Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Ignore file in Svn

with 2 comments

I spent a bit of time this afternoon marveling at the non intuitiveness of working out how to ignore files in Svn.

Normally I’d just use Tortoise SVN as it makes it so easy for you but I really wanted to know how to do it from the shell!

After a bit of Googling and conversation with a colleague I think I have it figured out to some extent.

Ignoring just one file or pattern

If you only have one pattern or file that you want to ignore then the following command should do the trick.

svn propset svn:ignore <file_or_pattern_to_ignore> <dir_in_which_to_create_ignore_file>

For example:

svn propset svn:ignore build .

This means my ‘build’ directory will now be ignored and the svn ignore file will be placed in the current directory.

Ignoring multiple files or patterns

The problem with the above approach comes when you want to ignore more than one pattern/file. If you just run the propset command again it overrides the current svn ignore file with the current value – clearly not what we want!

Luckily propedit comes to the rescue.

Running the following command will open up your chosen editor and allow you to edit the svn ignore file.

svn propedit svn:ignore <dir_where_ignore_file_resides>

When I initially did this I received the following error:

svn: None of the environment variables SVN_EDITOR, VISUAL or EDITOR is set, and no 'editor-cmd' run-time configuration option was found

I wanted my default editor to be Textmate so I entered the following:

export SVN_EDITOR=mate

This didn’t seem to work for me – the svn tmp file being opened up in Textmate was always empty for some reason. Changing my editor to vi seemed to fix the problem.

export SVN_EDITOR=vi

Running the command now opens up vi and allowed me to add the pattern ‘*.log’ to my ignore list. If it is added successfully the following message will show up on exiting vi:

Set new value for property 'svn:ignore' on '.'

Seeing which files or patterns are currently ignored

While having my Textmate problems detailed above my colleague pointed out the propget command which shows you which files/patterns are currently being ignored.

svn propget svn:ignore .

Running this command shows me the following:


svnbook has even more goodness on ignoring files for those that are interested.

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Written by Mark Needham

October 2nd, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Posted in Version Control

Tagged with ,

  • You camn also set universal ignores by editing your ~/.subversion/config file. (I have *no* clue where that will be on Windows, but I’m pretty sure Tortoise gives you some way of getting to it.) For example, you *never* want to check in pyc files, so you can add that as a universal ignore.

    SVN is currently missing the ability to set universal ignores at the repository level, and also to set auto properties on directories. 🙁

  • Go with nano instead – it’s a slightly nicer editor.