Using Subversion in Apache NetBeans

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Apache NetBeans provides tight integration with Subversion client versions 1.6.x and higher. The IDE’s Subversion support is designed to help streamline the development process for groups working from a shared repository, enabling you to perform versioning tasks directly from your project system within the IDE.

This document demonstrates how to perform basic versioning tasks in the IDE by guiding you through the standard workflow when using versioning software.

Please note that NetBeans Subversion support does not work when used with Cygwin.

Subversion is a popular open source version control system that is becoming the next-generation replacement for CVS. It provides various improved features, for example:

  • Full version history is provided for renamed, moved or removed files.

  • Commit operations are atomic, meaning that a collection of modifications either enter the repository completely or, in the event of connection failure, not at all.

  • Versioning of project metadata is provided.

Setting up Subversion

Before you can take advantage of the IDE’s Subversion support, you need to have Subversion client software installed on your computer. The IDE’s Subversion support works by interacting with the Subversion client to carry out versioning commands. Depending on your system, and whether you install the Subversion client to a non-default location, you may also need to register the path to the Subversion executable in the IDE. Finally, you need to make sure that you have a Subversion repository to connect to.

Specifying the Path to the Subversion Executable

NetBeans IDE automatically tries to identify the location of the Subversion executable file by using the $PATH system variable on your computer. Depending on your platform however, or whether you installed the Subversion client to a different location, it may be necessary to specify the path to the executable file explicitly.

By default, the Subversion executable file is installed in the /usr/bin or /usr/local/bin/ folder on UNIX and OS X machines, and in C:\Program Files\Subversion\bin\ (or C:\Program Files\CollabNet Subversion\bin\) for Windows.

On *nix-based machines, you can verify the location of the Subversion executable by typing which svn into a terminal window. On Windows machines, you can perform a system-wide search for svn.exe.

To set the path to the Subversion executable file in the IDE:

  1. Choose Tools > Options (NetBeans > Preferences on OS X) from the main menu. The Options dialog opens.

  2. Select the Miscellaneous icon along the top of the dialog, then click the Versioning tab. In the left pane under Versioning Systems, select Subversion. User-defined options for Subversion display in the main window of the dialog:

svn options small
  1. In the Specify the SVN Home Folder text field, either type in the path to the executable file or click Browse to navigate to it on your system. Note that you need not include the Subversion executable file in the path.

  2. Click OK, then restart the IDE to allow changes to take effect.

Ensuring you have a Repository to Connect to

Before invoking Subversion actions from the IDE, make sure you have access to a Subversion repository. The IDE does not provide support for creating Subversion repositories as this is not a frequently used action (In a production environment a repository is only created once, after the design of the repository layout has been determined.) and moreover it requires administrative commands.

If you would like to experiment with the IDE’s support using a local repository, you can create one using the svnadmin tool, which is included in the Subversion client software.

To create a Subversion repository on your computer, use svnadmin create. From a command-line prompt, type in the following:

svnadmin create /path/to/your/repository

Synchronizing Local Files with a Repository

When using a version control system, you work by synchronizing local files with a repository, making changes to your local copy, then committing them to the repository. The following list describes various ways you can synchronize a project in NetBeans IDE, depending on your specific situation:

Opening a Subversion Project in the IDE

If you already have a Subversion versioned project which you have been working with outside of the IDE, you can open it in the IDE and versioning features will automatically become available to you. The IDE scans your open projects and if they contain .svn directories, file status and context-sensitive support automatically becomes active for Subversion versioned projects.

Checking out Files from a Repository

If you want to connect to a remote repository from the IDE, then check out files and immediately begin working with them, do the following:

  1. In NetBeans IDE, choose Team > Subversion > Checkout from the main menu. The Checkout wizard opens.

The IDE’s drop-down menus are context-sensitive, i.e. the available options depend on the item currently selected. Therefore, if you are already working within a Subversion project, you can choose Versioning > Checkout from the main menu.
  1. In the first panel of the wizard, enter a URL that contains the connection protocol and location of the repository you want to connect to.

