Version Control

Published Apr 24, 2023
Contribute to Docs

Version control is a system that helps manage changes to code or documents over time. It allows the developer to keep track of revisions, revert to earlier versions, and collaborate with others on the same project.

There are two main types of Version Control Systems (VCS):

  1. Centralized Version Control Systems (CVCS): A single repository serves as the central point of collaboration for all users. Examples of CVCS include SVN (Subversion) and CVS (Concurrent Versions System).
  2. Distributed Version Control Systems (DVCS): Each user has a complete copy of the repository on their local machine, allowing them to work offline and merge changes with others later. Examples of DVCS include Git, Mercurial, and Bazaar.

Purpose of VCS’s

The primary purpose of a VCS is to enable software developers to manage changes to their codebase. By using a VCS, developers can track changes, revert to previous versions, and collaborate with others. VCS’s also help developers maintain a complete history of their codebase, ensuring that all changes are tracked and easily accessible.

Process of VCS’s

The process of using a VCS can be broken down into the following broad steps:

  • Create a Repository: Developers start by creating a repository, which is a centralized location where all code changes will be stored.
  • Make Changes: Developers make changes to the codebase, either by adding new code or modifying existing code.
  • Commit Changes: Once changes have been made, developers “commit” those changes to the repository. A commit is a record of the changes that have been made to the codebase.
  • Review Changes: Before committing changes, developers can review the changes they have made to ensure they are correct and follow coding standards.
  • Merge Changes: If multiple developers are working on the same codebase, they can merge their changes together into a single codebase.
  • Revert Changes: If changes are found to be incorrect or buggy, developers can revert to an earlier version of the codebase.

Common Applications of VCS’s

VCS has a wide range of applications, including:

  • Collaboration: Developers can collaborate on a single codebase, making it easier to share ideas and develop better code.
  • History Tracking: A VCS allows developers to keep a complete history of their codebase, enabling them to track changes over time and revert to earlier versions if necessary.
  • Code Backup: By storing code in a VCS, developers can ensure that their code is backed up and accessible in case of data loss.
  • Version Management: A VCS enables developers to maintain multiple versions of their codebase, which can be useful when working on different features or products.
  • Error Detection: A VCS allows developers to track bugs and issues in their codebase, making it easier to identify and fix errors.

Benefits of Version Control

Using a Version Control System provides several benefits, including:

  • Collaboration: A VCS allows multiple developers to work on the same project without conflicts or overwriting each other’s work.
  • History: A VCS tracks all changes made to the code or documents, allowing the history to be reviewed and revert to an earlier version if necessary.
  • Branching and Merging: A VCS allows the creation of separate branches for different features or versions, and merge them back together when ready.
  • Backing Up: It’s important to regularly back up a repository to prevent data loss or corruption.
  • Code Reviews: A VCS facilitates code reviews and helps enforce coding standards, improving the quality of the codebase.

Best Practices

Here are some best practices to follow when using a VCS:

  • Commit Frequently: Commit small, logical changes frequently to provide a clear history of the codebase.
  • Write Good Commit Messages: Write descriptive commit messages that explain what was changed and why.
  • Use Branches: Use branches to develop new features or versions separately from the main codebase, and merge them back when ready.
  • Review Code: Review code changes before merging them into the main codebase to catch errors and enforce coding standards.
  • Redundancy: The use of a VCS provides redundancy and minimizes the risk of data loss or corruption.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using a VCS:

  • Forgetting to Commit: If changes are not committed frequently, it can be difficult to track progress and make it harder to revert changes later.
  • Not Writing Good Commit Messages: Writing unclear or uninformative commit messages can make it harder to track changes and understand the history of the codebase.
  • Not Using Branches: Failing to use branches can make it harder to develop new features or versions separately from the main codebase, and increase the risk of conflicts.
  • Not Reviewing Code: Failing to review code changes can result in errors or violations of coding standards being merged into the main codebase.
  • Not Backing Up the Forked Repository: Failing to back up a forked repository can result in data loss or corruption if the local machine or the central repository become unavailable.

By avoiding these common mistakes, developers and teams can leverage VCS’s to support their development goals and avoid unnecessary headaches and conflicts.


Version Control is an essential tool for any developer or team working on code or documents. It provides benefits such as collaboration, history tracking, branching and merging, and redundancy among many others. By following best practices and using a VCS, a developer can improve the quality and efficiency of their work.

All contributors

Looking to contribute?

Learn More on Codecademy