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What is CVS?

CVS is a version control system. Using it, you can record the history of your source files.

For example, bugs sometimes creep in when software is modified, and you might not detect the bug until a long time after you make the modification. With CVS, you can easily retrieve old versions to see exactly which change caused the bug. This can sometimes be a big help.

You could of course save every version of every file you have ever created. This would however waste an enormous amount of disk space. CVS stores all the versions of a file in a single file in a clever way that only stores the differences between versions.

CVS also helps you if you are part of a group of people working on the same project. It is all too easy to overwrite each others' changes unless you are extremely careful. Some editors, like GNU Emacs, try to make sure that the same file is never modified by two people at the same time. Unfortunately, if someone is using another editor, that safeguard will not work. CVS solves this problem by insulating the different developers from each other. Every developer works in his own directory, and CVS merges the work when each developer is done.

CVS started out as a bunch of shell scripts written by Dick Grune, posted to the newsgroup comp.sources.unix in the volume 6 release of December, 1986. While no actual code from these shell scripts is present in the current version of CVS much of the CVS conflict resolution algorithms come from them.

In April, 1989, Brian Berliner designed and coded CVS. Jeff Polk later helped Brian with the design of the CVS module and vendor branch support.

You can get CVS in a variety of ways, including free download from the internet. For more information on downloading CVS and other CVS topics, see:


There is a mailing list, known as info-cvs, devoted to CVS. To subscribe or unsubscribe write to info-cvs-request@gnu.org. If you prefer a usenet group, the right group is comp.software.config-mgmt which is for CVS discussions (along with other configuration management systems). In the future, it might be possible to create a comp.software.config-mgmt.cvs, but probably only if there is sufficient CVS traffic on comp.software.config-mgmt.

You can also subscribe to the bug-cvs mailing list, described in more detail in section Dealing with bugs in CVS or this manual. To subscribe send mail to bug-cvs-request@gnu.org.

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