Ultimate Round-Up For Version Control with Subversion


by Glen Stansberry

Subversion is a version control system1 that many Web developers and designers use to back up their work. Subversion was started in 2000 and is quite popular in the open-source community; major repositories such as Google Code2 use it to distribute source code.

While other version control systems, like Git3, have become quite popular among developers, Subversion (SVN) is still considered the standard for version control systems and is used for the majority of projects on the Web that need something like it. SVN provides the ability to share source code in a collaborative way, making it popular with teams for sharing and contributing to projects. It’s also a great choice for designers4 who want to keep versions of their personal work environments.

There are quite a few resources available for those who want to learn about SVN-like tools, tutorials and SVN clients, so that you can get started working with the popular version control system.

Getting Started with SVN

If you’re just getting started with SVN, the hardest part is the learning curve. Here are a few tutorials to get you started on the right track and ease the pain.

Subversion Cheat Sheet5
If you’re looking for a more concise version of how to set up SVN, this quick cheat sheet will get you well on your way.

Subversion Cheat Sheet (PNG)6
If you want this concise page of SVN functions and commands, an image (in PNG) and PDF version7 is available.

The Subversion Book8
Version Control with Subversion is an excellent book to start with. It covers every topic related to SVN, from what SVN is to how to use it to advanced usage.

Svn Book9

Subversion Official Documentation10
Once you’ve gotten the basics, check out SVN’s official documentation. The documentation contains just about everything you’ll ever need and is a great reference tool.

SVN 1-Click Setup11
If you’re on a Windows machine, SVN 1-Click Setup will do just what the name implies: set up your SVN environment in one click with an installer.

Subversion Clients

SVN clients allow you to bypass more advanced tools such as the command line by providing a graphical interface. Here are a few of the most widely used SVN clients.

Tortoise SVN12 (Windows only)
Tortoise SVN is probably the most widely used Windows shell for SVN and is open source.


Cornerstone14 (Mac only)
Cornerstone is an elegant SVN client for Mac users. It’s not open source and requires a commercial license ($69 USD), but it has an excellent UI to work with.

Cross-platform SVN client built in Python. Open source.

SmartSVN is another cross-platform SVN client, but targeted more at professional developers. The client comes in free and professional versions, with the professional version starting at $79 USD.


Versions18 (Mac only)
Versions is another SVN client with a beautiful interface. Versions is unique because it syncs with the online SVN repository Beanstalk19. Approximately $49 USD.


An open-source Eclipse plug-in providing support for Subversion within the Eclipse IDE. Among its features are local history cache, various visualization tools and merging assistant.


Subcommander is a cross-platform, open-source client that makes basic SVN functions quite easy to use.

FSVS stands for “Fast System Versioning”, and this open-source command-line client does exactly that.

Syncro SVN Client25
A cross-platform SVN client with a fantastic UI. One of the stand-out features of Syncro SVN is its ability to let you quickly see revisions in the same pane. $59 USD.


scplugin27 (Mac only)
Scplugin, also open source, is much like Tortoise SVN in that it uses the Finder on the Mac as an SVN interface.

Psvn.el is an SVN client for eMacs, a popular open-source text editor.

iPhone SVN Log Viewer29
While not technically an SVN client, the iPhone SVN Log Viewer allows you to keep track of commits and changes to your SVN repository in an iPhone app.

IDE Plug-Ins

If you already use an integrated development environment30 (IDE), then plug-ins are available to interface with SVN.

Subclipse is a plug-in for the Eclipse IDE32 for Java.


AnkhSVN is an SVN client for Microsoft’s Visual Studio35.


VisualSVN for Visual Basic by Microsoft isn’t open source; a license costs $49.

How to Ignore IDE Project Files in Subversion38
If you’re going to use an IDE on your project with SVN, check out this article on how to exclude project files from your repository.

SVN Repository Browsers

Trac is much more than an SVN browser: it’s a complete project management tool. Aside from letting you browse SVN repositories, Trac allows you to create wikis, track bugs and much more. Trac is used in many open-source projects to manage workflow and is considered the standard for this purpose.


SVN repositories are pretty plain and don’t let you browse the code very easily. By default, SVN just dumps source code into the most basic form of HTML and links. Here are a few scripts you can upload to your server to get a better interface for your project’s source code.

Warehouse is a beautiful open-source application that allows you to browse SVN repositories.


WebSVN is in PHP, it’s portable, and it’s easy to install.

A simple repository browser that allows for multiple repositories without browser or platform-specific extensions.

Polarion WebClient for SVN45
If Java is your bag, Polarion offers a platform-independent Java Web browser for SVN.

Hosted SVN

For those wanting a little more control over their repositories and a public face for their projects, hosted SVN might be a good solution. Hosted SVN takes the guesswork out of creating your repository and installing an SVN browser for it.

