Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question that is not answered here, please get in touch with us at , or on #darcs on Thanks!


Darcs performance is improving, but still bad in many areas. There are some things you can do to help it, though, and some specific issues with workarounds. Have a look in the performance FAQ for more help.

Basic usage 1: local operations

How do I get coloured diffs?

For the high-level diffs (darcs whatsnew), set the environment variable DARCS_DO_COLOR_LINES=1

For low-level diffs (darcs diff), install the program colordiff and put diff diff-command colordiff -rN -u %1 %2 in your global darcs defaults file ($HOME/.darcs/defaults on Mac/Linux, see the darcs manual for Windows)

How do I go back to an older version of my repository?

Short answer: darcs clone --tag or darcs clone --to-match, being aware that clone will create a copy of the repository.

Long answer: What exactly do you mean by go back to an older version?

If you’re just a casual darcs user, and you want to go back in somebody else’s repository, first check to see if they have any tags: darcs show tags. If so, you can darcs clone --tag T, where T is the name of the tag you want to go back to.

If they don’t have any tags, then you can use darcs clone --to-match (see darcs help patterns for patch-matching details) to pick which patch we should match up to.

Note that darcs clone will get a new copy of the repo, at the specified patch. If you already have a copy of the repository, and want to modify it in place, use darcs obliterate with either the ‘–from-match’ or ‘–from-tag’ options (Note the inversion of from/to, since we want to obliterate a suffix of our patch-history, not get a prefix). N.B. darcs obliterate will obliterate the patches you select - if they are not present in another repository, they will be irrecoverable!

Darcs thinks in terms of patches. The darcs history is just a sequence of patches. As an informal example, one person might have a darcs repository with the patches (A B C), whereas somebody else might have (A C D). What exactly do we mean by version then? Darcs operations are about adding and removing patches to this sequence. If your repository has patches (A B C), and your friend has (A C D), and you pull from his repository, you will have sequence (A B C D) in your repository.

Anyway, suppose we have a repository A B C D, what does it mean to go back to a previous “version?”

One way might be to do something like darcs clone --to-match 'name B', which will give you the sequence (A B). But what if instead of going back to B, you just wanted to get rid of B? Darcs is quite happy to do that, dependencies permitting.. You could darcs clone a copy of the repository and then do darcs obliterate --match 'name B' to just get rid of patch B.

In the Darcs world, a “version” is simply a set of patches. So if you want to get exactly the same version of a repository as somebody else, you have to get the same set of patches that they do. (Darcs’s job is to guarantee that the same set of patches in any order gives the same result)

How do I uniquely identify a patch?

You can identify a patch’s hash is by running darcs log:

patch 9b031d8598c024262a60fbe352cfe1ecfdcc15d7

For older versions of darcs, run darcs log --xml.

These hashes come from the metadata, not the patch contents. This is because a patch can have different contents depending on its context.

Then, you can query a patch using the -h flag followed by (a prefix) of the hash:

darcs diff -h 9b031d8

How do I add an entire tree of files to Darcs?

darcs add -r .

How can I find out what files darcs is managing?

darcs show files

How do I find out what files darcs is not managing?

Use darcs whatsnew -ls. Files which darcs thinks you might want to add marked with a lower case a. To have darcs always ignore certain files, you can use a boringfile (see how to configure it). To see also what boring files darcs is not managing, use darcs whatsnew -ls --boring.

In the boringfile, if you want to match a directory and its contents, use a regex like:


In particular, be aware that there is no / or ./ at the beginning of the paths that darcs matches against.

How can I compare patches which result in a conflict? I also want to see their full log entries.

Currently this is not possible, but we are working on that.

I use darcs to record changes made to configuration files in my /etc, is this safe?

No. As mentioned above, darcs does not version file permissions; files pulled will have permission bits set as if they were newly-created files. Many files in /etc need specific permission bits; therefore, it’s not currently safe to control their versions with darcs.

How do I list all the tags of a repository?

darcs show tags

More detailed:

darcs log --tags="."

How do I see the contents of a patch?

There are three approaches you could take:

  1. darcs diff -p PATTERN : performs a diff; you could even use –diff-command to view the differences in a graphical viewer
  2. darcs log -v -p PATTERN : shows you multiple patches. Use this if you’re not sure exactly what patch you’re looking for, but you have a some search criteria in mind. If you know the hash of the patch (or a reasonably long prefix of it), use darcs log -v -h HASH", since-hselects the first patch matching the given hash prefix. To see the exact contents of the file that represents the patch, add the flag–machine-readable`.

What is a boring file?

