Version Control SystemsEdit
A version control system (also called revision control or source control system) is a software used to track changes in documents and binary files. It is typically used in software development to manage source code files. For every change, a unique ID, a timestamp and the user who changed the file is saved. Thus, changes between two different versions can be easily compared and also who changed the file and when. Some systems also provide means to comment a specific version (to mark what has been changed) or give it a unique name (such as "Beta 1", or "Release Candidate"). Since every change is saved, one can roll back or change to any version that has been saved. This also provides protection against malicious or accidental changes and serves as a backup in case of data loss.
There are three types of versioning control: Local, centralized and distributed systems.
Local systems require only a one computer. They are mostly suited for single developers, who want to have control over smaller projects they work on. Probably everyone has already used a local system, if only unintentional. Office programs like Microsoft Office or OpenOffice keep a backup of the currently open files in case of crashes or memory corruption. You may have noticed that for example Microsoft Word offers to recover a previous version of the file in case the computer crashed while the file was open. To accomplish that, the program saves a backup of the currently open file every couple of minutes, usually hidden from the user and regardless whether he also saved his document on purpose. Another example is the shadow copy service of modern Microsoft Windows versions. It keeps copies of system files that can be restored in case a file has been corrupted or damaged by a faulty update.
Centralized systems use a client-server architecture to keep track of changes. This kind of system is usually used to track multiple files or whole programming projects. A server stores an "official" copy of all files, folders and changes on its hard disk. This is also called a repository. A client that wants to participate in the development process first needs to acquire the files stored on a server. This procedure (the initial as well as any further pulls from the server) is called "checkout", in which the whole content of the repository is copied to the local machine.
The client now may do changes to any file he wants to, for example adding some new procedures to a project, or improving an algorithm. After all changes are done, he needs to communicate the changes to the server. The upload of the changed files to the server is called a "commit". The server keeps track of any changes the client made to the repository and adds a new "revision" to the server. Other users that also work on the project need to update their local repositories to the newly committed version on the server. If changes to a file overlap, a "conflict" occurs. The user then has the opportunity to view the differences and may choose to merge them, depending on the versioning software used.
It is possible to check out any previous version that has been committed to the server.
Distributed versioning systems don't use a central repository. Instead, every users has it's own local repository, and changes are communicated through patches to other users. However, there may be a common repository where everyone publishes their changes (in most open source projects there is usually an upstream repository, but it is not mandatory). In comparison to centralized systems, which forces synchronization of all changes between all users, distributed systems focus on the sharing of changes. This has some advantages, but may not be suited for every kind of project. For example, every developer has a local versioning control, that can be used for drafts which aren't important enough to synchronize them to a central server.
The more complex the project becomes, the more different versions will float around the repositories. If the developer or the team works towards a specific release (for example fixing some bugs) it is a good idea to give each release a unique version number. This helps the user to distinguish between different releases so he can see that he uses the most recent version of an application.
A widely used scheme to number versions is the usage of three digits. The first digit indicates a major version. It should only be changed if large changes occur or a lot of new functions are added. The second digit indicates a minor version. It is increments if some (larger) feature is added or a lot of bugs were fixed. The third digit displays a small change to the code, maybe a critical bugfix that has been overlooked in the previous build and needs to be fixed quickly. Of course, one can use a totally different scheme for numbering versions, e.g. using only two digits or using the designated date of the release.
Most versioning software uses the same terminology as other systems, so here is a quick list of commonly used words in software versioning:
- A branch is a fork or a split from the currently used code base. This is useful if experimental features are included, or if a specific part of the code gets a major overhaul.
- Creating a local copy of any version in the repository.
- Submitting changed code to the repository.
- A conflict can occur if different developers commit changes to the same file, and the system is unable to merge the changes without risking to break something. A conflict must be either resolved (manually), or one of the conflicting changes has to be discarded in favor of another.
- A merge is an operation where one or more changes are applied to a file. This can for example be the inclusion of a branch into the main code line, or just a small commit to the repository. Ideally, the system can merge the files automatically without any problems, but in some cases a conflict (see above) may occur.
- Contains the most recent data of the project. All changes are submitted into the repository, so that every developer can access the latest version.
- The name of the development line, that contains the latest, bleeding-edge code of the project.
- Receiving changed code from the repository, so that the local version is on par with the version in the repository.
