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git-annex - manage files with git, without checking their contents in


git annex command [params ...]


git-annex allows managing files with git, without checking the file contents into git. While that may seem paradoxical, it is useful when dealing with files larger than git can currently easily handle, whether due to limitations in memory, checksumming time, or disk space.

Even without file content tracking, being able to manage files with git, move files around and delete files with versioned directory trees, and use branches and distributed clones, are all very handy reasons to use git. And annexed files can co-exist in the same git repository with regularly versioned files, which is convenient for maintaining documents, Makefiles, etc that are associated with annexed files but that benefit from full revision control.

When a file is annexed, its content is moved into a key-value store, and a symlink is made that points to the content. These symlinks are checked into git and versioned like regular files. You can move them around, delete them, and so on. Pushing to another git repository will make git-annex there aware of the annexed file, and it can be used to retrieve its content from the key-value store.


# git annex get video/
get video/ (not available)
  I was unable to access these remotes: server
  Try making some of these repositories available:
    5863d8c0-d9a9-11df-adb2-af51e6559a49  -- my home file server
    58d84e8a-d9ae-11df-a1aa-ab9aa8c00826  -- portable USB drive
    ca20064c-dbb5-11df-b2fe-002170d25c55  -- backup SATA drive
# sudo mount /media/usb
# git remote add usbdrive /media/usb
# git annex get video/
get video/ (from usbdrive...) ok

# git annex add iso
add iso/Debian_5.0.iso ok

# git annex drop iso/Debian_4.0.iso
drop iso/Debian_4.0.iso ok

# git annex move iso --to=usbdrive
move iso/Debian_5.0.iso (moving to usbdrive...) ok


Like many git commands, git-annex can be passed a path that is either a file or a directory. In the latter case it acts on all relevant files in the directory. When no path is specified, most git-annex commands default to acting on all relevant files in the current directory (and subdirectories).

  • add [path ...]

    Adds files in the path to the annex. Files that are already checked into git, or that git has been configured to ignore will be silently skipped. (Use --force to add ignored files.) Dotfiles are skipped unless explicitly listed.

  • get [path ...]

    Makes the content of annexed files available in this repository. This will involve copying them from another repository, or downloading them, or transferring them from some kind of key-value store.

    Normally git-annex will choose which repository to copy the content from, but you can override this using the --from option.

  • drop [path ...]

    Drops the content of annexed files from this repository.

    git-annex will refuse to drop content if it cannot verify it is safe to do so. This can be overridden with the --force switch.

    To drop content from a remote, specify --from.

  • move [path ...]

    When used with the --from option, moves the content of annexed files from the specified repository to the current one.

    When used with the --to option, moves the content of annexed files from the current repository to the specified one.

  • copy [path ...]

    When used with the --from option, copies the content of annexed files from the specified repository to the current one.

    When used with the --to option, copies the content of annexed files from the current repository to the specified one.

    To avoid contacting the remote to check if it has every file, specify --fast

  • unlock [path ...]

    Normally, the content of annexed files is protected from being changed. Unlocking a annexed file allows it to be modified. This replaces the symlink for each specified file with a copy of the file's content. You can then modify it and git annex add (or git commit) to inject it back into the annex.

  • edit [path ...]

    This is an alias for the unlock command. May be easier to remember, if you think of this as allowing you to edit an annexed file.

  • lock [path ...]

    Use this to undo an unlock command if you don't want to modify the files, or have made modifications you want to discard.

  • sync [remote ...]

    Use this command when you want to synchronize the local repository with one or more of its remotes. You can specifiy the remotes to sync with; the default is to sync with all remotes. Or specify --fast to sync with the remotes with the lowest annex-cost value.

    The sync process involves first committing all local changes (git commit -a), then fetching and merging the synced/master and the git-annex branch from the remote repositories and finally pushing the changes back to those branches on the remote repositories. You can use standard git commands to do each of those steps by hand, or if you don't want to worry about the details, you can use sync.

