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Last update: 2008-01-29

End: 2009-01


use SVN to maintain ODF documents

ODFSVN is a toolset to store ODF documents in a subversion repository. Why you would want to use subversion for documents:

  • it allows you to use all features of a version control system: all changes are archived along with change notes, roll back to previous versions, see who made what changes and why, etc.
  • people share their changes on the document through a shared repository. You can always see all changes from all editors, update your version to the latest revision and submit your changes.

ODFSVN stores all repository information in the ODF metadata, you do not need to configure anything on your system. To illustrate how this works lets examine the differences between using odfsvn and email when working on a document with multiple people.

Take Alex, Burt and Charles who are working on a proposal. Alex writes a first draft and mails that to Burt and Charles. Burt makes a few changes and mails the updated document to Alex and Charles. Finally a few hours later Charles finds two emails with documents in his mailbox. He needs to read both emails to see which one has the latest revision of the document, download the attachment and edit that. When he is done revising the document he, sends his updates back to Alex and Burt. As you see, this scenario involves a number of emails being exchanged at every step, people having to switch from their email application to their office application and back again for every revision, and no quick method to check if you have the latest revision of the document.

Now lets see how Alice, Bernice and Charlene prepare a new marketing proposal using odfsvn. Alice creates a first draft and uses odfsvn to store it in a central subversion repository and mails it to Bernice and Charlene. Bernice is the first to respond and uses the document to download the latest version. When she is finished making changes, she uses odfsvn to commit her changes to the repository. When Charlene comes back in after lunch, she sees the email from Alice. She grabs the attachment, just like Bernice did earlier, uses odfsvn to update the document. odfsvn updates the document to the version Bernice commited earlier and Charlene can start editing.

The second scenario is much simpler: there is no longer a need to exchange extra emails or for people to switch between their mail and office applications: odfsvn will always be able to update a document to the latest revision. In a future version, when odfsvn will also be available as a plugin for, this will be completely automatic.