darcs-bridge usage


Until further notice, the handling of git-branches is extremely fragile, and almost certain to break. Therefore, I do not recommend darcs-bridge for creating a bridge between multi-head repos, at this point in time.

To be clear: one-shot conversions in either direction (darcs -> git or git -> darcs) should be fine, but attempting to create a synced bridge is very likely to fail/cause corruption.

The problem is the difficulty in “unravelling” the encoding of git branches into darcs patch-sequences - we need to be able to recover the exact original patch sequence (in 1-to-1 correspondence with the git commits) when re-exporting an imported git-repo. This is required for the bridge to stay in sync.

With this in mind, I suggest that if you are going to try using the bridge as it is now, be very careful and ensure that you’ve made adequate backups! I am trying to find the time to work on the bridge, and do hope to release a fixed version in the near future (as of Aug. 2013).

What is it?

darcs-bridge translates between Git and Darcs v2 repos, either as a one-off conversion, or incrementally over time creating a “bridge” between the repositories.

How can I install it?

While darcs-bridge is still in its infancy (read: not uploaded to hackage and still named darcs-fastconvert) you’ll need to jump through a couple of (hopefully trivial) hoops to install it:

  1. Install darcs 2.8:

    cabal update; cabal install darcs-2.8.0
  2. Grab a copy of the darcs bridge GSoC repo:

    darcs get http://hub.darcs.net/owst/darcs-bridge-export-branch darcs-bridge 
  3. Install darcs-bridge (the executable will still be named darcs-fastconvert)

    cd darcs-bridge
    cabal install

How do I use it?

There are several use-cases for darcs-bridge, we give instructions for each, below:

1. I want to move from Git to Darcs, and not use Git anymore

Assume we have a local Git repo /home/owen/repos/foo_project and we want to create a Darcs mirror under /home/owen/repos/foo_project_darcs.

cd /home/owen/repos
mkdir foo_project_darcs
(cd foo_project && git fast-export -M -C --progress=1 <BRANCH_LIST> --) | darcs-fastconvert import foo_project_darcs/master

Here, is a space-separated list of branch names you wish to export, e.g. “master feature1 production”. The master branch will be imported into foo_project_darcs/master and other branches will be alongside the master Darcs repo, in this case: foo_project_darcs/master-head-feature1 and foo_project_darcs/master-head-production.

2. I want to move from Darcs to Git, and not use Darcs anymore

Assume we have a local Darcs master repo /home/owen/repos/my_project and darcs-branch /home/owen/repos/my_project-branch1 and we want to create a Git mirror under /home/owen/repos/my_project_git.

cd /home/owen/repos
git init my_project_git
darcs-fastconvert export my_project my_project-branch1 | (cd my_project_git && git fast-import && git checkout master)

The Git repo should now contain 2 branches: master and my_project-branch1. A common prefix of the two branches will be shared by both branches, but no merges will be detected, as detailed below.

3. I want to create a bridge that allows incremental updates, and use both Git and Darcs

A bridge can be created from an existing Darcs or Git respository. Say we have a Darcs repo that we’d like to bridge at /owen/repos/my_project, to create a bridge, we can proceed as follows:

cd /home/owen/repos
darcs-fastconvert create-bridge my_project

git clone my_project_bridge/my_project_git

Now we have a equivalent Darcs and Git repository: the original Darcs repository is still located in my_project and the newly created Git repo is located in my_project_git. Note that we have a my_project_bridge directory, which contains clones of both repos. These repos must not be modified directly - changes should instead be made in the original repo and pushed to the bridge-repos:

cd my_project_git

*wibble files and commit*

git push 

Pushing to the bridged repos first ensures that the bridge is correctly synced (that the bridged Git-repo is either equal or a superset of the bridged Darcs-repo), before allowing the push to continue.

N.B. Whereas Git forces the user to pull any changes locally before allowing the push to go ahead, Darcs can only warn the user, a repeated push attempt will succeed, without error, but should be avoided, due to conflicts not being correctly handled. Any changes should be pulled in, and the patch/commits be modified/re-recorded accordingly, before again pushing to the bridge.

Since re-recording changes to avoid conflicts is awkward within Darcs, a manual bridge sync command can be periodically used, before creating any local patches.

# To pull in changes from Git, into Darcs (in the bridge)
darcs-fastconvert sync my_project_bridge darcs
# Pull changes into our local copy of the bridged repo...
darcs pull my_project_bridge/my_project

# And vice-versa, to pull in changes from Darcs, into Git (in the bridge)
darcs-fastconvert sync my_project_bridge git
# Pull changes into our local Git repo...
git pull my_project_bridge/my_project_git

4. I want to apply a Git patch to my Darcs repository

Suppose you make your project’s Darcs repository publicly available and that a potential-contributor who uses Git (and doesn’t want to create a long-term bridge) wants to send you some patches for your project. Using darcs-bridge, the contributor can create a Git mirror of your project, following #2, above. They then modify the code and make git commits, and email them to you, using git send-email. Upon receiving a git-formatted patch, save the patch-file attachment and use the following darcs-bridge command:

darcs-fastconvert apply <DARCS_REPO_DIR> <PATCH_FILE>

Git patches contain a hash of the affected files’ contents, before, and after the original commit was made. We use these hashes to assert that we are applying in a “compatible” context (we cannot be sure that the context is the same, since we can only check the end-state of the file, rather than the patch history - we also only have hash information for affected files, not any other files in the repository). If the hash doesn’t match the user will be prompted to try-to-apply anyway (by-default, but can be disabled via the –prompt=no flag). If the patch doesn’t cleanly apply, no changes will be made to the repository.

