While its original intention may have been to subvert the standard code repository solutions, Subversion is deserving of its standing as the established leader in software repositories.
Updated December 04, 2014

While its original intention may have been to subvert the standard code repository solutions, Subversion is deserving of its standing as the established leader in software repositories.

Scott Mitting | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version


Modules Used

  • TortoiseSVN

Overall Satisfaction with Apache Subversion

  • The default conflict resolution option, to merge locally, has led to a much more efficient work environment when working with large teams on large codebases. The traditional single-person file locking can really get in the way of team work, as you have to wait for your team member to finish their changes before you can start working on the same file, even if they called in sick for work that day. While sometimes this requires manually figuring out what to do when two changes affect the same line of code, most of the time the changes are on the same lines of the file, and merging can happen transparently.
  • I have enjoyed the branching process in subversion. Branches and tags are not strict features of the product, which allows for fudgibility, but when you use the recommended trunk/tags/branches folder layout, it behaves as if it was built it. Implemented simply as copy/branch and merge functions, I have found them to work just as well as a built it system would work, and it does a good job pointing out issues with a change's ancestry.
  • Subversion also have a rich ecosystem of third-party tools and service providers. I personally have used TortoiseSVN for years, but there are several plugins that integrate directly into Visual Studio or Eclipse. Also, I have found hosting services like CVSDude (now called CloudForge) to be a big time-saver over hosting a repository on your own servers, while providing peace of mind that your code-base is in a different physical location, in case say, your server farm burned down. (I'd call that a serious edge condition, but my job involves edge conditions!)
  • At times, locking problems can be difficult to solve. This normally happens you make a mistake, like attempting to update a folder that has running executables within it. Often times, you can just unlock a parent folder and you' are all set, but on more than one occasion I have had to recheckout a folder because I could not resolve the lock, even after rebooting.
  • Looking up the history of a file can be very slow, taking several minutes, especially when looking at the history of an entire folder.
  • Novice users of subversion often make the mistake of dragging folders in Windows that are managed by subversion. This does not cause the folder to move in the svn repository, which can lead to serious confusion why a user's folder structure does not seem the synchronize correctly with other users. To an advanced user, this can be a very useful feature, but absolutely hell for the novice.
  • I have not found any third-party tools yet that let me visualize the commits for a codebase, particularly across branches. This may be partially because of the slow history I already pointed out, but I believe it's because I have not been willing to even look at the multi-thousand dollar code management solutions I have seen advertisements for in the past.
  • Compared to the much more expensive Microsoft Team Foundation Server, I have found Subversion to be a much more flexible and efficient solution for large teams to work on a codebase.
  • While it's not as GUI intensive for document storage as solutions like Box, I feel that once users get over the learning curve, it could be an excellent way to share corporate documents on user's machines if a more traditional file server is not an option.
  • Of course, free software doesn't mean there is no cost or investment, but when using third-party hosting with subversion, the maintenance costs become negligible.
While there are interesting alternatives, such a GIT, Subversion has been a breath of fresh air compared to its predecessors like CVS or Microsoft Source Safe (now called Team Foundation Server). Its ease of use and high adoption rate is going to keep me using this product for years to come.
I would only consider not recommending Subversion if the development department adheres to what I call the "One Microsoft Way" (a play on words of Microsoft's address). Many IT departments prefer to go completely by the book on all procedures related to IT. While that is justifiable if you consider what to do if the entire programming department quit without notice, Subversion offers too many advantages to not consider seriously as a better replacement for Microsoft's standard source code repository solutions.