StGit is a command-line application that provides functionality similar
to Quilt or the Mercurial
Queues extension, i.e.
pushing and popping patches to/from a stack, but using Git instead of
patch. StGit patches are stored in a Git repository as Git
commits, but can be manipulated by StGit commands in a variety of
powerful ways beyond what can easily be done with regular Git commits.
For a full list of StGit commands:
$ stg help
For quick help on an individual
$ stg help <cmd>
For more extensive help on a subcommand:
$ man stg-<cmd>
The documentation is also available as online man pages.
Setup a Repository
StGit operates in the context of a regular Git repository, providing additional capabilities above and beyond those provided by Git.
This tutorial uses StGit’s own Git repository for its examples, but any regular Git repository may be used to work through this tutorial.
git init to create or
git clone to clone a Git repository.
To clone the StGit repository:
$ git clone https://github.com/stacked-git/stgit.git $ cd stgit
Before creating StGit patches, the StGit stack must be initialized
on the current Git branch using
$ stg init
This initializes the StGit stack metadata for the current branch. To
have StGit patches on another branch,
stg init must be run again
on that branch.
Create a Patch
With the StGit stack initialized, patches may be created:
$ stg new my-first-patch
This will create a patch called
my-first-patch, and open an editor to
edit the patch’s commit message. This patch is empty, which can be seen
$ stg show
stg newmay be called without a patch name, in which case the patch name will be generated by StGit based on the first line of the commit message.
But empty patches are not particularly interesting. So the next step is to make a modification to a file in the working tree using a regular text editor.
$ $EDITOR README.md $ stg status M README.md
To update a patch with changes from the working tree,
stg refresh is used:
$ stg refresh
And voilà – the patch is no longer empty:
$ stg show commit d443f7e2d1099d07b37de02ec483691521e3c330 (HEAD -> master, refs/patches/master/my-first-patch) Author: Audrey U. Thor <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Tue Sep 20 13:56:33 2022 -0400 Tis but a patch diff --git a/README.md b/README.md index c8a0894ac..0ef993493 100644 --- a/README.md +++ b/README.md @@ -81,3 +81,5 @@ to StGit. StGit is maintained by Catalin Marinas and Peter Grayson. For a complete list of StGit's authors, see [AUTHORS.md](AUTHORS.md). + +This is my first patch!
Since the patch is also a regular Git commit, it can be seen by regular
Git tools such as
Another Topic, Another Patch
When making a change for a new topic, create a new patch. This time the working tree is modified before creating the new patch. It is a feature of StGit that a patch can be created independent of the working tree state.
$ echo '- Audrey U. Thor' >> AUTHORS.md $ stg new credit --message 'Give me some credit' $ stg refresh
NOTE Use the
-m) option to
stg newto give the patch a message without invoking an editor.
NOTE Use the
-r) option to
stg newto both create a new patch and refresh it in one step.
The stack now contains two patches:
$ stg series --description + my-first-patch # Tis but a patch > credit # Give me some credit
stg series lists the patches from bottom to top;
+ means that a patch is ‘applied’, and
> that it is the current, or
Further changes to the topmost patch can be made by just editing files
in the working tree and running
stg refresh to capture those changes
in the topmost patch.
But how to change
my-first-patch? The simplest way is to
credit patch. Doing so will make
my-first-patch the topmost applied patch again:
$ stg pop credit - credit > my-first-patch $ stg series --description > my-first-patch # Tis but a patch - credit # Give me some credit
The minus sign (
-) in front of
credit in the
stg series output
indicates that the
credit patch is ‘unapplied’, which means that the
changes embodied in the
credit patch are not currently applied to the
work tree. Unapplied patches are not seen in the regular Git history as
git log or
An unapplied patch is reapplied and made the topmost patch using
$ stg push credit > credit
Advanced Patch Refresh
stg refresh captures changes from the work tree into the
topmost applied patch, however when working with multiple patches it is
often the case that a change in the work tree should be captured by an
already applied patch. The
-p) option may be used with
stg refresh to do just that.
$ stg series + my-first-patch > credit
$ $EDITOR README.md $ stg refresh --patch my-first-patch > refresh-temp (new) - credit..refresh-temp > refresh-temp - refresh-temp # refresh-temp & my-first-patch > credit
$ stg series + my-first-patch > credit
After the above refresh operation, the topmost patch remains
but the changes from the work tree are now part of
the work tree is clean as evidenced by running
NOTE Another way to update a non-topmost patch is to create a new patch, refresh the new patch with work tree changes, and then combine the new patch with the other already applied patch using stg squash.
About Commit Messages
An important part of StGit’s value is to help create useful Git history. And critical to Git commit history are good commit messages.
When creating a patch with
stg new, an initial commit
message is drafted, but as a patch evolves with refreshes and
reorderings, the commit message typically needs to evolve as well.