A file is considered “boring” if its path matches a set of regular expressions defined in the _darcs/prefs/boring file. Darcs add will ignore such files by default. See the manual page for more details.

How does darcs know which files to treat as binary?

You tell it by updating the _darcs/prefs/binaries file.

Darcs also automatically treats files containing ^Z or ‘\0’ as binary.

My repository complains about not being able to get a lock!

Are you sure nobody is using the repository at the moment? If so, delete the delete the lock file and run darcs check.

I just got a conflict! What do I do?

Conflicts deserve an FAQ of their own. Have a look at the Conflicts FAQ

How to rename patch ?

With following command:

 darcs amend --edit-long-comment
 # Don't accept any change to patch iself, but at the end
 # the editor (EDITOR) will open and you can change the name
 # of the patch. 

Basic usage 2: interacting with other repositories

What is the syntax of the uri for push/pull using different protocols?

darcs pull and darcs push

darcs pull

The password can be omitted, but you’ll have to type it several times. darcs push doesn’t work via ftp


darcs pull

darcs push doesn’t work via http (but darcs send will if the remote repository is correctly configured)

Use darcs send/apply

Darcs pull/push over ssh doesn’t work when the darcs binary is in a nonstandard location?

darcs has a --remote-darcs flag to set the path to the remote darcs executable.

Otherwise, make sure that the darcs binary is located in a directory that is in the PATH even for non-interactive shells. You can test this with:

ssh remotehost echo \$PATH

If the path where darcs is located doesn’t show up, you have to modify the PATH variable in a configuration file that is read by the shell even for non-interactive logins (like ~/.zshenv for ZSH or ~/.bashrc for bash).

How do I get exactly same set of patches as somebody else?

You can verify that you have the same set of patches as somebody else by comparing the Weak Hash shown by darcs show repo: two repositories with the same patches (possibly in different orders) have the same Weak Hash.

For older versions of darcs, use tags or context files. See for more details.

Darcs seems to hang when I pull or apply patches. Why?

If you are pulling patches (as opposed to applying them), you may be dealing with too many untagged patches. See the questions in the Performance section. Otherwise, you might have run into the exponential time conflicts bug (darcs 1.x). See the Conflicts FAQ for more help.

How do I determine the difference between my repository and the remote one?

If you want to see which patches are missing from your or the remote repository, you can run

# patches you are missing
darcs pull --dry-run
# patches the remote repository is missing
darcs push --dry-run

To compute a diff between two different repositories, at present, you’ll need to just get a copy of the remote repository and perform the diff by hand. See issue1869 for a feature request that would add cross-repository diffing.

How can I tell which patches I pushed to a remote repo before?

You can use darcs push --dry-run -p 'PATCHNAME' remoterepo where PATCHNAME is the name of your patch and remoterepo the location of the other repository. If darcs says ‘Nothing to push’ you have not been pushing that patch yet.

Advanced usage

How can a group share patches without access to each other’s repos?

Use context files, and send and apply with patch bundles.

A context file is created with;;

darcs log --context \> con\_A

and contains everything darcs needs to know to “fake” a send to a repo. These context files can be distributed over the group.

Person A:

darcs send --context=con_B -o bundle .
mail B < bundle

Person B:

darcs apply --interactive bundle

As B applies new patches, A’s (and every one else’s) context file for B’s repo get more and more out of date, so B should at times send out an updated contextfile.

Person B:

darcs log --context > con_B
mail A C D < con_B

Why doesn’t darcs have a getpref feature to go with setpref?

Try darcs show repo. It will print out the prefs along with other information about the repository.

Darcs offers me unexpected match results

You may find that commands like darcs pull --match X offers you patches that do not appear to match the criterion you specified.

What is really going on here is that darcs is offering you the patches that you would need to pull in order to pull patches that do match X.

There are three cases: either you don’t want to pull any patch that does not match X, or you want to pull them implicitely as needed, or you want to review them.

In the first case, you can tell Darcs not to only offer patches you can pull without any dependencies not matching X with the --no-deps flag. Of course, this implies that some matches will not be offered to you at all, since pulling them requires pulling some non-X patch. This makes sense for instance if you only want to pull patches touching a given file, but not necessarily all of them.

In the second case, you can tell Darcs not to ask you about patches not matching X, but pull them silently as needed. For this, you have to use the --dont-prompt-for-dependencies flag. Of course, this implies that some patches will be pulled without you having seen them in the interactive selection. If that bothers you, you may want to first do a darcs pull --dry-run --interactive --match X --dont-prompt-for-dependencies first, to see what dependencies will be pulled. This makes sense if you want to pull patches implementing a given feature, along with their dependencies.

