Properties and the Subversion Workflow

Now that you are familiar with all of the property-related svn subcommands, let's see how property modifications affect the usual Subversion workflow. As we mentioned earlier, file and directory properties are versioned, just like your file contents. As a result, Subversion provides the same opportunities for merging—cleanly or with conflicts—someone else's modifications into your own.

As with file contents, your property changes are local modifications, made permanent only when you commit them to the repository with svn commit. Your property changes can be easily unmade, too—the svn revert command will restore your files and directories to their unedited states—contents, properties, and all. Also, you can receive interesting information about the state of your file and directory properties by using the svn status and svn diff commands.

$ svn status calc/button.c
 M     calc/button.c
$ svn diff calc/button.c
Property changes on: calc/button.c
Name: copyright
   + (c) 2006 Red-Bean Software


Notice how the status subcommand displays M in the second column instead of the first. That is because we have modified the properties on calc/button.c, but not its textual contents. Had we changed both, we would have seen M in the first column, too (see the section called “See an overview of your changes”).

You might also have noticed the nonstandard way that Subversion currently displays property differences. You can still run svn diff and redirect the output to create a usable patch file. The patch program will ignore property patches—as a rule, it ignores any noise it can't understand. This does, unfortunately, mean that to fully apply a patch generated by svn diff, any property modifications will need to be applied by hand.