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From: "Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget" <>
Cc: Victoria Dye <>, Derrick Stolee <>,
	Lessley Dennington <>,
	Elijah Newren <>,
	Elijah Newren <>,
	Elijah Newren <>
Subject: [PATCH v2 3/5] repo_read_index: clear SKIP_WORKTREE bit from files present in worktree
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2022 15:59:41 +0000	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <>

From: Elijah Newren <>

The fix is short (~30 lines), but the description is not.  Sorry.

There is a set of problems caused by files in what I'll refer to as the
"present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE" state.  This commit aims to not just fix
these problems, but remove the entire class as a possibility -- for
those using sparse checkouts.  But first, we need to understand the
problems this class presents.  A quick outline:

   * Problems
     * User facing issues
     * Problem space complexity
     * Maintenance and code correctness challenges
   * SKIP_WORKTREE expectations in Git
   * Suggested solution
   * Pros/Cons of suggested solution
   * Notes on testcase modifications

=== User facing issues ===

There are various ways for users to get files to be present in the
working copy despite having the SKIP_WORKTREE bit set for that file in
the index.  This may come from:
  * various git commands not really supporting the SKIP_WORKTREE bit[1,2]
  * users grabbing files from elsewhere and writing them to the worktree
    (perhaps even cached in their editor)
  * users attempting to "abort" a sparse-checkout operation with a
    not-so-early Ctrl+C (updating $GIT_DIR/info/sparse-checkout and the
    working tree is not atomic)[3].

Once users have present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE files, any modifications
users make to these files will be ignored, possibly to users' confusion.

  * these files will degrade performance for the sparse-index case due
    to requiring the index to be expanded (see commit 55dfcf9591
    ("sparse-checkout: clear tracked sparse dirs", 2021-09-08) for why
    we try to delete entire directories outside the sparse cone).
  * these files will not be updated by by standard commands
    (switch/checkout/pull/merge/rebase will leave them alone unless
    conflicts happen -- and even then, the conflicted file may be
    written somewhere else to avoid overwriting the SKIP_WORKTREE file
    that is present and in the way)
  * there is nothing in Git that users can use to discover such
    files (status, diff, grep, etc. all ignore it)
  * there is no reasonable mechanism to "recover" from such a condition
    (neither `git sparse-checkout reapply` nor `git reset --hard` will
    correct it).

So, not only are users modifications ignored, but the files get
progressively more stale over time.  At some point in the future, they
may change their sparseness specification or disable sparse-checkouts.
At that time, all present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE files will show up as
having lots of modifications because they represent a version from a
different branch or commit.  These might include user-made local changes
from days before, but the only way to tell is to have users look through
them all closely.

If these users come to others for help, there will be no logs that
explain the issue; it's just a mysterious list of changes.  Users might
adamantly claim (correctly, as it turns out) that they didn't modify
these files, while others presume they did.


=== Problem space complexity ===

SKIP_WORKTREE has been part of Git for over a decade.  Duy did lots of
work on it initially, and several others have since come along and put
lots of work into it.  Stolee spent most of 2021 on the sparse-index,
with lots of bugfixes along the way including to non-sparse-index cases
as we are still trying to get sparse checkouts to behave reasonably.
Basically every codepath throughout the treat needs to be aware of an
additional type of file: tracked-but-not-present.  The extra type
results in lots of extra testcases and lots of extra code everywhere.

But, the sad thing is that we actually have more than one extra type.
We have tracked, tracked-but-not-present (SKIP_WORKTREE), and
(present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE).  Two types is a monumental amount of
effort to support, and adding a third feels a bit like insanity[4].

[4] Some examples of which can be seen at

=== Maintenance and code correctness challenges ===

Matheus' patches to grep stalled for nearly a year, in part because of
complications of how to handle sparse-checkouts appropriately in all
cases[5][6] (with trying to sanely figure out how to sanely handle
present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE files being one of the complications).
His rm/add follow-ups also took months because of those kinds of
issues[7].  The corner cases with things like submodules and
SKIP_WORKTREE with the addition of present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE start
becoming really complex[8].