Popular version control systems include SVN (Subversion), Git, CVS, Mercurial and a lot more. In this part we will just look at the most widely used (SVN and Git) and explain how to use them with Visual Studio to organize and control your XNA project.
A detailed list and a comparison can be found here: Comparison of revision control software
SVN stands for Subversion and is developed by the Apache Foundation. It is a centralized software versioning and revision control system, which means that it has a central repository (project archive) that is hosted by a server and clients can access it. When users change a file locally and commit it to the repository, only the changes that were made are transferred and not the whole file. That makes the system very efficient. Also a subversion repository's size is proportional to the number of changes that were made and not the number of revisions. That keeps the repository size to a minimum.
The file system behind subversion uses two values to address a specific version of a specific file in the file system: the path and the revision. Every revision in a subversion file system has its own root that is used to access contents of that revision. The latest revision is called “HEAD” in SVN.
Checkins in a SVN file system are kept atomic by using transactions. That means the client either commits everything or nothing at all. This helps to avoid broken builds that were caused by check-in errors or faulty transactions. So a transaction can be committed and become the latest revision or it can be aborted anytime.
Subversion is seen as a further development of CVS, which is another but much older versioning system that is no longer actively developed. It improves some of the issues of CVS such as moving files and directories or renaming them without loosing the version history. Also branching and tagging is faster in SVN, as it is just implemented as a copy operation in the repository.
Client / Server Concept of SVNEdit
The concept of a Subversion system is that a repository is hosted on a server and accessed by different SVN Clients through the SVN Server. Each client can checkout a working copy, work on it and submit the changes to the central repository (commit). All the other clients can then update their working copy so it is always synchronized with the newest version in the central repository.
Setting up a SVN Server in WindowsEdit
Installing SVN ServerEdit
First download the Subversion Windows MIS Installer from the official website: http://subversion.tigris.org/servlets/ProjectDocumentList?folderID=91&expandFolder=91&folderID=74
The current version is called: Setup-Subversion-1.6.6.msi
Then install Subversion on Windows. To check that the Subversion was successfully installed and configured open a new command window in Windows (by clicking Start → Execute → Then enter “cmd” and press OK). In the command window type
svn help and you should see some help information if everything is working correctly.
Create a SVN Repository with SVN Server and TortoiseSVNEdit
Now we are going to create a Subversion Repository. To do this we use another tool called TortoiseSVN, which is a popular program to access and work with SVN repositories in Windows . It is a Subversion client that is implemented as a Microsoft Windows shell extension and can be easily used within Windows Explorer.
So first download TortoiseSVN here: http://tortoisesvn.net/downloads.html And then install. After installation new menu points should have been added to the right-click context menu in Windows Explorer that allow the use of SVN commands directly in Windows.
Then we need to create a new folder where our future repository should be stored by the server. In this example we create a folder: D:\repository
Then right-click on this new folder and choose TortoiseSVN –> Create repository here… and TortoiseSVN will create the default structure of an empty SVN repository inside this folder.
Now to add some content to the repository we will at first create a so called standard layout in a temporary folder and then import this folder into our new repository. So create another folder named D:\structure. Add three subfolders into this folder and call them: trunk, tags and branches. The trunk directory is the main directory of a project and will contain all versioned data.
Now to import the structure folder, right-click on it and choose TortoiseSVN –> Import… . In the opening window insert the following path as “URL of repository”:
The import message should contain a comment for the version that is being imported into the repository. Write something like “First import” and then click OK. A new window should open and log all the three folders that where imported into the repository. That is it, you can delete the temporary folder called structure because the data is now in the repository.
Setup Subversion ServerEdit
Furthermore we the security of the new repository should be adjusted which is especially important when it is used in a network or the internet. This means setting a security level for anonymous (everybody) and authenciated users (users that have a login and password for the repository) and configuring the user accounts with their passwords.
To do this open the file D:\repository\conf\svnserve.conf in a text editor . All config parameters are commented by default, so if you want to activate one you have to uncomment it by removing the # at the beginning of the line. The important part is in line 12 and 13:
anon-access = read auth-access = write
The setting for the access are read, write and none. In the above case everybody can checkout the current version from the repository but only authenticated users with an account can submit changes. This is the way most open source projects operate so let's keep this setting for the moment. If you set one or both parameters to none, nobody can read or write from the repository.
