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svn—Subversion Command-Line Client

svn is the official command-line client of Subversion. Its functionality is offered via a collection of task-specific subcommands, most of which accept a number of options for fine-grained control of the program's behavior.

When using the svn program, subcommands and other non-option arguments must appear in a specified order on the command line. Options, on the other hand, may appear anywhere on the command line (after the program name, of course), and in general, their order is irrelevant. For example, all of the following are valid ways to use svn status, and are interpreted in exactly the same way:

$ svn -vq status myfile
$ svn status -v -q myfile
$ svn -q status -v myfile
$ svn status -vq myfile
$ svn status myfile -qv

The following sections describe each of the various subcommands and options provided by the svn command-line client program, including some examples of each subcommand's typical uses.

svn Options

While Subversion has different options for its subcommands, all options exist in a single namespace—that is, each option is guaranteed to mean the roughly same thing regardless of the subcommand you use it with. For example, --verbose (-v) always means verbose output, regardless of the subcommand you use it with.

The svn command-line client usually exits quickly with an error if you pass it an option which does not apply to the specified subcommand. But as of Subversion 1.5, several of the options which apply to all—or nearly all—of the subcommands have been deemed acceptable by all subcommands, even if they have no effect on some of them. (This change was made primarily to improve the client's ability to called from custom wrapping scripts.) These options appear grouped together in the command-line client's usage messages as global options, as can be seen in the following bit of output:

$ svn help upgrade
upgrade: Upgrade the metadata storage format for a working copy.
usage: upgrade [WCPATH...]

  Local modifications are preserved.

Valid options:
  -q [--quiet]             : print nothing, or only summary information

Global options:
  --username ARG           : specify a username ARG
  --password ARG           : specify a password ARG
  --no-auth-cache          : do not cache authentication tokens
  --non-interactive        : do no interactive prompting
  --trust-server-cert      : accept SSL server certificates from unknown
                             certificate authorities without prompting (but only
                             with '--non-interactive')
  --config-dir ARG         : read user configuration files from directory ARG
  --config-option ARG      : set user configuration option in the format:
                             For example:

svn subcommands recognize the following global options:

--config-dir DIR

Instructs Subversion to read configuration information from the specified directory instead of the default location (.subversion in the user's home directory).

--config-option CONFSPEC

Sets, for the duration of the command, the value of a runtime configuration option. CONFSPEC is a string which specifies the configuration option namespace, name and value that you'd like to assign, formatted as FILE:SECTION:OPTION=[VALUE]. In this syntax, FILE and SECTION are the runtime configuration file (either config or servers) and the section thereof, respectively, which contain the option whose value you wish to change. OPTION is, of course, the option itself, and VALUE the value (if any) you wish to assign to the option. For example, to temporarily disable the use of the automatic property setting feature, use --config-option=config:miscellany:enable-auto-props=no. You can use this option multiple times to change multiple option values simultaneously.


Prevents caching of authentication information (e.g., username and password) in the Subversion runtime configuration directories.


Disables all interactive prompting. Some examples of interactive prompting include requests for authentication credentials and conflict resolution decisions. This is useful if you're running Subversion inside an automated script and it's more appropriate to have Subversion fail than to prompt for more information.

--password PASSWD

Specifies the password to use when authenticating against a Subversion server. If not provided, or if incorrect, Subversion will prompt you for this information as needed.


When used with --non-interactive, instructs Subversion to accept SSL server certificates issued by unknown certificate authorities without first prompting the user. For security's sake, you should use this option only when the integrity of the remote server and the network path between it and your client is known to be trustworthy.

--username NAME

Specifies the username to use when authenticating against a Subversion server. If not provided, or if incorrect, Subversion will prompt you for this information as needed.

