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5. Introduction to Version Control Systems (VCS)

5. Introduction to Version Control Systems (VCS)

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Bilal Shafiq
·Jan 7, 2023·

6 min read

Table of contents

What is a version control system?

A version control system (VCS) is a type of software that is used to manage changes to files, including source code, documents, and other types of digital assets. It allows developers to track changes made to the files, collaborate with others, and revert to previous versions if necessary.

The benefits of using a VCS:

  • Tracking the history of changes: Every time a change is made and committed to the repository, the VCS records the change, along with the date and time, and the developer who made the change. This allows you to see who made changes to the files and when they were made, which can be useful for debugging and tracking the progress of a project.

  • Collaborating with others: A VCS makes it easy for multiple developers to work on the same project simultaneously. It allows you to see the changes made by other developers and merge those changes into your work.

  • Reverting to previous versions: A VCS allows you to revert to previous versions of a file if necessary. This can be useful if you make changes that introduce bugs or if you need to restore a previous version of a file for any other reason.

Centralized vs. distributed VCSs:

There are two main types of VCS: centralized and distributed. In a centralized VCS, all changes are made to a central repository, and developers must check out files from the repository to make changes. In a distributed VCS, such as Git, each developer has a copy of the repository, which they can work on independently. Changes are then shared between repositories using a process called "merging".

Git

What is Git?

  • A distributed version control system: Git is a distributed version control system, which means that it does not require a central server to host the repository. Each developer has a copy of the repository, and changes are synced between repositories.

  • Developed by Linus Torvalds: Git was developed by Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system. It was originally designed to manage the Linux kernel codebase but has since become a popular VCS for a wide range of projects.

Key features of Git:

  • Tracking changes to files: Git allows you to track changes made to your files and see a history of those changes.

  • Collaborating with others: Git makes it easy for multiple developers to work on the same project simultaneously. It allows you to see the changes made by other developers and merge those changes into your work.

  • Reverting to previous versions: If you make changes that introduce bugs or want to restore a previous version of a file for any other reason, Git allows you to revert to a previous version of the file.

The history of Git:

Git was developed in 2005 by Linus Torvalds as a way to manage the Linux kernel codebase. It was designed to be fast, scalable, and easy to use, and quickly gained popularity among developers. Today, Git is the default VCS for many open-source projects and is widely used by developers around the world.

GitHub

What is GitHub?

  • A platform built on top of Git: GitHub is a platform that was built on top of Git. It provides a web-based interface for working with Git repositories and offers additional features such as bug tracking, project management, and team collaboration tools.

  • A hosting service for Git repositories: In addition to the features mentioned above, GitHub also provides a hosting service for Git repositories. This allows developers to store their code on GitHub's servers and access it from anywhere with an internet connection.

Key features of GitHub:

  • Version control: As mentioned earlier, Git is a version control system that allows you to track changes to your files and see a history of those changes. GitHub provides a web-based interface for working with Git repositories, making it easy to track changes and collaborate with others.

  • Bug tracking: GitHub provides tools for tracking and managing issues in your codebase. This can be useful for identifying and fixing bugs, as well as for keeping track of feature requests and other types of issues.

  • Project management: GitHub provides tools for managing and organizing your projects, including the ability to create and assign tasks, track progress, and set deadlines.

  • Team collaboration tools: GitHub provides a variety of tools for collaborating with others, including the ability to review and discuss code, as well as integrations with other tools such as Slack for communication.

The popularity of GitHub in the developer community:

GitHub has become a popular choice for developers due to its wide range of features and the fact that it is built on top of Git. It is used by millions of developers worldwide and is the default hosting platform for many open-source projects.

GitLab

What is GitLab?

  • A platform based on Git: GitLab is a platform that is similar to GitHub in many ways. It is based on Git and provides a web-based interface for working with Git repositories.

  • An open-source and self-hosted platform: Unlike GitHub, which is a hosted service, GitLab is an open-source platform that can be self-hosted. This means that you can install and run GitLab on your servers, giving you more control over the hosting environment.

Key differences between GitLab and GitHub:

  • Open source vs. proprietary: As mentioned earlier, GitLab is an open-source platform, while GitHub is a proprietary platform. This means that you can access the source code of GitLab and modify it to meet your needs, while this is not possible with GitHub.

  • Self-hosting: GitLab can be self-hosted, while GitHub is a hosted service. This means that you have more control over the hosting environment with GitLab, but you will also have to manage the infrastructure yourself.

  • Pricing: GitHub offers a range of pricing plans, including a free plan for open source projects. GitLab offers a free Community Edition and a paid Enterprise Edition.

Is GitLab right for you?

Whether GitLab or GitHub is the better choice for you will depend on your needs and preferences. If you value the ability to self-host and modify the source code, or if you prefer an open-source platform, GitLab may be the better choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a hosted service and don't need the ability to self-host, GitHub may be a better fit.

Conclusion

Version control systems are an important tool for developers, allowing them to track changes to their files, collaborate with others, and revert to previous versions if necessary. Git and GitHub are two popular VCSs that offer a range of features for managing code and collaborating with others. GitLab is another platform that is based on Git and offers some unique features, such as the ability to self-host and access the source code.

If you're interested in learning more about DevOps, be sure to sign up for the AWS training session on Saturday 14th Jan 2023 from 1pm-6pm GMT. Don't miss out on this opportunity to level up your skills!

Oh and btw, next entry will be a hands-on tutorial!


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