During an application development process, a quite significant part is the way developers manage to keep track of the changes been made over time. It really consists of a necessary need to be able to store and handle copies of working code versions in various stable stages, and revert back to them when bugs or problems arise. Even more, when a number of programmers work at the same project, keeping track of all changes is a one-way path. Fortunately, developers don’t have to discover their own way to do all that, as there are special software solutions, called Version Control Systems.
A version control system, or in other words a revision control system, is actually a (software) mechanism that is capable of monitoring changes performed to code files over time and storing them for future reference. Besides that, it can also save extra essential data, such as the developer who made the changes, when did they happen, what was actually modified, and other kind of historical and not only data. Moreover, such a system provides the ability to compare various versions of the code, revert to a previous version of either specific files or a whole project if needed, and eventually implement a bug-free product by tracking down any malicious code.
Using a version control system, developers can work on different paths of a project, commonly named branches, and when their piece of project is ready, everything is put together so the final release of the application can be built. This process is called merging, and it consists of a special characteristic of version control systems. Actually, that fashion of work is mandatory in teams of developers and software companies, where each one if responsible for a project’s part, and at the end everything must be gathered up and put in one place.
For single developers it is not required to use a version control system, however is highly recommended, as with it’s much more easier to track down bugs or going back to stable and working versions of code, once a dead end appears or for some reason everything is messed up. The truth is that a great number of lone-rider programmers, especially the new ones, do not use such a system at all, and is common to manually keep copies of their projects when they are about to add new features or generally modify them. That’s a really bad habit, as a source control system does all that much better and efficiently, providing at the same time all the extra capabilities previously described.