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Version Control with Subversion, 2nd Edition by Brian W. Fitzpatrick, Ben Collins-Sussman, C. Michael Pilato

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Why Properties?

Just as Subversion uses properties to store extra information about the files, directories, and revisions that it contains, you might find properties to be of similar use. You might find it useful to have a place close to your versioned data to hang custom metadata about that data.

Say you wish to design a web site that houses many digital photos and displays them with captions and a datestamp. Now, your set of photos is constantly changing, so you’d like to have as much of this site automated as possible. These photos can be quite large, so as is common with sites of this nature, you want to provide smaller thumbnail images to your site visitors.

You can get this functionality using traditional files. That is, you can have your image123.jpg and an image123-thumbnail.jpg side by side in a directory. Or if you want to keep the filenames the same, you might have your thumbnails in a different directory, such as thumbnails/image123.jpg. You can also store your captions and datestamps in a similar fashion, again separated from the original image file. But the problem here is that your collection of files multiplies with each new photo added to the site.

Now consider the same web site deployed in a way that makes use of Subversion’s file properties. Imagine having a single image file, image123.jpg, with properties set on that file that are named caption, datestamp, and even thumbnail. Your working copy directory looks much more manageable—in fact, it looks to the casual ...

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