    Note that syncing with a remote will not update the remote's working tree with changes made to the local repository. However, those changes are pushed to the remote, so can be merged into its working tree by running "git annex sync" on the remote.

    Note that sync does not transfer any file contents from or to the remote repositories.

  • addurl [url ...]

    Downloads each url to its own file, which is added to the annex.

    To avoid immediately downloading the url, specify --fast.

    Normally the filename is based on the full url, so will look like "www.example.com_dir_subdir_bigfile". For a shorter filename, specify --pathdepth=N. For example, --pathdepth=1 will use "dir/subdir/bigfile", while --pathdepth=3 will use "bigfile". It can also be negative; --pathdepth=-2 will use the last two parts of the url.

    Or, to directly specify what file the url is added to, specify --file. This changes the behavior; now all the specified urls are recorded as alternate locations from which the file can be downloaded. In this mode, addurl can be used both to add new files, or to add urls to existing files.


  • init [description]

    Until a repository (or one of its remotes) has been initialized, git-annex will refuse to operate on it, to avoid accidentially using it in a repository that was not intended to have an annex.

    It's useful, but not mandatory, to initialize each new clone of a repository with its own description.

  • describe repository description

    Changes the description of a repository.

    The repository to describe can be specified by git remote name or by uuid. To change the description of the current repository, use "here".

  • initremote name [param=value ...]

    Sets up a special remote. The remote's configuration is specified by the parameters. If a remote with the specified name has already been configured, its configuration is modified by any values specified. In either case, the remote will be added to .git/config.

    Example Amazon S3 remote:

    initremote mys3 type=S3 encryption=none datacenter=EU

  • trust [repository ...]

    Records that a repository is trusted to not unexpectedly lose content. Use with care.

    To trust the current repository, use "here".

  • untrust [repository ...]

    Records that a repository is not trusted and could lose content at any time.

  • semitrust [repository ...]

    Returns a repository to the default semi trusted state.

  • dead [repository ...]

    Indicates that the repository has been irretrevably lost. (To undo, use semitrust.)


  • fsck [path ...]

    With no parameters, this command checks the whole annex for consistency, and warns about or fixes any problems found.

    With parameters, only the specified files are checked.

    To check a remote to fsck, specify --from.

    To avoid expensive checksum calculations (and expensive transfers when fscking a remote), specify --fast

  • unused

    Checks the annex for data that does not correspond to any files present in any tag or branch, and prints a numbered list of the data.

    To only show unused temp and bad files, specify --fast.

    To check for annexed data on a remote, specify --from.

  • dropunused [number ...]

    Drops the data corresponding to the numbers, as listed by the last git annex unused

    To drop the data from a remote, specify --from.

  • merge

    Automatically merges remote tracking branches */git-annex into the git-annex branch. While git-annex mostly handles keeping the git-annex branch merged automatically, if you find you are unable to push the git-annex branch due non-fast-forward, this will fix it.

  • fix [path ...]

    Fixes up symlinks that have become broken to again point to annexed content. This is useful to run if you have been moving the symlinks around, but is done automatically when committing a change with git too.

  • upgrade

    Upgrades the repository to current layout.


  • version

    Shows the version of git-annex, as well as repository version information.

  • find [path ...]

    Outputs a list of annexed files in the specified path. With no path, finds files in the current directory and its subdirectories.

    By default, only lists annexed files whose content is currently present. This can be changed by specifying file matching options. To list all annexed files, present or not, specify --include "*". To list all annexed files whose content is not present, specify --not --in=here

    To output filenames terminated with nulls, for use with xargs -0, specify --print0. Or, a custom output formatting can be specified using --format. The default output format is the same as --format='${file}\n'

    These variables are available for use in formats: file, key, backend, bytesize, humansize

  • whereis [path ...]

    Displays a list of repositories known to contain the content of the specified file or files.

  • log [path ...]

    Displays the location log for the specified file or files, showing each repository they were added to ("+") and removed from ("-").

    To limit how far back to seach for location log changes, the options --since, --after, --until, --before, and --max-count can be specified. They are passed through to git log. For example, --since "1 month ago"

    To generate output suitable for the gource visualisation program, specify --gource.

