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Git vs SVN

Git and SVN are very popular Version Control Systems. Both of them are used to manage projects and track changes to them. Although it was widely used earlier, the popularity of SVN is declining and people are migrating to Git.

In this tutorial, we will some of the key differences between Git and SVN.

Git versus SVN

Git vs SVN

Git is a distributed version control system, which means that each developer can get their own copy of the repository with the entire commit history of the project. Changes can happen locally and then can be pushed to the central remote repository. SVN is a centralized version control system, which means that there can only be a single main repository on the server and the developers can only interact with that copy. All the changes will be directly pushed and merged into this main repository.
Git is a Source Code Management(SCM) software. SVN is a Revision Control system.
Git has just a single .git directory that stores all the files needed for version control. SVN will create a .svn directory in each and every folder that is part of the repository.
We do not require an internet connection to work with Git. Once we have installed Git on our local machine and cloned a repository, we can start working on it without having internet access. When using SVN, all changes need to be directly uploaded to the central repository. We need an internet connection to work with SVN.
In Git, branches are simple pointers to a commit. Branches in Git are lightweight but provide a lot of functionalities. In SVN, branches are directories that are created inside a repository. When the work on a branch is completed, it merged backed to the trunk.
Storing and working with binary files can be difficult in Git and if such files are changed regularly then the performance of Git decreases significantly. SVN is better at dealing with binary files than Git.
Git has a very steep learning curve and is significantly harder to learn than SVN. SVN is easier to learn and understand.
Git has a staging area or an index where we add files to view the changes and create commits. SVN does not have a staging area or index.
Git uses cryptographically hashed content to provide better protection to the repository against disk failures and network issues. SVN does not use cryptographically hashed content.

The basic difference between the workflow of Git and SVN is summarised by the following illustration.

Git vs SVN workflow


Git is a very popular distributed VCS and SVN is probably the most popular centralized VCS. Both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages and it all comes down to the user requirements in deciding which version control system should be used. Overall, Git is more preferred by developers due to its distributed model and offline support. But SVN is preferred if the project managers want to have a top-down project development workflow with just a single central repository. SVN is also preferred for binary files as Git does not provide great support for such files.