Why I like git-svn

By now everybody must have heard of GIT, the distributed version control system (dvcs). Having worked with CVS and Subversion (SVN) I must say that I’m now a huge fan of GIT. Well, maybe it’s better to say that I’m a fan of some of the features I tend to use a lot. Or at least the ones that seem more accessible to me in GIT than they do in SVN.

Granted, switching between branches is something possible in SVN too. A dvcs makes this stuff almost as easy as… well basically it is a short flurry of fingers across your keyboard. In case of GIT it’s:

git co -b branch-name

That command creates and checks out the branch. Now how easy is that? So if I want a new feature I can just make a branch and start working. Branches are also used to clean up deprecated methods and other clutter removed in a future version. So it’s kind of like a glimpse into the future. The only disadvantage is that you have to keep them up to date, which is very time consuming.

Sometimes you’re too busy programming and tend to forget to commit your code. Luckily it’s easy to commit only a chunk or line from your code using git-gui. That way you can still create some order in your commits and avoid the occasional tsunami of code. Smaller chunks are easier to swallow than large ones.

But not everybody wants to use GIT. So compromise is necessary. Which at the moment is a central vcs like Subversion so anybody can access it and then let me have my own little version control paradise island by cloning repositories with GIT.

I found out the hard way it’s easier to work on a clone of a SVN repository than on a clone of a GIT repository that clones a SVN repository. Too much places where stuff will go wrong. Other ways to screw up a perfectly organized system include forgetting which local branch you are working on. There are tools to restructure commits on GIT, but they are difficult to use. Once you structurally make mistakes those tools become routine, but structural mistakes turning into routine is bad.

Once I setup the aliases for certain often used commands with git svn life got easier. Before a commit I issue a svn rebase, for which I created an alias called dmerge. After that my code is back on top. Sometimes I have to manually resolve a conflict, but that’s OK.

In short, I like the way git gives me an extra buffer before I actually commit to the central SVN server on shared projects.