    The IDE supports the following protocol types:
Protocol Access Method Example


Direct repository access (on local disk)



Access via WebDAV protocol to a Subversion-aware server



Access via HTTP protocol with SSL encryption



Access via custom protocol to an svnserve server



Access via SVN protocol through an external SSH tunnel


Depending on the protocol you are using, you may need to enter other information, such as username and password (e.g. for http://, https://, or svn://), or in the case of svn+ssh://, you must supply the command to establish the external tunnel.

If you are trying to implement certificated authentication with https, see: How to connect to a Subversion repository using user-certified authentication?

For more help with svn+ssh, see: How do I set up SSH with Subversion?

  1. If you are using a proxy, be sure to click the Proxy Configuration button and enter any required information. When you are certain your connection settings to the repository are correct, click Next.

  2. In the Folders to Checkout panel of the wizard, specify the folder that you want to check out in the Repository Folder(s) field. If you do not know the name of the folder you want to check out, click the Browse button to view all folders currently maintained in the repository. From the Browse Repository Folders dialog that appears, select any of the listed folders and click OK. The selected folder is then added to the Repository Folder(s) field ('MyProject' entered in screen capture below):

checkout small
  1. Enter a Revision number in the Repository Revision field, otherwise leave it empty, implying that you want to check out the folder HEAD, or most recent revision.

  2. In the Local Folder field, enter a location on your computer where you want files to be checked out to. Leave the Scan for NetBeans Projects after Checkout option selected, then click Finish to initiate the check out action. The IDE checks out the specified sources and the IDE’s status bar indicates the progress of the files downloading from the repository to your local working directory. You can also view files as they are being checked out from the Output window (Ctrl-4 on Windows/Cmd-4 on OS X).

If the checked out sources contain NetBeans projects, a dialog appears prompting you to open them in the IDE. If the sources do not contain a project, the dialog appears prompting you to create a new project from the sources and then open them in the IDE. If you create a new project for such sources, select the appropriate project category (i.e. in the New Project wizard) and then use the With Existing Sources option within that category.

Importing Files into a Repository

Alternately, you can import a project you have been working on in the IDE to a remote repository, then continue to work on it in the IDE after it has become synchronized.

While you are actually exporting files from your system, the term 'import' is used in version control systems to signify that files are being imported into a repository.

To import a project to a repository:

  1. From the Projects window (Ctrl-1 on Windows/Cmd-1 on OS X), select an unversioned project and choose Versioning > Import into Subversion Repository from the node’s right-click menu. The Subversion Import wizard opens.

  2. In the Subversion Repository panel of the Import wizard, specify the protocol and location of the Subversion repository as defined by the Subversion URL. Depending on your selection, you may need to specify further settings, such as repository username and password, or, in the case of svn+ssh://, you must specify the tunnel command to establish the external tunnel. See the Subversion User FAQ for further details. Click Next.

  3. In the Repository Folder panel, specify the repository folder in which you want to place the project in the repository. A folder containing the name of your project is suggested for you in the Repository Folder text field by default.

  4. In the text area beneath Specify the Message, enter a description of the project you are importing into the repository.

  5. Click Finish to initiate the import, or optionally, click Next to continue to a third panel that enables you to preview all files that are prepared for import. From this panel, you can choose to exclude individual files from the import (as shown below), or identify the MIME types of files before importing.

import small

Upon clicking Finish, the IDE uploads the project files to the repository and the Output window opens to display the progress.

Editing Sources

Once you have a Subversion versioned project opened in the IDE, you can begin making changes to sources. As with any project opened in NetBeans IDE, you can open files in the Source Editor by double-clicking on their nodes, as they appear in the IDE’s windows (for example, Projects (Ctrl-1 on Windows/Cmd-1 on OS X), Files (Ctrl-2 on Windows/Cmd-2 on OS X), Favorites (Ctrl-3 on Windows/Cmd-3 on OS X)).

