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git-subrepo(1) - Git Submodule Alternative

Build Status


git subrepo help

git subrepo clone <remote-url>
git subrepo pull <subdir> --rebase
git subrepo push <subdir>
git subrepo checkout <subdir>

git subrepo status <subdir>
git subrepo fetch --all
git subrepo clean --all

git subrepo version


This git command "clones" an external git repo and merges it into a subdirectory of your repo. Later on, upstream changes can be pulled in, and local changes can be pushed back. Simple.


This command is an improvement on git-submodule and git-subtree; two other git commands with similar goals, but various problems.

It assumes there are 3 main roles of people interacting with a repo, and attempts to serve them all well:

  • owner - The person who authors/owns/maintains a repo.
  • users - People who are just using/installing the repo.
  • collaborators - People who commit code to the repo and subrepos.

The git-subrepo command benefits these roles in the following ways:

  • Simple and intuitive commandline usage.
  • Users get your repo and all your subrepos just by cloning your repo.
  • Users do not need to install git-subrepo, ever.
  • Collaborators do not need to install unless they want to push/pull.
  • Collaborators know when a subdir is a subrepo (it has a .gitrepo file).
  • Well named branches and remotes are generated for manual operations.
  • Owners do not deal with the complications of keeping submodules in sync.
  • Subrepos can contain other subrepos.
  • Branching with subrepos just works.
  • Different branches can have different subrepos in different states, etc.
  • Moving/renaming a subrepo subdir just works.
  • Your git history is kept squeaky clean.
  • Upstream history (clone/pull) is condensed into a single commit.
  • You can see the complete subrepo history by using a subrepo remote branch.
  • Commits pushed back upstream are NOT condensed.
  • Easy to play around with subrepos and then reset back.
  • Does not introduce history that messes up other git commands.
  • Fixes known rebase failures with git-subtree.


Get the source code from GitHub:

git clone

Then run:

make test
make install        # Possibly with 'sudo'

This will install the git-subrepo command next to your other Git subcommands. It will also install the manpage (for git help subrepo).

To use git-subrepo WITHOUT installing:

export GIT_EXEC_PATH="/path/to/git-subrepo/lib:$(git --exec-path)"

Command Options

  • -h

Short help.

  • --help

Long help.

  • --all

If you have multiple subrepos, issue the command to all of them (if applicable).

  • --branch=<branch-name> (-b <branch-name>)

Use a different branch-name than the remote HEAD or the one saved in .gitrepo locally.

  • --remote=<remote-url> (-r <remote-url>)

Use a different remote-url than the one saved in .gitrepo locally.

  • --update (-u)

If -b or -r are used, and the command updates the .gitrepo file, include these values to the update.

  • --continue

On a pull or push, you often want to do things by hand. This involves a subrepo checkout, merging and testing, etc. When the subrepo branch is ready to be integrated (pulled) or pushed back upstream, use this flag on the relevant pull or push command.

Merge Options

When doing a pull command (or doing a checkout for manual merge/pull) you can specify a 'merge strategy' to be tried:

  • --reclone

Use this option when you have no local changes to the subrepo, and you simply want to replace the old content with the new upstream content. If you use --branch or --remote options with this option, the --update option is turned on automatically. (new remote and branch are stored in .gitrepo file)

  • --rebase

Attempt a rebase on top off the remote head.

  • --merge

Use the default (recursive) merge strategy.

  • --ours

Use recursive + -X ours option.

  • --theirs

Use recursive + -X theirs option.

  • --graft

This option creates a graft between your local detached subrepo branch and the fetched upstream branch, so that you can try a hand merge. Some commands like git rebase seem to need this.

  • --fetch

When you specify a merge strategy, the command will do a remote fetch automatically. If no merge strategy option is supplied for a checkout command, the fetch is not done. This flag says to fetch anyway.


  • git subrepo clone <repository> [<subdir>] [-b <upstream-branch>]

This command adds a repository as a subrepo in a subdir of your repository. It is similar in feel to git clone. You just specify the remote repo url, and optionally a sub-directory and/or branch name. The repo will be fetched and merged into the subdir. The subrepo history is not added to your repo history, but a commit is added that contains the reference information. This information is also stored in a special file called <subdir>/.gitrepo. The presence of this file indicates that the directory is a subrepo.

  • git subrepo pull <subdir>|--all [--<strategy> | --continue] [-r <remote>] [-b <branch>] [-u]

Update the subdir with the latest remote changes. The subdir must be a subrepo (must contain a .gitrepo file). If you specify a merge-strategy like --rebase or --ours, the command will attempt to fetch, merge and integrate all in one step. If you want to merge yourself, run a git subrepo checkout first, merge yourself, then run git subrepo pull <subdir> --continue and your branch will be integrated (pulled) into the mainline repo.

  • git subrepo push <subdir>|--all [--continue] [-r <remote>] [-b <branch>]

This command will make sure that you have already pulled (merged) the upstream head. Then it will create a branch of the local history involving the subrepo, and push that back to the remote.

  • git subrepo checkout <subdir>|--all [--<strategy> [-r <remote>] [-b <branch>]]

This command creates a local branch called subrepo/, that contains all the subdir commits since the last pull. This is useful when a subrepo pull has failed. You can merge things by hand, then run a 'git subrepo push' command. If you specify a merge-strategy, then it will be applied using the remote head (which is automatically fetched) and this new branch. With no merge-strategy, just make the branch. After all this, the checkout command will actually checkout the new branch. This command is normally used for hand merging, but can also be used to see what the local subrepo changes look like, by themselves. Note: the .gitrepo file will be deleted in this subrepo branch.

  • git subrepo status <subdir>|--all [--quiet]

Get the status of a subrepo. If --all provided, get the status of all subrepos. If the --quiet flag is used, print less info, and on 1 line per subrepo.

  • git subrepo fetch <subdir>|--all

This command will fetch the remote content for a subrepo. It will create a branch pointing at the FETCH_HEAD called subrepo/remote/<subdir> and a remote called subrepo/<subdir>.

  • git subrepo clean <subdir>|--all

When you run a subrepo command that does a remote fetch, extra branches, remotes and grafts are created for you. This command will remove them.

  • git subrepo help

Same as git help subrepo. Will launch the manpage. For the shorter usage, use git subrepo -h.

  • git subrepo version [--verbose] [--quiet]

This command will display version information about git-subrepo and its environment. For just the version number, use git subrepo --version. Use --verbose for more version info, and --quiet for less.


The git-subrepo command is coming together nicely, but some details are still being ironed out. I would not use it for important things yet, but playing around with it is cheap (this is not git submodule) , and not permanent (if you do not push to public remotes). ie You can always play around and reset back to the beginning without pain.

This command has a test suite (run make test), but surely has many bugs. If you have expertise with Git and subcommands, please review the code, and file issues on anything that seems wrong.

If you want to chat about the git-subrepo command, join #git-commands on


  • This command currently only works on POSIX systems.
  • The git-subrepo repo itself has 2 subrepos under the ext/ subdirectory.
  • Written in (very modern) Bash, with full test suite. Take a look.


Written by Ingy döt Net

License and Copyright

The MIT License (MIT)

Copyright (c) 2013-2014 Ingy döt Net

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