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Soft Serve

A nice rendering of some melting ice cream with the words ‘Charm Soft Serve’ next to it
Latest Release GoDoc Build Status

A tasty, self-hostable Git server for the command line. 🍦

Soft Serve screencast
  • Easy to navigate TUI available over SSH
  • Clone repos over SSH, HTTP, or Git protocol
  • Git LFS support with both HTTP and SSH backends
  • Manage repos with SSH
  • Create repos on demand with SSH or git push
  • Browse repos, files and commits with SSH-accessible UI
  • Print files over SSH with or without syntax highlighting and line numbers
  • Easy access control
    • SSH authentication using public keys
    • Allow/disallow anonymous access
    • Add collaborators with SSH public keys
    • Repos can be public or private
    • User access tokens

Where can I see it?

Just run ssh for an example. You can also try some of the following commands:

# Jump directly to a repo in the TUI
ssh -t soft-serve

# Print out a directory tree for a repo
ssh repo tree soft-serve

# Print a specific file
ssh repo blob soft-serve cmd/soft/root.go

# Print a file with syntax highlighting and line numbers
ssh repo blob soft-serve cmd/soft/root.go -c -l


Soft Serve is a single binary called soft. You can get it from a package manager:

# macOS or Linux
brew tap charmbracelet/tap && brew install charmbracelet/tap/soft-serve

# Arch Linux
pacman -S soft-serve

# Nix
nix-env -iA nixpkgs.soft-serve

# Debian/Ubuntu
sudo mkdir -p /etc/apt/keyrings
curl -fsSL | sudo gpg --dearmor -o /etc/apt/keyrings/charm.gpg
echo "deb [signed-by=/etc/apt/keyrings/charm.gpg] * *" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/charm.list
sudo apt update && sudo apt install soft-serve

# Fedora/RHEL
echo '[charm]
gpgkey=' | sudo tee /etc/yum.repos.d/charm.repo
sudo yum install soft-serve

You can also download a binary from the releases page. Packages are available in Alpine, Debian, and RPM formats. Binaries are available for Linux, macOS, and Windows.

Or just install it with go:

go install

A Docker image is also available.

Setting up a server

Make sure git is installed, then run soft serve. That’s it.

This will create a data directory that will store all the repos, ssh keys, and database.

To change the default data path use SOFT_SERVE_DATA_PATH environment variable.

SOFT_SERVE_DATA_PATH=/var/lib/soft-serve soft serve

When you run Soft Serve for the first time, make sure you have the SOFT_SERVE_INITIAL_ADMIN_KEYS environment variable is set to your ssh authorized key. Any added key to this variable will be treated as admin with full privileges.

Using this environment variable, Soft Serve will create a new admin user that has full privileges. You can rename and change the user settings later.

Check out Systemd on how to run Soft Serve as a service using Systemd. Soft Serve packages in our Apt/Yum repositories come with Systemd service units.

Server Configuration

Once you start the server for the first time, the settings will be in config.yaml under your data directory. The default config.yaml is self-explanatory and will look like this:

# Soft Serve Server configurations

# The name of the server.
# This is the name that will be displayed in the UI.
name: "Soft Serve"

# Log format to use. Valid values are "json", "logfmt", and "text".
log_format: "text"

# The SSH server configuration.
  # The address on which the SSH server will listen.
  listen_addr: ":23231"

  # The public URL of the SSH server.
  # This is the address that will be used to clone repositories.
  public_url: "ssh://localhost:23231"

  # The path to the SSH server's private key.
  key_path: "ssh/soft_serve_host"

  # The path to the SSH server's client private key.
  # This key will be used to authenticate the server to make git requests to
  # ssh remotes.
  client_key_path: "ssh/soft_serve_client"

  # The maximum number of seconds a connection can take.
  # A value of 0 means no timeout.
  max_timeout: 0

  # The number of seconds a connection can be idle before it is closed.
  idle_timeout: 120

# The Git daemon configuration.
  # The address on which the Git daemon will listen.
  listen_addr: ":9418"

  # The maximum number of seconds a connection can take.
  # A value of 0 means no timeout.
  max_timeout: 0

  # The number of seconds a connection can be idle before it is closed.
  idle_timeout: 3

  # The maximum number of concurrent connections.
  max_connections: 32

# The HTTP server configuration.
  # The address on which the HTTP server will listen.
  listen_addr: ":23232"

  # The path to the TLS private key.
  tls_key_path: ""

  # The path to the TLS certificate.
  tls_cert_path: ""

  # The public URL of the HTTP server.
  # This is the address that will be used to clone repositories.
  # Make sure to use https:// if you are using TLS.
  public_url: "http://localhost:23232"