StGit makes it easy to modify (and re-modify) a patch’s commit message
$ stg edit
In addition to using
stg edit anytime, a patch’s message may also be
modified when refreshing by using
stg refresh --edit.
NOTE Using stg edit’s
--diffoption causes the patch’s diff text to be present inline when editing the commit message, which can be helpful aid for writing a thorough commit message.
NOTE The commit message of any patch in the stack may be modified at any time using
stg edit <patchname>. A patch does not need to be applied (pushed) in order to modify its commit message, so editing patches’ commit messages may be done without risk of encountering a merge conflict.
If a patch changes considerably, it might even deserve a new name. Use stg rename to rename a patch.
Like with regular Git, there are various times in the normal use of StGit when conflicts may occur. With regular Git commands, a conflict may occur during merge, rebase, or pull. With StGit, conflicts may occur when applying or reordering a patch using one of the following commands:
Normally, when re-pushing a patch after popping it and making a change to another patch, StGit is able to re-push the patch without conflict. In the following example, two patches are created that each modify a different file. First a test repository is initialized:
$ git init test-repo $ cd test-repo $ touch a.txt b.txt $ git add a.txt b.txt $ git commit -m "Add files" $ stg init
Then the two patches are created:
$ stg new first -m 'First patch' $ echo 'a change' >> a.txt $ stg refresh $ stg new second -m 'Second patch' $ echo 'b change' >> b.txt $ stg refresh
Then both patches are popped:
$ stg pop --all
Next, the patches are reordered by pushing in the opposite order:
$ stg push second first $ stg series + second > first
StGit had no problems reordering these patches since they did not affect the same lines or even the same files. When using StGit, it is the typical case that no conflicts emerge when pushing or reordering patches; especially when each patch is limited to one coherent topic.
But it is inevitable that sometimes multiple patches necessarily affect the same lines of a file. This is when a conflict may arise.
$ stg pop - first > second $ echo 'another change' >> a.txt $ stg refresh
Now, both patches add a line to the end of
a.txt. What happens
when attempting to apply both patches at once?
$ stg push > first (conflict) error: Merge conflicts UU a.txt
StGit indicates that when it pushed
first on top of
since both modify the same lines of the same file (
a.txt), there is a
stg status can be used to see the status
of files in the work tree, including those with conflicts:
$ stg status UU a.txt
As indicated by stg push, the conflict is in the file
a.txt. If the patch modified multiple files, all modified files would
be listed in the
status output, prefixed with
UU if there were
unresolvable conflicts, or
M if StGit was able to resolve all diff
hunks within the file.
When conflicts occur, there are two general options for how to respond:
- Undo the command that caused the conflict(s).
- Resolve the conflicts.
stg undo command can rewind the state of the
StGit stack and work tree.
$ stg undo --hard > second
stg undois required when there are modifications in the work tree or index, as is the case when there are unresolved conflicts in the work tree.
Undoing may be helpful when inter-patch dependencies are uncovered when attempting to reorder patches. In such cases, the best approach may be to undo the command that caused conflicts and not reorder the patches.
In other cases, however, it may be that the conflict must be resolved manually…
Resolving conflicts incurred while using StGit commands is the same process as when conflicts are incurred using Git commands directly:
Modify the affected files to decide on how the conflict should be resolved, removing conflict markers. This can either be done manually using a regular text editor, or with a tool such as
Tell Git that the conflict is resolved using
git addor its StGit alias,
NOTE It may be helpful to read the Git Book’s section on handling merge conflicts
Back to the example, opening
a.txt in a text editor reveals the
<<<<<<< current another change ======= a change >>>>>>> patched
The ‘conflict markers’
which lines were in the file before the patch was applied (
and which conflicting lines were added by the patch (
To resolve this conflict
a.txt is modified to choose which lines of
text to retain while also removing the conflict markers. In this case,
both lines are retained:
a change another change
And the next step is to tell Git that the conflict has been resolved:
$ stg add a.txt $ stg status M a.txt
At this point, the status indicates that
a.txt is modified, but no
longer in conflict. The patch may now be refreshed:
$ stg refresh
The state of the resolved and refreshed patch:
$ stg show commit 8e3ae5f6fa6e9a5f831353524da5e0b91727338e Author: Audrey U. Thor <email@example.com> Date: Sun Oct 5 14:43:42 2008 +0200 First patch diff --git a/a.txt b/a.txt index 0a131d8..b4c7416 100644 --- a/a.txt +++ b/a.txt @@ -1 +1,2 @@ +a change another change
Development branch workflow
One common use of StGit is to “polish” a Git branch before publishing it to another public repository. The kinds of polish that StGit can help with include:
- Complete and correct commit messages.
- Each patch limited to one coherent topic.
- Each patch standing on its own: passing tests, etc.
