Title: Gentoo Git Workflow
Author: Michał Górny <email@example.com>
Type: Standards Track
Post-History: 2017-07-25, 2017-09-28, 2017-10-11, 2018-09-18
This GLEP specifies basic standards and recommendations for using git
with the Gentoo ebuild repository. It covers only Gentoo-specific
policies, and is not meant to be a complete guide.
Updated the ``Signed-off-by`` footer tag description to account
for newly-approved copyright policy.
Although the main Gentoo repository is using git for two years already,
developers still lack official documentation on how to use git
consistently. Most of the developers learn spoken standards from others
and follow them. This eventually brings consistency to some extent
but is suboptimal. Furthermore, it results in users having to learn
things the hard way instead of having proper documentation to follow.
There were a few attempts to standardize git use over the time. Most
noteworthy are Gentoo git workflow [#GENTOO_GIT_WORKFLOW]_
and Gentoo GitHub [#GENTOO_GITHUB]_ articles. However, they are not any
kind of official standards, and they have too broad focus to become one.
There was also an initial GLEP attempt but it never even reached
the draft stage.
This GLEP aims to finally provide basic standardization for the use of
git in the Gentoo repository. It aims to focus purely
on Gentoo-specific standards and not git usage in general. It doesn't
mean to be a complete guide but a formal basis on top of which official
guides could be created.
The main branch of the Gentoo repository is the ``master`` branch. All
Gentoo developers push their work straight to the master branch,
provided that the commits meet the minimal quality standards.
The master branch is also used straight for continuous user repository
Since multiple developers work on master concurrently, they may be
required to rebase multiple times before being able to push. Developers
are requested not to use workflows that could prevent others from
pushing, e.g. pushing single commits frequently instead of staging them
and using a single push.
Developers can use additional branches to facilitate review and testing
of long-term projects of larger scale. However, since git fetches all
branches by default, they should be used scarcely. For smaller
projects, local branches or repository forks are preferred.
Unless stated otherwise, the rules set by this specification apply to
the master branch only. The development branches can use relaxed rules.
Rewriting history (i.e. force pushes) of the master branch is forbidden.
The use of merge commits in the Gentoo repository is strongly
discouraged. Usually it is preferable to rebase instead. However,
the developers are allowed to use merge commits in justified cases.
Merge commits can be only used to merge additional branches, the use
of implicit ``git pull`` merges is entirely forbidden.
In a merge commit that is committed straight to the Gentoo repository,
the first parent is expected to reference an actual Gentoo commit
preceding the merge, while the remaining parents can be used to
reference commits originating from external repositories. The commits
on the ancestry path of the first parent (up to the next merge commit)
are required to conform to this specification. The commits on remaining
ancestry paths can use relaxed rules.
Each commit in the Gentoo repository must be signed using
the committer's OpenPGP key. Furthermore, each push to the repository
must be signed using the key belonging to the developer performing
the push (matched via the SSH key).
The requirements for OpenPGP keys are covered by GLEP 63 [#GLEP63]_.
Git commits are lightweight, and the developers are encouraged to split
their commits to improve readability and the ability of reverting
specific sub-changes. When choosing how to split the commits,
the developers should consider the following three rules:
1. Use atomic commits — one commit per logical change.
2. Split commits at logical unit (package, eclass, profile…) boundaries.
3. Avoid creating commits that are 'broken' — e.g. are incomplete, have
It is technically impossible to always respect all of the three rules,
so developers have to balance between them at their own discretion.
Side changes that are implied by other change (e.g. revbump due to some
change) should be included in the first commit requiring them. Commits
should be ordered to avoid breakage, and follow logical ordering
- When doing a version bump, it is usually not reasonable to split every
necessary logical change into separate commit since the interim
commits would correspond to a broken package. However, if the package
has a live ebuild, it *might* be reasonable to perform split logical
changes on the live ebuild, then create a release as another logical
- When doing one or more changes that require a revision bump, bump
the revision in the commit including the first change. Split
the changes into multiple logical commits without further revision
bumps — since they are going to be pushed in a single push, the user
will not be exposed to interim state.
- When adding a new version of a package that should be masked, you can
include the ``package.mask`` edit in the commit adding it.
Alternatively, you can add the mask in a split commit *preceding*
- When doing a minor change to a large number of packages, it is
reasonable to do so in a single commit. However, when doing a major
change (e.g. a version bump), it is better to split commits on package
A standard git commit message consists of three parts, in order:
a summary line, an optional body and an optional set of tags. The parts
are separated by a single empty line.
The summary line is included in the short logs (``git log --oneline``,
gitweb, GitHub, mail subject) and therefore should provide a short yet
accurate description of the change. The summary line starts with
a logical unit name, followed by a colon, a space and a short
description of the most important changes. If a bug is associated with
a change, then it can be included in the summary line
as ``bug #nnnnnn``. The summary line must not exceed 69 characters,
and must not be wrapped.
The suggested logical unit name formats are:
- for a package, ``category/package: …``;
- for an eclass, ``name.eclass: …``;
- for other directories or files, their path or filename (as long
as a developer reading the commit messages is able to figure out what
it is) — e.g. ``licenses/foo: …``, ``package.mask: …``.
