1   Nested Trees

status:2012-03-17: Draft spec


1.1   Principles

  • Never store a location in versioned data.
  • Implementation of nested trees shall not make operations observably slower for those not using nested trees.
  • A repository that holds a revision R should be able to reconstruct the whole contents of that revision, including any nested trees. Corolary: if I fetch that revision, even into a branch that has no working tree, it should bring across any referenced revisions, or (implicitly) add fallback repositories.
  • The introduction or possible support for nested trees should not have an impact on performance.

1.2   Core Concepts

Subtree A tree which is inside another tree, which bzr has been asked to treat as part of the outer tree.

Subbranch The branch associated with a subtree.

Containing tree A tree which has another tree inside it

Tree reference A directory in a containing tree which contains a subtree.

1.3   Basic design approach

(see “Design decisions” for extended rationale) By default, APIs and commands for containing trees should behave as though the subtrees were plain directories. By default, commands in subtrees should not affect the containing trees.

1.3.1   Downwards recursion

One of the objectives of nested trees is to provide ways of reproducing historical combinations of different codebases. The dependency chain points downwards, such that trees are affected by the revision of their subtrees, but subtrees are oblivious to their containing trees. Just as bazaar doesn’t entice people to commit inconsistent trees, it should not entice people to commit inconsistent combinations of containing tree and subtree. Therefore, commit should recurse downwards by default.

Status and diff should reflect what will happen when commit is used, so they should also recurse downward by default. Add almost does this already. With status, diff, commit and add recursing downwards, it would be confusing to users if other operations did not. Therefore, all operations should recurse downwards by default.

1.3.2   No upwards recursion by default

One of the reasons for using nested trees is to gain performance by only committing in a subtree. Therefore, operations should not recurse upwards by default. However, some users do want to have upwards recursion, so it should be provided as an option.

1.3.3   Modelling nested trees as a composite tree

The idea that a set of nested trees behaves like a single, larger tree seems relatively easy to grasp. Both for users and for developers, it provides a clear expectation for the behaviour of nested trees. There are no obvious drawbacks in terms of code clarity or performance. Therefore, it seems like a good model to start with.

1.3.4   Using root file-ids for tree-references

The idea that tree-reference file-ids are the same as the file-ids of the corresponding root directories has a nice symmetry. It is one way of ensuring that “bzr split” is deterministic, and “bzr join” is deterministic. When performing operations involving a tree and a split version of that tree, using the same file-id makes it easy to ensure that operations such as moves and renames are applied appropriately to the tree-reference. Providing mechanisms whereby a tree-reference can be treated as it would if it had its old file-id encroaches on the territory of path tokens or file-id aliases. Having “split” cause file-id changes means that in comparing these revisions, it would be seen as a deleting a directory and creating a new tree-reference with the same name. Handling this correctly in operations such as merge and revert would be more complicated than if it were treated as a kind change, especially when unversioned files are present in the subtree.

1.3.5   Sub-branches

The branches associated with subtrees shall be called “subbranches”.

The branch for the top tree will be in a special format, whose last_revision file lists all the last_revision info for all of the branches associated with the nested tree. The .bzr directories of subtrees will have a “branch” that simply indicates that the top tree’s branch should be used.

In the top tree’s last_revision file, the revision id and revno will be provided, indexed by the tree-reference file-id.

The repository used by the top-tree’s branch must be a shared repository, and will be used by the sub-branches.

Only the top branch will have a branch.conf. When an operation on a subbranch would normally use values from branch.conf it will look them up in the top branch’s branch.conf and adjust for the sub-location if appropriate. e.g. “bzr push” in a subtree will push just that subbranch to the corresponding subbranch in the configured push location of the top branch.   Rationale

If the branches were not local, the local subtrees might not be committable, and commits to the remote branch would make the local subtree out of date. They should not be in a separate location from the containing branch, because they might share history with the tree-reference’s branch. However, those local branches should not be at the same location as their tree, because the tree might be deleted or moved. Indeed, they should not be anywhere within a working tree.

subtree branches should not be above or beside their containing branch, because it could cause terrible confusion if subtrees from two different trees were updating the same branches with every push, pull, commit and uncommit.