In the last case, what you’re seeing is actually what you want to see, though the UI does not make it explicit that you’re seeing these patches because of dependencies.

Note that issue337 on the Darcs bugtracker has a proposed refinement to make Darcs matching more intuitive. You may want to make yourself nosy on that ticket if you’re interested in this topic.

How do I rollback a patch that something else depends on?

Try selecting the patch and all its dependencies with darcs rollback, and then just selecting the changes you actually want to rollback.


  • You can select patches more easily by using –match to identify the patch you’re looking for. Note that people are sometimes confused by when Darcs seems to offer unrelated matches; see the corresponding FAQ entry for more details.

  • Keep in mind that when selecting changes in interactive mode, you can just short cuts like ‘s’ and ‘f’ to skip over or select all the changes in a file, respectively).

How do I apply a patch when it has missing dependencies?

You’ll want to get the dependencies. Do you know which repository was the patch sent against?

Patch bundles sent with newer versions of Darcs should advertise it with a line like

1 patch for repository

If you don’t see such a line, and if the bundle was sent by email, you can look at the Darcs-URL header of that email to find out.

Now try the following:

# get the version of master the patch was sent against
# and apply the patch to it
darcs clone --context p.dpatch /tmp/master-lite
cd /tmp/master-lite
darcs apply /tmp/p.dpatch

# pull the patch from the copy of master
cd local-copy
darcs pull /tmp/master-lite

Using the original repo gives you the context. Using clone --context makes sure you get only the context. And using darcs apply on master-lite and then pulling in the patch you really want to apply lets you pick out only the bare minimum of dependencies.

If you know the names of the patches you want to apply, you can use darcs pull -p to make cherry picking more convenient.

Why does darcs apply force me to get unrelated dependencies?

Patch bundles contain two kinds of data. First, the new patch themselves (metadata and contents), and then a context, which is a list of patches (metadata) that the destination repository is supposed to have. Basically, a bundle means: “if you have this context, then you have enough information to apply theses patches”.

In some cases the context may contain more patches than necessary. This is because, before version 2.10, Darcs generated bundles “the easy way”: it just grabs the whole common context between the source and destination repositories (up to the last common tag) and puts it in the bundle as a requirement.

This always works when some bundle generated from repo A to repo B, is only applied to B. But when you want to apply this bundle to some other repository C which lacks some patches (even seemingly useless ones), it will fail.

This no longer happens since Darcs 2.10, which minimizes the context of patch bundles by default. So the context only contains patches that are absolutely necessary (as a side effect patch bundles can be much smaller in big projects).

How do I force-apply a patch if I can’t get the dependencies?

Darcs does not support this use-case by default because it comes with unintended consequences (mainly for people who have a copy of the original patch).

A future release may offer something like a darcs rebase apply command to do something like this, but even still, getting the dependencies is the best option.

A good sanity check is if you can identify the cause of the missing dependencies:

  • Is it because you’re applying the patch to a different repository than the one it was sent against? Then see the question above.
  • Has the original repository been lost for good?
  • Is it a bug in Darcs? (send an email to , please)
  • Are you just trying to “clean up” the patch context? (You’ll want the upcoming darcs rebase feature)

If you’re still absolutely sure you want to do this and you know why you want to do it, then you’ll have to perform a “manual rebase”. A manual rebase consists in hand-editing the patch bundle, removing the patch bundle hash at the end, and removing the context lines. Keep in mind that patch bundles are newline-sensitive. Use at your own risk!

How can I host a repository on a dumb server, ie, that does not have darcs?

If this server is accessible by SSH you can try to use sshfs and create a clone with --no-working-dir and --disable-patch-index to reduce the amount of data needed when interacting with it.


Does Darcs support binary files?

Yes. You can have multiple versions of a file in a repository, and go back to earlier versions.

However, each revision of the binary file is stored in its entirety, not as deltas. See issue1009 to improve storing efficiency, but this requires a change of repository format and thus is not planned for soon.

Does darcs version file meta data, such as permissions?

No, but setting the executable bit based on a shebang (#!) line at the top is possible by using the --set-scripts-executable option. That would set all scripts that can be executed by Unix to be executable.

An alternative to the above is to keep your files non-executable in the repository, and use a predist pref to tweak the permissions. Write a script called fix-perms that does all the tweaking needed, and then do:

darcs add fix-perms
darcs setpref predist 'sh ./fix-perms; rm fix-perms'
darcs record

Recall that prefs are versioned if you use setpref.

Note that darcs will not preserve file permissions, even on local pulls between repos owned by the same user. From testing, it appears that the permissions in the target repository are set as if a new file had been added to that directory, regardless of the permissions in the source repository.

