Distinction Between Status and Update

Distinction Between Status and Update

In Subversion, we've tried to erase a lot of the confusion between the cvs status and cvs update commands.

The cvs status command has two purposes: first, to show the user any local modifications in the working copy, and second, to show the user which files are out-of-date. Unfortunately, because of CVS's hard-to-read status output, many CVS users don't take advantage of this command at all. Instead, they've developed a habit of running cvs update or cvs -n update to quickly see their changes. If users forget to use the -n option, this has the side effect of merging repository changes they may not be ready to deal with.

With Subversion, we've tried to remove this muddle by making the output of svn status easy to read for both humans and parsers. Also, svn update only prints information about files that are updated, not local modifications.


svn status prints all files that have local modifications. By default, the repository is not contacted. While this subcommand accepts a fair number of options, the following are the most commonly used ones:


Contact the repository to determine, and then display, out-of-dateness information.


Show all entries under version control.


Run non-recursively (do not descend into subdirectories).

The status command has two output formats. In the default “short” format, local modifications look like this:

$ svn status
M      foo.c
M      bar/baz.c

If you specify the --show-updates (-u) switch, a longer output format is used:

$ svn status -u
M            1047   foo.c
       *     1045   faces.html
       *            bloo.png
M            1050   bar/baz.c
Status against revision:   1066

In this case, two new columns appear. The second column contains an asterisk if the file or directory is out-of-date. The third column shows the working-copy's revision number of the item. In the example above, the asterisk indicates that faces.html would be patched if we updated, and that bloo.png is a newly added file in the repository. (The absence of any revision number next to bloo.png means that it doesn't yet exist in the working copy.)

Lastly, here's a quick summary of the most common status codes that you may see:

A    Resource is scheduled for Addition
D    Resource is scheduled for Deletion
M    Resource has local Modifications
C    Resource has Conflicts (changes have not been completely merged
       between the repository and working copy version)
X    Resource is eXternal to this working copy (may come from another
       repository).  See the section called “Externals Definitions”
?    Resource is not under version control
!    Resource is missing or incomplete (removed by another tool than

For a more detailed discussion of svn status, see the section called “See an overview of your changes”.


svn update updates your working copy, and only prints information about files that it updates.

Subversion has combined the CVS P and U codes into just U. When a merge or conflict occurs, Subversion simply prints G or C, rather than a whole sentence about it.

For a more detailed discussion of svn update, see the section called “Update Your Working Copy”.