Subtree branches could be plain branches stored somewhere in the top tree’s branch, but then a lookup mechanism would be needed to translate from file_id to location, and performance with large numbers of subbranches would be poor.

1.3.6   Pull and non-initial push

When a pull involves updates to tree references, pull will always pull into the reference branch. For all new revisions in the upper branch, it will determine the revision values of tree references, and fetch them into the repository.

When new tree references are encountered, pull should create a corresponding subbranch in the top branch.

Pulls will update the subtrees whose tree-references change, including creating trees for new sub-branches.

1.5   Data storage

1.5.1   Trees

The root-ids of trees must be unique, so that the same file-id can be used in both the containing tree and the subtree, to simplify access within trees. Tree references are an inventory type that is distinct from a directory, and has a revision-id associated with it. All modern working trees support tree references. Indices may be provided to ensure fast access to the list of subtrees.

The various methods on Tree need to be updated to handle nested trees.

Tree file ids are tuples containing inventory file ids, describing a path to the file. This means that if a file is in a nested tree with the root fileid file_id_a and the file itself has the inventory file id file_id_b then the tree file id is (file_id_a, file_id_b). This makes it easy to look up file ids without having to load and scan all nested trees for file_id_b.

1.5.2   Branches

A new branch format, “subbranches”, is introduced which provides multiple sub-branches, with their data referenced by file-id. A new branch refrerence format, “subbranch-reference”, is introduced which refers to sub-branches in a “subbranches” branch.

1.5.3   Repositories

Some repository formats have ‘subtree’ variants, e.g. pack-0.92-subtree, development-subtree. These are hidden, experimental formats that support storing tree-references in their inventory formats.

Repository indexing might be extended to provide fast access to tree-references.

1.6   Commands

The following new options are introduced:

join --reference Cause an inner tree to be treated as a subtree. The outer tree’s branch must be in the new “subbranches” format. The inner tree’s branch will be cloned into the “subbranches” branch, and the local branch will be replaced with a “subbranch-reference”. Finally, a tree-reference will be added to the containing tree.

(this is already implemented)

1.8   Implementation Changes

1.8.1   Branch changes

pull recurses into reference branches, and pulls from the source’s reference branches.

1.8.2   Repository changes

fetch provides a list of tree-reference revision ids/file-id pairs for the revisions that were fetched. Fetch automatically fetches all revisions associted with tree-references that were fetched.

1.9   Use Cases

1.9.1   Case 1

Barry works on a project with three libraries. He wants to keep up to date with the tip of those libraries, but he doesn’t want them to be part of his source tree.

Example commands:

Set up the tree:
$ bzr branch --nested http://library1 project
$ bzr branch --nested http://library2 project
$ bzr branch --nested http://library3 project
$ bzr commit project -m "Added three libraries"

Update a library to tip:
$ bzr pull -d project/library1 http://library1

1.9.2   Case 2

Now, Barry wants to add a fourth library.

Example commands:

$ bzr branch --nested http://library4 project

1.9.3   Case 3

Barry wants to publish his project.

Example commands:

$ bzr push -d project bzr+ssh://project/trunk

1.9.4   Case 4

Barry decides to make part of his project into another library

Example commands:

$ bzr split --nested project/newlibrary

1.9.5   Case 5

Curtis wants to hack on Barry’s project

Example commands:

$ bzr branch http://project/trunk

1.9.6   Case 6

Barry wants to drop one of the libraries he was using

Example commands:

$ rm project/library1
$ bzr commit project -m "Removed library1"

1.9.7   Case 7

Curtis has made changes to one of the libraries. Barry wants to merge Curtis’ changes into his copy.

Example commands:

$ bzr merge -d project http://curtis.org/trunk/library2

Or alternatively:
$ bzr merge -d project/library2 http://curtis.org/trunk/library2

1.9.8   Case 8

Curtis has made changes to Barry’s main project. Barry wants to merge Curtis’ changes into his copy.