Does darcs support nested repositories, or allow you to check out a working copy that is a subtree of another repository?

No, you can only duplicate and modify entire repositories. It is possible to nest repositories, however this is not really recommended, and it is certainly not flexible enough for you to manage things similar to the way you would with inherently hierarchical systems like Subversion.

Does darcs have support for RCS style keyword expansion?

No, see DifferencesFromSubversion.

No. If you use symbolic links in your working directory, Darcs will just treat it as a regular file or directory.

There are three ways of coping with this:

  1. Do not use symbolic links (this may be acceptable if they are personal links for your convenience)
  2. Accept that Darcs treats them as regular files, which means that somebody who retrieves your repository will get not linked files but duplicates
  3. Do not version control symbolic links, but add an “” and version control that.

We suggest using the third approach:

# example
ln -s foo/quux bar
ln -s foo/wibble wibble2

# example _darcs/prefs/defaults
ALL posthook sh

These two files will make darcs recreate and update symbolic links at each darcs operation. Posthooks are local to a repository, so you would have to tell people fetching your repository to put the same entry into their _darcs/prefs/defaults. If do you so this, then you can simulate versioned symlinks by version controlling the file.

Can I version control files with characters in the full Unicode spectrum?

Darcs is almost agnostic to character-encodings, the big exception being that you have to use some sort of 8-bit encoding in order for darcs to treat your files as text.

UTF-8 works, as files would usually contain no embedded ^Z or \0 (encoding of characters outside the ASCII range uses bytes with the high bit set). See the manual section on characters sets: “UTF-8 will work if you set DARCS_DONT_ESCAPE_8BIT to 1”, otherwise all non-ASCII characters will be escaped when output.

Apart from output issues, UTF-8 works largely because of its compatibility with ASCII – common end of line markers (U+000A and U+000D) are identified and files can be treated as text, whilst the rest of the Unicode range is encoded only using specific sets of bytes with the high bit set.

UTF-16 is not well supported as it is (usually) treated as binary due to \0 bytes (basic European alphabet ranges include \0, e.g. ‘A’ is encoded as 00 41).

Can I write patch comments, or have an author name, with characters in the full Unicode spectrum?

Darcs agnosticism w/r/t character encodings can be a problem here if you are collaborating with people that use different character encodings. The best practice is to make sure that everybody uses the UTF-8 encoding.

How do I sign and verify darcs patches?

There are actually two questions you could ask: how to sign patches, and how to sign repositories. Darcs gives you a mechanism to sign individual patches (using GPG), but it doesn’t yet support the signing of repositories.

How do I sign and verify darcs repositories?

This isn’t possible yet.

Can I flag a patch so it doesn’t get pushed or pulled?

This would typically be for changes that are only for local use; e.g. configuration files.

And the answer is: no.

Can I change the darcs timeout?

Yes, just set the environment variable “DARCS_CONNECTION_TIMEOUT” with the number of second that you will wait for a connection to happen. This feature only works with HTTP repositories (and via curl, which is most likely what you’re using). The default timeout is 30 seconds.

How do I create a branch in Darcs?

Darcs branches and repositories are the same thing. So to create a branch, you have to use darcs clone (darcs clone --lazy in particular). This creates create a new directory. If you have a lot of branches, it could be a good idea to have a single container directory and subdirectories underneath it for all the branches you use, eg

|-- trunk
|-- release-2.4
`-- hacking-on-bar

Support for in-repository branches is a frequently requested Darcs feature. We agree that having some kind of branch mechanism that does not require you to create a new directory could be very useful and we are currently thinking of how to get it right. One issue we are trying to wrap our heads around is introducing such a feature while preserving the core simplicity of Darcs.

Is there an equivalent of git stash for quick saving of working directory changes?

No, but the revert command systematically backs up reverted changes in a special internal patch called “the unrevert patch”. Then, with the command darcs unrevert you can apply back the contents of this patch to the working copy.

Be careful that the unrevert patch is overwritten each time you run darcs revert. That is, if you want to use the unrevert patch as a stash branch, you have to do a single revert command. Therefore you want to use revert with the -a flag.

A manual hack you can do for a more fine-grained stashing is the following:

darcs revert ; mv _darcs/patches/unrevert xxx.dpatch

You can later apply the xxx.dpatch file to the working copy with darcs apply.

Upgrading to darcs 2

Why do I get lossy conversion warnings when I convert to the darcs 2 format with darcs convert?

This is because convert “flattens” some conflicts, converting them into ordinary non-conflicting patches, and the result of this flattening depends on the repository state (and the order of patches in a repository).