Now we just have to add a few authenticated users to test the system. To do this uncomment line 20 in the conf file that says:
password-db = passwd
This means the database with the login names and passwords can be found in a file called passwd in the same directory as the svnserve.conf. So save the svnserve.conf and open the default file passwd. A new user is defined in this file by adding a new line with the following scheme:
username = userpassword
So just create a test account and save the file.
Use SVN Server to host a repositoryEdit
Now it is time to use our repository, so let's host it with SVN. Open a window command line window and then execute the following:
svnserve -d -r "D:\repository"
This should start and enable the SVN Server. Every time you want to use the Server it needs to be started this way, but this is just or test environment where we use the server and client on the same machine. Usually the SVN server is located on a separate server on the internet.
Using a SVN clientEdit
Using TortoiseSVN client to checkout a working copyEdit
We are not going to work directly on the repository, because it belongs to the server and the principle behind SVN is that everybody who works on the projects checks out his own copy and works with it locally (a working copy). Usually the SVN server is a network resource that is used to checkout a copy of the project and submit the changes (commit) that were made locally.
So let's checkout a working copy from our own local SVN server and work with it. We will use TortoiseSVN for that again. Create a new folder in D:\workcopy (or any other path). Right-click on the new folder and choose SVN Checkout in the context menu.
For the URL of the repository fill in:
That means we make a checkout from a SVN server that happens to be set up locally (that's why we can use localhost). The folder trunk contain the latest version. Leave the rest of the settings the way they are (HEAD revision turned on) and click OK.
If you configured in your security setting that one needs to be an authenticated user to perform a checkout you then have to enter your login and password. Otherwise if you enabled reading for anonymous users you will not be asked.
A status window will tell you about the successful checkout and the revision number. The checkout is now completed and the content of the repository is now in the work copy directory. But it is empty because there are no files in our repository yet. Just one hidden directory named .svn that contains some internal SVN version history and should not be deleted.
Now we will add a simple file to the working copy and commit it to the repository with TortoiseSVN. Later we will do this directly in Visual Studio with an entire project.
In Windows Explorer add a text file in the workcopy checkout and then right-click it and choose: TortoiseSVN –> Add… The icon of the new file should now change from a little question mark to a blue plus symbol (if it does not, refresh with F5).
The file is now marked as something to add in the future but it is not committed yet. This is done by doing a right-click on the workcopy folder and choosing: SVN –> Commit… Enter a comment (this comment should contain a short summary of the changes so it becomes more obvious what has been changed in which version of the file) and click OK.
You should be asked for the password and login again at this point, but you can also save it so TortoiseSVN will not ask again. It is important that you configure your SVN server so that committing is only possible for authenticated users so it is easier to keep track of who committed changes and prevent unregistered people from making unwanted changes.
After this step a status window should tell you about the successful commit.
Using SVN within Visual Studio with AnkhSVNEdit
We already know the SVN Client TortoiseSVN which uses the Windows context menu to integrate SVN into Windows Explorer, but it would be even better if we could use SVN directly in Visual Studio. There are two projects offering this kind of functionality: AnkhSVN and VisualSVN. While VisualSVN is a commercial product that costs 50$ to obtain a personal license, AnkhSVN is open source and free. That is why we will just have a look at AnkhSVN in this article.
AnkhSVN supports Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, 2008 and 2010. It provides an interface to perform all the important SVN operations directly within the Visual Studio Development Environment. AnkhSVN can be downloaded here: http://ankhsvn.open.collab.net/downloads
Install AnkhSVN and we are ready to go.
The simplest way of using the new repository is to create a new project with Visual Studio and place it inside our workcopy directory. Visual Studio should have automatically recognized that it was created inside an SVN working copy, so the SVN features and the correct address for the repository are already set.
At this point we have created a new project in an repository so all the new files have to be committed at first. To do this AnkhSVN offers different ways inside the development environment:
- You can now open a window to view and commit changes (View → Pending changes). There you can see a list of all files that need to be committed. Just click on Commit and enter a comment as in TortoiseSVN and everything should work.
- Another way to commit the project to the repository is by right-clicking on the solution name in the solution explorer and click “Commit solution changes”. In the solution explorer you can also see similar icons to the ones used in TortoiseSVN to show the synchronization status of each file.
- To update changes from the repository, just click update in the Pending changes view. Again there is another way by right-clicking on the solution name in the solution explorer and choosing “Update Solution to latest version” in the context menu.