Example commands:

$ bzr merge -d project http://curtis.org/trunk

1.9.9   Case 9

Barry makes changes in his project and in a library, and he runs status

Example commands:

$ echo bar > project/foo
$ echo qux > project/library2/baz
$ bzr status project
 M foo
 M library2/baz

1.9.10   Case 10

Barry wants to upgrade the bazaar format of his project

Example commands:

$ bzr upgrade project

1.9.11   Case 11

Curtis wants to apply Barry’s latest changes.

Example commands:

$ bzr merge -d project http://project/trunk

1.9.12   Case 12

Danilo wants to start a project with two libraries using nested trees from scratch.

Example commands:

$ bzr init project
$ bzr branch --nested http://library4 project
$ bzr branch --nested http://library5 project
$ bzr commit project -m "Created new project."

1.9.13   Case 13

Edwin has a project that doesn’t use nested trees and he wants to start using nested trees.

Example commands::
$ bzr split –nested project/subdir

1.9.14   Case 14

Françis has a project with nested trees where the containing tree uses one Bazaar format and the subtree uses a different Bazaar format.

Not supported.

1.9.15   Case 15

Barry commits some changes to a library and to the main project, and then discovers the changes are not appropriate. He has not yet pushed his changes anywhere.

Example commands:

$ bzr merge -d project http://library2
$ bzr commit project -m "Updated library2"
$ bzr uncommit project --force

1.9.16   Case 16

Barry commits some changes to a library and to the main project, publishes his branch, and then discovers the changes are not appropriate.

Example commands:

$ bzr merge -d project http://library2
$ bzr commit project -m "Updated library2"
$ bzr push -d project
$ bzr revert -r-2 project
$ bzr commit project -m "Reverted inappropriate changes."
$ bzr push -d project

1.9.17   Case 17

Gary is writing a project. Henninge wants to split a library out of it.

Example commands:

$ bzr branch project
$ bzr split project/library6
$ mv project/library6 .
$ rm project
$ bzr commit -m "split library6 into its own library."

1.9.18   Case 18

Henning wants to update to receive Gary’s latest changes.

Example commands:

$ bzr merge -d library6

1.9.19   Case 19

Gary wants to update to receive Henninge’s changes, including splitting a library out.

Example commands:

$ bzr split --nested project/library6
$ bzr commit project -m "Turned library6 into a library"
$ bzr merge -d project/library6 http://library6
$ bzr commit project -m "Merge Henninge's changes."

1.9.20   Case 20

Gary wants to update to receive Henninge’s changes, without splitting a library out.

$ bzr split –nested project/library6 $ bzr commit project -m “Turned library6 into a library” # i.e. a cherrypick that skips the revision where library6 became a library. $ bzr merge -d project/library6 http://library6 -r 5..-1 $ bzr commit project -m “Merge Henninge’s changes.”

1.9.21   Case 21

John works on a project called FooBar, but has decided that it would be better structured as two projects, where Bar is a library that may be of general use outside of Foo. As it happens, bar already has its own subdirectory.

He runs:

# Convert into two trees: foobar and foobar/bar.
# In each tree, files will be removed and deleted.  In foobar/bar, "bar"
# will have been moved to become the tree root.
# These changes will be committed later.
$ bzr upgrade foobar --format=subbranches
$ bzr split foobar/bar

# Add a tree-reference from foobar to foobar/bar, change bar's branch
# to a reference to subbranch in foobar's branch.
$ bzr join --nested foobar/bar

# This recurses into foobar/bar and commits the deletion of the containing
# tree.  In foobar, it commits a kind change for 'bar' from directory to
# tree-reference, and the deletion of the contents of bar.
$ bzr commit foobar

This commits new revisions to foobar and bar, and foobar’s tree-reference bar refers to the revision-id of bar.

Next, he adds two new files: foobar/baz and foobar/bar/qux:

$ vi foobar/baz
$ vi foobar/bar/qux
# This adds qux to foobar/bar and adds baz to foobar.
$ bzr add foobar

Since foobar/bar/qux is in a commitable state and foobar/baz is not, he invokes

$ bzr commit foobar/bar

This commits foobar/bar/baz/qux to the subtree and commits foobar/bar to the containing tree.