We've had to add ugly logic to merge-ort to attempt to handle
present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE files[9], and basically just been forced
to give up in merge-recursive knowing full well that we'll sometimes
silently discard user modifications.  Despite stash essentially being a
merge, it needed extra code (beyond what was in merge-ort and
merge-recursive) to manually tweak SKIP_WORKTREE bits in order to avoid
a few different bugs that'd result in an early abort with a partial
stash application[10].

[5] See
    and the dates on the thread; also Matheus and I had several
    conversations off-list trying to resolve the issues over that time
[6] finally kind of got unstuck after
[7] See for example
    and quotes like "The core functionality of sparse-checkout has always
    been only partially implemented", a statement I still believe is true
[9] See commit 66b209b86a ("merge-ort: implement CE_SKIP_WORKTREE
    handling with conflicted entries", 2021-03-20)
[10] See commit ba359fd507 ("stash: fix stash application in
     sparse-checkouts", 2020-12-01)

=== SKIP_WORKTREE expectations in Git ===

A couple quotes:

From [11] (before the "sparse-checkout" command existed):
   If it needs too many special cases, hacks, and conditionals, then it
   is not worth the complexity---if it is easier to write a correct code
   by allowing Git to populate working tree files, it is perfectly fine
   to do so.

   In a sense, the sparse checkout "feature" itself is a hack by itself,
   and that is why I think this part should be "best effort" as well.

From the git-sparse-checkout manual (still present today):



=== Suggested solution ===

SKIP_WORKTREE was written to allow sparse-checkouts, in particular, as
the name of the option implies, to allow the file to NOT be in the
worktree but consider it to be unchanged rather than deleted.

The suggests a simple solution: present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE files
should not exist, for those using sparse-checkouts.

Enforce this at index loading time by checking if core.sparseCheckout is
true; if so, check files in the index with the SKIP_WORKTREE bit set to
verify that they are absent from the working tree.  If they are present,
unset the bit (in memory, though any commands that write to the index
will record the update).

Users can, of course, can get the SKIP_WORKTREE bit back such as by
running `git sparse-checkout reapply` (if they have ensured the file is
unmodified and doesn't match the specified sparsity patterns).

=== Pros/Cons of suggested solution ===


  * Solves the user visible problems reported above, which I've been
    complaining about for nearly a year but couldn't find a solution to.
  * Helps prevent slow performance degradation with a sparse-index.
  * Much easier behavior in sparse-checkouts for users to reason about
  * Very simple, ~30 lines of code.
  * Significantly simplifies some ugly testcases, and obviates the need
    to test an entire class of potential issues.
  * Reduces code complexity, reasoning, and maintenance.  Avoids
    disagreements about weird corner cases[12].
  * It has been reported that some users might be (ab)using
    SKIP_WORKTREE as a let-me-modify-but-keep-the-file-in-the-worktree
    mechanism[13, and a few other similar references].  These users know
    of multiple caveats and shortcomings in doing so; perhaps not
    surprising given the "SKIP_WORKTREE expecations" section above.
    However, these users use `git update-index --skip-worktree`, and not
    `git sparse-checkout` or core.sparseCheckout=true.  As such, these
    users would be unaffected by this change and can continue abusing
    the system as before.



  * When core.sparseCheckout is enabled, this adds a performance cost to
    reading the index.  I'll defer discussion of this cost to a subsequent
    patch, since I have some optimizations to add.

=== Notes on testcase modifications ===

The good:
  * t1011: Compare to two cases above it ('read-tree will not throw away
    dirty changes, non-sparse'); since the file is present, it should
    match the non-sparse case now
  * t1092: sparse-index & sparse-checkout now match full-worktree
    behavior in more cases!  Yaay for consistency!
  * t6428, t7012: look at how much simpler the tests become!  Merge and
    stash can just fail early telling the user there's a file in the
    way, instead of not noticing until it's about to write a file and
    then have to implement sudden crash avoidance.  Hurray for sanity!
  * t7817: sparse behavior better matches full tree behavior.  Hurray
    for sanity!

