Track your scientific scripts with Mercurial

If you want to publish your scientific scripts, as Nick Barnes advises in Nature, you can very easily do so with Mercurial.

All my stuff (not just code), excempting only huge datasets, is in a Mercurial source repository.1

Whenever I change something and it does anything new, I commit the files with a simple commit (even if it’s only “it compiles!”).

With that I can always check “which were the last things I did” (look into the log) or “when did I change this line, and why?” (annotate the file). Also I can easily share my scripts folder with others and Mercurial can merge my work and theirs, so if they fix a line and I fix another line, both fixes get integrated without having to manually copy-paste them around.

For all that it doesn’t need much additional expertise: The basics can be learned in just 15 minutes — and you’ll likely never need more than these for your work.2

Update 2013: Nowadays I include the revision of scripts I use in the name of their output files or folders, so I always know which version of my scripts I used to create some result.

  1. Mercurial is free software for versiontracking: 

  2. You can use Mercurial in three main ways:

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