(Had he wanted to commit to just the subtree, or just the containing tree, he could have specified an option.)

1.9.22   Case 21

Robert wants to hack on a project, Baz, that is structured as a nested tree, which uses the library “quxlib”, from quxlib.org.

He runs:

$ bzr branch http://baz.org/dev baz

This creates a “subbranches” branch and working tree for baz, as normal. Since tree-references were encountered, it adds subbranches for them to the baz branch. All data is retrieved from baz.org, not quxlib.org.

It creates a working tree for quxlib with a subbranch-reference. It uses the revision-id from the tree-reference in the containing tree, not the head revision at baz.org. This allows Robert to get a known-good nested tree.

Later, Robert decides to update the version of quxlib being used to the latest from quxlib.org. He runs:

$ bzr pull -d http://quxlib.org

This updates the version of quxlib in the working tree, which mean that baz is now out-of-date with its last-committed tree. Unfortunately, the new rev on quxlib is not completely compatible with the old one, and Robert must tweak a few files before Baz runs properly. Once he has done so, he runs:

$ bzr commit baz

Now he has committed a known-good nested tree, and the baz working tree is once again up-to-date.

1.10   User documentation

For many large projects, it is often useful to incorporate libraries maintained elsewhere or to construct them from multiple subprojects. While it is easy for a single user to set up a particular layout of multiple branches by hand, the different branches really need to be linked together if others are to reproduce the desired layout, and if the relationships are going to be managed over time.

Bazaar has good support for building and managing external libraries and subprojects via a feature known as nested trees. In particular, nearly all of Bazaar’s commonly used commands understand nested trees and Do The Right Thing as explained below. The relationship is hierarchical: the containing tree knows about its nested trees, but nested trees are unaware of the tree (or trees) containing them.

At the moment, nested trees are the only type of nested item supported though nested files may be supported in the future. Nested trees may contain other nested trees as required.

Note: This feature requires a recent branch format such as 2.0 or later.

1.10.1   Nesting an external project

To link an external project into a branch, use the branch command with the --nested option like this:

bzr branch --nested SOURCE-URL TARGET-DIR

For example, assuming you already have a src/lib directory where libraries are kept:

bzr branch --nested http://example.com/xmlsaxlib src/lib/sax

This will create a nested branch in the src/lib/sax directory, join it into the containing branch and save the source location.

If you now run bzr status, it will show the nested branch as uncommitted changes like this:

+  src/lib/sax
+  src/lib/sax/README
+  src/lib/sax/parser.py

To record this change, use the commit command as you normally would:

bzr commit -m "added SAX parsing library"

Note that Bazaar stores the tip revision of each nested branch. This is an important feature in that it’s then easy to reproduce the exact combination of libraries used for historical revisions. It also means that other developers pulling or merging your changes will get nested branches created for them at the right revisions of each.

1.10.2   Refreshing a nested branch

As bugs are fixed and enhancements are made to nested projects, you will want to update the version being used. To do this, pull the latest version of the nested branch. For example:

bzr pull -d src/lib/sax

If the latest revision is too unstable, you can always use the -r option on the pull command to nominate a particular revision or tag.

Now that you have the required version of the code, you can make any required adjustments (e.g. API changes), run your automated tests and commit something like this:

view src/lib/sax/README
(hack, hack, hack)
make test
bzr commit -m "upgraded SAX library to version 2.1.3"

1.10.3   Changing a nested tree

As well as keeping track of which revisions of external libraries are used over time, one of the reasons for nesting projects is to make minor changes. You may want to do this in order to fix and track particular bugs you need addressed. In other cases, you may want to make various local enhancements that aren’t valuable outside the context of your project.

As support for nested branches is integrated into most commonly used commands, this is actually quite easy to do: simply make the change to the required files as you normally would! For example:

edit src/lib/sax/parser.py
bzr commit -m "fix bug #42 in sax parser"

Note that Bazaar is smart enough to recurse by default into nested branches, commit changes there, and commit the new nested branch tips in the current branch. Both commits get the same commit message.