- Considerate patch (commit) order
Careful curation of Git commit history, as enabled by StGit, can be of high value to those reviewing pull requests or trying to understand why or how code came to be the way it is.
There are limits, however, to what history may be safely modified. As a general rule, any commits that have been made public (i.e. by pushing to a public repository) should be off-limits to history modification.
As a concrete example, consider a situation where several Git commits have been made in a repository with commit messages such as:
- “Improve the snarfle cache”
- “Remove debug printout”
- “New snarfle cache test”
- “Oops, spell function name correctly”
- “Fix documentation error”
- “More snarfle cache”
While the above may be the “true” history of commits to the repository, it may not be the history that is most helpful to code reviewers or the developer who needs to understand what happened in this are of the code six months after the fact. Using StGit, this history can be revised to be higher quality and higher value.
The first step is to make StGit patches from the Git commits to be revised:
$ stg uncommit --number 6 > more-snarfle-cache $ stg series --description + improve-the-snarfle-cache # Improve the snarfle cache + remove-debug-printout # Remove debug printout + new-snarfle-cache-test # New snarfle cache test + oops-spell-function-name-corre # Oops, spell function name correctly + fix-documentation-error # Fix documentation error > more-snarfle-cache # More snarfle cache
stg uncommit command adds StGit metadata to
the last few Git commits, turning them into StGit patches, and thus
readying them to be operated on by other StGit commands.
NOTE With the
stg uncommituncommits that many commits and generates patch names based on their commit messages. Alternativly, patch names may be specified on the
stg uncommitcommand line.
A number of possible history revisions are possible at this point:
Continue developing, and take advantage of, for example
stg refresh --patchto place modifications in the most appropriate patches.
stg squashto combine two or more patches into one.
squashpushes and pops so that the patches to be squashed are consecutive, then makes one big patch out of the patches to be squashed, and finally pushes other patches back on the stack such that the topmost patch is the same as it was prior to running
NOTE The above commands all cause patches to be pushed, either implicitly or explicitly. Thus these commands may trigger conflicts. If a push results in a conflict, the operation will be halted and the choice will have to be made to either
undoor resolve the conflicts.
Once the history in the StGit stack is satisfactorily revised, the patches can be converted back into regular Git commits:
$ stg commit --all
stg commitcan commit specific patches, leaving other patches as-is. This can be used to retire patches as they mature, while keeping newer and more volatile changes as patches.
When completely done using StGit with a branch,
stg branch can be used to cleanup (remove) all StGit
metadata from the branch or completely delete the branch:
$ stg branch --cleanup branchname $ stg branch --delete branchname
NOTE A branch must have an empty stack (no patches) before it is either cleaned-up or deleted.
In the ‘Development branch workflow’ described above, it was assumed that only single developer was working on her own branch without having to worry about parallel development by others. While common, this is not the only use model for Git.
An alternative use model is for many contributors to send their patches via email to a mailing list. This model is used, for example, by the Linux kernel community. In this use model, others read the patches posted to the mailing list, trying them out and providing feedback. Often, the patch author is asked to send updated versions of patches. When the project maintainer is satisfied with the patches, she will apply them and publish to a public repository.
StGit is ideally suited for the process of creating patches, emailing them out for review, revising them, mailing them off again, and eventually getting them accepted into an upstream repository.
Getting patches upstream
stg emailhas two subcommands,
sendthat may be used to format and send emails containing patches from a StGit stack.
stg exportexports patches from a StGit stack to a filesystem directory, one text file per patch. This may be useful if patches need to be transported by something other than email.
NOTE Git has its own capability for sending commits via email:
stg email sendis a wrapper of
git send-emailand as such, respects the its configuration (i.e.
format.*) and exposes its most used command line options. The key difference is that
stg email sendunderstands patch names from the StGit stack. Since StGit patches are Git commits,
git send-emailmay be used directly for sending patches via email.
NOTE For exporting a single patch
stg showmay be used instead of
Mailing a patch is as easy as this:
$ stg email send --to firstname.lastname@example.org <patches>
One or more patches may be listed on the command line. Each patch will be sent as a separate email, with the first line of the commit message used as the email’s subject.
stg email sendrelies on Git being properly configured to send email, e.g. via SMTP. See the documentation for
git send-emailand the Git book’s section on contributing to a project over email for more detail on how to configure Git for sending email.
There are many command-line options to control exactly how patch emails are sent, as well as user-modifiable message templates. The man page has all the details, but two worth mentioning here are:
--composeopens an editor for writing an introductory message. All patch emails are then sent as replies to this “cover message”. Using a cover message is advised whenever sending more than one patch in order to give reviewers a quick overview of the patches.
