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Difference between CVS and Subversion

Difference between CVS and Subversion

Are you confused by the difference between CVS and Subversion (SVN)? Despite their common purpose, these two version control systems are quite different from one another. In this blog post, we will explore how both systems manage source code files and handle versions differently, as well as provide an overview of each with real-world examples to uncover where each system excels. Armed with this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about which system to utilize for your development projects.

What is CVS?

  • CVS, or Concurrent Versions System, is an open-source version control system that allows multiple people to work on code collaboratively. CVS keeps track of changes made to the code and archives each version of the source code in a repository.
  • CVS assists developers in managing individual revisions by tracking changes, merging users’ different edits, and ensuring only one user can edit a file at a time.
  • CVS also helps users view the history of their work so they can review changes and revert their code back to earlier versions if needed. CVS provides an all-in-one version control solution, allowing teams to efficiently collaborate on code while maintaining order and clarity throughout development.

What is Subversion?

  • Subversion is an open-source version control system that provides teams with access to a central file repository. Subversion allows the teammates to track, store and modify files over time.
  • Subversion can be used in many ways such as creating communities of developers that collaboratively develop projects or tracking changes made by multiple people on a single document.
  • Subversion ensures accurate records of all changes throughout each file’s development, allowing for important data to be recovered easily if needed. Subversion also encrypts login details, ensuring the safety and security of stored information. Subversion provides a robust and efficient way for software development teams to work collaboratively and streamline their workflow operations.

Difference between CVS and Subversion

CVS Concurrent Versions System and Subversion SubVersioN are two popular version control systems used by software developers to store and manage project files. CVS has been around for over 20 years, but Subversion is newer and is much more widely used.

  • CVS supports most operating systems and languages, while Subversion further extends this support to databases and web technologies. CVS uses the concept of a set of read-only files while Subversion has the added ability to track changes in order to analyze where errors may have occurred or who made specific changes.
  • CVS also requires more manual commands, versus Subversion which enables users to automate repetitive tasks. Finally, CVS limits file size to 1 GB whereas an unlimited-size file can be managed with Subversion.
  • Both CVS and Subversion offer useful version control capabilities, so it’s important for developers to determine which system best suits their particular needs.


CVS and Subversion are both forms of version control software (VCS), which allow multiple users to work on a project simultaneously without overriding each other’s changes. However, there are several key differences between the two systems. CVS is a centralized system, while Subversion is decentralized. This means that in CVS, there is only one “master” copy of the codebase, while in Subversion, every user has their own local copy of the codebase that they can work on independently.

Additionally, CVS uses a “check-out/ check-in” model where users have to explicitly lock files before editing them, while Subversion uses an “optimistic locking” model where any user can edit any file at any time and the system automatically resolves conflicts when changes are committed back to the central repository.

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