The body is included in the full commit log (``git log``, detailed
commit info on gitweb/GitHub, mail body). It is optional, and it can be
used to describe the commit in more detail if the summary line is not
sufficient. It is generally a good idea to repeat the information
contained in the summary (except for the logical unit) since the summary
is frequently formatted as a title and not adjacent to the body.
The body should be wrapped at 72 characters. It can contain multiple
paragraphs, separated by empty lines.
The tag part is included in the full commit log as an extension to
the body. It consists of one or more lines consisting of a key,
followed by a colon and a space, followed by value. Git does not
enforce any standardization of the keys, and the tag format is *not*
meant for machine processing.
A few tags of common use are:
- user-related tags:
- ``Acked-by: Full Name <firstname.lastname@example.org>`` — commit approved
by another person (usually without detailed review),
- ``Reported-by: Full Name <email@example.com>``,
- ``Reviewed-by: Full Name <firstname.lastname@example.org>`` — usually indicates
- ``Signed-off-by: Full Name <email@example.com>`` — GCO/DCO approval
(defined by GLEP 76 [#GLEP76]_),
- ``Suggested-by: Full Name <firstname.lastname@example.org>``,
- ``Tested-by: Full Name <email@example.com>``.
- commit-related tags:
- ``Fixes: commit-id (commit message)`` — to indicate fixing
an earlier commit,
- ``Reverts: commit-id (commit message)`` — to indicate reverting
an earlier commit,
- bug tracker-related tags:
- ``Bug: https://bugs.gentoo.org/NNNNNN`` — to reference a bug;
the commit will be linked in a comment,
- ``Closes: https://bugs.gentoo.org/NNNNNN`` — to automatically close
a Gentoo bug (RESOLVED/FIXED, linking the commit),
- ``Closes: https://github.com/gentoo/gentoo/pull/NNNN`` —
to automatically close a pull request on GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket
or a compatible service (where the commits are mirrored),
- package manager tags:
- ``Package-Manager: …`` — used by repoman to indicate Portage
- ``RepoMan-Options: …`` — used by repoman to indicate repoman
The model of multiple developers pushing concurrently to the repository
containing all packages is preserved from CVS. The developers have
discussed the possibility of using other models, in particular of using
multiple branches for developers that are afterwards automatically
merged into the master branch. However, it was determined that there is
no need to use a more complex model at the moment and the potential
problems with them outweighed the benefits.
The necessity of rebasing is a natural consequence of concurrent work,
along with the ban of reverse merge commits. Since rebasing a number
of commits can take a few seconds or even more, another developer
sometimes commits during that time, enforcing another rebase.
In the past, there were cases of developers using automated scripts
which created single commits, ran repoman and pushed them straight to
the repository. This resulted in pushes from a single developer every
10-15 seconds which made it impossible for other developers to rebase
larger commit batches. This kind of workflow is therefore strongly
Creating multiple short-time branches is discouraged as it implies
additional transfer for users cloning the repository and additional
maintenance burden. Since the git migration, the developers have
created a few branches on the repository, and did not maintain them.
The Infra team had to query the developers about the state
of the branches and clean them up. Keeping branches local or hosting
them outside Gentoo Infra (e.g. on GitHub) reduces the burden on our
users, even if the developers do not clean after themselves.
Merge commits have been debated multiple times in various media,
in particular IRC. They have very verbose opponents whose main argument
is that they make history unreadable. At the same time, it has been
frequently pointed out that merge commits have valid use cases.
To satisfy both groups, this specification strongly discourages merge
commits but allows their use in justified cases.
Most importantly, the implicit merge commits created by ``git pull``
are forbidden. Those merges have no real value or justified use case,
and since they are created implicitly by default there have been
historical cases where developers pushed them unintentionally. They are
banned explicitly to emphasize the necessity of adjusting git
configuration to the developers.
When processing merge commits, it is important to explicitly distinguish
the parent that represents 'real' Gentoo history from the one(s) that
represent external branches. The former can either be an existing
Gentoo commit or a commit that the developer has prepared (on top of
existing Gentoo history) before merging the branch. For this reason, it
is important to enforce the full set of Gentoo policies on this parent
and the commits preceding it. On the other hand, the external branches
can be treated similarly to development branches. Relaxing the rules
for external branches also makes it possible to merge user contributions
with original user OpenPGP signatures, while adding a final developer
signature on top of the merge commit.
When using ``git merge foo``, the first parent represents the current
``HEAD`` and the second one the merged branch. This is the model
used by the specification.
The signature requirements strictly correspond to the git setup deployed
by the Infrastructure team.
The commit signatures provide an ability to verify the authenticity
of all commits throughout the Gentoo repository history (to the point
of git conversion). The push signatures mostly serve the purpose
of additional authentication for the developer pushing a specific set
The goal of the commit splitting rules is to make the best use of git
while avoiding enforcing too much overhead on the developer
and optimizing to avoid interim broken commits.