# The database configuration.
  # The database driver to use.
  # Valid values are "sqlite" and "postgres".
  driver: "sqlite"
  # The database data source name.
  # This is driver specific and can be a file path or connection string.
  # Make sure foreign key support is enabled when using SQLite.
  data_source: "soft-serve.db?_pragma=busy_timeout(5000)&_pragma=foreign_keys(1)"

# Git LFS configuration.
  # Enable Git LFS.
  enabled: true
  # Enable Git SSH transfer.
  ssh_enabled: true

# The stats server configuration.
  # The address on which the stats server will listen.
  listen_addr: ":23233"
# Additional admin keys.
#  - "ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2..."

You can also use environment variables, to override these settings. All server settings environment variables start with SOFT_SERVE_ followed by the setting name all in uppercase. Here are some examples:

  • SOFT_SERVE_NAME: The name of the server that will appear in the TUI
  • SOFT_SERVE_SSH_LISTEN_ADDR: SSH listen address
  • SOFT_SERVE_SSH_KEY_PATH: SSH host key-pair path
  • SOFT_SERVE_HTTP_PUBLIC_URL: HTTP public URL used for cloning
  • SOFT_SERVE_GIT_MAX_CONNECTIONS: The number of simultaneous connections to git daemon

Database Configuration

Soft Serve supports both SQLite and Postgres for its database. Like all other Soft Serve settings, you can change the database driver and data source using either config.yaml or environment variables. The default config uses SQLite as the default database driver.

To use Postgres as your database, first create a Soft Serve database:

psql -h<hostname> -p<port> -U<user> -c 'CREATE DATABASE soft_serve'

Then set the database data source to point to your Postgres database. For instance, if you're running Postgres locally, using the default user postgres and using a database name soft_serve, you would have this config in your config file or environment variable:

  driver: "postgres"
  data_source: "postgres://postgres@localhost:5432/soft_serve?sslmode=disable"

Environment variables equivalent:

SOFT_SERVE_DB_DATA_SOURCE="postgres://postgres@localhost:5432/soft_serve?sslmode=disable" \
soft serve

You can specify a database connection password in the data source url. For example, postgres://myuser:dbpass@localhost:5432/my_soft_serve_db.

LFS Configuration

Soft Serve supports both Git LFS HTTP and SSH protocols out of the box, there is no need to do any extra set up.

Use the lfs config section to customize your Git LFS server.

Server Access

Soft Serve at its core manages your server authentication and authorization. Authentication verifies the identity of a user, while authorization determines their access rights to a repository.

To manage the server users, access, and repos, you can use the SSH command line interface.

Try ssh localhost -i ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 -p 23231 help for more info. Make sure you use your key here.

For ease of use, instead of specifying the key, port, and hostname every time you SSH into Soft Serve, add your own Soft Serve instance entry to your SSH config. For instance, to use ssh soft instead of typing ssh localhost -i ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 -p 23231, we can define a soft entry in our SSH config file ~/.ssh/config.

Host soft
  HostName localhost
  Port 23231
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_ed25519

Now, we can do ssh soft to SSH into Soft Serve. Since git is also aware of this config, you can use soft as the hostname for your clone commands.

git clone ssh://soft/dotfiles
# make changes
# add & commit
git push origin main

Note The -i part will be omitted in the examples below for brevity. You can add your server settings to your sshconfig for quicker access.


Everything that needs authentication is done using SSH. Make sure you have added an entry for your Soft Serve instance in your ~/.ssh/config file.

By default, Soft Serve gives ready-only permission to anonymous connections to any of the above protocols. This is controlled by two settings anon-access and allow-keyless.

  • anon-access: Defines the access level for anonymous users. Available options are no-access, read-only, read-write, and admin-access. Default is read-only.
  • allow-keyless: Whether to allow connections that doesn't use keys to pass. Setting this to false would disable access to SSH keyboard-interactive, HTTP, and Git protocol connections. Default is true.
$ ssh -p 23231 localhost settings
Manage server settings

  ssh -p 23231 localhost settings [command]

Available Commands:
  allow-keyless Set or get allow keyless access to repositories
  anon-access   Set or get the default access level for anonymous users

  -h, --help   help for settings

Use "ssh -p 23231 localhost settings [command] --help" for more information about a command.