When working with sources in the IDE, there are various UI components at your disposal, which aid in both viewing and operating version control commands:

Viewing Changes in the Source Editor

When you open a versioned file in the IDE’s Source Editor, you can view real-time changes occurring to your file as you modify it against your previously checked-out base version from the repository. As you work, the IDE uses color encoding in the Source Editor’s margins to convey the following information:

Blue (       ) Indicates lines that have been changed since the earlier revision.

Green (       )

Indicates lines that have been added since the earlier revision.

Red (       )

Indicates lines that have been removed since the earlier revision.

The Source Editor’s left margin shows changes occurring on a line-by-line basis. When you modify a given line, changes are immediately shown in the left margin.

You can click on a color grouping in the margin to call versioning commands. For example, the screen capture below left shows widgets available to you when clicking a red icon, indicating that lines have been removed from your local copy.

The Source Editor’s right margin provides you with an overview that displays changes made to your file as a whole, from top to bottom. Color encoding is generated immediately when you make changes to your file.

Note that you can click on a specific point within the margin to bring your inline cursor immediately to that location in the file. To view the number of lines affected, hover your mouse over the colored icons in the right margin:

left ui small

right ui

Left margin

Right margin

Viewing File Status Information

When you are working in the Projects (Ctrl-1 on Windows/Cmd-1 on OS X), Files (Ctrl-2 on Windows/Cmd-2 on OS X), Favorites (Ctrl-3 on Windows/Cmd-3 on OS X), or Versioning windows, the IDE provides several visual features that aid in viewing status information about your files. In the example below, notice how the badge (e.g. blue badge), color of the file name, and adjacent status label, all coincide with each other to provide you with a simple but effective way to keep track of versioning information on your files:

badge example

Badges, color coding, file status labels, and perhaps most importantly, the Versioning window all contribute to your ability to effectively view and manage and versioning information in the IDE.

Badges and Color Coding

Badges are applied to project, folder, and package nodes and inform you of the status of files contained within that node:

The following table displays the color scheme used for badges:

UI Component Description

Blue Badge (blue badge)

Indicates the presence of files that have been locally modified, added or deleted. For packages, this badge applies only to the package itself and not its subpackages. For projects or folders, the badge indicates changes within that item, or any of the contained subfolders.

Red Badge (red badge)

Marks projects, folders or packages that contain conflicting files (i.e. local versions that conflict with versions maintained in the repository). For packages, this badge applies only to the package itself and not its subpackages. For projects or folders, the badge indicates conflicts within that item, or any of the contained subfolders.

Color coding is applied to file names in order to indicate their current status against the repository:

Color Example Description


blue text

Indicates that the file has been locally modified.


green text

Indicates that the file has been locally added.


red text

Indicates that the file contains conflicts between your local working copy and the repository’s version.


gray text

Indicates that the file is ignored by Subversion and will not be included in versioning commands (e.g. Update and Commit). Files can only be made to be ignored if they have not yet been versioned.


strike through text

Indicates that the file is excluded from commit operations. Strike-through text only appears in specific locations, such as the Versioning window or Commit dialog, when you choose to exclude individual files from a commit action. Such files are still affected by other Subversion commands, such as Update.

File Status Labels

File status labels provide a textual indication of the status of versioned files in the IDE’s windows. By default, the IDE displays status (new, modified, ignored, etc.) and folder information in gray text to the right of files, as they are listed in windows. You can, however, modify this format to suit your own needs. For example, if you want to add revision numbers to status labels, do the following:

  1. Choose Tools > Options (NetBeans > Preferences on OS X) from the main menu. The Options window opens.

  2. Select the Miscellaneous button along the top of the window, then click the Versioning tab beneath it. Make sure Subversion is selected beneath Versioning Systems in the left panel. (See the above screen capture for reference.)