Splitting commits by logical changes improves the readability and makes
it easier to revert a specific change while preserving the remaining
(irrelevant) changes. The changes done by a developer are easier
to comprehend when the reviewer can follow them in the specific order
done by the author, rather than combined with other changes.
Splitting commits on logical unit boundary was used since CVS times.
Mostly it improves readability via making it possible to include
the unit (package, eclass…) name in the commit message — so that
developers perceive what specific packages are affected by the change
without having to look into diffstat.
Requiring commits to be non-'broken' is meant to preserve a good quality
git history of the repository. This means that the users can check
an interim commit out without risking a major problem such as a missing
dependency that is being added by the commit following it. It also
makes it safer to revert the most recent changes with reduced risk
of exposing a breakage.
Those rules partially overlap, and if that is the case, the developers
are expected to use common sense to determine the course of action that
gives the best result. Furthermore, requiring the strict following
of the rules would mean a lot of additional work for developers
and a lot of additional commits for no real benefit.
The examples are provided to make it possible for the developers to get
a 'feeling' how to work with the rules.
The basic commit message format is similar to the one used by other
projects, and provides for reasonably predictable display of results.
The summary line is meant to provide a good concise summary
of the changes. It is included in the short logs, and should include
all the information to help developer determine whether he is interested
in looking into the commit details. Including the logical unit name
accounts for the fact that most of the Gentoo commits are specific
to those units (e.g. packages). The length limit is meant to avoid
wrapping the shortlog — which could result in unreadable ``git log
--oneline`` or ugly mid-word ellipsis on GitHub.
The body is meant to provide the detailed information for a commit.
It is usually displayed verbatim, and the use of paragraphs along with
line wrapping is meant to improve readability. The body should include
the information contained in the summary since the two are sometimes
really disjoint, and expecting the user to read body as a continuation
of summary is confusing. For example, in ``git send-email``,
the summary line is used to construct the mail's subject
and is therefore disjoint from the body.
The tag section is a traditional way of expressing quasi-machine-
readable data. However, the commit messages are not really suited
for machine use and only a few tags are actually processed by scripts.
The specification tries to provide a concise set of potentially useful
tags collected from various projects (the Linux kernel, X.org). Those
tags can be used interchangeably with plaintext explanation in the body.
The only tag defined by git itself is the ``Signed-off-by`` line,
that is created by ``git commit -s``. While git does not define
the precise meaning of it, it is commonly used to reference Certificate
of Origin sign-off.
The tags subject to machine processing are the ``Bug`` and ``Closes``
lines. Both are used by git.gentoo.org to handle Gentoo Bugzilla
and the latter is also used by GitHub to automatically close pull
requests (and issues — however, Gentoo does not use GitHub's issue
tracker). GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, git.gentoo.org also support
``Fixes`` and ``Resolves`` tags (and the first three also some
variations of them), however ``Closes`` has been already established
in Gentoo and is used for consistency.
All the remaining tags serve purely as a user convenience.
Historically, Gentoo has been using a few tags starting with ``X-``.
However, this practice was abandoned once it has been pointed out that
git does not enforce any standard set of tags, and therefore indicating
non-standard tags is meaningless.
Gentoo developers are still frequently using ``Gentoo-Bug`` tag,
sometimes followed by ``Gentoo-Bug-URL``. Using both
simultaneously is meaningless (they are redundant), and using the former
has no advantages over using the classic ``#nnnnnn`` form in the summary
or the body.
Using full URLs in ``Closes`` is necessary to properly namespace
the action to the Gentoo services and avoid accidentally closing
incorrect issues or pull requests when the commit is mirrored or cherry-
picked into another repository. For consistency, they are also used
for ``Bug`` and should be used for any future tags that might be
introduced. This also ensures that the URLs are automatically converted
into hyperlinks by various tools.
Including the bug number in the summary of the commit message causes
willikins to automatically expand on the bug on ``#gentoo-commits``.
Most of the new policy will apply to the commits following its approval.
Backwards compatibility is not relevant there.
One particular point that affects commits retroactively is the OpenPGP
signing. However, it has been an obligatory requirement enforced by
the infrastructure since the git switch. Therefore, all the git history
conforms to that.
All of the elements requiring explicit implementation on the git
infrastructure are implemented already. In particular this includes:
- blocking force pushes on the ``master`` branch,
- requiring signed commits on the ``master`` branch,
- requiring signed pushes to the repository.
The remaining elements are either non-obligatory or non-enforceable
at infrastructure level.
RepoMan suggests starting the commit message with package name since
commit 46dafadff58da0 [#REPOMAN_PKG_NAME_COMMIT]_.
Most of the foundations for this specification were laid out by Julian
Ospald (hasufell) in his initial version of Gentoo git workflow
.. [#GENTOO_GIT_WORKFLOW] Gentoo Git Workflow (on Gentoo Wiki)
.. [#GENTOO_GITHUB] Gentoo GitHub (on Gentoo Wiki)
.. [#GLEP63] GLEP 63: Gentoo GPG key policies
.. [#GLEP76] GLEP 76: Copyright policy
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