Note These settings can only be changed by admins.

When allow-keyless is disabled, connections that don't use SSH Public Key authentication will get denied. This means cloning repos over HTTP(s) or git:// will get denied.

Meanwhile, anon-access controls the access level granted to connections that use SSH Public Key authentication but are not registered users. The default setting for this is read-only. This will grant anonymous connections that use SSH Public Key authentication read-only access to public repos.

anon-access is also used in combination with allow-keyless to determine the access level for HTTP(s) and git:// clone requests.


Soft Serve doesn't allow duplicate SSH public keys for users. A public key can be associated with one user only. This makes SSH authentication simple and straight forward, add your public key to your Soft Serve user to be able to access Soft Serve.


You can generate user access tokens through the SSH command line interface. Access tokens can have an optional expiration date. Use your access token as the basic auth user to access your Soft Serve repos through HTTP.

# Create a user token
ssh -p 23231 localhost token create 'my new token'

# Or with an expiry date
ssh -p 23231 localhost token create --expires-in 1y 'my other token'

Now you can access to repos that require read-write access.

git clone http://ss_98fghi1234abc56789012345678901234de246d7@localhost:23232/my-private-repo.git my-private-repo
# Make changes and push


Soft Serve offers a simple access control. There are four access levels, no-access, read-only, read-write, and admin-access.

admin-access has full control of the server and can make changes to users and repos.

read-write access gets full control of repos.

read-only can read public repos.

no-access denies access to all repos.

User Management

Admins can manage users and their keys using the user command. Once a user is created and has access to the server, they can manage their own keys and settings.

To create a new user simply use user create:

# Create a new user
ssh -p 23231 localhost user create beatrice

# Add user keys
ssh -p 23231 localhost user add-pubkey beatrice ssh-rsa AAAAB3Nz...
ssh -p 23231 localhost user add-pubkey beatrice ssh-ed25519 AAAA...

# Create another user with public key
ssh -p 23231 localhost user create frankie '-k "ssh-ed25519 AAAATzN..."'

# Need help?
ssh -p 23231 localhost user help

Once a user is created, they get read-only access to public repositories. They can also create new repositories on the server.

Users can manage their keys using the pubkey command:

# List user keys
ssh -p 23231 localhost pubkey list

# Add key
ssh -p 23231 localhost pubkey add ssh-ed25519 AAAA...

# Wanna change your username?
ssh -p 23231 localhost set-username yolo

# To display user info
ssh -p 23231 localhost info


You can manage repositories using the repo command.

# Run repo help
$ ssh -p 23231 localhost repo help
Manage repositories

  ssh -p 23231 localhost repo [command]

  repo, repos, repository, repositories

Available Commands:
  blob         Print out the contents of file at path
  branch       Manage repository branches
  collab       Manage collaborators
  create       Create a new repository
  delete       Delete a repository
  description  Set or get the description for a repository
  hide         Hide or unhide a repository
  import       Import a new repository from remote
  info         Get information about a repository
  is-mirror    Whether a repository is a mirror
  list         List repositories
  private      Set or get a repository private property
  project-name Set or get the project name for a repository
  rename       Rename an existing repository
  tag          Manage repository tags
  tree         Print repository tree at path

  -h, --help   help for repo

Use "ssh -p 23231 localhost repo [command] --help" for more information about a command.

To use any of the above repo commands, a user must be a collaborator in the repository. More on this below.

Creating Repositories

To create a repository, first make sure you are a registered user. Use the repo create <repo> command to create a new repository:

# Create a new repository
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo create icecream

# Create a repo with description
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo create icecream '-d "This is an Ice Cream description"'

# ... and project name
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo create icecream '-d "This is an Ice Cream description"' '-n "Ice Cream"'

# I need my repository private!
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo create icecream -p '-d "This is an Ice Cream description"' '-n "Ice Cream"'

# Help?
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo create -h

Or you can add your Soft Serve server as a remote to any existing repo, given you have write access, and push to remote:

git remote add origin ssh://localhost:23231/icecream

After you’ve added the remote just go ahead and push. If the repo doesn’t exist on the server it’ll be created.

git push origin main

Repositories can be nested too:

# Create a new nested repository
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo create charmbracelet/icecream

# Or ...
git remote add charm ssh://localhost:23231/charmbracelet/icecream
git push charm main

Deleting Repositories

You can delete repositories using the repo delete <repo> command.

ssh -p 23231 localhost repo delete icecream

Renaming Repositories

Use the repo rename <old> <new> command to rename existing repositories.

ssh -p 23231 localhost repo rename icecream vanilla

Repository Collaborators

Sometimes you want to restrict write access to certain repositories. This can be achieved by adding a collaborator to your repository.