  • status

    Displays some statistics and other information, including how much data is in the annex and a list of all known repositories.

    To only show the data that can be gathered quickly, use --fast.

  • map

    Helps you keep track of your repositories, and the connections between them, by going out and looking at all the ones it can get to, and generating a Graphviz file displaying it all. If the dot command is available, it is used to display the file to your screen (using x11 backend). (To disable this display, specify --fast)

    This command only connects to hosts that the host it's run on can directly connect to. It does not try to tunnel through intermediate hosts. So it might not show all connections between the repositories in the network.

    Also, if connecting to a host requires a password, you might have to enter it several times as the map is being built.

    Note that this subcommand can be used to graph any git repository; it is not limited to git-annex repositories.


  • migrate [path ...]

    Changes the specified annexed files to use the default key-value backend (or the one specified with --backend). Only files whose content is currently available are migrated.

    Note that the content is also still available using the old key after migration. Use git annex unused to find and remove the old key.

    Normally, nothing will be done to files already using the new backend. However, if a backend changes the information it uses to construct a key, this can also be used to migrate files to use the new key format.

  • reinject src dest

    Moves the src file into the annex as the content of the dest file. This can be useful if you have obtained the content of a file from elsewhere and want to put it in the local annex.

    Automatically runs fsck on dest to check that the expected content was provided.


    git annex reinject /tmp/foo.iso foo.iso

  • unannex [path ...]

    Use this to undo an accidental git annex add command. You can use git annex unannex to move content out of the annex at any point, even if you've already committed it.

    This is not the command you should use if you intentionally annexed a file and don't want its contents any more. In that case you should use git annex drop instead, and you can also git rm the file.

    In --fast mode, this command leaves content in the annex, simply making a hard link to it.

  • uninit

    Use this to stop using git annex. It will unannex every file in the repository, and remove all of git-annex's other data, leaving you with a git repository plus the previously annexed files.


  • pre-commit [path ...]

    Fixes up symlinks that are staged as part of a commit, to ensure they point to annexed content. Also handles injecting changes to unlocked files into the annex.

    This is meant to be called from git's pre-commit hook. git annex init automatically creates a pre-commit hook using this.

  • fromkey key file

    This plumbing-level command can be used to manually set up a file in the git repository to link to a specified key.

  • dropkey [key ...]

    This plumbing-level command drops the annexed data for the specified keys from this repository.

    This can be used to drop content for arbitrary keys, which do not need to have a file in the git repository pointing at them.


    git annex dropkey SHA1-s10-7da006579dd64330eb2456001fd01948430572f2

  • rekey [file key ...]

    This plumbing-level command is similar to migrate, but you specify both the file, and the new key to use for it.

    With --force, even files whose content is not currently available will be rekeyed. Use with caution.


  • --force

    Force unsafe actions, such as dropping a file's content when no other source of it can be verified to still exist, or adding ignored files. Use with care.

  • --fast

    Enables less expensive, but also less thorough versions of some commands. What is avoided depends on the command.

  • --auto

    Enables automatic mode. Commands that get, drop, or move file contents will only do so when needed to help satisfy the setting of annex.numcopies.

  • --quiet

    Avoid the default verbose display of what is done; only show errors and progress displays.

  • --verbose

    Enable verbose display.

  • --json

    Rather than the normal output, generate JSON. This is intended to be parsed by programs that use git-annex. Each line of output is a JSON object.

  • --debug

    Show debug messages.

  • --from=repository

    Specifies a repository that content will be retrieved from, or that should otherwise be acted on.

    It should be specified using the name of a configured remote.

  • --to=repository

    Specifies a repository that content will be sent to.

    It should be specified using the name of a configured remote.

  • --numcopies=n

    Overrides the annex.numcopies setting, forcing git-annex to ensure the specified number of copies exist.

  • --trust=repository

  • --semitrust=repository
  • --untrust=repository

    Overrides trust settings for a repository. May be specified more than once.