Google Code46
You can easily host your project’s source code for free using Google Code.


CVSDude is a popular CVS and SVN repository hosting service. Plans start at $5.99 per month.

Beanstalk is similar to CVSDude except that it syncs seamlessly with Versions (mentioned above) and has a much more elegant design. A free version for a limited number of users and 100 MB of upload space is available. Personal plans start at $15 per month.


Unfuddle hosts SVN and Git, manages bug tracking, and offers 200 MB of storage for free. Premium plans start at $9 per month.

Assembla is more of a team collaboration website, but it features hosted SVN as well as bug tracking, ticketing and other collaboration features. Plans start at $2 per user per month.


Subversion Community Websites

Looking for answers to your SVN-related questions? Check out some of these community websites. Many have forums, mailing lists, training centers and more to get you primed for SVN.

If you need help on a Subversion-related topic, look no further than SVNForum. SVNForum has a community of over 14,500 members, posting questions and answers on virtually any topic.

CollabNet is from the same organization that manages the SVN project, so it provides training resources and means of connecting with CollabNet’s SVN engineers.


Subversionary has a bevy of tutorials and articles in the areas of configuration and working in most environments.

Subversion Books

If you want a few books to browse offline, then here are a few titles sure to help you understand all things SVN.

Subversion in Action58
While it may be a tad dated for a technology book, Subversion in Action provides an excellent overview of how to use SVN in everyday scenarios. It is an excellent starter book for SVN newbies.

Subversion In Action59

Practical Subversion60
Practical Subversion, Second Edition is authored by two Subversion project contributors and is the most up-to-date book on the version control system. You can preview the first chapter in Google Preview61.

Practical Subversion62

Pragmatic Version Control Using Subversion63
Part of the critically acclaimed Pragmatic Programmers64 series.


Subversion Version Control: Using the Subversion Version Control System in Development Projects66
Perfect for Web developers who want to learn more about SVN.


SVN Articles

Given SVN’s popularity, it’s no surprise there are plenty of tutorials and articles on how to wield it. Here are a few of the best.

Subversion for Web Projects68
Many Web developers still don’t use some kind of version control for projects. Here’s an informative article on how Web developers can get started with SVN in a local environment.

Making the Jump to SVN69
A somewhat dated but still highly relevant article on the benefits of SVN, complete with an in-depth overview of how SVN works.

Keeping Your Life in Subversion70
Go beyond backing up your work to backing up everything on your computer with SVN.

How to Set Up a Personal Home Subversion Server71
Lifehacker has a great article from 2006 giving a thorough rundown of how to get SVN rolling on your home machine for personal use.

How to Set Up Subversion and websvn on Debian72
HowtoForge has an excellent tutorial on how to get running with the popular Linux distribution Debian73.

Mirroring a Subversion Repository74
This guide helps you create a Subversion utility, “svnsync,” that allows you to clone a read-only repository.

Configuring Subversion to Use a Proxy Server75
Sometimes the only work environment in which you can set up SVN is on a proxy server. This article explains the extra bit of manual configuration needed to do that.

Maintaining an SVN Mirror Directly from Git76
While Git is becoming more popular every day, many developers are still most comfortable with SVN. If you run a Git repository, you can create a read-only SVN repository from it.

Top 10 Subversion Tips for CVS Users77
There was a time when CVS was the most used revision control system. Even though SVN has taken the reigns, some CVS users out there might benefit from learning the reasons why one would switch to SVN.

Mergeinfo – Understanding the Internals78
Everything you ever wanted to know about SVN 1.5’s important mergeinfo command.

Do you use version control?


