Top Version Control Tools in 2022

Development teams use version control software (VCS) to develop a software application concurrently and track the latest version of the software application. Version control ensures all developers are using the most recent software version during the development process. 

When you select the right version control tool and implement best practices, VCS can increase your team’s overall efficiency and productivity. This means you can ship a higher quality product in a shorter amount of time.

Read more: What is Version Control? Definition and Best Practices

Top version control software comparison

 Collaboration
Tools
Web/Mobile App
Development
Third Party
Integration
Vulnerability
Scanning
Build
Automation
Code Review
Azure DevOps
Bitbucket
GitHub
Kiuwan
PhpStorm
Visual Studio Code

Azure DevOps

Azure DevOps advertises a continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline that helps speed up the software development process through the phases of building, testing, and deploying code. 

One of the best qualities of Azure DevOps is its flexibility. Azure Pipelines supports any programming language and can run in parallel on Linux, macOS, and Windows. It also offers advanced workflow features such as release gates and test integration. 

Additionally, Azure Artifacts allows a developer to add any kind of package to any pipeline. This kind of flexibility is important for organizations that require a lot of customization. To that end, the Azure extensions marketplace offers 1,000 applications or services that can be added to customize or extend the platform’s core capabilities.

Azure DevOps Server is an on-premises solution, while Azure DevOps Service is a cloud solution. This product is ideal for a large organization that needs a lot of customization, particularly if the organization is geographically in different locations.

Screenshot of Azure DevOps platform.

Customer reviews

Azure received many positive reviews for its comprehensive feature set and flexibility. Azure’s primary features, such as CI/CD pipelines, test integration, and version control, meet customers’ expectations. In addition, Azure’s optional plugins allow a developer to increase the functionality of creating builds and release pipelines.

However, Azure DevOps is considered a complicated product, and developers should be prepared to spend time becoming fluent in the product before they can maximize its benefits. Some users reported challenges with the setup and configuration process. Others expressed frustration with the tool’s navigation and merging issues that occurred when multiple developers made changes to the same code file.

Bitbucket

Atlassian’s Bitbucket is integrated with Jira—another Atlassian product—to help developers manage software development projects better by keeping testing results and tracking issues in a single place. Bitbucket also uses Trello, which contains specific project task information that can be assigned to specific developers. 

Bitbucket Cloud uses a Git platform with built-in collaboration tools for development teams. It protects software code in the cloud by routinely checking for security problems before they happen. Bitbucket is suitable for mid-size to large organizations, especially those that are already using Atlassian products.

Screenshot of Bitbucket platform.

Customer reviews

Many developers like Bitbucket’s user-friendly interface and its ability to integrate with Jira and Confluence. Administratively, Bitbucket helps with creating new branches and merging similar branches that have been worked on and thoroughly tested by multiple programmers in a private repository before being pushed to a production repository. 

Bitbucket works well with Git code management software. Several customers raved about how easily Bitbucket integrates with other development or workflow applications to make the development process more manageable.

On the downside, Bitbucket lacks some of the standard CD tools, and other solutions may offer better reporting capabilities. Furthermore, Bitbucket has a scaling cost that is based on a per-user charge, and the price of using the software can get expensive quickly. Since Bitbucket is a paid service, it is not recommended for small companies.  

GitHub

GitHub is one of the most popular development platforms on the market today. It integrates directly with nearly every DevOps tool available, so it’s a strong contender for most organizations.

This platform offers a collaborative coding environment where a developer can easily see their peer developers working on the same code stub. Within GitHub, a team can have private or public discussions in real-time, and developers can subscribe to specific activities to receive update notifications.

GitHub walks users through the initial setup when a new repository is created. Then, using a few commands, users can move their code from a personal computer to the created repository. 

This product can configure code review settings that go to specific developers. GitHub offers Codespaces that allow teams to start developing in a secure, dedicated environment. Small and large organizations can use GitHub, and the cost is determined on a per-user basis.

Screenshot of GitHub platform.

Customer reviews

Several customers commented positively on GitHub’s collaboration capabilities. A 10-year customer fully endorsed the entire GitHub platform, and many long-term users cannot see themselves working without GitHub.

A noted con was the lack of a mobile application. Other tools offer apps that make it easy to access repositories from mobile devices, which is a worthwhile consideration for teams that demand flexibility. In addition, GitHub lacks tools to monitor usage and enforce access control—two features that are must-haves for many organizations’ cybersecurity frameworks.

Some developers noted a learning curve with cloning repositories, creating forks, pushing changes, and receiving pulls. Proprietary Git commands can take a while to learn. Still, customers appreciate the ease of use once it’s learned how to execute these actions.

Kiuwan

Kiuwan’s focus is on providing end-to-end application security. As such, Kiuwan directs its effort toward making sure no security vulnerabilities exist in an application’s code. The platform offers fast vulnerability detection and can be integrated with a business’s CI/CD DevOps pipeline so it can automatically run security processes to check for vulnerabilities. 

Kiuwan helps companies validate code compliance and improve the quality of software. When it detects an issue, it provides clear explanations on how to correct the code.

Kiuwan offers flexible licensing options, so a company pays only for what it needs. This product is a solid option for organizations that prioritize compliance and need a tool that can scale up or down depending on the business’s needs.

Screenshot of Kiuwan platform.

Customer reviews

Several customers commented on Kiuwan’s ease of use. Customization is a plus, and the dashboard is easy to understand. The vulnerabilities database and the analysis capabilities also received positive reviews.