    The repository should be specified using the name of a configured remote, or the UUID or description of a repository.

  • --backend=name

    Specifies which key-value backend to use. This can be used when adding a file to the annex, or migrating a file. Once files are in the annex, their backend is known and this option is not necessary.

  • --format=value

    Specifies a custom output format. The value is a format string, in which '${var}' is expanded to the value of a variable. To right-justify a variable with whitespace, use '${var;width}' ; to left-justify a variable, use '${var;-width}'; to escape unusual characters in a variable, use '${escaped_var}'

    Also, '\n' is a newline, '\000' is a NULL, etc.

  • -c name=value

    Used to override git configuration settings. May be specified multiple times.


These options can all be specified multiple times, and can be combined to limit which files git-annex acts on.

Arbitrarily complicated expressions can be built using these options. For example:

--exclude '*.mp3' --and --not -( --in=usbdrive --or --in=archive -)

The above example prevents git-annex from working on mp3 files whose file contents are present at either of two repositories.

  • --exclude=glob

    Skips files matching the glob pattern. The glob is matched relative to the current directory. For example:

    --exclude='.mp3' --exclude='subdir/'

  • --include=glob

    Skips files not matching the glob pattern. (Same as --not --exclude.) For example, to include only mp3 and ogg files:

    --include='.mp3' --or --include='.ogg'

  • --in=repository

    Matches only files that git-annex believes have their contents present in a repository. Note that it does not check the repository to verify that it still has the content.

    The repository should be specified using the name of a configured remote, or the UUID or description of a repository. For the current repository, use --in=here

  • --copies=number

    Matches only files that git-annex believes to have the specified number of copies, or more. Note that it does not check remotes to verify that the copies still exist.

  • --inbackend=name

    Matches only files whose content is stored using the specified key-value backend.

  • --not

    Inverts the next file matching option. For example, to only act on mp3s, use: --not --exclude='*.mp3'

  • --and

    Requires that both the previous and the next file matching option matches. The default.

  • --or

    Requires that either the previous, or the next file matching option matches.

  • -(

    Opens a group of file matching options.

  • -)

    Closes a group of file matching options.


Like other git commands, git-annex is configured via .git/config. Here are all the supported configuration settings.

  • annex.uuid

    A unique UUID for this repository (automatically set).

  • annex.numcopies

    Number of copies of files to keep across all repositories. (default: 1)

  • annex.backends

    Space-separated list of names of the key-value backends to use. The first listed is used to store new files by default.

  • annex.diskreserve

    Amount of disk space to reserve. Disk space is checked when transferring content to avoid running out, and additional free space can be reserved via this option, to make space for more important content (such as git commit logs). Can be specified with any commonly used units, for example, "0.5 gb" or "100 KiloBytes"

    The default reserve is 1 megabyte.

  • annex.queuesize

    git-annex builds a queue of git commands, in order to combine similar commands for speed. By default the size of the queue is limited to 10240 commands; this can be used to change the size. If you have plenty of memory and are working with very large numbers of files, increasing the queue size can speed it up.

  • annex.bloomcapacity

    The git annex unused command uses a bloom filter to determine what data is no longer used. The default bloom filter is sized to handle up to 500000 keys. If your repository is larger than that, you can adjust this to avoid git annex unused not noticing some unused data files. Increasing this will make git-annex unused consume more memory; run git annex status for memory usage numbers.

  • annex.bloomaccuracy

    Adjusts the accuracy of the bloom filter used by git annex unused. The default accuracy is 1000 -- 1 unused file out of 1000 will be missed by git annex unused. Increasing the accuracy will make git annex unused consume more memory; run git annex status for memory usage numbers.

  • annex.version

    Automatically maintained, and used to automate upgrades between versions.

  • annex.sshcaching

    By default, git-annex caches ssh connections (if built using a new enough ssh). To disable this, set to false.

  • annex.alwayscommit

    By default, git-annex automatically commits data to the git-annex branch after each command is run. To disable these commits, set to false. Then data will only be committed when running git annex merge (or by automatic merges) or git annex sync.

