The Subversion Repository, Defined

Before jumping into the broader topic of repository administration, let's further define what a repository is. How does it look? How does it feel? Does it take its tea hot or iced, sweetened, and with lemon? As an administrator, you'll be expected to understand the composition of a repository both from a literal, OS-level perspective—how a repository looks and acts with respect to non-Subversion tools—and from a logical perspective—dealing with how data is represented inside the repository.

Seen through the eyes of a typical file browser application (such as the Windows Explorer) or command-line based filesystem navigation tools, the Subversion repository is just another directory full of stuff. There are some subdirectories with human-readable configuration files in them, some subdirectories with some not-so-human-readable data files, and so on. As in other areas of the Subversion design, modularity is given high regard, and hierarchical organization is preferred to cluttered chaos. So a shallow glance into a typical repository from a nuts-and-bolts perspective is sufficient to reveal the basic components of the repository:

$ ls repos
conf/  dav/  db/  format  hooks/  locks/  README.txt

Here's a quick fly-by overview of what exactly you're seeing in this directory listing. (Don't get bogged down in the terminology—detailed coverage of these components exists elsewhere in this and other chapters.)


A directory containing repository configuration files.


A directory provided to mod_dav_svn for its private housekeeping data.


The data store for all of your versioned data.


A file that contains a single integer that indicates the version number of the repository layout.


A directory full of hook script templates (and hook scripts themselves, once you've installed some).


A directory for Subversion's repository lock files, used for tracking accessors to the repository.


A file whose contents merely inform its readers that they are looking at a Subversion repository.

Of course, when accessed via the Subversion libraries, this otherwise unremarkable collection of files and directories suddenly becomes an implementation of a virtual, versioned filesystem, complete with customizable event triggers. This filesystem has its own notions of directories and files, very similar to the notions of such things held by real filesystems (such as NTFS, FAT32, ext3, and so on). But this is a special filesystem—it hangs these directories and files from revisions, keeping all the changes you've ever made to them safely stored and forever accessible. This is where the entirety of your versioned data lives.