Basic Merging

Now you and Sally are working on parallel branches of the project: you're working on a private branch, and Sally is working on the trunk, or main line of development.

For projects that have a large number of contributors, it's common for most people to have working copies of the trunk. Whenever someone needs to make a long-running change that is likely to disrupt the trunk, a standard procedure is to create a private branch and commit changes there until all the work is complete.

So, the good news is that you and Sally aren't interfering with each other. The bad news is that it's very easy to drift too far apart. Remember that one of the problems with the “crawl in a hole” strategy is that by the time you're finished with your branch, it may be near-impossible to merge your changes back into the trunk without a huge number of conflicts.

Instead, you and Sally might continue to share changes as you work. It's up to you to decide which changes are worth sharing; Subversion gives you the ability to selectively “copy” changes between branches. And when you're completely finished with your branch, your entire set of branch changes can be copied back into the trunk. In Subversion terminology, the general act of replicating changes from one branch to another is called merging, and it is performed using various invocations of the svn merge command.

In the examples that follow, we're assuming that both your Subversion client and server are running Subversion 1.5 (or later). If either client or server is older than version 1.5, then things are more complicated: the system won't track changes automatically, and you'll have to use painful manual methods to achieve similar results. That is, you'll always need to use the detailed merge syntax to specify specific ranges of revisions to replicate (See the section called “Merge Syntax: Full Disclosure” later in this chapter), and take special care to keep track of what's already been merged and what hasn't. For this reason, we strongly recommend making sure that your client and server are at least version 1.5 or later.