The rest of the options apply and are accepted by only a subset of the subcommand. They are as follows:

--accept ACTION

Specifies an action for automatic conflict resolution, disabling the interactive prompts which ask the user how to handle each conflict as it is noticed. Though which of the specific actions are applicable differs depending on which subcommand is in use, Subversion supports the following long (and short) values for ACTION:

postpone (p)

Take no resolution action at all and instead allow the conflicts to be recorded for future resolution.

edit (e)

Open each conflicted file in a text editor for manual resolution of line-based conflicts.

launch (l)

Launch an interactive merge conflict resolution tool for each conflicted file.


Choose the file that was the (unmodified) BASE revision before you tried to integrate changes from the server into your working copy.


Assuming that you've manually handled the conflict resolution, choose the version of the file as it currently stands in your working copy.

mine-full (mf)

Resolve conflicted files by preserving all local modifications and discarding all changes fetched from the server during the operation which caused the conflict.

theirs-full (tf)

Resolve conflicted files by discarding all local modifications and integrating all changes fetched from the server during the operation which caused the conflict.

mine-conflict (mc)

Resolve conflicted files by preferring local modifications over the changes fetched from the server in conflicting regions of each file's content.

theirs-conflict (tc)

Resolve conflicted files by preferring the changes fetched from the server over local modifications in conflicting regions of each file's content.

Consult the output of svn help SUBCOMMAND to see exactly which actions are supported by the specific subcommand of interest.


Disables the verification—performed by default by svn merge as of Subversion 1.7—that the target of a merge operation and all of its children are at a uniform revision. While merging into a single-revision working copy target is the recommended best practice, this option may be used to permit merges into mixed-revision working copies as necessary.


Enables automatic property assignment (per runtime configuration rules), overriding the enable-auto-props runtime configuration directive.

--change (-c) ARG

Perform the requested operation using a specific change. Generally speaking, this option is syntactic sugar for -r ARG-1:ARG. Some subcommands permit a comma-separated list of revision number arguments (e.g., -c ARG1,ARG2,ARG3). Alternatively, you can provide two arguments separated by a dash (as in -c ARG1-ARG2) to identify the range of revisions between ARG1 and ARG2, inclusive. Finally, if the revision argument is negated, the implied revision range is reversed: -c -45 is equivalent to -r 45:44.

--changelist (--cl) ARG

Instructs Subversion to operate only on members of the changelist named ARG. You can use this option multiple times to specify sets of changelists.

--depth ARG

Instructs Subversion to limit the scope of an operation to a particular tree depth. ARG is one of empty (only the target itself), files (the target and any immediate file children thereof), immediates (the target and any immediate children thereof), or infinity (the target and all of its descendants—full recursion).


Enables a special output mode for svn log which includes a difference report (a la svn diff) as part of each revision's information.

--diff-cmd CMD

Specifies an external program to use to show differences between files. When svn diff is invoked without this option, it uses Subversion's internal differencing engine, which provides unified diffs by default. If you want to use an external differencing program, use --diff-cmd. You can then pass options to the specified program using the --extensions (-x) option.

--diff3-cmd CMD

Specifies an external 3-way differencing program (used to merge line-based changes into files).


Goes through all the motions of running a command, but makes no actual changes—either on disk or in the repository.

--editor-cmd CMD

Specifies an external program to use to edit a log message or a property value. See the editor-cmd section in the section called “Config” for ways to specify a default editor.

--encoding ENC

Tells Subversion that your commit message is composed using the character encoding provided. The default character encoding is derived from your operating system's native locale; use this option if your commit message is composed using any other encoding.

--extensions (-x) ARG

Specifies customizations which Subversion should make when performing difference calculations. Valid extensions include:

--ignore-space-change (-b)

Ignore changes in the amount of white space.

--ignore-all-space (-w)

Ignore all white space.


Ignore changes in EOL (end-of-line) style.

--show-c-function (-p)

Show C function names in the diff output.

--unified (-u)

Show three lines of unified diff context.

The default value of ARG is -u. If you wish to pass multiple arguments, you must enclose all of them in quotes.