Should I convert my repository to the Darcs 2 format?

If you never experience bugs such as exponential merge times or [1], you are better not upgrading the patch semantics, then no. This is because the Darcs 2 format does a better job at merging some common conflicts, but it also has some important bugs dealing with duplicate patches and nested conflicts. [2]

It’s important to know that you can keep Darcs 1 semantics but still get a lot of the same benefits of the Darcs 2 format by invoking darcs optimize upgrade.

[1] See

[2] Darcs-2 conflict handling bugs

See DarcsTwo for more details.


Where can I find hosting for my darcs project?

Short answer: See also Hosting.

What’s the best way for a user to work on Darcs itself?

See Developer FAQ and Developer Tips

Does Darcs support Cygwin on Windows?

Not officially (sorry!). The Darcs binary on Windows is a normal Windows executable that does not understand Cygwin paths. You could try, at your own risk, a wrapper script (which does the job of converting Cygwin paths like /home/foo to Windows paths) provided by the darcs user community; see Windows for more details.

Note that we would be happy to reconsider Cygwin support if somebody is willing to add Cygwin support for GHC.

How do I start using darcs for a web application (or some other code base) that is already in production?

It is trivial to start using darcs for an existing web application that has two environments; in my case the environments are testing and production. To get started, I did the following:

  • Backup everything; it never hurts to have some backups

  • Do the following in the production environment:

    • darcs initialize
    • [optional] add stuff to ignore to the boring file
    • I had to add a directory var/ to my boring file because I wanted that to be different in all of my repos. Adding the directory to the boring file makes darcs ignore the var/ dir.
    • darcs add --r ./
    • I did this so I could add everything in my production environment to the darcs repository, you might want something different, if so, read the darcs add help.
    • darcs record --all --look-for-adds
    • I named my patch ‚“initial revision from production,”
  • Now the magic: without creating a darcs repository, copy the _darcs directory, in its entirety, from the production environment to the development environment.

  • Issue the following command in the development environment (now with the production environment’s _darcs directory):

    darcs record --look-for-adds
  • For this patch, I named it something like “initial revisions from development‚” That is it; you now have a repository that contains your production code, up to date with your development changes. In my scenario, I had to consolidate a project that had multiple developers working on both the production and the development environments, without keeping the other up-to-date.

How can I control the umask of the files a darcs push operation creates?

It’s a typical use-case that a remote unix server is used to share a repo using SSH accounts and a unix group for the project members. By default darcs runs with the server’s umask, which usually does not include group write permissions. Currently you have two options to set the umask:

  1. add the line “apply umask 0002” to _darcs/prefs/defaults
  2. add the line “apply umask 0002” to ~/.darcs/defaults

There is an issue for a system-wide solution for this: issue1185.

How do I see different patches if their names are not unique?

Since 2.10, use the hash part of the ouput of darcs log.

For older versions, use the hash part of the xml output (the gz extension can be omitted):

$ darcs log --xml-output
<patch author='' date='20040605033308' local_date='Sat Jun  5 05:33:08 CEST 2004'
 inverted='False' hash='20040605033308-e14b9-451ae7bc1c4e822940526960e4d8a1faed2f5ed4.gz'>
        <name>initial import of hello.txt</name>
$ darcs annotate --match "hash 20040605033308-e14b9-451ae7bc1c4e822940526960e4d8a1faed2f5ed4.gz"
[initial import of hello.txt**20040605033308] {
addfile ./hello.txt
hunk ./hello.txt 1
+Hello darcs!

Potential developers don’t have darcs and want to get my repository. How to do?

If someone who wants to contribute to your project has a problem installing or building darcs on their OS, you may want to make it easy for them to at least get the latest recorded version of the repository.

The simplest way to provide that is to set a posthook in your repository. Add the following two lines in the file _darcs/prefs/defaults of your repository:

apply posthook darcs dist
apply run-posthook

Now, each time you push or record in that repository, the command darcs dist will be called, and a tarball myrepo.tar.gz will be created, always containing the latest recorded version of the repository files.

Now, in addition to telling people to do darcs clone --lazy you can also point them to

Since Darcs 2.10, you can generate ZIP archives from a repository instead of a .TAR.GZ, using the command darcs dist --zip. This may be easier for people who use Windows. Also, if you host your repositories at you have a “Download ZIP” button that provides the same feature.

How do I get the code of a darcs repository when I don’t have darcs and I am not the developer?

If the files are listed by the remote web server (directory list), you can use wget:

wget -r -nH -np -R "index.html*"

Troubleshooting – Weird messages

  • See the Troubleshooting page for a guide to diagnostic messages produced by darcs