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Friendly criticism of SVN repository browsing

From: David W. Wilson <wilson.d_at_anseri.com>
Date: 2007-08-16 19:13:37 CEST

Before I say anything, kudos to the Subversion team. I am an SE with
extensive UNIX but limited Windows dev experience, recently hired as a build
manager in a Windows shop after an extended industry employment gap. My
first major task was to find and implement a companywide VCS superior to the
CVS+Tortoise system currently in use. I was expecting this task to take at
least two weeks, but after only a few hours of research, Subversion stood
out head and shoulders. I was able to absorb the doc, install and configure
an SVN server, and exercise the basic admin and user commands in the course
of two work days. Being familiar with CVS and Sablime, I am duly impressed
with SVN's intuitive versioning and work flow models, and Tortoise SVN is
icing on the cake. Job well done.

 

Now to my nitpick, which concerns SVN repository browsing.

 

My first whine is that when I view an SVN object in the browser, I do not
see its SVN properties or source file attributes.

 

My second whine is that SVN lets the browser to decide how to browse SVN
repository objects. For example, I am running Windows XP Pro 5.1, with
ActivePerl installed. If I browse a .cgi file in the SVN repository, I see
the file contents, good. But if I browse a .pl file, IE sees that it is an
ActivePerl Perl script and prompts me to save it, and none of the menu picks
on the link allows me to view the file contents, which is the point of
browsing source. Similarly, if I browse a .xml file or a .htm file, I see
IE's interpretation of it, not the verbatim file contents. Also, if I browse
a .png file, I see the visual image, OK in most contexts, but a developer
generally wants to know more about his source.

 

Optimally, when browsing an SVN repository object, I feel we should see the
following:

 

- For all objects, SVN properties and source file attributes.

- For directories, a hyperlinked directory listing (as we do now)

- For text files, the file contents (not what the browser wants to
show us)

- For image files, a visual representation.

 

and possibly

 

- A link (icon?) to download the object (possibly useful, but it
seems better to checkout the object).

- A link (icon?) to open an object (possibly useful, but
potentially dangerous in the source context).

 

In any case, the view of an SVN repository object should be as independent
as possible of the browser.
Received on Thu Aug 16 22:40:22 2007

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