Distinction Between Status and Update

Subversion attempts to erase a lot of the confusion between the cvs status and cvs update commands.

The cvs status command has two purposes: first, to show the user any local modifications in the working copy, and second, to show the user which files are out of date. Unfortunately, because of CVS's hard-to-read status output, many CVS users don't take advantage of this command at all. Instead, they've developed a habit of running cvs update or cvs -n update to quickly see their changes. If users forget to use the -n option, this has the side effect of merging repository changes they may not be ready to deal with.

Subversion removes this muddle by making the output of svn status easy to read for both humans and parsers. Also, svn update prints only information about files that are updated, not local modifications.


svn status prints all files that have local modifications. By default, the repository is not contacted. While this subcommand accepts a fair number of options, the following are the most commonly used ones:


Contact the repository to determine, and then display, out-of-dateness information.


Show all entries under version control.


Run nonrecursively (do not descend into subdirectories).

The svn status command has two output formats. In the default short format, local modifications look like this:

$ svn status
M       foo.c
M       bar/baz.c

If you specify the --show-updates (-u) option, a longer output format is used:

$ svn status -u
M             1047   foo.c
        *     1045   faces.html
        *            bloo.png
M             1050   bar/baz.c
Status against revision:   1066

In this case, two new columns appear. The second column contains an asterisk if the file or directory is out of date. The third column shows the working copy's revision number of the item. In the previous example, the asterisk indicates that faces.html would be patched if we updated, and that bloo.png is a newly added file in the repository. (The absence of any revision number next to bloo.png means that it doesn't yet exist in the working copy.)

For a more detailed discussion of svn status, including an explanation of the status codes shown in the previous example, see the section called “See an overview of your changes”.


svn update updates your working copy, and prints only information about files that it updates.

Subversion has combined CVS's P and U codes into just U. When a merge or conflict occurs, Subversion simply prints G or C, rather than a whole sentence about it.

For a more detailed discussion of svn update, see the section called “Update Your Working Copy”.