The confusing:
  * t3705: These changes were ONLY needed on Windows, but they don't
    hurt other platforms.  Let's discuss each individually:

    * core.sparseCheckout should be false by default.  Nothing in this
      testcase toggles that until many, many tests later.  However,
      early tests (#5 in particular) were testing `update-index
      --skip-worktree` behavior in a non-sparse-checkout, but the
      Windows tests in CI were behaving as if core.sparseCheckout=true
      had been specified somewhere.  I do not have access to a Windows
      machine.  But I just manually did what should have been a no-op
      and turned the config off.  And it fixed the test.
    * I have no idea why the leftover .gitattributes file from this
      test was causing failures for test #18 on Windows, but only with
      these changes of mine.  Test #18 was checking for empty stderr,
      and specifically wanted to know that some error completely
      unrelated to file endings did not appear.  The leftover
      .gitattributes file thus caused some spurious stderr unrelated to
      the thing being checked.  Since other tests did not intend to
      test normalization, just proactively remove the .gitattributes
      file.  I'm certain this is cleaner and better, I'm just unsure
      why/how this didn't trigger problems before.

Signed-off-by: Elijah Newren <>
 repository.c                             |  7 ++++
 sparse-index.c                           | 21 +++++++++++
 sparse-index.h                           |  1 +
 t/     |  2 +-
 t/ | 41 ++++++++++------------
 t/           |  2 ++
 t/        | 23 +++----------
 t/         | 44 ++++--------------------
 t/          | 11 ++++--
 9 files changed, 72 insertions(+), 80 deletions(-)