Note that when Subversion is configured to invoke an external diff command, the value of the --extension (-x) option isn't restricted to the previously mentioned options, but may be any additional arguments which Subversion should pass to that command.

--file (-F) FILENAME

Uses the contents of the named file for the specified subcommand. Different subcommands do different things with this content. For example, svn commit uses the content as a commit log message, whereas svn propset uses it as a property value.


Forces a particular command or operation to run. Subversion will prevent you from performing some operations in normal usage, but you can pass this option to tell Subversion I know what I'm doing as well as the possible repercussions of doing it, so let me at 'em. This option is the programmatic equivalent of doing your own electrical work with the power on—if you don't know what you're doing, you're likely to get a nasty shock.


Forces a suspicious parameter passed to the --message (-m) or --file (-F) option to be accepted as valid. By default, Subversion will produce an error if parameters to these options look like they might instead be targets of the subcommand. For example, if you pass a versioned file's path to the --file (-F) option, Subversion will assume you've made a mistake, that the path was instead intended as the target of the operation, and that you simply failed to provide some other—unversioned—file as the source of your log message. To assert your intent and override these types of errors, pass the --force-log option to subcommands that accept log messages.


Enables a special output mode for svn diff designed for cross-compatibility with the popular Git distributed version control system.

--help (-h, -?)

If used with one or more subcommands, shows the built-in help text for each. If used alone, it displays the general client help text.


Tells Subversion to ignore ancestry when calculating differences (rely on path contents alone). Also disables Merge Tracking when used with the svn merge subcommand.


Tells Subversion to ignore externals definitions and the external working copies managed by them.


Disables keyword expansion.


Instructs svn patch to ignore whitespace when attempting to identify patch context.


Prints output in a format suitable for concatenation to prior similar output.


Instructs Subversion to use its built-in differencing engine despite any external differencing mechanism that may be specified for use in the user's runtime configuration.


Tells Subversion not to remove the changelist assigments from working copy items after committing.


Keeps the local copy of a file or directory (used with the svn delete command).

--limit (-l) NUM

Shows only the first NUM log messages.

--message (-m) MESSAGE

Indicates that you will specify either a log message or a lock comment on the command line, following this option. For example:

$ svn commit -m "They don't make Sunday."
--native-eol ARG

Causes svn export to use a specific end-of-line sequence as if it was the native sequence for the client platform. ARG may be one of CR, LF, or CRLF.

--new ARG

Uses ARG as the newer target (for use with svn diff).


Disables automatic property setting, overriding the enable-auto-props runtime configuration directive.


Prevents Subversion from printing differences for deleted files. The default behavior when you remove a file is for svn diff to print the same differences that you would see if you had kept the file but removed all of its content.


Shows files in the status listing that would normally be omitted since they match a pattern in the global-ignores configuration option or the svn:ignore property. See the section called “Config” and the section called “Ignoring Unversioned Items” for more information.


Tells Subversion not to automatically unlock files. (The default commit behavior is to unlock all files listed as part of the commit.) See the section called “Locking” for more information.

--non-recursive (-N)

Deprecated. Stops a subcommand from recursing into subdirectories. Most subcommands recurse by default, but some do not. Users should avoid this option and use the more precise --depth option instead. For most subcommands, specifying --non-recursive produces behavior which is the same as if you'd specified --depth=files, but there are exceptions: non-recursive svn status operates at the immediates depth, and the non-recursive forms of svn revert, svn add, and svn commit operate at an empty depth.


Pays attention to ancestry when calculating differences.

--old ARG

Uses ARG as the older target (for use with svn diff).


Creates and adds nonexistent or nonversioned parent subdirectories to the working copy or repository as part of an operation. This is useful for automatically creating multiple subdirectories where none currently exist. If performed on a URL, all the directories will be created in a single commit.

--quiet (-q)

Requests that the client print only essential information while performing an operation.