  3. Click the Add Variable button to the right of the status label Format text field. In the Add Variable dialog that displays, select the {revision} variable, then click OK. The revision variable is added to the status label Format text field.

  4. To reformat status labels so that only status and revision display to the right of files, rearrange the contents of the Status Label Format text field to the following:

[{status}; {revision}]

Click OK. Status labels now list file status and revision numbers (where applicable):

File status labels can be toggled on and off by choosing View > Show Versioning Labels from the main menu.

file labels

File status labels can be toggled on and off by choosing View > Show Versioning Labels from the main menu.

The Versioning Window

The Subversion Versioning window provides you with a real-time list of all of the changes made to files within a selected folder of your local working copy. It opens by default in the bottom panel of the IDE, listing added, deleted or modified files.

To open the Versioning window, select a versioned file or folder (e.g. from the Projects, Files, or Favorites window) and either choose Subversion > Show Changes from the right-click menu, or choose Team > Show Changes from the main menu. The following window appears in the bottom of the IDE:

versioning window small

By default, the Versioning window displays a list of all modified files within the selected package or folder. Using the buttons in the toolbar, you can choose to display all changes or limit the list of displayed files to either locally or remotely modified files. You can also click the column headings above the listed files to sort the files by name, status or location.

To get notified of when a source file in one of your open projects has been modified, choose Team > Show Changes from the main menu. Alternatively, if the Versioning window is open, click the Refresh Status button.
Operations in the Projects window work only on the projects themselves and are not recursive. To show modifications in nested/child projects, you can use the Files or Favorites window.

The Versioning window toolbar also includes buttons that enable you to invoke the most common Subversion tasks on all files displayed in the list. The following table lists the Subversion commands available in the toolbar of the Versioning window:

Icon Name Function


Refresh Status

Refreshes the status of the selected files and folders. Files displayed in the Versioning window can be refreshed to reflect any changes that may have been made externally.


Diff All

Opens the Diff Viewer providing you with a side-by-side comparison of your local copies and the versions maintained in the repository.


Update All

Updates all selected files from the repository.


Commit All

Enables you to commit local changes to the repository.

You can access other Subversion commands in the Versioning window by selecting a table row that corresponds to a modified file, and choosing a command from the right-click menu:

versioning right click

For example, you can perform the following actions on a file:

* Show Annotations:

Displays author and revision number information in the left margin of files opened in the Source Editor.


* Search History:

Enables you to search for and compare multiple revisions of the selected file in the IDE’s History Viewer. From the History Viewer you can also perform a diff or roll back your local copy to a selected revision.

[.feature] —  image::kb/docs/ide/history-viewer-small.png[role="left", xref="image$./history-viewer.png"]  — 

* Exclude from Commit:

Allows you to mark the file to be excluded when performing a commit.

[.feature] —  image::kb/docs/ide/exclude-from-commit-small.png[role="left", xref="image$./exclude-from-commit.png"]  — 

* Revert Delete:

Opens the Revert Modifications dialog, enabling you to revert any delete actions that you have committed to files in your local working copy. The specified file(s) are retrieved from the IDE’s local history archive and reinstated into your local working copy.

[.feature] —  image::kb/docs/ide/revert-mods-small.png[role="left", xref="image$./revert-mods.png"]  — 

* Revert Modifications:

Opens the Revert Modifications dialog which you can use to specify parameters for reverting any local changes to revisions maintained in the repository.

When specifying revisions, you can click Search to open the Search Revisions dialog. This scans the repository and lists all file revisions based on the date you enter.