diff --git a/repository.c b/repository.c
index 34610c5a33e..dddee32258f 100644
--- a/repository.c
+++ b/repository.c
@@ -301,6 +301,13 @@ int repo_read_index(struct repository *repo)
 	if (repo->settings.command_requires_full_index)
+	/*
+	 * If sparse checkouts are in use, check whether paths with the
+	 * SKIP_WORKTREE attribute are missing from the worktree; if not,
+	 * clear that attribute for that path.
+	 */
+	clear_skip_worktree_from_present_files(repo->index);
 	return res;
diff --git a/sparse-index.c b/sparse-index.c
index a1d505d50e9..b82648b10ee 100644
--- a/sparse-index.c
+++ b/sparse-index.c
@@ -341,6 +341,27 @@ void ensure_correct_sparsity(struct index_state *istate)
+void clear_skip_worktree_from_present_files(struct index_state *istate)
+	int i;
+	if (!core_apply_sparse_checkout)
+		return;
+	for (i = 0; i < istate->cache_nr; i++) {
+		struct cache_entry *ce = istate->cache[i];
+		struct stat st;
+		if (ce_skip_worktree(ce) && !lstat(ce->name, &st)) {
+			if (S_ISSPARSEDIR(ce->ce_mode)) {
+				ensure_full_index(istate);
+				goto restart;
+			}
+			ce->ce_flags &= ~CE_SKIP_WORKTREE;
+		}
+	}
  * This static global helps avoid infinite recursion between
  * expand_to_path() and index_file_exists().
diff --git a/sparse-index.h b/sparse-index.h
index 656bd835b25..633d4fb7e31 100644
--- a/sparse-index.h
+++ b/sparse-index.h
@@ -5,6 +5,7 @@ struct index_state;
 #define SPARSE_INDEX_MEMORY_ONLY (1 << 0)
 int convert_to_sparse(struct index_state *istate, int flags);
 void ensure_correct_sparsity(struct index_state *istate);
+void clear_skip_worktree_from_present_files(struct index_state *istate);
  * Some places in the codebase expect to search for a specific path.
diff --git a/t/ b/t/
index 4ed0885bf2f..dd957be1b78 100755
--- a/t/
+++ b/t/
@@ -212,7 +212,7 @@ test_expect_success 'read-tree updates worktree, dirty case' '
 	echo sub/added >.git/info/sparse-checkout &&
 	git checkout -f top &&
 	echo dirty >init.t &&
-	read_tree_u_must_succeed -m -u HEAD^ &&
+	read_tree_u_must_fail -m -u HEAD^ &&
 	grep -q dirty init.t &&
 	rm init.t
diff --git a/t/ b/t/
index f3a059e5af5..2a04b532f91 100755
--- a/t/
+++ b/t/
@@ -367,7 +367,7 @@ test_expect_success 'status/add: outside sparse cone' '
 	write_script edit-contents <<-\EOF &&
 	echo text >>$1
-	run_on_sparse ../edit-contents folder1/a &&
+	run_on_all ../edit-contents folder1/a &&
 	run_on_all ../edit-contents folder1/new &&
 	test_sparse_match git status --porcelain=v2 &&
@@ -376,8 +376,8 @@ test_expect_success 'status/add: outside sparse cone' '
 	test_sparse_match test_must_fail git add folder1/a &&
 	grep "Disable or modify the sparsity rules" sparse-checkout-err &&
 	test_sparse_unstaged folder1/a &&
-	test_sparse_match test_must_fail git add --refresh folder1/a &&
-	grep "Disable or modify the sparsity rules" sparse-checkout-err &&
+	test_all_match git add --refresh folder1/a &&
+	test_must_be_empty sparse-checkout-err &&
 	test_sparse_unstaged folder1/a &&
 	test_sparse_match test_must_fail git add folder1/new &&
 	grep "Disable or modify the sparsity rules" sparse-checkout-err &&
@@ -643,11 +643,11 @@ test_expect_success 'update-index modify outside sparse definition' '
 	run_on_sparse cp ../initial-repo/folder1/a folder1/a &&
 	run_on_all ../edit-contents folder1/a &&
-	# If file has skip-worktree enabled, update-index does not modify the
-	# index entry
-	test_sparse_match git update-index folder1/a &&
-	test_sparse_match git status --porcelain=v2 &&
-	test_must_be_empty sparse-checkout-out &&
+	# If file has skip-worktree enabled, but the file is present, it is
+	# treated the same as if skip-worktree is disabled
+	test_all_match git status --porcelain=v2 &&
+	test_all_match git update-index folder1/a &&
+	test_all_match git status --porcelain=v2 &&
 	# When skip-worktree is disabled (even on files outside sparse cone), file
 	# is updated in the index
@@ -1331,30 +1331,27 @@ test_expect_success 'ls-files' '
 	test_cmp dense sparse &&
 	# Set up a strange condition of having a file edit
-	# outside of the sparse-checkout cone. This is just
-	# to verify that sparse-checkout and sparse-index
-	# behave the same in this case.
+	# outside of the sparse-checkout cone. We want to verify
+	# that all modes handle this the same, and detect the
+	# modification.
 	write_script edit-content <<-\EOF &&
-	mkdir folder1 &&
+	mkdir -p folder1 &&
 	echo content >>folder1/a
-	run_on_sparse ../edit-content &&
+	run_on_all ../edit-content &&
-	# ls-files does not currently notice modified files whose
-	# cache entries are marked SKIP_WORKTREE. This may change
-	# in the future, but here we test that sparse index does
-	# not accidentally create a change of behavior.
-	test_sparse_match git ls-files --modified &&
-	test_must_be_empty sparse-checkout-out &&
-	test_must_be_empty sparse-index-out &&
+	test_all_match git ls-files --modified &&
 	git -C sparse-index ls-files --sparse --modified >sparse-index-out &&
-	test_must_be_empty sparse-index-out &&
+	cat >expect <<-\EOF &&
+	folder1/a
+	test_cmp expect sparse-index-out &&
 	# Add folder1 to the sparse-checkout cone and
 	# check that ls-files shows the expanded files.
