End-of-Line Character Sequences

Unless otherwise noted using a versioned file's svn:mime-type property, Subversion assumes the file contains human-readable data. Generally speaking, Subversion uses this knowledge only to determine if contextual difference reports for that file are possible. Otherwise, to Subversion, bytes are bytes.

This means that by default, Subversion doesn't pay any attention to the type of end-of-line (EOL) markers used in your files. Unfortunately, different operating systems have different conventions about which character sequences represent the end of a line of text in a file. For example, the usual line-ending token used by software on the Windows platform is a pair of ASCII control characters—a carriage return (CR) followed by a line feed (LF). Unix software, however, just uses the LF character to denote the end of a line.

Not all of the various tools on these operating systems understand files that contain line endings in a format that differs from the native line-ending style of the operating system on which they are running. So, typically, Unix programs treat the CR character present in Windows files as a regular character (usually rendered as ^M), and Windows programs combine all of the lines of a Unix file into one giant line because no carriage return-linefeed (or CRLF) character combination was found to denote the ends of the lines.

This sensitivity to foreign EOL markers can be frustrating for folks who share a file across different operating systems. For example, consider a source code file, and developers that edit this file on both Windows and Unix systems. If all the developers always use tools that preserve the line-ending style of the file, no problems occur.

But in practice, many common tools either fail to properly read a file with foreign EOL markers, or they convert the file's line endings to the native style when the file is saved. If the former is true for a developer, he has to use an external conversion utility (such as dos2unix or its companion, unix2dos) to prepare the file for editing. The latter case requires no extra preparation. But both cases result in a file that differs from the original quite literally on every line! Prior to committing his changes, the user has two choices. Either he can use a conversion utility to restore the modified file to the same line-ending style that it was in before his edits were made. Or, he can simply commit the file—new EOL markers and all.

The result of scenarios like these include wasted time and unnecessary modifications to committed files. Wasted time is painful enough. But when commits change every line in a file, this complicates the job of determining which of those lines were changed in a nontrivial way. Where was that bug really fixed? On what line was a syntax error introduced?

The solution to this problem is the svn:eol-style property. When this property is set to a valid value, Subversion uses it to determine what special processing to perform on the file so that the file's line-ending style isn't flip-flopping with every commit that comes from a different operating system. The valid values are:

native

This causes the file to contain the EOL markers that are native to the operating system on which Subversion was run. In other words, if a user on a Windows machine checks out a working copy that contains a file with an svn:eol-style property set to native, that file will contain CRLF EOL markers. A Unix user checking out a working copy that contains the same file will see LF EOL markers in his copy of the file.

Note that Subversion will actually store the file in the repository using normalized LF EOL markers regardless of the operating system. This is basically transparent to the user, though.

CRLF

This causes the file to contain CRLF sequences for EOL markers, regardless of the operating system in use.

LF

This causes the file to contain LF characters for EOL markers, regardless of the operating system in use.

CR

This causes the file to contain CR characters for EOL markers, regardless of the operating system in use. This line-ending style is not very common. It was used on older Macintosh platforms (on which Subversion doesn't even run).