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rebase: introduce the --rebase-merges option
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Once upon a time, this here developer thought: wouldn't it be nice if,
say, Git for Windows' patches on top of core Git could be represented as
a thicket of branches, and be rebased on top of core Git in order to
maintain a cherry-pick'able set of patch series?

The original attempt to answer this was: git rebase --preserve-merges.

However, that experiment was never intended as an interactive option,
and it only piggy-backed on git rebase --interactive because that
command's implementation looked already very, very familiar: it was
designed by the same person who designed --preserve-merges: yours truly.

Some time later, some other developer (I am looking at you, Andreas!
;-)) decided that it would be a good idea to allow --preserve-merges to
be combined with --interactive (with caveats!) and the Git maintainer
(well, the interim Git maintainer during Junio's absence, that is)
agreed, and that is when the glamor of the --preserve-merges design
started to fall apart rather quickly and unglamorously.

The reason? In --preserve-merges mode, the parents of a merge commit (or
for that matter, of *any* commit) were not stated explicitly, but were
*implied* by the commit name passed to the `pick` command.

This made it impossible, for example, to reorder commits. Not to mention
to move commits between branches or, deity forbid, to split topic branches
into two.

Alas, these shortcomings also prevented that mode (whose original
purpose was to serve Git for Windows' needs, with the additional hope
that it may be useful to others, too) from serving Git for Windows'

Five years later, when it became really untenable to have one unwieldy,
big hodge-podge patch series of partly related, partly unrelated patches
in Git for Windows that was rebased onto core Git's tags from time to
time (earning the undeserved wrath of the developer of the ill-fated
git-remote-hg series that first obsoleted Git for Windows' competing
approach, only to be abandoned without maintainer later) was really
untenable, the "Git garden shears" were born [*1*/*2*]: a script,
piggy-backing on top of the interactive rebase, that would first
determine the branch topology of the patches to be rebased, create a
pseudo todo list for further editing, transform the result into a real
todo list (making heavy use of the `exec` command to "implement" the
missing todo list commands) and finally recreate the patch series on
top of the new base commit.

That was in 2013. And it took about three weeks to come up with the
design and implement it as an out-of-tree script. Needless to say, the
implementation needed quite a few years to stabilize, all the while the
design itself proved itself sound.

With this patch, the goodness of the Git garden shears comes to `git
rebase -i` itself. Passing the `--rebase-merges` option will generate
a todo list that can be understood readily, and where it is obvious
how to reorder commits. New branches can be introduced by inserting
`label` commands and calling `merge <label>`. And once this mode will
have become stable and universally accepted, we can deprecate the design
mistake that was `--preserve-merges`.

Link *1*:
Link *2*:

Signed-off-by: Johannes Schindelin <>
Signed-off-by: Junio C Hamano <>
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dscho authored and gitster committed Apr 26, 2018
1 parent 1644c73 commit 8f6aed7
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21 changes: 20 additions & 1 deletion Documentation/git-rebase.txt
Original file line number Diff line number Diff line change
Expand Up @@ -379,6 +379,24 @@ The commit list format can be changed by setting the configuration option
rebase.instructionFormat. A customized instruction format will automatically
have the long commit hash prepended to the format.

By default, a rebase will simply drop merge commits from the todo
list, and put the rebased commits into a single, linear branch.
With `--rebase-merges`, the rebase will instead try to preserve
the branching structure within the commits that are to be rebased,
by recreating the merge commits. Any resolved merge conflicts or
manual amendments in these merge commits will have to be
resolved/re-applied manually.
This mode is similar in spirit to `--preserve-merges`, but in contrast to
that option works well in interactive rebases: commits can be reordered,
inserted and dropped at will.
It is currently only possible to recreate the merge commits using the
`recursive` merge strategy; Different merge strategies can be used only via
explicit `exec git merge -s <strategy> [...]` commands.

Recreate merge commits instead of flattening the history by replaying
Expand Down Expand Up @@ -781,7 +799,8 @@ BUGS
The todo list presented by `--preserve-merges --interactive` does not
represent the topology of the revision graph. Editing commits and
rewording their commit messages should work fine, but attempts to
reorder commits tend to produce counterintuitive results.
reorder commits tend to produce counterintuitive results. Use
`--rebase-merges` in such scenarios instead.

For example, an attempt to rearrange
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2 changes: 1 addition & 1 deletion contrib/completion/git-completion.bash
Original file line number Diff line number Diff line change
Expand Up @@ -1944,7 +1944,7 @@ _git_rebase ()
__gitcomp "
--onto --merge --strategy --interactive
--preserve-merges --stat --no-stat
--rebase-merges --preserve-merges --stat --no-stat
--committer-date-is-author-date --ignore-date
--ignore-whitespace --whitespace=
--autosquash --no-autosquash
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1 change: 1 addition & 0 deletions
Original file line number Diff line number Diff line change
Expand Up @@ -970,6 +970,7 @@ git_rebase__interactive () {

git rebase--helper --make-script ${keep_empty:+--keep-empty} \
${rebase_merges:+--rebase-merges} \
$revisions ${restrict_revision+^$restrict_revision} >"$todo" ||
die "$(gettext "Could not generate todo list")"

