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Understanding How Document Version Control Software Works

Jan 20, 2008
There are several document version control software that are available online. However, before proceeding to purchase one, it is helpful to have a better understanding of the concept of version control or revision control.

Version control, or revision control, or source control is a feature that allows computer users to keep track of their files over time. This is important so that a user can get back to his previous working version in case he messes up. In more technical terms, revision control is the management of revisions done on the same information unit. This is frequently used by engineering and software development companies to keep track of the ongoing development of their digital documents. Document changes are identified through a "revision number" or "revision level" which is an increment in the associated number or letter code of a document. Moreover, the name of the person who is responsible for a revision is also reflected in the revision control code. For example, a digital document is assigned a revision code number "1." When changes are made to this document, its revision code number is incremented to "2". Revision control features are integrated into various software types like spreadsheets, word processors like MSWord and Koffice and various content management systems. With this feature, a computer user can revert or go back to a previous revision or page in order to correct any mistake committed.

Revision control is a crucial tool especially for computer software engineers and software developers. It allows the former to keep track and control changes made on source codes. Developers of software applications also use it to maintain documentation, source codes and configuration files. Most developers create multiple copies of different program versions while working on updates and software issues like bugs. These bugs are present only in some versions so when locating them, all versions of the software would have to be run. The practice of retaining multiple copies of programs is often done in large software companies. However, this practice is heavily criticized for its inefficiency.

A centralized model is traditionally used by software developers wherein all revision control functions are made on a shared server. In this set-up, two developers who make changes on the same file at the same time may end up overwriting the work of the other. In order to prevent this occurrence, file locking is implemented. Files are locked to allow only one user to access it in any given time. Other version control systems have a version merging capability which allows multiple developers to work at the same time on the same file.

When choosing which among different document version control software to purchase, make sure to select one that can provide the needed version control benefits. This software is beneficial even for those who are not developing software applications as it can be used to keep backup files especially concerning ongoing tasks or projects. What is important is that the concept, lingo and philosophy of version control should be clearly understood so that the most appropriate software is chosen.
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