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Anonymous committed 126640a

Add a birdview-on-the-source-code section to the user manual

In http://thread.gmane.org/gmane.comp.version-control.git/42479,
a birdview on the source code was requested.

J. Bruce Fields suggested that my reply should be included in the
user manual, and there was nothing of an outcry, so here it is,
not 2 months later.

It includes modifications as suggested by J. Bruce Fields, Karl
Hasselström and Daniel Barkalow.

Signed-off-by: Johannes Schindelin <Johannes.Schindelin@gmx.de>

Comments (0)

Files changed (1)

Documentation/user-manual.txt

 contrast, running "git prune" while somebody is actively changing the 
 repository is a *BAD* idea).
 
+[[birdview-on-the-source-code]]
+A birdview on Git's source code
+-----------------------------
+
+While Git's source code is quite elegant, it is not always easy for
+new  developers to find their way through it.  A good idea is to look
+at the contents of the initial commit:
+_e83c5163316f89bfbde7d9ab23ca2e25604af290_ (also known as _v0.99~954_).
+
+Tip: you can see what files are in there with
+
+----------------------------------------------------
+$ git show e83c5163316f89bfbde7d9ab23ca2e25604af290:
+----------------------------------------------------
+
+and look at those files with something like
+
+-----------------------------------------------------------
+$ git show e83c5163316f89bfbde7d9ab23ca2e25604af290:cache.h
+-----------------------------------------------------------
+
+Be sure to read the README in that revision _after_ you are familiar with
+the terminology (<<glossary>>), since the terminology has changed a little
+since then.  For example, we call the things "commits" now, which are
+described in that README as "changesets".
+
+Actually a lot of the structure as it is now can be explained by that
+initial commit.
+
+For example, we do not call it "cache" any more, but "index", however, the
+file is still called `cache.h`.  Remark: Not much reason to change it now,
+especially since there is no good single name for it anyway, because it is
+basically _the_ header file which is included by _all_ of Git's C sources.
+
+If you grasp the ideas in that initial commit (it is really small and you
+can get into it really fast, and it will help you recognize things in the
+much larger code base we have now), you should go on skimming `cache.h`,
+`object.h` and `commit.h` in the current version.
+
+In the early days, Git (in the tradition of UNIX) was a bunch of programs
+which were extremely simple, and which you used in scripts, piping the
+output of one into another. This turned out to be good for initial
+development, since it was easier to test new things.  However, recently
+many of these parts have become builtins, and some of the core has been
+"libified", i.e. put into libgit.a for performance, portability reasons,
+and to avoid code duplication.
+
+By now, you know what the index is (and find the corresponding data
+structures in `cache.h`), and that there are just a couple of object types
+(blobs, trees, commits and tags) which inherit their common structure from
+`struct object`, which is their first member (and thus, you can cast e.g.
+`(struct object *)commit` to achieve the _same_ as `&commit->object`, i.e.
+get at the object name and flags).
+
+Now is a good point to take a break to let this information sink in.
+
+Next step: get familiar with the object naming.  Read <<naming-commits>>.
+There are quite a few ways to name an object (and not only revisions!).
+All of these are handled in `sha1_name.c`. Just have a quick look at
+the function `get_sha1()`. A lot of the special handling is done by
+functions like `get_sha1_basic()` or the likes.
+
+This is just to get you into the groove for the most libified part of Git:
+the revision walker.
+
+Basically, the initial version of `git log` was a shell script:
+
+----------------------------------------------------------------
+$ git-rev-list --pretty $(git-rev-parse --default HEAD "$@") | \
+	LESS=-S ${PAGER:-less}
+----------------------------------------------------------------
+
+What does this mean?
+
+`git-rev-list` is the original version of the revision walker, which
+_always_ printed a list of revisions to stdout.  It is still functional,
+and needs to, since most new Git programs start out as scripts using
+`git-rev-list`.
+
+`git-rev-parse` is not as important any more; it was only used to filter out
+options that were relevant for the different plumbing commands that were
+called by the script.
+
+Most of what `git-rev-list` did is contained in `revision.c` and
+`revision.h`.  It wraps the options in a struct named `rev_info`, which
+controls how and what revisions are walked, and more.
+
+The original job of `git-rev-parse` is now taken by the function
+`setup_revisions()`, which parses the revisions and the common command line
+options for the revision walker. This information is stored in the struct
+`rev_info` for later consumption. You can do your own command line option
+parsing after calling `setup_revisions()`. After that, you have to call
+`prepare_revision_walk()` for initialization, and then you can get the