[.feature] —  image::kb/docs/ide/search-rev-small.png[role="left", xref="image$./search-rev.png"]  — 

Comparing File Revisions

Comparing file revisions is a common task when working with versioned projects. The IDE enables you to compare revisions by using the Diff command, which is available from the right-click menu of a selected item (Subversion > Diff), as well as from the Versioning window. In the Versioning window, you can perform diffs by either double-clicking a listed file, otherwise you can click the Diff All icon (diff) located in the toolbar at the top.

When you perform a diff, a graphical Diff Viewer opens for the selected file(s) and revisions in the IDE’s main window. The Diff Viewer displays two copies in side-by-side panels. The more current copy appears on the right side, so if you are comparing a repository revision against your working copy, the working copy displays in the right panel:

diff viewer small

The Diff Viewer makes use of the same color encoding used elsewhere to display version control changes. In the screen capture displayed above, the green block indicates content that has been added to the more current revision. The red block indicates that content from the earlier revision has been removed from the later. Blue indicates that changes have occurred within the highlighted line(s).

Also, when performing a diff on a group of files, such as on a project, package, or folder, or when clicking Diff All (diff), you can switch between diffs by clicking files listed in the upper region of the Diff Viewer.

The Diff Viewer also provides you with the following functionality:

Make Changes to your Local Working Copy

If you are performing a diff on your local working copy, the IDE enables you to make changes directly from within the Diff Viewer. To do so, you can either place your cursor within the right pane of the Diff Viewer and modify your file accordingly, otherwise make use of the inline icons that display adjacent to each highlighted change:

Replace (insert): Inserts the highlighted text from the previous revision into the current revision

Move All (arrow):

Reverts the file’s current revision to the state of the selected previous revision

Remove (remove):

Removes the highlighted text from the current revision so that it mirrors the previous revision

Navigate among Differences between Compared Files

If your diff contains multiple differences, you can navigate among them by using the arrow icons displayed in the toolbar. The arrow icons enable you to view differences as they appear from top to bottom:

Previous (diff prev): Goes to previous difference displayed in the diff

Next (diff next):

Goes to next difference displayed in the diff

Change Viewing Criteria

You can choose whether to view files containing changes from the local working copy, the repository, as well as both simultaneously:

Local ( locally mod ): Displays locally modified files only

Remote ( remotely mod ):

Displays remotely modified files only

Both ( both mod ):

Displays both locally and remotely modified files

The color scheme described in the Badges and Color Coding section is disregarded with respect to the above mentioned icons.

Merging File Revisions

NetBeans IDE enables you to merge changes between repository revisions and your local working copy. You can specify a range of revisions to merge. You can even merge a range of revisions from two separate repository folders.

The following scenario describes a common use-case: You have checked out the trunk version on a folder named JavaApp, and now want to merge your copy with a branch. For demonstrative purposes, your repository layout contains a branches folder used to contain all branched files:

  1. In the Projects, Files, or Favorites window, right-click the files or folders on which you want to perform the merge operation and choose Subversion > Merge Changes. The Merge dialog displays.

  2. In the Merge From drop-down list, select One Repository Folder Since Its Origin. You are porting all changes made on a single branch from the time it was created.

  3. In the Repository Folder text field, enter the path to the folder from which you want to port changes (branches/JavaApp). Leave the Ending Revision field empty to indicate that you want to include all revisions up to the HEAD (i.e. current state).

svn merge small
  1. Click Merge. The IDE incorporates any differences found between the branch revisions and your local copy of the file. If merge conflicts occur, the file’s status is updated to Merge Conflict to indicate this.

After merging revisions to your local working copy, you must still commit changes using the Commit command in order for them to be added to the repository.

Committing Sources to a Repository

After making changes to sources, you commit them to the repository. It is generally a good idea to update any copies you have against the repository prior to performing a commit in order to ensure that conflicts do not arise. Conflicts can occur however, and should be thought of as a natural event when numerous developers are working on a project simultaneously. The IDE provides flexible support that enables you to perform all of these functions. It also provides a Conflict Resolver which allows you to safely deal with any conflicts as they occur.