5. I want to modify the branches that the bridge is managing

By default, the bridge will only manage the “master” branch of both repositories. Any merges will still correctly converted (only with explicit tagging, for exporting from Darcs) but the original branch will not be present in the “other” repository. We can instruct the bridge to handle extra branches by explicitly naming them:

# Which branches does the bridge know about?
darcs-fastconvert branch list

# I want to also track my other Darcs branch:
darcs-fastconvert track <BRIDGE_PATH> <BRANCH_REPO_PATH>

# I no-longer want the bridge to track that branch:
darcs-fastconvert untrack <BRIDGE_PATH> <BRANCH_NAME>    

How does it work?

Internally, darcs-bridge uses the de-facto standard Git fast-import stream format to communicate repository states between Git and Darcs. See the git fast-import man-page for a description of the format.

To track incremental conversions, “marks” and “inventories” files are used, which are used to create a correspondence between each patch/commit, a conversion-unique identifier and the context within which the patch was created (the inventory) - darcs-bridge automatically manages these mark/inventory files so the user does not have to.

What are the limitations?

  • Darcs merges can only be handled explicitly, if a special form of tagging is used (which is automatically employed when importing Git merges):
  1. There are no unrecorded changes.
  2. A tag is created, before the merge on the target branch with the exact message: darcs tag -m ‘darcs-fastconvert merge pre-target: MERGE_ID’
  3. A tag is created on each merge-source branch, before the merge, with the exact message: darcs tag -m ‘darcs-fastconvert merge pre-source: MERGE_ID’
  4. The branches are pulled, in their entirety: darcs pull -a BRANCH_NAME
  5. All resolutions are made, without any other changes, in as many patches as necessary.
  6. Finally, a end tag is created on the merge-target branch, with the exact message: darcs tag -m ‘darcs-fastconvert merge post: MERGE_ID’

It is important that MERGE_ID is unique in the repos, so the merge can be uniquely determined. The MERGE_ID must be equal across all corresponding merge-tags.

When exporting a tagged merge, the initial tag notifies the exporter of an impending merge, the end tag delimits the merge (and any resolutions) and each source-tag gives the context within which the merged-in patches were created. It is vital to obtain the patches’ original context, since we need to commute-out any patches that are in the context of the patches after having been merged-in, so that we can obtain the patches’ original form and context.

  • Non-tagged merges aren’t specifically handled - this means that any conflicting changes will be exported such that some information is lost (namely, the original changes the conflicting patches made), since conflicting-changes are merged such that their changes are undone (see the Darcs conflicts FAQ for more information). Any resolutions will be exported correctly, so the end-state of the exported repo will be consistent with that of the Darcs repo.

  • Patch-ids change on each distinct import of a Git repository to a Darcs repository. This means that patches cannot be directly shared between distinct bridged repositories; it is therefore recommended that a authoritative bridge is created, and made publicly available, along with the original repository.

  • Darcs patch ordering/history cannot be changed, once the repository has been bridged, otherwise new branches will be exported. For example, unpull, obliterate and other such commands should not be used (just as they shouldn’t if the repository is available publicly). This is the same restriction that Git places on cherry-picked commits, i.e. A->B->C and A->C’->B’ are equivalent repositories to Darcs, but not Git and as such two separate branches, based on A, would be exported.

What needs work?

  • Performance - performance is currently sub-optimal for large/complex repositories, with memory consumption being too high.

  • Non tagged merges/conflicts are not exported as branches. Unfortunately, unless merges (and thus conflicts) are tagged, there is currently no functionality to export the conflicting patches as an explicit fork/join of branches.

  • Merge conflict-resolutions are squashed into a single patch, when exporting to Git. This means that exporting, then re-importing will “lose” some information relative to the original Darcs repository - the original resolution patches will be replaced by a single patch that combines their effects. This could probably be worked around by encoding the original patches as we do for replace patches?

Aren’t there already tool(s) to do that?

There are several tools that provide some level of conversion between Darcs and git, with varying feature-sets:


darcs-bridge was originally based on darcs-fastconvert written by Petr Ročkai, which provided simple import and export of Darcs/Git repositories using the fast-import stream format. It did not manage multiple branches or merges and is now replaced by darcs-bridge.


Written in Ruby, originally by Steve Purcell. Gives one-way conversion from Darcs to Git - shelling out to Darcs and Git, to translate Darcs patches into Git commits. Supports incremental importing, but does not support branches. Has seen active development in 2011. Failed to export a darcs.net/screened repo as of 02/09/2011, but did manage to export hledger (~2000 patches) in real 22m39.172s vs darcs-bridge’s real 0m10.774s.


Written in Python, originally by Han-Wen Nienhuys. Gives one-way conversion from Darcs to Git - also shelling out to Darcs and Git. Does not support incremental importing or branches. Has not seen development since 2008. Failed to export the darcs.net/screened repo or the hledger repo as of 02/09/2011.


Written in Python, originally written by lele, tailor supports incremental conversion but AFAICK doesn’t support Darcs branches easily. Tailor has effectively been discontinued, citing darcs-fastconvert as a better alternative (since the fast-import format has become a de-facto standard).