--annotateenables editing each patch before it is sent. Any part of the patch email may be modified, but it is not advised to edit the diff itself since that will only affect the outgoing email and not the underlying patch in the StGit stack. What
--annotateis useful for, however, is to add notes for the patch recipients:
From: Audrey U. Thor <email@example.com> Subject: [PATCH] First line of the commit message The rest of the commit message --- Everything after the line with the three dashes and before the diff is just a comment, and not part of the commit message. If there is anything you want the patch recipients to see, but that should not be recorded in the history if the patch is accepted, write it here. README.md | 1 + 1 files changed, 1 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-) diff --git a/README.md b/README.md index e324179..6398958 100644 --- a/README.md +++ b/README.md @@ -171,6 +171,7 @@ +My first patch!
Working with Remote Changes
In a project with multiple developers, while a local StGit stack is being developed, others will be doing the same. As a result, a stack will need to periodically incorporate changes from other developers. StGit has a few different tools to help with this.
Because multiple developers may be working on the same files, pulling or rebasing remote changes may result in conflicts. It is almost always less work to rebase often so that smaller sets of conflicts can be resolved versus waiting and having larger sets of conflicts to resolve. And in most workflows, patches must be rebased prior to emailing or creating a pull request.
Pulling remote changes
The most straightforward way to incorporate changes from a remote
repository is to use
$ stg pull
Under the hood,
stg pull first pops any applied patches, fetches
changes from a remote repository, and then reapplies any previously
applied patches. The net effect is that the patch stack is rebased
on top of the new remote head.
NOTE Pulling changes from a remote repository may result in conflicts when patches are reapplied. When this occurs, the
stg pullcommand will halt after pushing the first conflicting patch. After resolving conflicts and refreshing the conflicting patch, it becomes the user’s responsibility to
gotothe desired patch.
stg pullpulls changes from the default remote associated with the branch, but a remote may also be explicitly specified on the
stg pullcommand line.
Fetch remote changes and rebase
stg pull fetches remote changes, updates the local branch, and
rebases the branch’s stack with a single command, there are times when
those steps need to be performed separately.
stg rebase can be used as part of a two-step process to
rebase a StGit stack with remote changes.
$ git remote update
This updates remote branch pointers, but does not modify corresponding local branches. Step two of this process is to update a local branch with the remote changes and rebase the StGit stack on top of that. The following example rebases to the master branch of a remote repository “origin”:
$ stg rebase remotes/origin/master
The end result is that patches are now applied on top of the latest
When patches are accepted upstream
When patches are accepted into an upstream repository, a good practice
is to pull or rebase those commits into the local repository. The one
difference in the process from above is the use of the
stg pull or
$ stg pull --merged
$ git remote update $ stg rebase --merged remotes/origin/master
--merged flag helps StGit detect that local patches have been
merged upstream, at some cost in performance.
The merged patches will remain present in the StGit stack after the pull
or rebase, but empty (no diff) since the change they added is now
present in the stack base.
stg series --empty will
prefix any empty patches with a
0. And stg clean will
delete all empty patches from the stack:
$ stg series --empty 0+ patch1 + patch2 0> patch3 $ stg clean $ stg series --empty > patch2
StGit supports importing patches from several non-Git sources using
stg import command.
A patch (diff) file.
Several patch files containing one patch each along with a
seriesfile listing the patch files in their correct order.
An email containing a single patch.
A mailbox file (in standard Unix
mboxformat) containing multiple emails with one patch in each.
Importing a plain patch
$ stg import patch-file
The imported patch will be at the top of the stack.
If a path is not provided on the command line, stg
import will read the patch from its standard input.
Thus a patch may be imported by piping the diff into
By default, the imported patch’s name will be derived from the file name. And if present, the patch’s commit message and author info will be taken from the beginning of the patch. However, command line options may be used to override these defaults.
Importing a patch series
Some programs—among them stg export—will create a
directory of files with one patch per file, along with a ‘series’ file
series) listing the correct patch order. Passing
--series with name of the series file to stg import
will import the entire series in its correct order.
Importing a patch from an e-mail
Importing a patch from an email is simple too:
$ stg import --mail my-mail
The email should be in standard Git mail format (which is what stg email format produces)—that is, with the patch in-line in the mail, not attached. The authorship info is taken from the mail headers, and the commit message is read from the ‘Subject:’ header and the mail body.
If no filename is provided,
stg import --mail will read from stdin.
Thus a mail reader may be configured to pipe email contents into
stg import --mail to import (and apply) a patch email.
Importing a mailbox full of patches
Finally, in case importing one patch at a time is too much work, stg
import also accepts an entire Unix
mailbox, either on the command line or on its standard input; just use
--mbox flag. Each mail should contain one patch, and is imported
just like with
Mailboxes full of patches are produced by e.g. stg mail
--mbox flag, but most mail readers can produce them too,
meaning that patch emails may be copied or moved to a separate mailbox
and then imported.