Version Control is one of the important measures taken while developing software. It is the process of cataloging the various changes made to a software in its development cycle.
Each iteration that a software reaches after testing and innovation is called a version and version control helps in making this process integral to overall comprehensiveness of the source code.
Why do we need Version Control?
For every software developer, their source code is the most important thing, just like a big treasure of wealth that has been earned after several hours of patience and dedication. In no case would someone like it to be disoriented or misconfigured due to any reason.
In a team environment, where a large software application containing several thousand lines of code is being developed, the process of maintaining its integrity becomes even more tedious.
Because at one corner of the room, a developer is working upon improving a specific function carried out by the software and at the other, new innovation in pre-existing functions is being done. In both the cases, certain changes would be made to the treasure of wealth.
In such a scenario (and also in general practice), it becomes inherently important to document that who is taking what from the treasure over a given period of time. This is transcended into software analogies as changes made to the code.
Version Control makes a clear cut list of everything that is changed and what subsequent consequences were brought by the change. This ensures a number of things in the software and ensures its success.
Benefits of using Version Control
Version Control is highly recommended no matter what you are working on. It has a number of benefits that act aid in error-free rapid development of the software. A more detailed list of these benefits has been given below.
Version Control Systems are tools used to document every change made to the software over the time. This includes deletion, upgradation, and author stamps corresponding to the time when these changes were made.
Most modern VCS allow detailed cataloging of these changes with notes, comments and explanations which makes analysis of the software for recurrent issues a lot easier. Whenever something breaks down or a vulnerability surfaces, developers can refer to these VCS records and find out the root cause of the issue much more quickly.
This helps in both resolving and pinpointing issues smoothly.
VCS tools also allow teams to work upon a particular software in several segments at a time without affecting the original source code.
This is done via branching, which is literally extracting a branch of the software that a part of the team needs to work upon and keeping the end results isolated from affecting the real thing.
This helps in keeping extra conflicts from arising and ensure a streamlined development of the software. When the purpose of branching is achieved, when the branched segment of the software has been stabilized and tested, the segment can be reintroduced back to the original stem, which is often called as merging.
Branching and merging help teams to break the software in parts and work upon them independently, avoiding issues and bugs to the source code.
Version Control Tools
As discussed earlier, the process of versioning is done by a Version Control System (also sometimes called Source Code Management or Revision Control System Tools).
A lot of such tools are available in the market and here is a quick list of the most popular ones.
CVS or Concurrent Versions System is an open source VCS that works on the concept of a single backed up copy of the source code. It is great for developers working in the UNIX and Linux environments. The tool was originally launched by Google in 1986 and forms the backbone of widely used simple Source Code managers.
Git is one of the newest developments in VCS with many advanced features and a decentralised philosophy. It rather has a number of branches that manage the development of code with no single base code. Git forms the part of many open source project and here at Dikonia, we have been constantly using Git as our primary VCS. You can view projects made by using Git.
Mercurial is similar to Git and uses a number of advanced features for accelerating software development. It offers an easier and scalable platform for developers. Usually suited to large projects, Mercurial is the go-to choice for beginners due to its ease of use, unlike Git which needs a minimum level of training before starting out.
In the end, we’d like to say that using a VCS is a basic approach to software engineering and must be applied in all cases. According to us, Git is a great platform for seasoned developers who are looking to access a range of modern features whereas Mercurial can be taken up by anyone with variable experience and expertise.
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