Some users commented that the portfolio configuration is not user-friendly and requires training to use it effectively. In some instances, the testing features reportedly gave false positives. The governance module is a powerful feature, but retrieving helpful information can be complicated. 

PhPStorm

PhpStorm is for developers who use PHP or PHP-based solutions to create web applications or use Command Line Interface (CLI) tools. This product can be used by small businesses with small development teams or larger organizations with teams of PHP developers specializing in web application development. 

PhPStorm works with WordPress, Symfony, Laravel, Drupal, and many other frameworks. There are plenty of plugins to extend the functionality of the out-of-the-box solution as well.

In addition, the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) editor can perform version control and system integration tasks. Many necessary tasks can be done right from the IDE, and the IDE easily integrates with other tools for unique use cases. 

Screenshot of PhpStorm platform.

Customer reviews

Intelligent coding assistance built within the IDE received positive comments from several customers. Users also liked the debugging features and the wide variety of features and functions.

A common drawback among many users is memory consumption, which sometimes makes the application perform slowly. In addition, there is mention of the PhPStorm lacking shortcuts for git pulls, muting breakpoints, and assigning custom shortcuts. Other complaints mentioned as minor issues were the constant indexing, disappointing customer support, higher cost, and frustrating navigation features.

Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code uses IntelliSense, which not only identifies syntax errors but can also finish a line of code for a developer based on variable types and function definitions. 

Git commands are built into the editor, and commits can be executed from the editor. Debugging is done right from the editor with breakpoints and an interactive console. 

Visual Studio Code allows many extensions to be installed that add new languages, debuggers, and themes. These extensions can also connect to different services for more functionality. This product can address all the development needs of middle to large-size software development organizations. 

Screenshot of Visual Studio Code platform.

Customer reviews

Customers like Visual Studio Code’s out-of-the-box editing features, customizations, auto-suggestion and autosave capabilities, and wide range of extensions. Visual Studio Code supports various programming languages, and customers like the ability to use the same editor for different programming languages. In addition, Visual Studio Code is free and easy to set up and use. 

Not all the extensions work as advertised, and several customers stated some of the plugins and extensions should be removed. The navigation bar can get cluttered when adding too many extensions, and the navigation bar unexpectedly moves around the monitor display, which can be annoying for some developers. Plus, this product uses a lot of memory and CPU consumption that slows the user’s computer. 

Some workflows are not intuitive and can only be executed using the command palette that gives users quick access to several commands. When deleting a file in a project, Visual Studio Code does not reference if the file is in other projects.  

Important version control software features

A primary feature of any VCS is branching, which means the developer pulls a copy of the main application code several developers are revising. This copy is saved to the developer’s local computer. After the developer has changed the code, the developer commits the changes and tests locally. Finally, the code is pushed to the main application repository after successfully testing the revised code. Merging is then used with branching to reconcile two copies of the same code that have been modified by different developers.

The responsiveness of pulls, pushes, and commits is also important. If these actions are slow, a developer could be left with extended periods of idle time. Therefore, the ability of continuous integration to automatically test main branches of code is another feature that is important in a VCS. 

Types of version control software

For organizations in the software development business, the two types of version control software to consider are centralized and distributed. 

The centralized version control software uses a single server, and developers must be constantly connected to communicate with the server. A centralized version control server may be the best option if your developers are new at performing version control actions. The drawback to a centralized server is if the server crashes, all the development code is lost.

A distributed VCS works a little differently. First, a developer pulls (downloads) a full copy of the entire developed application to their local computer. Then, the developer makes all the necessary changes and tests locally on their computer, a local repository. Finally, if the changed code passes all the tests in the local repository, the updated code can be automatically sent to the master repository, a production environment. 

A distributed version control system is more complicated to learn, so your developers will need some experience with branching and merging. If a development team has experience with version control software and the business is geographically in different locations, then a distributed VCS works best.

How to choose the right version control tool for businesses

A centralized or distributed VCS is an integral ingredient in the decision-making process, so deciding which type of VCS a business will use is vital. 

A centralized VCS offers more security and administrative control, so the development time may not be as efficient as the distributed VCS. In addition, the entire developed application may be lost if a centralized server crashes. For a new company, this may be the preferred route for a new software development business, with developers not having much experience with branching and merging. 

A distributed VCS provides every developer a full copy of the master repository to the developer’s local hard drive, so losing an entire developed application is very slim. The developer can commit stub code to the local repository for testing before pushing it to the shared repository more efficiently than a centralized VCS. Branching and merging tasks, including pushing and testing code in a shared repository or production environment, are far more efficient in a distributed VCS environment.

With all these considerations, the final decision will come down to cost and business experience with version control software. A new company wanting to use a distributed VCS can pay a contractor to come train management staff and developers. A large organization that is not geographically dispersed and has many years of experience in the software development business may go with a centralized VCS server solution.  

The centralized server can have a mirror-based RAID implementation that writes to multiple disks for two identical copies of what is on the server. Additionally, the server can be backed up and used to recover a deleted file. Therefore, RAID attempts to prevent physical disk failure while backups can retrieve any accidental file deletes. Software buyers and developers can now make an informed decision and consider multiple ways to employ a VCS solution that best works for their business.

Read next: What is the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)?

Don Hall
Don Hall
Don Hall has been employed as an IT Manager/Supervisor in the U.S. Government for over twenty years. He has managed programmers, cyber security, and infrastructure/networking personnel during his management career. Hall currently works as an IT Operations Officer that requires him to have general knowledge of various IT topics to assist his Command in making informed decisions or recommendations on behalf of the customers we support.

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