Updating Local Copies

You can perform updates by choosing Subversion > Update from the right-click menu of any versioned item in the Projects, Files, or Favorites windows. When working directly from the Versioning window, you need only right-click a listed file and choose Update.

To perform an update on all source files, you can click the Update All icon (update), which displays in the toolbars located at the top of both the Versioning Window, as well as the Diff Viewer. Any changes that may have occurred in the repository are displayed in the Versioning Output window.

Resolving Conflicts

When you perform an update or a commit, the IDE’s Subversion support compares your files with repository sources to make sure that other changes have not already occurred in the same locations. When your previous checkout (or update) no longer matches the repository HEAD (i.e. most current revision), and the changes that you applied to your local working copy coincide with areas in the HEAD that have also changed, your update or commit results in a conflict.

As indicated in Badges and Color Coding, conflicts are displayed in the IDE with red text and are accompanied by a red badge (red badge) when viewed in the Projects, Files, or Favorites windows. When working in the Versioning window, conflicts are also indicated by a file’s status:

conflict versioning win

Any conflicts that arise must be resolved before you commit files to the repository. You can resolve conflicts in the IDE using the Merge Conflicts Resolver. The Merge Conflicts Resolver provides an intuitive interface that enables you to address individual conflicts sequentially while viewing merged output as you make changes. You can access the Merge Conflicts Resolver on a file that is in conflict by right-clicking that file and choosing Subversion > Resolve Conflicts.

The Merge Conflicts Resolver displays the two conflicting revisions side-by-side in the top pane, with the conflicting areas highlighted. The lower pane depicts the file as it appears while merges for individual conflicts between the two revisions occur:

conflict resolver small

You resolve a conflict by accepting one of the two revisions displayed in the top pane. Click the Accept button of the revision you want to accept. The IDE merges the accepted revision with the source file, and you can immediately see the results of the merge in the bottom pane of the Merge Conflicts Resolver. Once all conflicts are resolved, click OK to exit the Merge Conflicts Resolver and save the modified file. The conflict badge is removed and you can now commit the modified file to the repository.

Performing the Commit

After editing source files, performing an update and resolving any conflicts, you commit files from your local working copy to the repository. The IDE enables you to call the commit command in the following ways:

  • From the Projects, Files or Favorites windows, right-click new or modified items and choose Subversion > Commit.

  • From the Versioning window or Diff Viewer, click the Commit All (commit) button located in the toolbar.

The Commit dialog opens, displaying files that are about to be committed to the repository:

commit dialog small

The Commit dialog lists:

  • all locally modified files

  • all files that have been deleted locally

  • all new files (i.e. files that do not yet exist in the repository)

  • all files that you have renamed. Subversion handles renamed files by deleting the original file, and creating a duplicate using the new name.

From the Commit dialog, it is possible to specify whether to exclude individual files from the commit. To do so, click the Commit Action column of a selected file and choose Exclude from Commit from the drop-down list. Similarly, when new files are included, you can specify the MIME type by choosing Add as Binary or Add as Text from the drop-down list.

To perform the commit:

  1. Type in a commit message in the Commit Message text area. Alternatively, click the Recent Messages ( recent msgs ) icon located in the upper right corner to view and select from a list of messages that you have previously used.

  2. After specifying actions for individual files, click Commit. The IDE executes the commit and sends your local changes to the repository. The IDE’s status bar, located in the bottom right of the interface, displays as the commit action takes place. Upon a successful commit, versioning badges disappear in the Projects, Files and Favorites windows, and the color encoding of committed files returns to black.


This concludes the guided tour of Subversion for NetBeans IDE 6.x and higher. This document demonstrated how to perform basic versioning tasks in the IDE by guiding you through the standard workflow when using the IDE’s Subversion support. It has shown how to set up a versioned project and perform basic tasks on versioned files while introducing you to some of the new Subversion features included in the IDE.