Check-Out Workflows

Because Fossil separates the concept of “check-out directory” from “repository DB file,” it gives you the freedom to choose from several working styles. Contrast Git, where the two concepts are normally intermingled in a single working directory, which strongly encourages the “update in place” working style, leaving its git-worktree feature underutilized.

Multiple-Checkout Workflow

With Fossil, it is routine to have multiple check-outs from the same repository:

    fossil clone /path/to/repo.fossil

    mkdir -p ~/src/my-project/trunk
    cd ~/src/my-project/trunk
    fossil open /path/to/repo.fossil    # implicitly opens “trunk”

    mkdir ../release
    cd ../release
    fossil open /path/to/repo.fossil release

    mkdir ../my-other-branch
    cd ../my-other-branch
    fossil open /path/to/repo.fossil my-other-branch

    mkdir ../scratch
    cd ../scratch
    fossil open /path/to/repo.fossil abcd1234

    mkdir ../test
    cd ../test
    fossil open /path/to/repo.fossil 2019-04-01

Now you have five separate check-out directories: one each for:

Each check-out operates independently of the others.

This multiple-checkouts working style is especially useful when Fossil stores source code in programming languages where there is a “build” step that transforms source files into files you actually run or distribute. With Git’s typical switch-in-place workflow, you have to rebuild all outputs from the source files that differ between those versions whenever you switch versions. In the above Fossil working model, you switch versions with a “cd” command instead, so that you only have to rebuild outputs from files you yourself change.

This style is also useful when a check-out directory may be tied up with some long-running process, as with the “test” example above, where you might need to run an hours-long brute-force replication script to tickle a Heisenbug, forcing it to show itself. While that runs, you can open a new terminal tab, “cd ../trunk”, and get back to work.

Single-Checkout Workflows

Nevertheless, it is possible to work in a more typical Git sort of style, switching between versions in a single check-out directory.

The Idiomatic Fossil Way

With the clone done as in the prior section, the most idiomatic way is as follows:

    mkdir work-dir
    cd work-dir
    fossil open /path/to/repo.fossil on trunk...

    fossil update my-other-branch on your other branch in the same directory...

Basically, you replace the cd commands in the multiple checkouts workflow above with fossil up commands.

The Clone-and-Open Way

In Fossil 2.12, we added a feature that allows you to get closer to Git’s single-step clone-and-open behavior:

    mkdir work-dir
    cd work-dir
    fossil open

Now you have “trunk” open in work-dir, with the repo file stored as repo.fossil in that same directory.

The use of fossil open here instead of fossil clone is likely to surprise a Git user. When we were discussing this, we considered following the Git command style, but we decided against it because it goes against this core Fossil design principle: given that the Fossil repo is separate from the check-out, why would you expect asking for a repo clone to also create a check-out directory for you? We view commingled repository + check-out as a design error in Git, so why would we repeat the error?

To see why we see this behavior is error-prone, consider that git clean must have an exception to avoid nuking the .git directory. We had to add that complication to fossil clean when we added the fossil open URI feature: it won’t nuke the repo DB file.

The Git Clone Way

This feature didn’t placate many Git fans, though, so with Fossil 2.14 — currently unreleased — we now allow this:

    fossil clone

This results in a fossil.fossil repo DB file and a fossil/ working directory.

Note that our clone URI behavior does not commingle the repo and check-out, solving our major problem with the Git design, though we still believe it to be confusing to have “clone” be part of “open,” and still more confusing to have “open” part of “clone.” We prefer keeping these operations entirely separate, either as at the top of this section or as in the prior one. Still, please yourself.

If you want the repo to be named something else, adjust the URL:

    fossil clone

That gets you fsl.fossil checked out into fsl/.

For sites where the repo isn’t served from a subdirectory like this, you might need another form of the URL. For example, you might have your repo served from and want it cloned as my-project:

    fossil clone

The /repo addition is the key: whatever comes after is used as the repository name. See the docs for more details.