If you want to only commit the change to a nested branch for now, you can change into the nested branch before running commit like this:

cd src/lib/sax
bzr commit -m "fix bug #42 in sax parser"

Alternatively, you can use a selective commit like this:

bzr commit -m "fix bug #42 in sax parser" src/lib/sax

1.10.4   Reviewing nested tree changes

Just like commit, the status and diff commands implicitly recurse into nested trees. In the case of status, it shows both the nested tree as having a pending change as well as the items within it that have changed. For example:

M src/lib/sax
M src/lib/sax/parser.py

Once again, if you change into a nested tree though, status and diff will operate just on that tree and not recurse upwards by default.

1.10.5   Browsing nested tree history

As the branches of nested trees have their own history, the log command shows just the history of the containing branch. To see the history for a nested branch, nominate the branch explicitly like this:

bzr log src/lib/sax

Note however that log -v and log -p on the containing branch will show what files in nested branches were changed in each revision.

1.10.6   Splitting out a project

If you already have a large project and wish to partition it into reusable subprojects, use the split command. This takes an existing directory and makes it a separate branch. For example, imagine you have a directory holding UI widgets that another project would like to leverage. You can make it a separate branch like this:

bzr split src/uiwidgets

To make the new project available to others, push it to a shared location like this:

cd src/uiwidgets
bzr push bzr://example.com/uiwidgets

You also need to link it back into the original project as a nested branch using the join command like this (assuming the current directory is src/uiwidgets):

bzr join --nested .
bzr commit -m "uiwidgets is now a nested project"

Similar to branch --nested, join --nested joins the nominated directory (which must hold a branch) into the containing tree. In order to make sure that all versions of a tree can be reproduced, the branches of nested trees share a repository with their containing tree.

1.10.7   Virtual projects

By design, Bazaar is strict about tracking the actual revisions used of nested branches over time. Without this, projects cannot accurately reproduce exactly what was used to make a given build. There are isolated use cases though where is advantageous to say “give me the latest tip of these loosely coupled branches”. To do this, create a small ‘virtual project’ which is just a bunch of unpegged nested branches. To mark nested branches as unpegged, use the --no-pegged option of the join command like this:

bzr join --nested --no-pegged [DIR]

To stop the nested branch tips from floating and to begin recording the tip revisions again, use the pegged option:

bzr join --nested --pegged [DIR]

After changing whether one or more nested branches are pegged or not, you need to commit the branch to record that metadata. (The pegged state is recorded over time.)

For example, you may be managing a company intranet site as a project which is nothing more than a list of unrelated departmental websites bundled together. You can set this up like this:

bzr init intranet-site
cd intranet-site
bzr branch bzr://ourserver/websites/research
bzr branch bzr://ourserver/websites/development
bzr branch bzr://ourserver/websites/support
bzr branch bzr://ourserver/websites/hr
bzr join --nested --no-pegged research
bzr join --nested --no-pegged development
bzr join --nested --no-pegged support
bzr join --nested --no-pegged hr
bzr commit -m "initial configuration of intranet-site"

Publishing the overall site is then as easy as going to the server hosting your intranet and running something like:

bzr branch http://mymachine//projects/intranet-site

Refreshing the overall site is as easy as:

bzr pull

Virtual projects are also useful for providing a partial ‘view’ over a large project containing a large number of subprojects. For example, you may be working on an office suite and have a bunch of developers that only care about the word processor. You can create a virtual project for them like this:

bzr init wp-modules
cd wp-modules
bzr branch ../common
bzr branch ../printing
bzr branch ../spellchecker
bzr branch ../wordprocessor
bzr join --nested --no-pegged common
bzr join --nested --no-pegged printing
bzr join --nested --no-pegged spellchecker
bzr join --nested --no-pegged wordprocessor
bzr commit -m "initial configuration of wp-modules"

Those developers can then get bootstrapped faster and have just the subprojects they care about by branching from wp-modules.