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6 changes: 6 additions & 0 deletions
Original file line number Diff line number Diff line change
Expand Up @@ -17,6 +17,7 @@ q,quiet! be quiet. implies --no-stat
autostash automatically stash/stash pop before and after
fork-point use 'merge-base --fork-point' to refine upstream
onto=! rebase onto given branch instead of upstream
r,rebase-merges! try to rebase merges instead of skipping them
p,preserve-merges! try to recreate merges instead of ignoring them
s,strategy=! use the given merge strategy
no-ff! cherry-pick all commits, even if unchanged
Expand Down Expand Up @@ -89,6 +90,7 @@ type=
# One of {'', continue, skip, abort}, as parsed from command line
Expand Down Expand Up @@ -280,6 +282,10 @@ do
test -z "$interactive_rebase" && interactive_rebase=implied
test -z "$interactive_rebase" && interactive_rebase=implied
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179 changes: 179 additions & 0 deletions t/
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@@ -0,0 +1,179 @@
# Copyright (c) 2018 Johannes E. Schindelin

test_description='git rebase -i --rebase-merges
This test runs git rebase "interactively", retaining the branch structure by
recreating merge commits.
Initial setup:
-- B -- (first)
/ \
A - C - D - E - H (master)
\ /
F - G (second)
. ./

test_cmp_graph () {
cat >expect &&
git log --graph --boundary --format=%s "$@" >output &&
sed "s/ *$//" <output >output.trimmed &&
test_cmp expect output.trimmed

test_expect_success 'setup' '
write_script <<-\EOF &&
mv "$1" "$(git rev-parse --git-path ORIGINAL-TODO)"
cp script-from-scratch "$1"
test_commit A &&
git checkout -b first &&
test_commit B &&
git checkout master &&
test_commit C &&
test_commit D &&
git merge --no-commit B &&
test_tick &&
git commit -m E &&
git tag -m E E &&
git checkout -b second C &&
test_commit F &&
test_commit G &&
git checkout master &&
git merge --no-commit G &&
test_tick &&
git commit -m H &&
git tag -m H H

test_expect_success 'create completely different structure' '
cat >script-from-scratch <<-\EOF &&
label onto
# onebranch
pick G
pick D
label onebranch
# second
reset onto
pick B
label second
reset onto
merge -C H second
merge onebranch # Merge the topic branch '\''onebranch'\''
test_config sequence.editor \""$PWD"/\" &&
test_tick &&
git rebase -i -r A &&
test_cmp_graph <<-\EOF
* Merge the topic branch '\''onebranch'\''
| * D
| * G
* | H
|\ \
| |/
| * B
* A

test_expect_success 'generate correct todo list' '
cat >expect <<-\EOF &&
label onto
reset onto
pick d9df450 B
label E
reset onto
pick 5dee784 C
label branch-point
pick ca2c861 F
pick 088b00a G
label H
reset branch-point # C
pick 12bd07b D
merge -C 2051b56 E # E
merge -C 233d48a H # H
grep -v "^#" <.git/ORIGINAL-TODO >output &&
test_cmp expect output

test_expect_success '`reset` refuses to overwrite untracked files' '
git checkout -b refuse-to-reset &&
test_commit dont-overwrite-untracked &&
git checkout @{-1} &&
: >dont-overwrite-untracked.t &&
echo "reset refs/tags/dont-overwrite-untracked" >script-from-scratch &&
test_config sequence.editor \""$PWD"/\" &&
test_must_fail git rebase -r HEAD &&
git rebase --abort

test_expect_success 'failed `merge` writes patch (may be rescheduled, too)' '
test_when_finished "test_might_fail git rebase --abort" &&
git checkout -b conflicting-merge A &&
: fail because of conflicting untracked file &&
>G.t &&
echo "merge -C H G" >script-from-scratch &&
test_config sequence.editor \""$PWD"/\" &&
test_tick &&
test_must_fail git rebase -ir HEAD &&
grep "^merge -C .* G$" .git/rebase-merge/done &&
grep "^merge -C .* G$" .git/rebase-merge/git-rebase-todo &&
test_path_is_file .git/rebase-merge/patch &&
: fail because of merge conflict &&
rm G.t .git/rebase-merge/patch &&
git reset --hard &&
test_commit conflicting-G G.t not-G conflicting-G &&
test_must_fail git rebase --continue &&
! grep "^merge -C .* G$" .git/rebase-merge/git-rebase-todo &&
test_path_is_file .git/rebase-merge/patch

test_expect_success 'with a branch tip that was cherry-picked already' '
git checkout -b already-upstream master &&
base="$(git rev-parse --verify HEAD)" &&
test_commit A1 &&
test_commit A2 &&
git reset --hard $base &&
test_commit B1 &&
test_tick &&
git merge -m "Merge branch A" A2 &&
git checkout -b upstream-with-a2 $base &&
test_tick &&
git cherry-pick A2 &&
git checkout already-upstream &&
test_tick &&
git rebase -i -r upstream-with-a2 &&
test_cmp_graph upstream-with-a2.. <<-\EOF
* Merge branch A
| * A1
* | B1
o A2


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