History of changes to a particular line of code in Subversion


Is it possible to see the history of changes to a particular line of code in a Subversion repository?

I'd like, for instance, to be able to see when a particular statement was added or when that statement was changed, even if its line number is not the same any more.

4/28/2017 10:45:43 PM

Accepted Answer

I don't know a method for tracking statements through time in Subversion.

It is simple however to see when any particular line in a file was last changed using svn blame. Check the SVNBook: svn blame reference:


svn blame TARGET[@REV]...


Show author and revision information in-line for the specified files or URLs. Each line of text is annotated at the beginning with the author (username) and the revision number for the last change to that line.

4/29/2013 7:53:51 AM

I'd usually:

  1. Run svn blame FILE first.
  2. Note the last revision of the particular line.
  3. Do another query with the -r argument:

    svn blame FILE -r 1:REV
  4. Trace manually from there.

This can be done in two stages:

  1. svn blame /path/to/your/file > blame.tmp
  2. grep "your_line_of_text" blame.tmp

You can delete blame.tmp file afterwards if you don't need it.

In principle, a simple script can be written in any scripting language that does roughly the same.


In Eclipse you can know when each line of your code has been committed using the SVN annotate view, or right click on the file → TeamShow annotation....


The key here is how much history is required. As others have pointed out, the short answer is: svn blame (see svn help blame for details). If you're reaching far back in history or dealing with significant changes, you will likely need more than just this one command.

I just had to do this myself, and found this (ye ole) thread here on SO. Here's what I did to solve it with just the CLI, specifically for my case where an API had changed (e.g. while porting someone's far outdated work (not on a branch, arrgh!) back into a feature branch based off of an up-to-date trunk). E.g. function names had changed enough to where it wasn't apparent which function needed to be called.

Step One

The following command allowed me to page through commits where things had changed in the file "fileName.h" and to see the corresponding revision number (note: you may have to alter the '10' for more or less context per your svn log text).

svn log | grep -C 10 "fileName.h" | less

This results in a list of revisions in which this file was modified.

Step Two

Then it was a simple matter of using blame (or as others have pointed out, annotate) to narrow down to the revisions of interest.

cd trunk
svn blame [email protected] | less

E.g. found the revision of interest was 35948.

Step Three

Having found the revision(s) of interest via blame, a diff can be produced to leverage the SVN tool.

svn diff -r35948:PREV fileName.h


Having a visual diff made it much easier to identify the old API names with the newer/updated API names.


svn annotate

The AKA SVN Blame from TortoiseSVN.


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