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What is Version Control and Benefits of Using It?
8 min read

What is Version Control and Benefits of Using It?


Version control lets you track file changes and access specific versions when needed. It helps developers collaborate and is essential to any successful software project. From simple file backups in the 1970s to centralized CVS and distributed Git, version control systems have evolved dramatically. This evolution has improved coding efficiency and collaboration, shaping software development. Understand version control fundamentals and compare version control systems.

Today we will go through version control systems in detail, starting with the core concepts of version control.

Steps to be covered:

Core Concepts of Version Control

Basic Definitions

  • Repository: A database storing file versions and history.
  • Commit: A snapshot of changes made to the codebase.
  • Branch: A divergent path of development, isolated from others.
  • Merge: The act of integrating changes from one branch into another.
  • Pull: Fetching and merging changes from a remote repository.
  • Push: Sending local changes to a remote repository.
  • Conflict: A state where simultaneous changes clash, requiring manual resolution.

Types of Version Control Systems (VCS)

  • Local VCS: Stores changes in local files. Risky due to a single point of failure.
  • Centralized VCS (e.g., SVN): A single, central server hosts the full version history. Fast and straightforward but vulnerable to server failure.
  • Distributed VCS (e.g., Git, Mercurial): Every user has a complete copy of the repository. Robust against failures, supports flexible workflows.

How Version Control Works

  • Developers make changes to their local codebase.
  • Changes are committed, creating a new version in the repository.
  • Branches allow developers to work on features in isolation.
  • Merging integrates changes from different branches.
  • Conflicts occur when changes clash, requiring manual resolution.

Benefits of Using Version Control


Version control systems are the linchpin of a collaborative development environment. They allow multiple developers to work on the same project simultaneously, each making their changes in a controlled and isolated manner. This prevents overwriting and conflicting changes, ensuring that each developer’s work is preserved and integrated correctly.

Track Changes

A version control system keeps a comprehensive history of all changes made to the project, including who made the changes and why. This audit trail is invaluable for understanding the evolution of a project, debugging issues, and holding developers accountable for their changes. It provides a clear picture of the project’s progression and the decisions that shaped it.


One of the most powerful features of version control systems is the ability to create separate branches for experimentation. Developers can diverge from the main line of development and explore new ideas without fear of destabilizing the main project. If the experiment is successful, it can be merged back into the main project. If not, it can be discarded without any adverse impact.


Despite best efforts, sometimes new features can introduce bugs or not meet expectations. In such cases, version control systems provide the ability to revert to previous versions. This rollback feature ensures that you can quickly recover from mistakes or unwanted changes, maintaining the stability and integrity of your project.

Version Control in Practice

Common Operations

Imagine a team of developers working on a project, “Project X”. They are using Git, a distributed version control system. Here’s how they might use common version control operations:

1- To begin, developers clone the central repository to their local machine. This copies the project locally.

2- Developer A adds a feature. They branch into “feature-A” to separate their changes from the main codebase.

3- Developer A commits regularly to their branch with a clear message describing the changes.

4- Developer B is fixing a bug on their branch, “bugfix-B”. Their branch is updated by pulling changes from the central repository.

5- Developer B merges their branch back into the main codebase after fixing the bug. The project includes their changes.

6- Developer A finished their feature, but the main codebase changed. Rebasing their branch onto the main codebase replicates their changes to the latest project.

7- A critical bug is reported while Developer C is halfway through implementing another feature. They stash their changes, fix the bug, and pop the stash to resume.

Best Practices

Here are some practical tips for effective version control management:

  • Write easily understood commit messages that clearly outline the changes and the reasoning behind them. Because of this, the project history can be better understood.
  • Choose a branching strategy that works for your team's workflow. In "feature branching," for instance, separate branches are used for the development of each new feature. There are distinct "Git Flow" branches for each phase of the process: development, staging, and production.
  • When deciding how to incorporate changes, you should think about whether to merge or rebase. Unlike rebasing, which creates a linear history by replaying your changes onto the base branch, merging preserves the complete history and context of your changes.

Version Control and CI/CD

Version control is essential to CI/CD pipelines. Developers trigger the CI/CD pipeline by pushing changes to the version control system. Our pipeline builds, tests, and deploys changes automatically if all tests pass. This keeps the main codebase deployable and reduces integration risks. It also helps developers get feedback quickly and find bugs early.


Git is a distributed version control system. It’s popular due to its speed, data integrity, and support for distributed workflows. Platforms like GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket have increased its popularity. Below illustration explains how Git works.

version control

Subversion (SVN)

Subversion, or SVN, is a centralized version control system. It’s known for its simplicity and linear history model. Despite being older, it’s still used in many projects.


Mercurial is a distributed version control system like Git. It emphasizes simplicity and ease of use, making it a good choice for smaller teams or projects.

Comparative Analysis

  • Git: Speed, data integrity, and the ability to work in distributed workflows are all advantages of Git. Nevertheless, there is a significant learning curve.
  • SVN: A linear history model and ease of use are two of the benefits. On the other hand, it can't match the versatility and features of distributed systems.
  • Mercurial: Easy use and simplicity are two of Mercurial's advantages. But since it isn't as widely used as Git, fewer resources and tools are available.

Before finalizing a version control system, think about the scope of your project, the expertise of your team, and the needs of your workflow. Git, on the one hand, may be better suited to big, distributed teams, while SVN or Mercurial, on the other, may be more suited to smaller teams or less complex projects.

Implementing Version Control in Your Projects

Choosing the Right System

Selecting a version control system depends on several factors:

  • Project Size: Larger projects may benefit from distributed systems like Git, while smaller ones may find centralized systems like SVN simpler to use.
  • Team Size and Structure: Distributed systems can better support large, geographically dispersed teams.
  • Nature of your workflow: Some systems support certain workflows better than others. For example, Git is well-suited to a feature-branch workflow.

Setup, Configuration, and Other Steps

Setting up a version control system involves a few key steps:

  • Create a new repository in your project directory.
  • Set your user name and email, which will be attached to your commits.
  • (Optional) Generate an SSH key pair (public and private keys) for secure communication with the repository. Add the public key to your version control system and keep the private key secure on your local machine. Use an SSH token for additional security.

Integrating with Development Tools

Most IDEs have built-in support for version control systems. This allows you to perform common operations like committing and branching without leaving your IDE. For example, in Visual Studio Code, you can stage changes, commit, create branches, merge branches, and even resolve merge conflicts directly in the editor. Additionally, many project management tools can integrate with version control systems to link code changes to tasks and issues. This helps keep your project organized and trackable.


Version control is an integral part of any software development workflow. You cannot succeed without gaining a solid understanding of different operations of version control. This article has provided a detailed explanation of not only Git but other version control systems too. As distributed teams and rapid CI/CD are common practices, de-centralized platforms like Git have become very popular.

However, selecting the right version control system is a crucial part of the planning stage because the version control system is difficult to change after the project has developed. We hope that this article will serve as a foundation for understanding version control systems and that the practical examples provided will be helpful to the developers in their daily workflow.