1.10.8   Nested branch tips & tricks

As explained above, most of Bazaar’s commonly used commands recurse downwards into nested branches by default. To prevent this recursion, use the --no-recurse-nested option on various commands (including commit, status and diff) that support it.

Thanks to plugins like bzr-svn and bzr-git, Bazaar has strong support for transparently accessing branches managed by foreign VCS tools. This means that Bazaar can support projects where nested branches are hosted in supported foreign systems. For example, to nest a library maintained in Subversion:

bzr branch --nested svn://example.com/xmlhelpers src/lib/xmlhelpers

If you want revisions to be committed both to a remote location and a local location, make the top-level branch a bound branch. (Nested branches have no configuration of their own.)

Most likely, you will have some branches that are identical to their upstream version and can be pulled, and some that have local changes and must be merged. You can update all of them at once using merge --pull. This will pull into the trees with no local changes, and merge into the ones with local changes. Afterward, you should commit, which will commit only into the trees that were merged into.

As you’d expect, a nested branch can be moved or deleted using the normal commands. For example, after splitting out a subproject, you may want to change its location like this:

bzr mv src/uiwidgets src/lib/uiwidgets
bzr commit -m "move uiwidgets into src/lib"

1.10.9   Things to be aware of

Commands like commit and push need online access to the locations for nested branches which have updated their tip. In particular, commit will update any changed nested branches first and only commit to the containing branch if all nested branch commits succeed. If you are working offline, you may want to ensure you have a local mirror location defined for nested branches you are likely to tweak. Alternatively, the no-recurse-nested option to the commit command might to useful to commit some changes, leaving the nested branch commits until you are back online.

At the moment, nested trees need to be incorporated as a whole. Filtered views can be used to restrict the set of files and directories logically seen. Currently though, filtered views are a lens onto a tree: they do not delete other files and the exposed files/directories must have the same paths as they do in the original branch. In the future, we may add support for nesting and moving selected files from a (read-only) nested branch something like this:

bzr nested DIR --file LICENSE --file doc/README::README
bzr commit -m "change which files are nested from project DIR"

If you require this feature, please contact us with your needs.

1.11   Design decisions

The branches of subtrees shall either share a repository with the containing tree, or the containing tree’s repository will be (implicitly) added as a fallback repository.

The branches of subtrees shall be in a special format that shares a single last_revision file that is stored in the containing branch.

The subtree branches shall be referenced in the last_revision file by file-id.

Subtree branches shall not support individual configuration.

Fetch shall automatically fetch the revisions mentioned by tree-references, recursively.

The reserved revision-id “head:” shall be used in tree-references to refer to the tip revision of a branch.

bzr-svn repositories with externals shall behave as though the multiple repositories were a single Bazaar repository with multiple branches.

1.11.1   Shall commands recurse downwards by default?



  • It is hard to accidentally produce inconsistent trees
  • Inconsistent trees are hard for remote users to handle
  • Accidentally committing too many things at once is easy to resolve
  • It is hard to accidentally commit too many things at once


  • Accidentally committing nuclear launch codes is easier to do
  • A commit message that makes sense for the top may not make sense lower down.

1.11.3   Shall subtree branches be addressable?

Ideally, yes. We might want to use the path segment parameters syntax here too.

1.11.4   Shall we model nested trees as a composite tree?

Yes. Users will see recurse-downwards behaviour that allows operations that cross subtree boundaries, e.g. a merge in the top tree can move a file between subtrees.

The downside is that we can’t have cheap support for subtrees that are copies of one another, because we wouldn’t know which copy to apply sets of changes to.

1.11.5   Shall we use root-ids for tree references?

Yes. This fits well with our current lack of support of file copies. If we do support file copies in future it will be possible to change this in a future format, and perform deterministic upgrades to that format.

1.11.6   What about locking?

We should lock recursively. It matches existing behaviour by failing earlier, and the extra cost does not seem onerous. (To be fully efficient this requires an index of the subtrees, otherwise we need to scan the fully inventory/dirstate.)

(Also, this decision can be changed later with no compatibility concerns.)

