Code in Control: A Deep Dive into Version Control Systems for Software Development

In this insight publication, we elucidate why tools of version control systems are imperatively utilized in today's software development.

Mykola (Nick) Hrytsaienko
September 20, 2023

Version control systems (VCS) today are an integral part of the development of any software without exception for digital business transformation. Nowadays, even solo developers use them while creating fairly simple single-page websites.

When working on software, developers use different VCS, but each of them has a very similar purpose. Today, it is very difficult to imagine how collaborative work on any project was carried out by several specialists without using version control systems.

Tracking changes. After making any additions or changes, even the simplest and smallest project may stop working properly. In this case, using VCS, it is very easy to revert to one of the more successful revisions of the software code and restore its functionality.

Collaboration. Most modern projects are worked on by a team of several developers, not just one person. With version control systems, it is possible to organize the simultaneous addition of data from different specialists or modify lines of code in the same elements' files.

Backup and recovery. Today, software code is most often stored on the servers of one of the VCS, which seems to be a more reliable way to ensure its safety than leaving it locally. Plus, not only the latest version is saved here, but all revisions sequentially with the possibility to revert to any of them.

Documentation. Version control systems allow to supplement each revision of the software code with explanatory comments. Thus, the history of changes turns into a kind of documentation for the program code, which makes it possible to understand why certain changes were made.

Even the simplest project created by a solo developer cannot do without version control systems today.

Release management. With VCS, you can create separate branches for developing new software features, as well as possible bug fixes. When the work in the branch is completed, it can usually be merged with the main version of the code, which makes it possible to organize simultaneous collaborative work on different parts of the application.

Testing. Before adding a new feature to the main software code, it is very important to test it thoroughly. Thanks to version control systems, separate branches can also be created for this task, which do not disrupt the integrity and operation of the main code of the website, mobile, or desktop application.

All version control systems have roughly the same purpose and set of features. However, there are also those that are best suited for specific tasks set for the developer. Plus, it is important to understand that the same system can work on multiple platforms. Let's consider the key VCS:

  • Git. The most popular distributed version control system, which involves saving the full version of the entire project in the developer's local repository. Git is used in the vast majority of projects and is used on super-popular platforms, including GitHub and GitLab.
  • Subversion (SVN). A centralized version control system, all software code files of which are stored on one server, and developers only keep local copies of the files they work with.
  • Mercurial. The third most popular version control system, which is very similar to Git, but has a more concise set of features, as well as a very simple and clear interface.

In general, during the digital business transformation, it is clearly impossible to do without software version control systems. They will help to work safely on new features, facilitate cooperation between software developers, help to develop it effectively, and enrich it with new and new features.

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