  1. 1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revision_control
  2. 2 http://code.google.com/
  3. 3 http://git-scm.com/
  4. 4 http://thinkvitamin.com/features/design/subversion-for-designers/
  5. 5 http://www.abbeyworkshop.com/howto/misc/svn01/
  6. 6 http://ariejan.net/upload/svncheatsheet-1.0.1.png
  7. 7 http://ariejan.net/upload/svncheatsheet-1.0.1.pdf
  8. 8 http://svnbook.red-bean.com/en/1.5/index.html
  9. 9 http://svnbook.red-bean.com/en/1.5/index.html
  10. 10 http://svn.collab.net/svn-doxygen/
  11. 11 http://svn1clicksetup.tigris.org/
  12. 12 http://tortoisesvn.tigris.org/
  13. 13 http://tortoisesvn.tigris.org/
  14. 14 http://www.zennaware.com/cornerstone/
  15. 15 http://pysvn.tigris.org/
  16. 16 http://www.syntevo.com/smartsvn/index.html
  17. 17 http://www.syntevo.com/smartsvn/index.html
  18. 18 http://www.versionsapp.com/
  19. 19 http://beanstalkapp.com/
  20. 20 http://www.versionsapp.com/
  21. 21 http://subclipse.tigris.org/
  22. 22 http://subclipse.tigris.org/
  23. 23 http://subcommander.tigris.org/
  24. 24 http://fsvs.tigris.org/
  25. 25 http://www.syncrosvnclient.com/
  26. 26 http://www.syncrosvnclient.com/
  27. 27 http://scplugin.tigris.org/
  28. 28 http://www.xsteve.at/prg/vc_svn/index.html
  29. 29 http://www.qaware.de/qasvn/QAsvn.html
  30. 30 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_development_environment
  31. 31 http://subclipse.tigris.org/
  32. 32 http://www.eclipse.org/
  33. 33 http://subclipse.tigris.org/
  34. 34 http://ankhsvn.open.collab.net/
  35. 35 http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/default.mspx
  36. 36 http://ankhsvn.open.collab.net/
  37. 37 http://www.visualsvn.com/visualsvn/
  38. 38 https://www.opends.org/wiki/page/ConfiguringSubversionToIgnoreIDEProjectFiles
  39. 39 http://trac.edgewall.org/
  40. 40 http://trac.edgewall.org/
  41. 41 http://warehouseapp.com/
  42. 42 http://warehouseapp.com/
  43. 43 http://www.websvn.info/
  44. 44 http://insurrection.tigris.org/
  45. 45 http://www.polarion.org/index.php?page=overview&project=svnwebclient
  46. 46 http://code.google.com
  47. 47 http://code.google.com
  48. 48 http://cvsdude.com
  49. 49 http://www.beanstalkapp.com
  50. 50 http://www.beanstalkapp.com
  51. 51 http://unfuddle.com
  52. 52 http://www.assembla.com/
  53. 53 http://www.assembla.com/
  54. 54 http://svnforum.org
  55. 55 http://open.collab.net
  56. 56 http://open.collab.net
  57. 57 http://www.subversionary.org/
  58. 58 http://www.manning.com/machols/
  59. 59 http://www.manning.com/machols/
  60. 60 http://www.apress.com/book/view/1590597532
  61. 61 http://www.apress.com/book/preview/9781590597538
  62. 62 http://www.apress.com/book/view/1590597532
  63. 63 http://www.pragprog.com/titles/svn2/pragmatic-version-control-using-subversion
  64. 64 http://www.pragprog.com
  65. 65 http://www.pragprog.com/titles/svn2/pragmatic-version-control-using-subversion
  66. 66 http://www.amazon.com/Subversion-Version-Control-Development-Projects/dp/0131855182/ref=pd_sim_b_15
  67. 67 http://www.amazon.com/Subversion-Version-Control-Development-Projects/dp/0131855182/ref=pd_sim_b_15
  68. 68 http://athleticsnyc.com/blog/entry/on-using-subversion-for-web-projects
  69. 69 http://www.macdevcenter.com/pub/a/mac/2004/08/10/subversion.html
  70. 70 http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2005/01/06/svn_homedir.html
  71. 71 http://lifehacker.com/software/subversion/hack-attack-how-to-set-up-a-personal-home-subversion-server-188582.php
  72. 72 http://www.howtoforge.com/debian_subversion_websvn
  73. 73 http://www.us.debian.org/
  74. 74 https://www.opends.org/wiki/page/MirroringASubversionRepository
  75. 75 https://www.opends.org/wiki/page/ConfiguringSubversionToUseAProxyServer
  76. 76 http://blog.fallingsnow.net/2007/08/17/maintaining-an-svn-mirror-directly-from-git/
  77. 77 http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2004/08/19/subversiontips.html
  78. 78 http://www.collab.net/community/subversion/articles/merge-info.html

↑ Back to top Tweet itShare on Facebook

Glen Stansberry is the editor at Web Jackalope, a blog about creative Web development.

  1. 1


    Thanks for the add, i completly forget to speak about this :)
    In fact, SVN is so simple with GUI tools that there are no reasons not using it.

    I hope my long post was understandable, as i’m french, and the world knows how well french people speak english :) !

  2. 52

    I like TortoiseSVN as well. It has proven to be very useful.

    @Terry Sutton

    If you are on Windows you can give FileHamster a try. It is the simple man’s SVN.

  3. 103

    I really like TortoiseSVN too. It has a lot of very useful stuff included. I use it for image diffing.

    @Terry Sutton
    If you are on Windows you can use FileHamster. It is the simple man’s SVN.

  4. 154

    Great!!! this article has enlightened me!