- To checkout an existing visual studio project from a repository click Open → Subversion Project... Then enter the SVN server adress and find the project file in the repository.
- Other features of SVN such as merging a branch, switching a branch, locking files and more are available through the context menu in the solution explorer as well.
You don't need to use AnkhSVN to work with Visual Studio projects inside a SVN repository. You can also use the SVN command line tool or TortoiseSVN. The only thing you should be aware of is which files you commit as Visual Studio is creating build and debug files locally on the machine in the solution directory which should not be committed but build freshly on each individuals machine.
You should commit the *.sln file of a Visual C# solution, but not he *.suo file (both in the main folder of the solution). You should also commit all the other files except the bin and the obj folder. By using right-click in Windows Explorer and choosing TortoiseSVN → Add to ignore list you can set these folders permanently on an ignore list so that they will not be committed to the repository.
If you use AnkhSVN within Visual Studio you don't have to worry about this as it will automatically just add add and commit the necessary files.
(Introduce principles, talk about client and server software, and how to integrate with Visual Studio. Show how to use it, also for beginners.)
Git is a distributed version control system. It was developed by the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, in 2005. The emphasis of Git lies on speed and scalability with large projects. The size of the project (and thus the size of the repository) has only a minimal impact on the performance of patches.
Infrastructure of GitEdit
Basically, git consists of three major parts that are important when using it. Since git is a distributed system, one has a local repository which is exactly what it sounds like. This is where all changes are recorded. All your changes are first committed to your local repository, and must then explicitly pushed to a remote repository. The files with your code lie in a working directory. Between your working directory and the local repository is a staging area that gathers all changes, before they are committed to the local repository. It’s like a loading bay, where packets are stored before they are loaded into an airplane.
Git uses a slightly different terminology than described in the vocabulary above. Changes are added to the staging area. A commit describes the process of adding files to the local repository from the staging area, while a push sends all changes to the remote repository. Fetching means to get all changes from the remote repository to the local repository. A pull directly copies the remote repository to the local repository. A checkout reverts changes in your local repository and restores the state of the files either from the staging area, or the local repository. The diagram to the right illustrates the data flow of git.
Git on WindowsEdit
There are two possibilities to use Git, either via command-line or a GUI. Former relies solely on text-based commands and works on all operating systems. Alternatively one can use graphical user interface to manage your sources. While command-line input has its advantages (such as being independent from the operating system), it effectively forces the user to learn the commands (for creating repositories, committing, updating and so on) which can slow down the development process at first. Using a GUI in our case (creating a game with XNA) is beneficial, because we can have tight integration with Visual Studio and can manage the project directly from the development environment. There are a number of graphical tools for Git under Windows. Since TortoiseSVN is popular with SVN-users, its Git-pendant TortoiseGit may be a choice, but it is currently not really on-par with the SVN version. Thus, I recommend using the Git Extensions. It features direct integration with Visual Studio and in combination with the Git Source Control Provider, we can have small icons displaying the status of a file in the project (such as conflicts, committing status…).
Install Git ExtensionsEdit
Installation of the Git Extensions is easy, just download the latest version including MsysGit (essentially a native port of Git to Windows) and KDiff3 (for comparing and merging files) and start the installer. Be sure to select “Install MSysGit” (required) and “Install KDiff” (recommended) and check if support for your Visual Studio version (2008 in our case) is selected. After you have started Git Extensions, a checklist might pop up, remembering you to set some parameters. If the path to Git hasn’t been detected, you must point it to its installation folder. Additionally you need to specify a username, E-Mail address and the diff- and mergetools. If everything is ok, the checklist should show every point in green.
If you have your own server you can easily set up a SVN Server as described above and host your own repository. However if you work on an open source project of a smaller scale, it is advisable to just use one of the available free open source hosters . There is quite a number of free open source hosters that help to host and distribute open source projects. Most of them supply an SVN version control system and sometimes other systems such as Git or Mercurial.
So these hosters supply not only version control system which is very useful to work together on a project with a team, but they also help to host a project for public distribution via download. Another advantage is that it is also easier to find more fellow developers for your project via this channel, because it becomes more visible for other open source developers.
An extensive list of open source hosters with a detailed comparison can be found here. The most popular are Google Code, SourceForge and GitHub.
