcommand is propdel . Since Subversion allows you to store properties with empty values, you can't remove a property altogether using propedit or propset . For example, this command will not yield the desired effect:

$ svn propset license '' calc/button.c
property 'license' set on 'calc/button.c'
$ svn proplist --verbose calc/button.c
Properties on 'calc/button.c':
  copyright : (c) 2003 Red-Bean Software
  license : 
$

You need to use the propdel command to delete properties altogether. The syntax is similar to the other property commands:

$ svn propdel license calc/button.c
property 'license' deleted from 'calc/button.c'.
$ svn proplist --verbose calc/button.c
Properties on 'calc/button.c':
  copyright : (c) 2003 Red-Bean Software
$

Now that you are familiar with all of the property-related svn subcommands, let's see how property modifications affect the usual Subversion workflow. As we mentioned earlier, file and directory properties are versioned, just like your file contents. As a result, Subversion provides the same opportunities for merging—in cleanly or conflicting fashions—someone else's modifications into your own.

And as with file contents, your property changes are local modifications, only made permanent when you commit them to the repository with svn commit . Your property changes can be easily unmade, too—the svn revert command will restore your files and directories to their un-edited states, contents, properties, and all. Also, you can receive interesting information about the state of your file and directory properties by using the svn status and svn diff commands.

$ svn status calc/button.c
 M     calc/button.c
$ svn diff calc/button.c
Property changes on: calc/button.c
___________________________________________________________________
Name: copyright
   + (c) 2003 Red-Bean Software

$

Notice how the status subcommand displays M in the second column instead of the first. That is because we have modified the properties on calc/button.c, but not modified its textual contents. Had we changed both, we would have seen M in the first column, too (see the section called “ svn status ).

You might also have noticed the non-standard way that Subversion currently displays property differences. You can still run svn diff and redirect the output to create a usable patch file. The patch program will ignore property patches—as a rule, it ignores any noise it can't understand. This does unfortunately mean that to fully apply a patch generated by svn diff , any property modifications will need to be applied by hand.

As you can see, the presence of property modifications has no outstanding effect on the typical Subversion workflow. Your general patterns of updating your working copy, checking the status of your files and directories, reporting on the modifications you have made, and committing those modifications to the repository are completely immune to the presence or absence of properties. The svn program has some additional subcommands for actually making property changes, but that is the only noticeable asymmetry.


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Version Control with Subversion
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