A (D)VCS feature that I'd really like

July 6, 2008

Here's something that I want: I want a version control system (ideally a distributed one) that can preserve file timestamps. I'm looking for such a weird feature because I happen to have created something that I want to put under version control where (some of the) file timestamps are significant and need to be preserved.

(This is yet another hazard of using files as entries, albeit in a slightly different form.)

This is an uncommon feature in version control systems at the best of times, partly because actually doing this can muck up source builds when you revert to older versions of files (with older timestamps). I know that neither Mercurial nor Git have this, and while I haven't looked into the 'secondary' DVCSes (such as bzr) very much, my impression is that none of them do it either.

(File timestamps don't have to be first class version controlled data; I'd be happy if the file timestamp was only recorded when some other change to the file was committed, as opposed to causing commits every time it was the only thing that changed.)

I suspect that most practical workaround is a program to save and restore the file timestamps for a directory hierarchy, and then making the file of timestamp data (and possibly the program) part of what's under version control. This requires an extra step on checkouts and especially commits, and if I ever do much branching I'll probably get merge conflicts all the time on the file of timestamp data, but at least it preserves the data.

Written on 06 July 2008.
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Last modified: Sun Jul 6 23:51:38 2008
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