9 Reasons Even Solo Developers Should Use Source Control

Actually, is there any reason not to?

Nick Hodges
Oct 15, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Introduction

I’ve found a startlingly large percentage of developers don’t use source control. At all. This is shocking to me. I find it hard to believe that any team these days is not using source control, but I’ll bet a number of you don’t use it on your personal projects.

Having moved into a management position, the only code I write these days is for my benefit and to share with others. I’m the only one working on the code, yet all of it of any importance at all goes under source control. All of it.

“I’m All By Myself — Why Should I Use Source Control?”

If you are working on a team of any size, using source control is a no-brainer. But even if you are working alone, using source control is an excellent idea.

“Why?” you might ask.

Well, here are nine good reasons why you should be using source control for pretty much everything, no matter how big your team is.

1. It’s good to be in the habit

Sure, you may be working alone. But in the future, you may not be. Or your weekend hobby project might turn into a big project with many developers. If anything like that happens, being in the habit of using source-code control will stand you in good stead.

In addition, understanding and using source control, particularly Git, is a must in today’s world of software development.

2. It protects your code

If you use a service like GitHub, whether via a public or a private repository, your code is backed up to a remote location.

Sure, you can zip it all up any time you want and store it on a thumb drive, but you don’t get all the other benefits I’m listing here. Plus, ZIP files are so 1998.

3. It can save your butt

Sometimes, you might accidentally delete something. You might make mistakes and change code you didn’t want to be changed. You might start on some crazy idea when you’re feeling a bit saucy and then regret it.

Source control can save you from all of these scenarios by making it a piece of cake to revert to any previous state. It’s like a powerful undo feature.

4. It allows you to turn back time

Say you write and sell some software as a side hustle. You like to release updates and new versions. And say you get a support request from a customer that has a bug while using a version that is two major releases old.

Source control lets you easily recreate the codebase for that exact release and debug the problem that the user is seeing.

5. It makes you think about your process

Even if you work alone, you should be deliberate and organized in how you write code.

If you’re in the habit of checking your code into a source-control system and writing check-in comments, you’ll end up thinking more about what you’re doing and how you’re doing things. You’ll end up being more organized and deliberate.

6. It gives you the freedom to experiment

Source control gives you the freedom to say, “What the heck — I’ll try that wacky way of doing things!”

Since you know you can always get back to a known good state, you can be free to experiment and try something that you might otherwise hesitate to do. And that experiment might just prove to be a brilliant way to do it.

7. It lets you backtrack

Even when we work alone, we can’t remember every single thing we do and every single change we make.

And I bet at least once in your life you’ve looked at some code and said, “Huh? How the heck did that happen?”

With a source-control system, you can answer that question very easily. You can track where a specific change came from and when it was made — and even see the comment you made when you checked in the change.

8. It lets you see what changed.

Sometimes, things start acting up.

Maybe a section of your application you haven’t used in a while is behaving differently than you expected. Maybe it’s totally broken, and you have no idea why. Source control can let you track the process and peer into the history of a specific chunk of code to see what changes were made and how those changes affected the project as a whole.

9. It’s free and easy to use

Git is the runaway winner of the source-control contest. It’s free. GitHub is free for nonprivate repositories and even a certain amount of private repositories. There are approximately 348 million free tutorials out there on how to use Git.

Conclusion

I’m sure you all can think of more reasons.

In this day and age, if you aren’t storing your code on a service like GitHub, then you are well behind the times.

Bottom line is if you aren’t using source control, then you should start — no matter what your development situation is. ZIP files just aren’t going to cut it. Seriously.

I can’t think of a single reason not to use it.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Nick Hodges

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Thanks for reading me. I write about all kinds of things.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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