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Version Control with Subversion
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Version Control with Subversion - Common Use-Cases

Common Use-Cases

There are many different uses for branching and svn merge , and this section describes the most common ones you're likely to run into.

Merging a Whole Branch to Another

To complete our running example, we'll move forward in time. Suppose several days have passed, and many changes have happened on both the trunk and your private branch. Suppose that you've finished working on your private branch; the feature or bug fix is finally complete, and now you want to merge all of your branch changes back into the trunk for others to enjoy.

So how do we use svn merge in this scenario? Remember that this command compares two trees, and applies the differences to a working copy. So to receive the changes, you need to have a working copy of the trunk. We'll assume that either you still have your original one lying around (fully updated), or that you recently checked out a fresh working copy of /calc/trunk.

But which two trees should be compared? At first glance, the answer may seem obvious: just compare the latest trunk tree with your latest branch tree. But beware—this assumption is wrong , and has burned many a new user! Since svn merge operates like svn diff , comparing the latest trunk and branch trees will not merely describe the set of changes you made to your branch. Such a comparison shows too many changes: it would not only show the addition of your branch changes, but also the removal of trunk changes that never happened on your branch.

To express only the changes that happened on your branch, you need to compare the initial state of your branch to its final state. Using svn log on your branch, you can see that your branch was created in revision 341. And the final state of your branch is simply a matter of using the HEAD revision. That means you want to compare revisions 341 and HEAD of your branch directory, and apply those differences to a working copy of the trunk.


A nice way of finding the revision in which a branch was created (the “base” of the branch) is to use the --stop-on-copy option to svn log . The log subcommand will normally show every change ever made to the branch, including tracing back through the copy which created the branch. So normally, you'll see history from the trunk as well. The --stop-on-copy will halt log output as soon as svn log detects that its target was copied or renamed.

So in our continuing example,

$ svn log --verbose --stop-on-copy \

r341 | user | 2002-11-03 15:27:56 -0600 (Thu, 07 Nov 2002) | 2 lines
Changed paths:
   A /calc/branches/my-calc-branch (from /calc/trunk:340)


As expected, the final revision printed by this command is the revision in which my-calc-branch was created by copying.

Here's the final merging procedure, then:

$ cd calc/trunk
$ svn update
At revision 405.

$ svn merge -r 341:405
U   integer.c
U   button.c
U   Makefile

$ svn status
M   integer.c
M   button.c
M   Makefile

# ...examine the diffs, compile, test, etc...

$ svn commit -m "Merged my-calc-branch changes r341:405 into the trunk."
Sending        integer.c
Sending        button.c
Sending        Makefile
Transmitting file data ...
Committed revision 406.

Again, notice that the commit log message very specifically mentions the range of changes that was merged into the trunk. Always remember to do this, because it's critical information you'll need later on.

For example, suppose you decide to keep working on your branch for another week, in order to complete an enhancement to your original feature or bug fix. The repository's HEAD revision is now 480, and you're ready to do another merge from your private branch to the trunk. But as discussed in the section called “Best Practices for Merging”, you don't want to merge the changes you've already merged before; you only want to merge everything “new” on your branch since the last time you merged. The trick is to figure out what's new.

The first step is to run svn log on the trunk, and look for a log message about the last time you merged from the branch:

$ cd calc/trunk
$ svn log
r406 | user | 2004-02-08 11:17:26 -0600 (Sun, 08 Feb 2004) | 1 line

Merged my-calc-branch changes r341:405 into the trunk.

Aha! Since all branch-changes that happened between revisions 341 and 405 were previously merged to the trunk as revision 406, you now know that you want to merge only the branch changes after that—by comparing revisions 406 and HEAD.

$ cd calc/trunk
$ svn update
At revision 480.

# We notice that HEAD is currently 480, so we use it to do the merge:

$ svn merge -r 406:480
U   integer.c
U   button.c
U   Makefile

$ svn commit -m "Merged my-calc-branch changes r406:480 into the trunk."
Sending        integer.c
Sending        button.c
Sending        Makefile
Transmitting file data ...
Committed revision 481.

Now the trunk contains the complete second wave of changes made to the branch. At this point, you can either delete your branch (we'll discuss this later on), or continue working on your branch and repeat this procedure for subsequent merges.

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Version Control with Subversion
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