Version control: Learn it and use it, dammit!

Version control: Learn it and use it, dammit!

I do not care if you are a writer, coder, or non-creative smuck, but you seriously need to learn about version control and how to use it effectively to enhance your life – or in the very least, keep yourself from contemplating suicide every time you screw up and lose an entire project over some menial mistake.

Let’s start off with the bread and butter, the definition of version control:

Version control is a system that is in charge of recording changes that are made to programs, files, and projects so that you can easily find and access specific earlier versions at any time.

Say you are coding a Flappy Bird inspired video game that will surely take the world by storm (ha), and you remove a line of code on a bug-swatting hunch. Soon you realize that your “fix” actually broke a major chunk of your game, and since you pressed command-s out of habit, you are now royally screwed. However, with a version control system you can easily cover up your incompetence by restoring the file. You can even restore the file to any version of it you want. If you regretted last month’s mechanical overhaul, revert back to that month’s build through version control.

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I won’t beat around the bush; version control can be a bitch – if you let it. There is a plethora of options out there, but it is overwhelming to find the option that works best for you. The easiest, is simply making a copy of the same file after each edit and manually naming it to something that makes sense to you. AppName_V1.00, AppName_V1.01, AppName_V1.02, for example. While this might be fine for small projects like college essays, it can quickly become an unnecessary burden for larger projects, both on your psyche and hard drive.

Instead, you really should be using GitHub. It can be daunting at first glance, sure, but if you commit a little bit of your time to learning how it works, I promise that you will not regret it. The only downside is your files being publicly searchable and accessed without your permission if you don’t pay for private repositories. But if you don’t happen to be a triple-A video game developer with a mob of angry “fans” looking to lower the value of your stocks at every chance, you don’t have much to worry about.

To read up more on how to use GitHub, I suggest reading this article on How To Geek, as it highlights GitHub’s usefulness in a way that is easy to understand.