What Is Version Control?

Version control refers to a system that records changes to a single or set of files over some time to enable a user to remember specific versions later on.

Updated: 30 May, 22 by Susith Nonis 6 Min

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Version control refers to a system that records changes to a single or set of files over some time to enable a user to remember specific versions later on. As a web or graphic designer who wishes to store every version of a layout or image, it is best to use a Version control system. It enables users to revert select files to their previous state and compare changes over some time.

You can also tell who made the last modification that might be interfering with your file or even revert an entire project to its original state. Version control encompasses version control tools, systems, or software. It is part of software configuration management, also referred to as VCS programming. 

The entire premise of VCS is that even if you lose important files or make mistakes, this can be undone. On top of that, you get to enjoy all this at a little overhead.

Understanding how different version control systems work is very important. The system allows multiple designers, developers, and other team members to work on a project in tandem. It pushes teams to work faster and smarter, and everyone can also track modifications. 

There is a greater need to manage components and versions of products, even as teams grow and development becomes more complex.

1. Local Version Control System

It is a local database housed in a local computer in which every single file alteration is stored as a patch. Each set only has the adjustments made to that particular file since the last version. If you actually want to see what this file looked like at a specific period, you have to add up all of the file's relevant patches until that particular period. 

The primary issue with this system is that all data is stored locally. That is problematic because you would lose all patches if anything happened to this local database. Moreover, if anything affected one version of a file, any later changes would be lost. 

Collaborations using Local Version Control Systems are particularly difficult, near impossible.

2. Distributed Version Control System

With this system, you can look at your file's latest snapshot from the server and fully mirror the repository, including its entire history. Every collaborator within a project will own a local copy of the entire project (local database and complete history). In case a server dies or becomes unavailable, any one of the multiple client repositories can send a copy of that version of the project to other clients.

It can also send this copy to the server once it is available again. This model is ideal because all that's necessary is for one client to have the right copy. After all, it can be distributed further.

3. Centralized Version Control System

This type of VCS comprises a single server containing all the available file versions. Therefore, clients can simultaneously pull files to local computers, access them on the server and push files from their local computers to the server. This way, everyone can tell what other collaborators are doing. 

In a Centralized Version Control System, the admins control what each collaborator can do, enhancing the collaboration efforts. The main problem with this VCS is that everything is stored within the centralized server. If something happens to it, nobody will be able to collaborate, save their changes or pull files.

Like in the case of Local VCS, your entire project history will be lost if your central database gets corrupted and backups are not kept. The only thing you'll be able to recover is the snapshots people still have on their local machines. 

  • Repository – This is the central defined location where all programmers or developers work and store code. It is the heart of any VCS. Repositories also play the role of maintaining history besides storing files. You can access repositories over a network and version control software in version control systems. The former acts as a server while the latter is the client. Once a successful connection is established, clients can store or retrieve any changes.
  • Branches – The branch of a repository is similar to that of a tree. Creating branches helps with the creation of another development. It is ideal when the development process takes two directions.
  • Trunk – It is a directory in which all developments occur. The developers do every single check-out.
  • Commit changes – Committing code refers to storing all changes from a working copy to the central server. After commit changes have been successfully made, they are availed to team members. Other developers can subsequently pull the changes, thus updating the working copy. Because commit is an atomic operation, it is rolled back or successful. Developers cannot see a half-finished commit.
  • Working copy – A working copy is a snapshot on which the developer is actively working. Any changes to the working copy are merged into the main repository. The former is deemed as a private work environment. Here, developers can systematically maintain their work, isolated from other developers.

1. Traceability

Version control is a mechanism providing evidence of all changes and revisions made over a certain period. It allows users to see the file in various developmental stages and tracks developers' contributions. You can track changes from the original copy, the improved versions, and, lastly, the final version. 

When a developer is working on a file's latest draft, having a readily accessible history allows them to understand the dataset's purpose.

2. Identity

Thanks to version control, current teams can analyze datasets' creation, editing, and deletion since the first copy. That brings much-needed clarity to the software development process, ensuring that each version of the file is distinguishable from the other. So, developers can easily identify the document's latest version.

Version control presents a secure and practical manner for managing software configurations. Organizations and developers can work with higher efficiency, which improves the quality of their products. At the same time, they can record and evaluate a comprehensive history of these improvements, ultimately leading to a successful end-product.

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Susith Nonis

Susith Nonis

I'm fascinated by the IT world and how the 1's and 0's work. While I venture into the world of Technology, I try to share what I know in the simplest way with you. Not a fan of coffee, a travel addict, and a self-accredited 'master chef'.