  5. 205

    For mac did you forget the ZigVersion (http://zigversion.com/).
    For macs think is the best free choice… great tip.
    But, i still prefer GIT hehehe…

  6. 256

    I’d love to see a full tutorial on how to install SVN (on OSX) on a local file server (say a mac mini in the office) and connect to it via other machines. Every tutorial covers installing it on your local machine or using a hosted service, but not a local server. Any thoughts out there?

  7. 307

    Great list of resources. I can’t remember how many times I was saved by SVN, because of a silly mistake that erased a ton of code. I have to say that studying the SVN book and understanding branching and tags is very important.

  8. 358

    Dominic Pettifer

    March 11, 2009 1:41 pm

    Another vote for VisualSVN, and yes its for Visual Studio (not visual basic) both 2005 and 2008. It’s also NOT from Microsoft, made by another company. Also what about a mention for VisualSVN Server, a free Subversion server for Windows. It’s basically a nice GUI wrapper on SVN, but makes it incredibly easy to install and set up.

  9. 409

    Yves Van Broekhoven

    March 12, 2009 12:59 am

    Just the article I needed :)

  10. 460

    Interesting tool usvn:

    Usvn is a PHP5 web interface which permit to administrate and to configure Subversion repositories. It allows users to create and manage projects without command line SVN client.

    This web application really saved us lots of time and is quite easy to manage: a must have :)

  11. 511

    Great resource, two years too late! SVN was so yesterday and my projects are too complex to use it now anyway. How about an article comparing some more modern version control tools that actually do more than backup WordPress blogs or one code branch effectively?

    IBM Jazz


  12. 562

    Interesting comment about SVN not being able to handle complex code and release processes. I do sometimes hear this misperception, but nothing could be further from the truth. Many large enterprises trust their source code to SVN, and we are seeing more and more companies migrating away from the large commercial software packages to SVN. At CollabNet, we currently have over 700 enterprise customers (many of them Fortune 500) using SVN. See our website for examples and case studies (www.collab.net). I think one of the strengths of SVN is that it is friendly enough for individual users, but robust enough to handle the most complex of enterprises.

  13. 613

    Patrick Lawrence

    March 15, 2009 3:04 pm

    I’ve been using Subversion for about a year to manage my wife’s web site. Best thing I could have done. Besides the benefits of version control it also allows for tests do be done on a different server (using a local hosts file entry) and then once you are happy with the changes, simply do an update on the production site. One word of warning… Do not use the plug-in updater on WordPress as it removes the plugin directory (and all of the subversion metadata. :-) when it does the updates.

  14. 664

    Does anyone know how to set up the Warehouse app? Having a hard time with it, and can’t find any good documentation on it.

  15. 715

    I wrote “Get up and running with TortoiseSVN and Subversion in 15 minutes.” a while back which I’m sure will also be of interest here. See: http://blog.surfulater.com/2007/02/28/get-up-and-running-with-tortoisesvn-and-subversion-in-15-minutes/

  16. 766

    This one helped me a lot! Now I’m not using sync ftp anymore. TY!

  17. 817

    Nice, thanks for this great roundup. It’s a pity you’ve missed out though, which integrates tightly with Basecamp for project management.

  18. 868

    iVersion is a new svn client for the iphone, more information can be found here

  19. 919

    It’s good just to know your images have changed, within a code [web] project, not to know what about the image has changed as in a document content management system.

  20. 970

    Pretend your repository is like a master version living somewhere is an untouchable cloud as a reference. You make a local change to your css file, commit it [meaning update your master reference], and then instead of ftping your changes to the server, you go to the server [we do it via ssh] and svn update from the master. It knows that the reference has changed and changes to reflect this.

    So then whether you are on the server, your computer, or another computer, you all update to the same version. The rolling back process just kind of goes back in time to an earlier version of the master. SVN keeps track of all the committed versions so you can have an exact detailed log of every change you committed.

    Real power comes when working in teams, everyone committed and updating often so all changes are logged, and everyone is current. I actually like SVN better than git or other ‘distributed’ version control because you have a master reference, and myself I always want just one master ‘correct’ version. Hope that helps.

  21. 1021


    see how to resolve svn conflict on http://newdailyblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/resolving-svn-conflict.html. Thanks.

  22. 1072

    DazzleCat Digital Agency

    November 9, 2010 4:45 am

    Excellent article I just recently setup subversion using VisualSvn. Trac is next, esp like the feature to link trac tickets to svn checkins.

  23. 1123

    smashingmagazine.com is really helpful for learnings


  24. 1174

    You can also now get uberSVN, which takes Subversion to the next level and provides an open extensible free ALM Platform based on Subversion itself. http:www.ubersvn.com

  25. 1225

    BugBranch http://bugbranch.com lets you check out a subversion repository to iPad or iPhone.


↑ Back to top