+commits one by one with the function `get_revision()`.
+
+If you are interested in more details of the revision walking process,
+just have a look at the first implementation of `cmd_log()`; call
+`git-show v1.3.0~155^2~4` and scroll down to that function (note that you
+no longer need to call `setup_pager()` directly).
+
+Nowadays, `git log` is a builtin, which means that it is _contained_ in the
+command `git`.  The source side of a builtin is
+
+- a function called `cmd_<bla>`, typically defined in `builtin-<bla>.c`,
+  and declared in `builtin.h`,
+
+- an entry in the `commands[]` array in `git.c`, and
+
+- an entry in `BUILTIN_OBJECTS` in the `Makefile`.
+
+Sometimes, more than one builtin is contained in one source file.  For
+example, `cmd_whatchanged()` and `cmd_log()` both reside in `builtin-log.c`,
+since they share quite a bit of code.  In that case, the commands which are
+_not_ named like the `.c` file in which they live have to be listed in
+`BUILT_INS` in the `Makefile`.
+
+`git log` looks more complicated in C than it does in the original script,
+but that allows for a much greater flexibility and performance.
+
+Here again it is a good point to take a pause.
+
+Lesson three is: study the code.  Really, it is the best way to learn about
+the organization of Git (after you know the basic concepts).
+
+So, think about something which you are interested in, say, "how can I
+access a blob just knowing the object name of it?".  The first step is to
+find a Git command with which you can do it.  In this example, it is either
+`git show` or `git cat-file`.
+
+For the sake of clarity, let's stay with `git cat-file`, because it
+
+- is plumbing, and
+
+- was around even in the initial commit (it literally went only through
+  some 20 revisions as `cat-file.c`, was renamed to `builtin-cat-file.c`
+  when made a builtin, and then saw less than 10 versions).
+
+So, look into `builtin-cat-file.c`, search for `cmd_cat_file()` and look what
+it does.
+
+------------------------------------------------------------------
+        git_config(git_default_config);
+        if (argc != 3)
+                usage("git-cat-file [-t|-s|-e|-p|<type>] <sha1>");
+        if (get_sha1(argv[2], sha1))
+                die("Not a valid object name %s", argv[2]);
+------------------------------------------------------------------
+
+Let's skip over the obvious details; the only really interesting part
+here is the call to `get_sha1()`.  It tries to interpret `argv[2]` as an
+object name, and if it refers to an object which is present in the current
+repository, it writes the resulting SHA-1 into the variable `sha1`.
+
+Two things are interesting here:
+
+- `get_sha1()` returns 0 on _success_.  This might surprise some new
+  Git hackers, but there is a long tradition in UNIX to return different
+  negative numbers in case of different errors -- and 0 on success.
+
+- the variable `sha1` in the function signature of `get_sha1()` is `unsigned
+  char *`, but is actually expected to be a pointer to `unsigned
+  char[20]`.  This variable will contain the 160-bit SHA-1 of the given
+  commit.  Note that whenever a SHA-1 is passed as "unsigned char *", it
+  is the binary representation, as opposed to the ASCII representation in
+  hex characters, which is passed as "char *".
+
+You will see both of these things throughout the code.
+
+Now, for the meat:
+
+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
+        case 0:
+                buf = read_object_with_reference(sha1, argv[1], &size, NULL);
+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
+
+This is how you read a blob (actually, not only a blob, but any type of
+object).  To know how the function `read_object_with_reference()` actually
+works, find the source code for it (something like `git grep
+read_object_with | grep ":[a-z]"` in the git repository), and read
+the source.
+
+To find out how the result can be used, just read on in `cmd_cat_file()`:
+
+-----------------------------------
+        write_or_die(1, buf, size);
+-----------------------------------
+
+Sometimes, you do not know where to look for a feature.  In many such cases,
+it helps to search through the output of `git log`, and then `git show` the
+corresponding commit.
+
+Example: If you know that there was some test case for `git bundle`, but
+do not remember where it was (yes, you _could_ `git grep bundle t/`, but that
+does not illustrate the point!):
+
+------------------------
+$ git log --no-merges t/
+------------------------
+
+In the pager (`less`), just search for "bundle", go a few lines back,
+and see that it is in commit 18449ab0...  Now just copy this object name,
+and paste it into the command line
+
+-------------------
+$ git show 18449ab0
+-------------------
+
+Voila.
+
+Another example: Find out what to do in order to make some script a
+builtin:
+
+-------------------------------------------------
+$ git log --no-merges --diff-filter=A builtin-*.c
+-------------------------------------------------
+
+You see, Git is actually the best tool to find out about the source of Git
+itself!
+
 [[glossary]]
 include::glossary.txt[]