How to replace svn:keywords?

In the old days we used svn, cvs, rcs or other systems for source code management, that allowed enabling something like svn:keywords. This resulted in certain strings in the source code being replaced by strings containing some version information.

More often than we might think these were useful. The question „what version are we running?“ is often answered, but surprisingly often not correctly.

Now putting the version information into a comment or even better into a string that might even be logged or that might at least be extracted by using something like

strings xyz |egrep '\$Id.*\$'

allows to find out.

Now we are using git instead of svn, or at least we should be using git or plan our migration to git. There are other tools like Mercurial, that are probably just as good as git, but git is most common and every developer knows it or has to learn it anyway to stay in business.

Now git is not supporting these svn:keywords or at least not as easily, because it relies sha-checksums, which does not allow for changing file contents. There are some tricks like pre-checking and post-checkout scripts that might solve such issues, but this is kind of difficult to tame, due to the distributed characters of git including a local repo on each developers machine.

So it is better to accept that the time of this svn:keywords-stuff is over and look for something new. As an example we will consider the world of Java and JVM languages. Most use a Jenkins server to compile the software.

To create a release, even a temporary release or a release just for testing, the right way is to first label the head of the branch we are working on, then check out based on this label, compile that and upload it to the artifactory, if it is successful. Maybe rename the label or and another label. If not, maybe delete the label, depending on the processes.

Now the jar-files contain a META-INF-directory and a MANIFEST.MF. This should be the right place to put version information during such a build. More or less this can provide the same benefit as the svn:keywords, but it works with git and needs only be done in one place.

Details about how to do it will can be found out when needed.

I assume that the same approach can also be accomplished for other environments. We can even find ways that the software logs its version by changing a string in a source code file during the build process.

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