Enables a special mode of svn merge in which the specified merge operation is recorded in the local merge tracking information, but is not actually performed.

--recursive (-R)

Makes a subcommand recurse into subdirectories. (Most subcommands recurse by default.)


Used with the svn merge subcommand to merge all of the source URL's changes into the working copy. See the section called “Keeping a Branch in Sync” for details.


Deprecated. When used with the svn switch subcommand, changes the location of the repository that your working copy references. The preferred approach as of Subversion 1.7, however, is to use the svn relocate subcommand. See svn relocate for more details and an example.


Used with svn changelist to disassociate—rather than associate (which is the default operation)—the target(s) from a changelist.


Causes svn patch to interpret the input patch instructions in reverse—treating added lines as removed ones and vice-versa.

--revision (-r) REV

Specifies a revision (or range of revisions) on with which to operate. You can provide revision numbers, keywords, or dates (in curly braces) as arguments to the revision option. If you wish to offer a range of revisions, you can provide two revisions separated by a colon. For example:

$ svn log -r 1729
$ svn log -r 1729:HEAD
$ svn log -r 1729:1744
$ svn log -r {2001-12-04}:{2002-02-17}
$ svn log -r 1729:{2002-02-17}

See the section called “Revision Keywords” for more information.


Operates on a revision property instead of a property specific to a file or directory. This option requires that you also pass a revision with the --revision (-r) option.

--set-depth ARG

Sets the sticky depth on a directory in a working copy to one of exclude, empty, files, immediates, or infinity. For detailed coverage of what these mean and how to use this option, see the section called “Sparse Directories”.


Enables a special output mode for svn diff in which the content difference for a file created via a copy operation appears as it would for a brand new file (with each line therein appearing as an addition to an empty file) rather than as a delta against the original file from which the copy was created.

--show-revs ARG

Used to make svn mergeinfo display certain classes of merge tracking information. ARG may be either merged or eligible, indicating a desire to see revisions either already merged or eligible for future merge from the specified source URL, respectively.

--show-updates (-u)

Causes the client to display information about which files in your working copy are out of date. This doesn't actually update any of your files—it just shows you which files will be updated if you then use svn update.


Causes a Subversion subcommand that traverses the history of a versioned resource to stop harvesting that historical information when a copy—that is, a location in history where that resource was copied from another location in the repository—is encountered.


Causes Subversion to use strict semantics, a notion that is rather vague unless talking about specific subcommands (namely, svn propget).

--strip NUM

Used by svn patch to ignore NUM leading path components found on paths specified in the patch input file.


Display only high-level summary notifications about the operation instead of its detailed output.

--targets FILENAME

Tells Subversion to read additional target paths for the operation from FILENAME. FILENAME should contain one path per line, with each path expected to use the same encoding and formatting that it would if you had specified it directly as an argument on the command line.

--use-merge-history (-g)

Uses or displays additional information from merge history.

--verbose (-v)

Requests that the client print out as much information as it can while running any subcommand. This may result in Subversion printing out additional fields, detailed information about every file, or additional information regarding its actions.


Prints the client version info. This information includes not only the version number of the client, but also a listing of all repository access modules that the client can use to access a Subversion repository. With --quiet (-q) it prints only the version number in a compact form.


Used with the --xml option to svn log, instructs Subversion to retrieve and display all revision properties—the standard ones used internally by Subversion as well as any user-defined ones—in the log output.


Used with the --xml option to svn log, instructs Subversion to omit all revision properties—including the standard log message, author, and revision datestamp—from the log output.

--with-revprop ARG

When used with any command that writes to the repository, sets the revision property, using the NAME=VALUE format, NAME to VALUE. When used with svn log in --xml mode, this displays the value of ARG in the log output.


Prints output in XML format.

svn Subcommands

Here are the various subcommands for the svn program. For the sake of brevity, we omit the global options (described in the section called “svn Options”) from the subcommand descriptions which follow.