 	test_sparse_match git sparse-checkout add folder1 &&
-	test_sparse_match git ls-files --modified &&
+	test_all_match git ls-files --modified &&
 	test_all_match git ls-files &&
 	git -C sparse-index ls-files --sparse >actual &&
diff --git a/t/ b/t/
index 81f3384eeed..95609046c61 100755
--- a/t/
+++ b/t/
@@ -19,6 +19,7 @@ setup_sparse_entry () {
 	fi &&
 	git add sparse_entry &&
 	git update-index --skip-worktree sparse_entry &&
+	git config core.sparseCheckout false &&
 	git commit --allow-empty -m "ensure sparse_entry exists at HEAD" &&
 	SPARSE_ENTRY_BLOB=$(git rev-parse :sparse_entry)
@@ -126,6 +127,7 @@ test_expect_success 'git add --chmod does not update sparse entries' '
 test_expect_success 'git add --renormalize does not update sparse entries' '
+	test_when_finished rm .gitattributes &&
 	test_config core.autocrlf false &&
 	setup_sparse_entry "LINEONE\r\nLINETWO\r\n" &&
 	echo "sparse_entry text=auto" >.gitattributes &&
diff --git a/t/ b/t/
index 7e8bf497f82..142c9aaabc5 100755
--- a/t/
+++ b/t/
@@ -112,7 +112,7 @@ test_expect_success 'conflicting entries written to worktree even if sparse' '
-test_expect_merge_algorithm failure success 'present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE handled reasonably' '
+test_expect_success 'present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE handled reasonably' '
 	test_setup_numerals in_the_way &&
 		cd numerals_in_the_way &&
@@ -132,26 +132,13 @@ test_expect_merge_algorithm failure success 'present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE handl
 		test_must_fail git merge -s recursive B^0 &&
-		git ls-files -t >index_files &&
-		test_cmp expected-index index_files &&
+		test_path_is_missing .git/MERGE_HEAD &&
-		test_path_is_file README &&
 		test_path_is_file numerals &&
-		test_cmp expected-merge numerals &&
-		# There should still be a file with "foobar" in it
-		grep foobar * &&
-		# 5 other files:
-		#   * expected-merge
-		#   * expected-index
-		#   * index_files
-		#   * others
-		#   * whatever name was given to the numerals file that had
-		#     "foobar" in it
-		git ls-files -o >others &&
-		test_line_count = 5 others
+		# numerals should still have "foobar" in it
+		echo foobar >expect &&
+		test_cmp expect numerals
diff --git a/t/ b/t/
index a1080b94e38..cb9f1a6981e 100755
--- a/t/
+++ b/t/
@@ -171,50 +171,20 @@ test_expect_success 'stash restore in sparse checkout' '
 		# Put a file in the working directory in the way
 		echo in the way >modified &&
-		git stash apply &&
+		test_must_fail git stash apply 2>error&&
-		# Ensure stash vivifies modifies paths...
-		cat >expect <<-EOF &&
-		H addme
-		H modified
-		H removeme
-		H subdir/A
-		S untouched
-		EOF
-		git ls-files -t >actual &&
-		test_cmp expect actual &&
+		grep "changes.*would be overwritten by merge" error &&
-		# ...and that the paths show up in status as changed...
-		cat >expect <<-EOF &&
-		A  addme
-		 M modified
-		 D removeme
-		 M subdir/A
-		?? actual
-		?? expect
-		?? modified.stash.XXXXXX
-		EOF
-		git status --porcelain | \
-			sed -e s/stash......./stash.XXXXXX/ >actual &&
-		test_cmp expect actual &&
+		echo in the way >expect &&
+		test_cmp expect modified &&
+		git diff --quiet HEAD ":!modified" &&
 		# ...and that working directory reflects the files correctly
-		test_path_is_file    addme &&
+		test_path_is_missing addme &&
 		test_path_is_file    modified &&
 		test_path_is_missing removeme &&
 		test_path_is_file    subdir/A &&
-		test_path_is_missing untouched &&
-		# ...including that we have the expected "modified" file...
-		cat >expect <<-EOF &&
-		modified
-		tweaked
-		EOF
-		test_cmp expect modified &&
-		# ...and that the other "modified" file is still present...
-		echo in the way >expect &&
-		test_cmp expect modified.stash.*
+		test_path_is_missing untouched
diff --git a/t/ b/t/
index 590b99bbb6f..eb595645657 100755
--- a/t/
+++ b/t/
@@ -83,10 +83,13 @@ test_expect_success 'setup' '
 # The test below covers a special case: the sparsity patterns exclude '/b' and
 # sparse checkout is enabled, but the path exists in the working tree (e.g.
-# manually created after `git sparse-checkout init`). git grep should skip it.
+# manually created after `git sparse-checkout init`).  Although b is marked
+# as SKIP_WORKTREE, git grep should notice it IS present in the worktree and
+# report it.
 test_expect_success 'working tree grep honors sparse checkout' '
 	cat >expect <<-EOF &&
+	b:new-text
 	test_when_finished "rm -f b" &&
 	echo "new-text" >b &&
@@ -126,12 +129,16 @@ test_expect_success 'grep --cached searches entries with the SKIP_WORKTREE bit'
 # Note that sub2/ is present in the worktree but it is excluded by the sparsity
-# patterns, so grep should not recurse into it.
+# patterns.  We also explicitly mark it as SKIP_WORKTREE in case it got cleared
+# by previous git commands.  Thus sub2 starts as SKIP_WORKTREE but since it is
+# present in the working tree, grep should recurse into it.
 test_expect_success 'grep --recurse-submodules honors sparse checkout in submodule' '
 	cat >expect <<-EOF &&
+	sub2/a:text
+	git update-index --skip-worktree sub2 &&
 	git grep --recurse-submodules "text" >actual &&
 	test_cmp expect actual

