Get started with Subversion using SvnX

If you are a developer, version control software allows you to track changes to your code. This is essential in projects where you work as part of a team, allowing you to track changes as they occur. While services like GIT are popular, especially for open source software, alternatives like Subversion (SVN) offer more control.

There are various SVN clients, but for Mac users, a popular option is SvnX. We first touched on this simple, free, and open source SVN client for Mac more than a decade ago, with many new features and changes to dive into since then. If you want to use SvnX, here’s everything you need to know to get started.

What is (SVN) Subversion?

Other types of version control, such as GIT, rely on a decentralized approach to version control. Each worker receives a copy of the code, works on that code, and the changes are then applied (committed) on the broader code base.

Apache Subversion works differently. Rather than a decentralized approach, Subversion is centralized. There is only one central code repository, with each developer working on their own parts. Each code revision is monitored, with the ability to easily restore previous versions.

SVN repository flowchart showing all developers connected to the central repository

This gives administrators more control, more security, and can be an easier system to use. If the centralized approach is your thing, installing SvnX is the first step to using Subversion on Mac. This client adds a GUI interface to the Subversion terminal app.

Installing SvnX Subversion on macOS

Previous versions of SvnX required a manual installation of Subversion on macOS before the client worked. Thankfully, macOS now includes a recent version of Subversion, so it’s no longer needed.

To install and run the most up-to-date version of SvnX, you’ll need to install the Homebrew package manager for macOS. Other available versions of SvnX, including those provided on the “official” but long-abandoned SvnX website, will simply not work on recent macOS installations due to its old 32-bit state.

  • If you don’t have Homebrew installed on macOS, open a terminal window and type / usr / bin / ruby ​​-e “$ (curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install) ” to begin the installation. Wait for the download and installation script to complete and follow the on-screen instructions.
  • Once Homebrew is installed, type brew cask install svnx in terminal and hit enter. This will download and install the latest 64-bit version of SvnX available for macOS. Homebrew will notify you once the installation process is finished completed.
Successful homebrew installation window
  • You can start SvnX from Launchpad or by double-clicking the app in the Applications folder in the Finder. However, the first time you do this, macOS will likely block the attempt for security reasons.

    You will need to allow SvnX to start by clicking Launchpad> System Preferences> Security and Privacy is in the General tab by clicking Open anyway button next to the SvnX startup notice.

Open anyway button in Security and privacy
  • Before launch, macOS will ask you for final approval. Click To open to allow SvnX to finally launch the app.
The Open button on macOS cannot verify the screen

After its first launch, macOS will allow SvnX to run without further security concerns.

How to use SvnX Subversion

When you first start SvnX, you will be presented with a fairly simple screen. On the left are two categories called Working copies And Repository.

Repository on the Settings tab under Bookmarks

Repositories are the central SVN servers you connect to. An SVN repository contains all the files for your project. When you update a file, a new revision tag is added, which allows you to distinguish between older and newer copies of your repository files.

Working copies are where local copies of repository files are saved. This allows you to make changes to your files locally before committing them to the repository. The files are generally separated into different focus areas such as trunk (for stable copies), branch (for files under active development) and label (for copies of the main repository).

  • To add a new repository, click Settings button in the left menu and click Add repository.
Add repository in the context menu
  • You will need to provide details about your Subversion server in order for you to connect. Type the SVN repository server in URL box, giving the repository a memorable name below First name. If you have a username and password, type those in Username And Password cans.
Test SVN in bookmark repositories
  • Once your details are in place, double-click the entry for your repository in the left menu or click Details> Update Now. This will open the login menu for your SVN repository, allowing you to access existing repository files and past revisions and make any necessary changes.
Try the SVN window
Checkout button in SVN Test
  • You will find more information about your saved working copy in the main SvnX startup window, listed below Working copies in the left menu. After making changes to the SVN working copy, double-click the entry in the main SvnX startup window.

    In the Working copy window that appears, select the folders or folders you have edited, then click To commit to save it as a new revision in the central SVN repository.

Confirmation button in SVN

Any new revisions you make will be listed in the file Repository window for your SVN server. You can create new working copies on previous revisions to “fork” your code and revert to a previous version if necessary.

Effective version control with SvnX

If you are not using a version control system, any changes to the code are final. You can’t go back and you can’t undo changes made later. Using SvnX on Mac helps address this problem by offering an easy and effective way to track code changes.

SvnX is a bit outdated, so feel free to use an alternative like Versions if it’s not the right SVN client for Mac for you. Of course, you can’t run before you can walk, so if you want to learn programming, there are a number of services and apps available to help you.

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