  • remote.<name>.annex-cost

    When determining which repository to transfer annexed files from or to, ones with lower costs are preferred. The default cost is 100 for local repositories, and 200 for remote repositories.

  • remote.<name>.annex-cost-command

    If set, the command is run, and the number it outputs is used as the cost. This allows varying the cost based on eg, the current network. The cost-command can be any shell command line.

  • remote.<name>.annex-start-command

    A command to run when git-annex begins to use the remote. This can be used to, for example, mount the directory containing the remote.

    The command may be run repeatedly when multiple git-annex processes are running concurrently.

  • remote.<name>.annex-stop-command

    A command to run when git-annex is done using the remote.

    The command will only be run once all running git-annex processes are finished using the remote.

  • remote.<name>.annex-ignore

    If set to true, prevents git-annex from using this remote by default. (You can still request it be used by the --from and --to options.)

    This is, for example, useful if the remote is located somewhere without git-annex-shell. (For example, if it's on GitHub). Or, it could be used if the network connection between two repositories is too slow to be used normally.

  • remote.<name>.annexUrl

    Can be used to specify a different url than the regular remote.<name>.url for git-annex to use when talking with the remote. Similar to the pushUrl used by git-push.

  • remote.<name>.annex-uuid

    git-annex caches UUIDs of remote repositories here.

  • remote.<name>.annex-trustlevel

    Configures a local trust level for the remote. This overrides the value configured by the trust and untrust commands. The value can be any of "trusted", "semitrusted" or "untrusted".

  • remote.<name>.annex-ssh-options

    Options to use when using ssh to talk to this remote.

  • remote.<name>.annex-rsync-options

    Options to use when using rsync to or from this remote. For example, to force ipv6, and limit the bandwidth to 100Kbyte/s, set it to "-6 --bwlimit 100"

  • remote.<name>.annex-bup-split-options

    Options to pass to bup split when storing content in this remote. For example, to limit the bandwidth to 100Kbye/s, set it to "--bwlimit 100k" (There is no corresponding option for bup join.)

  • annex.ssh-options, annex.rsync-options, annex.bup-split-options

    Default ssh, rsync, wget/curl, and bup options to use if a remote does not have specific options.

  • annex.web-options

    Options to use when using wget or curl to download a file from the web. (wget is always used in preference to curl if available). For example, to force ipv4 only, set it to "-4"

  • remote.<name>.rsyncurl

    Used by rsync special remotes, this configures the location of the rsync repository to use. Normally this is automaticaly set up by git annex initremote, but you can change it if needed.

  • remote.<name>.buprepo

    Used by bup special remotes, this configures the location of the bup repository to use. Normally this is automaticaly set up by git annex initremote, but you can change it if needed.

  • remote.<name>.directory

    Used by directory special remotes, this configures the location of the directory where annexed files are stored for this remote. Normally this is automaticaly set up by git annex initremote, but you can change it if needed.

  • remote.<name>.s3

    Used to identify Amazon S3 special remotes. Normally this is automaticaly set up by git annex initremote.

CONFIGURATION VIA .gitattributes

The key-value backend used when adding a new file to the annex can be configured on a per-file-type basis via .gitattributes files. In the file, the annex.backend attribute can be set to the name of the backend to use. For example, this here's how to use the WORM backend by default, but the SHA1 backend for ogg files:

* annex.backend=WORM
*.ogg annex.backend=SHA1

The numcopies setting can also be configured on a per-file-type basis via the annex.numcopies attribute in .gitattributes files. For example, this makes two copies be needed for wav files:

*.wav annex.numcopies=2


These files are used by git-annex, in your git repository:

.git/annex/objects/ contains the annexed file contents that are currently available. Annexed files in your git repository symlink to that content.


Most of git-annex's documentation is available on its web site,

If git-annex is installed from a package, a copy of its documentation should be included, in, for example, /usr/share/doc/git-annex/


Joey Hess

Warning: Automatically converted into a man page by mdwn2man. Edit with care

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