  parent reply	other threads:[~2022-01-14 15:59 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 30+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2022-01-13 16:43 [PATCH 0/5] Remove the present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE class of bugs (for sparse-checkouts) Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-13 16:43 ` [PATCH 1/5] t1011: add testcase demonstrating accidental loss of user modifications Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-13 16:43 ` [PATCH 2/5] unpack-trees: fix accidental loss of user changes Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-13 16:43 ` [PATCH 3/5] repo_read_index: clear SKIP_WORKTREE bit from files present in worktree Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-13 16:43 ` [PATCH 4/5] Update documentation related to sparsity and the skip-worktree bit Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-13 16:43 ` [PATCH 5/5] Accelerate clear_skip_worktree_from_present_files() by caching Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-13 23:35   ` Elijah Newren
2022-01-14 15:59 ` [PATCH v2 0/5] Remove the present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE class of bugs (for sparse-checkouts) Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-14 15:59   ` [PATCH v2 1/5] t1011: add testcase demonstrating accidental loss of user modifications Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-02-16  8:51     ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2022-02-16 16:02       ` Elijah Newren
2022-01-14 15:59   ` [PATCH v2 2/5] unpack-trees: fix accidental loss of user changes Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-14 15:59   ` Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget [this message]
2022-02-16  8:57     ` [PATCH v2 3/5] repo_read_index: clear SKIP_WORKTREE bit from files present in worktree Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2022-02-16 16:08       ` Elijah Newren
2022-02-19  1:06     ` Jonathan Nieder
2022-02-19 16:42       ` Elijah Newren
2022-02-19 18:14         ` Jonathan Nieder
2022-02-20  5:28           ` Elijah Newren
2022-02-20 16:56       ` Derrick Stolee
2022-02-22 23:17         ` Jonathan Nieder
2022-01-14 15:59   ` [PATCH v2 4/5] Update documentation related to sparsity and the skip-worktree bit Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-02-16  9:15     ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2022-02-16 16:21       ` Elijah Newren
2022-01-14 15:59   ` [PATCH v2 5/5] Accelerate clear_skip_worktree_from_present_files() by caching Elijah Newren via GitGitGadget
2022-01-15  1:39     ` Victoria Dye
2022-02-16  9:32     ` Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason
2022-02-16 16:30       ` Elijah Newren
2022-02-17  4:40         ` Elijah Newren
2022-01-15  1:51   ` [PATCH v2 0/5] Remove the present-despite-SKIP_WORKTREE class of bugs (for sparse-checkouts) Victoria Dye

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