An introduction to Subversion (SVN)

Subversion is an effective open source version control system. Its syntax is easy to learn, and it works well with large files. As a result, SVN still has a solid user base, even though Git has become the industry standard during the last decade.

Below, you’ll find the most comprehensive SVN guide with links to all the important resources.

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What is SVN?

Subversion is one of the most widely used open source version control systems. Version control systems track and record all the changes to the versioned file, thus allowing multiple people to work on the file and to return to an earlier version of the file if something goes awry.

Unlike Git or Mercurial, SVN is a centralised version control system (CVS). This means that Subversion stores the version history in a server-side repository. As a result, every developer working on the repository needs a connection to the server in order to save their changes. Even though its centralised nature causes some limitations, the centralisation also allows Subversion to work well with large files.

You can dig deeper to the basics through the following links.


One of the reasons for SVN's continuing success is that it is relatively easy to learn. This doesn't mean that you don't need to invest any time or effort in learning it. So, good tutorials will help you get started faster and save you from unnecessary headaches.

A great SVN introduction would be nothing without links to some proven Subversion tutorials:

  • SVN tutorial - An easy to follow tutorial for beginners with instructions on how to host the repositories as well.
  • Video tutorial on SVN - This video tutorial walks you through the basics.


As you might have guessed, SVN’s command syntax is not very complex. You don’t need to be exactly the Rainman to remember the basic commands. However, a good cheat sheet helps you to be more productive. At least when you are taking the first steps with SVN.


Subversion is quite easy to use from the command line. As mentioned above, the command syntax is easy to grasp and the whole workflow is somewhat easy to understand. Yet, a good client helps to visualise the workflows.

The best free SVN clients for Mac OS - A comparison of the three most popular clients.

A list of good clients:


What would be the best way to host your SVN repositories? As an individual developer, you can get started by setting up a local repository on your own laptop. But if you need to collaborate with other developers, a better way would be to rely on cloud hosting services or set up your own virtual or bare metal server for your repositories.

Despite your choice, a sleek UI for managing the repositories will help you be more productive.

Comparison to Git

“Why would anybody want to use Subversion, when there’s Git?” is a common question around the developer community. It is true that Git has become the de-facto version control system for software developers during the last 5-10 years but SVN is still widely used.

Subversion and Git are different, which doesn’t mean that Subversion is somehow inferior to Git. So, when your development team is considering, which version control system to use, it is important that you make the decision based on your actual needs. Therefore, you should read multiple comparisons and focus on the aspects that support your development needs.

Support and useful forums

Got stuck with SVN? You don't need to figure out everything alone. Just turn to internet's awesome developer community. Here are a few very useful forums for getting support.

Subversion user, rely on Deveo on your hosting needs

Subversion is a great version control system and it still is widely used. Especially industries, which need to store large files under version control, rely often on Subversion. So, it suits some developers way better than the other version control systems.

If you are already using SVN or decided to give it a shot, Deveo can help you get started. Signup to our free cloud or download Deveo for free to your own servers.