Using the APIs

Developing applications against the Subversion library APIs is fairly straightforward. Subversion is primarily a set of C libraries, with header (.h) files that live in the subversion/include directory of the source tree. These headers are copied into your system locations (for example, /usr/local/include) when you build and install Subversion itself from source. These headers represent the entirety of the functions and types meant to be accessible by users of the Subversion libraries. The Subversion developer community is meticulous about ensuring that the public API is well-documented—refer directly to the header files for that documentation.

When examining the public header files, the first thing you might notice is that Subversion's datatypes and functions are namespace protected. That is, every public Subversion symbol name begins with svn_, followed by a short code for the library in which the symbol is defined (such as wc, client, fs, etc.), followed by a single underscore (_) and then the rest of the symbol name. Semi-public functions (used among source files of a given library but not by code outside that library, and found inside the library directories themselves) differ from this naming scheme in that instead of a single underscore after the library code, they use a double underscore (__). Functions that are private to a given source file have no special prefixing, and are declared static. Of course, a compiler isn't interested in these naming conventions, but they help to clarify the scope of a given function or datatype.

Another good source of information about programming against the Subversion APIs is the project's own hacking guidelines, which can be found at This document contains useful information which, while aimed at developers and would-be developers of Subversion itself, is equally applicable to folks developing against Subversion as a set of third-party libraries. [52]

[52] After all, Subversion uses Subversion's APIs, too.