Plus pros and cons

Top 5 open source version control systems

Keval Padia

System admins are very likely to collaborate with many people across the company and therefore experience the stress of transferring files and controlling the changes across various versions created in the process. Version control systems play an important role in enabling easy collaboration, maintaining different versions, and keeping track of the changes.

What is version control?

Version control basically refers to the process pertaining to the cataloging of revisions incorporated in editing and collaborating on a document. Though version control as a term is mostly seen in association with software development and programming, it is actually essential for professionals from different industries (including writers, copywriters, and editorial members.)

For big software development projects, such version control systems keep track of an array of changes in the code base including deletions, additions, and moves incorporated by the collaborative effort of the programmers of that project.

Why are version control systems so important?

All version control systems invariably have these three elements.

  • Allow developers to work on the same software project simultaneously
  • Minimize conflicts among developers who are working on the same project with the same code base.
  • Archive every version including every change, deletion, and addition that ever incorporated and happened in the course of the project

There are different Version Control Systems but what are the key elements that make them unique? Well, let us mention here three broader categories of version control systems as per their roles and effectiveness.

  • As per repository location that can either be centralized or distributed in character
  • As per the check-out methods the merging and committing the code can either be locking, merge-before-commit or commit-before-merge in character.
  • The Version Control Systems can perform through fine operations or file-set operations.

SEE ALSO: 6 best open source material web design frameworks

5 open source version control systems


CVS is the most popular and widely adopted revision control system to date. After its release in 1986, it quickly became the de facto standard for version control system. It has gained popularity mainly because of the low learning curve and its simple system to keep files and revisions up to date.

There is an array of IDEs for CVS including Xcode (Mac), Eclipse, NetBeans and Emacs all of which use CVS.


  • It is a time-tested and mature system which has been in use for more than three decades.
  • There are a lot of IDEs that use CVS.


  • When you move or rename files it is not included in the version update
  • Offering symbolic links to files involves some security risks
  • Absence of any support for atomic operation can lead to corruption of source code
  • Very slow tagging and branch operation
  • Very little support for binary files


SVN is another Version Control Systems which has been widely adopted. A majority of open-source projects and big platforms such as Ruby, Python Apache, etc. use it. Because of its huge popularity, there are many versions and IDEs available.


  • New and much-improved system based on CVS
  • It allows for atomic operations
  • Branch operations are easier and inexpensive
  • Various IDE plugins are available


  • It still offers bugs when files and directories are renamed
  • The commands for managing repository are not enough
  • It is slower in comparison with other systems


Git has quickly emerged as a preferred version control system in recent years. It quickly gained programmers’ attention thanks to a different type of controls and highly distributed system. Thanks to its distributed form of control without any master copy of the software, many open source projects and system administrators prefer Git. Let us have a look at the key pros and cons of this system.


  • Almost all the negatives of CVS/SVN are addressed
  • Exceptional operation speed
  • Easy and inexpensive branch operations
  • Users can access the complete history tree offline
  • It offers a highly distributed, peer-to-peer model


  • Steep learning curve for the users of SVN
  • Not ideal for developers working alone
  • Limited support for Windows in comparison to Linux


Mercurial as an open-source distributed version control system is considered effective for larger projects which involve many developers and designers. Mercurial is a high-performance system offering optimum speed. It is also known for unmatched simplicity and extensive documentation.


  • Low-learning curve compared to Git
  • Extensive and better documentation
  • Highly distributed model
  • High-performance system with great speed


  • Cannot merge two parents
  • It is more based on extension rather than scripting
  • Not versatile enough to allow out-of-the-box maneuvers


Just like Git and Mercurial, Bazaar is another open source distributed version control system. It is particularly known for the easy and flexible user experience it offers. Bazaar is unique because it can be used with distributed code base and with a central code base. This makes it the most versatile system for revisions in diverse systems of the workflow. Moreover, this system allows the user to exercise a detailed control level which is not offered by any other system on this list. It can easily be deployed in a variety of scenarios, thus making it the most adaptive and flexible for a variety of projects.


  • It is ideal for a variety of uses.
  • Bazar also offers a more advanced and detailed set of commands, quality IDE support that is commonplace for CVS and Subversion.
  • Bazaar offers a customizable feature set perfect for a range of projects.


  • It is new and not mature enough as a version control system
  • It lacks IDE support like robust systems such as CVS or SVN.

With regard to popularity, learning curve, performance, and adaptability, the above-mentioned version control systems are miles ahead of the others.

Keval Padia
Keval Padia is a Founder & CEO of Nimblechapps. He is in the field of Android Game Development, with acute knowledge of Mobile App Design and Web Design. His vision is to become the best mobile app development company.

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