1.11.7   How do we handle merge when the subtree hasn’t diverged?

“bzr merge –pull” will be changed so that it will merge (not pull) when the local last revision’s revno would change (i.e. is a non-lhs parent in the merge source). This is expected to be the most common way to update nested trees.

The existing “bzr merge –pull” behaviour will be renamed to “bzr merge –pull-renumber”.

“bzr merge” (with no “–pull”) will do a merge in all trees. “bzr pull” will do a pull in all trees.

The rationale is that a very common use-case is that the top tree is a project the user is actively committing to, and the subtrees are mainly libraries that are being mirrored. So a behaviour that forced every update to be a merge would be undesirable for the mirrored subtrees, but an update that is a pull wouldn’t suit the changing top tree. And the existing “merge –pull” (that can renumber revisions) isn’t desireable for either the top tree or subtrees in this case.

1.11.8   What should uncommit do?

It will recurse, and subtrees will be uncommitted back to the revision recorded by the revision the top tree is uncommitting to.

This means that operations like:

$ echo foo > versioned-file-in-top-tree.txt
$ bzr ci -m "Change file"
$ bzr uncommit

will not cause a change in subtrees, since the top-level commit did not affect them. But on the other hand:

$ echo foo > subtree/versioned-file-in-subtree.txt $ bzr ci -m “Change file” $ bzr uncommit

will first uncommit to the subtree, then to the top tree. The uncommit will restore both trees to their previous state.

1.11.9   Some subtrees should have commits and some should not. How?

We will not provide special support for this initially. We might later support flagging some sub-trees as mirror-only or something similar, but this seems like it could be a general feature not specific to nesting. (and it may only require a working tree format bump to add).

1.12   Comparison with other systems

1.12.1   Git submodules

This allows separate repositories to be used for submodules.

1.12.2   Mercurial Forests

The wiki page does not give confidence that this is a well-maintained project. It seems similar to config-manager– its ‘snapshot’ files are like config-manager’s config files, describing what branches to get and where to put them, optionally specifying a revision. No metadata about nesting is stored in the tree. Optionally, a ‘snapshot.txt’ file may be stored in the containing tree, but it can also be stored somewhere else.

There is no attempt to integrate subtree support into the core commands.

1.12.3   Mercurial Nested Repositories

This design was for an integrated feature, but there are apparently 4 implementations as extensions. While it does integrate subtree support into core commands, this may be off by default: “The alternative that I lean towards is to not recurse unless explicitly instructed to. Most probably, only a few commands should arguably even be aware of modules.”

Command comparison:

  • hg module add ~= bzr join –nested
  • hg module remove ~= bzr remove –keep
  • hg module record’s functionality is part of nested commits in nested trees.

Like submodules, this stores location information in versioned data: a .hgmodules directory. Like submodules and nested trees, particular revisions are recorded.

1.12.4   Subversion “svn:externals”

Like bzr, uses per-file metadata. Like submodules and nested repositories, locations are versioned data. Like Forests, revisions are optional. Like nested repositories, there is limited integration into core commands; checkout and update support externals, and commit may support them in the future. However, there is no UI specific to creating and updating svn:externals references.

Unlike all other alternatives, supports partial checkouts. This is because svn natively supports partial checkouts. Also, supports checkouts of tags, because tags are merely a convention in svn.

Supports pulling in “head” subtrees too, not just specific (“known-good”) revisions. Nested trees supports this in order to provide high-fidelity imports.

Some support for single-file svn:externals (see http://subversion.tigris.org/svn_1.6_releasenotes.html#externals), whereas bzr subtrees must be directories.

Has a –ignore-externals option for checking out without pulling in the svn:externals items (svn checkout is more or less equivalent to bzr branch). You can also use that option on update (more or less like bzr merge).

1.12.5   Comments on differences

externals support partial checkouts. Nested trees could gain support for this once Bazaar itself supports partial checkouts. Supporting a single file as a “subtree” would also depend on native bzr support. On platforms that support symlinks, using symlinks to portions of a subtree can be an effective substitute.

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