Hosting at Google CodeEdit
Project Hosting at Google Code is easy and you don't need to apply and wait to get accepted like at SourceForge. There are just two requirements:
- The project has to be open source.
- You need to be in a country where Google is able to conduct business (which is almost the whole world).
It is restricted to open source, because the goal of Google Code is to help open source developers with no funding that cannot afford hosting. It is recommended that the project is explicitly declared under one of the available open source licenses. So Google Code is the right choice for smaller free time projects that require hosting for efficient team work and distribution.
Every project on Google Code has its own Subversion and Mercurial repository. Mercurial is another revision control system that is based on a distributed system and also cross-platform.
Besides the revision control system with the repository and code hosting, Google Code also offers useful extras such as a bug tracking system, a wiki for the project that can be used for documentation and integration with mailing lists at Google Groups. All this is accessible through a simple web interface. For more information read the official Google Code FAQ: http://code.google.com/p/support/wiki/FAQ
To get started for you project, you need a Google Account and follow the steps on this page: http://code.google.com/p/support/wiki/GettingStarted
Hosting at SourceForge.netEdit
SourceForge is the world's largest open source software hosting web site. It was established in 1999 and it hosts more than 230,000 projects so far and has over 2 million registered users. The goal is similar to the goal of Google Code: Provide free services to help people to build and distribute open source software.
It acts as a centralized location for open source software developers by providing users with several version control systems: SVN, CVS, Git, Mercurial and Baazar. Other features include project wikis, a bug tracking system, a MySQL database and a SourceForge sub-domain.
SourceForge also includes an internal ranking system that makes very active projects more visible to other developers, which is helpful to get more people join your project.
The two important criteria are that your project is producing software, documentation or an aggregate (like a linux distro) of a software and that our project is under one of the open source licenses. If it is not open source it will get rejected.
Generally it is a bit harder to host a very small scale private project that just started at SourceForge. Google Code is the better option because it requires no acceptance.
To get started first register an account at SourceForge.net.
Hosting at GithubEdit
Another possibility to host your project is Github. Creating an account and repository is free, as long as your project is open source and publicly available to everyone. You will have about 300 MByte of storage (there are no "hard" limits), so watch out if you push large textures or audio files to the repository. If you need restricted access, you need to pay for it. There are several paid plans available, depending on what you need. After you have signed up, you need to create a new repository. Give it a name and optionally a description and homepage URL.
Now you need to configure Git Extensions to clone the repository to your computer, which is an awfully extensive task. Follow the "Set up SSH Keys" procedure (the last step is optional, it just checks whether everything is working). Make sure you remember the passphrase you have entered. Now you need to create a private key file. Start puttygen.exe, select Conversions -> Import. Navigate to the id_rsa file (the one without extension) and select it. Click "Save private key" and store it somewhere, but check that its extension is *.ppk. Now start Git Extensions, select Clone Repository. Now you need to fill out the fields:
- Repository to clone: The SSH address from the source-tab at github. Should be something like "email@example.com:username/projectname.git"
- Destination: The folder where the repository is stored. (e.g. D:\Repositories)
- Subdirectory to create: The name of the subdirectory where the you files go into (e.g. "XNA Project", the resulting path is D:\Repositories\XNA Project)
Click "Load SSH key" and point it to the *.ppk file you have create before. If you are finished, click "Clone". The repository is now being copied to your computer. After it has finished, you can start putting your Visual Studio solution into the repository folder and work with it. Via the Commit button in Git Extensions you can commit your files to your local repository and push it to github. Remember that you might need to add the files to the staging area first. If you want to get the newest files from the remote repository, click the Pull button.
The other people working with you on the project need to have a github account as well. You can add them as Collaborators from the admin panel of you project. They will have full read and write access. If you need further help with any of the described procedures here, check the Github help system. It's quite extensive and has described almost everything with helpful screenshots.
SVN - Leonhard Palm Git/Versioning Software generally - Lennart Brüggemann
- Revision control#Common Vocabulary Wikipedia. Received 18 May 2011.
- DVCS Round-Up: One System to Rule Them All?--Part 2. Linuxfoundation.org. Received 18. May 2011.
- git beginner FAQ at Stack Overflow
- Comparison of git and SVN
- Short introduction to SVN
- Free book about Subversion
- Article about AnkhSVN in Visual Studio
- A good resource concerning AnkhSVN is the official documentation