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More user-friendly error messages would be nice

From: Markus Kuhn <Markus.Kuhn_at_cl.cam.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 08 Sep 2008 18:13:05 +0100

Feature suggestion: more user-friendly error messages

Having introduced Subversion 1.4 as the means to edit departmental web
pages, I find that even quite computer-literate users (professors of
computer science, etc.) regularly stumble over Subversion's sometimes
rather inpenetrable style of reporting error conditions.

Example of a less than ideally presented one:

  Sending index-b.html
  Transmitting file data .svn: Commit failed (details follow):
  svn: Out of date: '/trunk/html/teaching/projects/index.html' in
  transaction '1241-1'
  svn: Your commit message was left in a temporary file:
  svn: '/homes/someuser/projects-pages/svn-commit.3.tmp'

Problems:

  - no explanation of what "out of date" means; a full sentence would be since

  - no guidance towards how to resolve the situation ("svn update")

  - less important technical details (e.g. "transaction '1241-1'",
    the full path of the commit message) are displayed equally
    prominent as the actual problem

  - confusing punctuation ("file data .svn: Commit")

  - use of absolute rather than relative pathnames

  - (speculation:) the structure of the error message seems to be motivated
    by convenience for the developer rather than the user's convenience

A nicer way of presenting the same message might be:

  Your attempt to commit your changes in the file 'index-b.html' back to
  the repository has failed. (Transaction 1241-1)

  Reason: You modified an out-of-date version of the file, obtained with
  an update at 2008-09-03 12:05, but since then user mgk25 has also
  committed changes (at 2008-09-03 16:06).

  How to resolve: Before you can commit your changes, first update
  your working copy by merging in those other changes with "svn update".

  (Your commit message was left in a temporary file: 'svn-commit.3.tmp'.)

Concurrent editing and resolving edit conflicts can be complicated stuff
for occasional users of Subversion. Error messages that clearly explain
in plain English what went wrong and what will fix it might help to
make Subversion accessible to a much wider user base than just
experienced programmers.

Markus

-- 
Markus Kuhn, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge
http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/ || CB3 0FD, Great Britain
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Received on 2008-09-08 21:47:50 CEST

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