Use the repo collab <command> <repo> command to manage repo collaborators.

# Add collaborator to soft-serve
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo collab add soft-serve frankie

# Add collaborator with a specific access level
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo collab add soft-serve beatrice read-only

# Remove collaborator
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo collab remove soft-serve beatrice

# List collaborators
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo collab list soft-serve

Repository Metadata

You can also change the repo's description, project name, whether it's private, etc using the repo <command> command.

# Set description for repo
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo description icecream "This is a new description"

# Hide repo from listing
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo hidden icecream true

# List repository info (branches, tags, description, etc)
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo icecream info

To make a repository private, use repo private <repo> [true|false]. Private repos can only be accessed by admins and collaborators.

ssh -p 23231 localhost repo icecream private true

Repository Branches & Tags

Use repo branch and repo tag to list, and delete branches or tags. You can also use repo branch default to set or get the repository default branch.

Repository Tree

To print a file tree for the project, just use the repo tree command along with the repo name as the SSH command to your Soft Serve server:

ssh -p 23231 localhost repo tree soft-serve

You can also specify the sub-path and a specific reference or branch.

ssh -p 23231 localhost repo tree soft-serve server/config
ssh -p 23231 localhost repo tree soft-serve main server/config

From there, you can print individual files using the repo blob command:

ssh -p 23231 localhost repo blob soft-serve cmd/soft/root.go

You can add the -c flag to enable syntax coloring and -l to print line numbers:

ssh -p 23231 localhost repo blob soft-serve cmd/soft/root.go -c -l

Use --raw to print raw file contents. This is useful for dumping binary data.

The Soft Serve TUI

TUI example showing a diff

Soft Serve serves a TUI over SSH for browsing repos, viewing files and commits, and grabbing clone commands:

ssh localhost -p 23231

It's also possible to “link” to a specific repo:

ssh -p 23231 localhost -t soft-serve

You can copy text to your clipboard over SSH. For instance, you can press c on the highlighted repo in the menu to copy the clone command 1.


Soft Serve supports git server-side hooks pre-receive, update, post-update, and post-receive. This means you can define your own hooks to run on repository push events. Hooks can be defined as a per-repository hook, and/or global hooks that run for all repositories.

You can find per-repository hooks under the repository hooks directory.

Globs hooks can be found in your SOFT_SERVE_DATA_PATH directory under hooks. Defining global hooks is useful if you want to run CI/CD for example.

Here's an example of sending a message after receiving a push event. Create an executable file <data path>/hooks/update:

# An example hook script to echo information about the push
# and send it to the client.


# Safety check
if [ -z "$GIT_DIR" ]; then
        echo "Don't run this script from the command line." >&2
        echo " (if you want, you could supply GIT_DIR then run" >&2
        echo "  $0 <ref> <oldrev> <newrev>)" >&2
        exit 1

if [ -z "$refname" -o -z "$oldrev" -o -z "$newrev" ]; then
        echo "usage: $0 <ref> <oldrev> <newrev>" >&2
        exit 1

# Check types
# if $newrev is 0000...0000, it's a commit to delete a ref.
zero=$(git hash-object --stdin </dev/null | tr '[0-9a-f]' '0')
if [ "$newrev" = "$zero" ]; then
        newrev_type=$(git cat-file -t $newrev)

echo "Hi from Soft Serve update hook!"
echo "RefName: $refname"
echo "Change Type: $newrev_type"
echo "Old SHA1: $oldrev"
echo "New SHA1: $newrev"

exit 0

Now, you should get a message after pushing changes to any repository.

A note about RSA keys

Unfortunately, due to a shortcoming in Go’s x/crypto/ssh package, Soft Serve does not currently support access via new SSH RSA keys: only the old SHA-1 ones will work.

Until we sort this out you’ll either need an SHA-1 RSA key or a key with another algorithm, e.g. Ed25519. Not sure what type of keys you have? You can check with the following:

$ find ~/.ssh/id_*.pub -exec ssh-keygen -l -f {} \;

If you’re curious about the inner workings of this problem have a look at:


We’d love to hear your thoughts on this project. Feel free to drop us a note!



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  1. Copying over SSH depends on your terminal support of OSC52. Refer to go-osc52 for more information.