Fossil File Formats
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Fossil File Formats

The global state of a fossil repository is kept simple so that it can endure in useful form for decades or centuries. A fossil repository is intended to be readable, searchable, and extensible by people not yet born.

The global state of a fossil repository is an unordered set of artifacts. An artifact might be a source code file, the text of a wiki page, part of a trouble ticket, or one of several special control artifacts used to show the relationships between other artifacts within the project. Each artifact is normally represented on disk as a separate file. Artifacts can be text or binary.

In addition to the global state, each fossil repository also contains local state. The local state consists of web-page formatting preferences, authorized users, ticket display and reporting formats, and so forth. The global state is shared in common among all repositories for the same project, whereas the local state is often different in separate repositories. The local state is not versioned and is not synchronized with the global state. The local state is not composed of artifacts and is not intended to be enduring. This document is concerned with global state only. Local state is only mentioned here in order to distinguish it from global state.

Each artifact in the repository is named by its SHA1 hash. No prefixes or meta information is added to an artifact before its hash is computed. The name of an artifact in the repository is exactly the same SHA1 hash that is computed by sha1sum on the file as it exists in your source tree.

Some artifacts have a particular format which gives them special meaning to fossil. Fossil recognizes:

These seven artifact types are described in the following sections.

In the current implementation (as of 2009-01-25) the artifacts that make up a fossil repository are stored in in as delta- and zlib-compressed blobs in an SQLite database. This is an implementation detail and might change in a future release. For the purpose of this article "file format" means the format of the artifacts, not how the artifacts are stored on disk. It is the artifact format that is intended to be enduring. The specifics of how artifacts are stored on disk, though stable, is not intended to live as long as the artifact format.

All of the artifacts can be extracted from a Fossil repository using the "fossil deconstruct" command.

1.0 The Manifest

A manifest defines a check-in or version of the project source tree. The manifest contains a list of artifacts for each file in the project and the corresponding filenames, as well as information such as parent check-ins, the name of the programmer who created the check-in, the date and time when the check-in was created, and any check-in comments associated with the check-in.

Any artifact in the repository that follows the syntactic rules of a manifest is a manifest. Note that a manifest can be both a real manifest and also a content file, though this is rare.

A manifest is a text file. Newline characters (ASCII 0x0a) separate the file into "cards". Each card begins with a single character "card type". Zero or more arguments may follow the card type. All arguments are separated from each other and from the card-type character by a single space character. There is no surplus white space between arguments and no leading or trailing whitespace except for the newline character that acts as the card separator.

All cards of the manifest occur in strict sorted lexicographical order. No card may be duplicated. The entire manifest may be PGP clear-signed, but otherwise it may contain no additional text or data beyond what is described here.

Allowed cards in the manifest are as follows:

B baseline-manifest
C checkin-comment
D time-and-date-stamp
F filename ?SHA1-hash? ?permissions? ?old-name?
N mimetype
P SHA1-hash+
Q (+|-)SHA1-hash ?SHA1-hash?
R repository-checksum
T (+|-|*)tag-name * ?value?
U user-login
Z manifest-checksum

A manifest may optionally have a single B-card. The B-card specifies another manifest that serves as the "baseline" for this manifest. A manifest that has a B-card is called a delta-manifest and a manifest that omits the B-card is a baseline-manifest. The other manifest identified by the argument of the B-card must be a baseline-manifest. A baseline-manifest records the complete contents of a checkin. A delta-manifest records only changes from its baseline.

A manifest must have exactly one C-card. The sole argument to the C-card is a check-in comment that describes the check-in that the manifest defines. The check-in comment is text. The following escape sequences are applied to the text: A space (ASCII 0x20) is represented as "\s" (ASCII 0x5C, 0x73). A newline (ASCII 0x0a) is "\n" (ASCII 0x5C, x6E). A backslash (ASCII 0x5C) is represented as two backslashes "\\". Apart from space and newline, no other whitespace characters are allowed in the check-in comment. Nor are any unprintable characters allowed in the comment.

A manifest must have exactly one D-card. The sole argument to the D-card is a date-time stamp in the ISO8601 format. The date and time should be in coordinated universal time (UTC). The format one of:

YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS
YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS.SSS

A manifest has zero or more F-cards. Each F-card identifies a file that is part of the check-in. There are one, two, three, or four arguments. The first argument is the pathname of the file in the check-in relative to the root of the project file hierarchy. No ".." or "." directories are allowed within the filename. Space characters are escaped as in C-card comment text. Backslash characters and newlines are not allowed within filenames. The directory separator character is a forward slash (ASCII 0x2F). The second argument to the F-card is the full 40-character lower-case hexadecimal SHA1 hash of the content artifact. The second argument is required for baseline manifests but is optional for delta manifests. When the second argument to the F-card is omitted, it means that the file has been deleted relative to the baseline (files removed in baseline manifests versions are not added as F-cards). The optional 3rd argument defines any special access permissions associated with the file. This can be defined as "x" to mean that the file is executable or "l" (small letter ell) to mean a symlink. All files are always readable and writable. This can be expressed by "w" permission if desired but is optional. The file format might be extended with new permission letters in the future. The optional 4th argument is the name of the same file as it existed in the parent check-in. If the name of the file is unchanged from its parent, then the 4th argument is omitted.

A manifest has zero or one N-cards. The N-card specifies the mimetype for the text in the comment of the C-card. If the N-card is omitted, a default mimetype is used.

A manifest has zero or one P-cards. Most manifests have one P-card. The P-card has a varying number of arguments that defines other manifests from which the current manifest is derived. Each argument is an 40-character lowercase hexadecimal SHA1 of the predecessor manifest. All arguments to the P-card must be unique to that line. The first predecessor is the direct ancestor of the manifest. Other arguments define manifests with which the first was merged to yield the current manifest. Most manifests have a P-card with a single argument. The first manifest in the project has no ancestors and thus has no P-card.

A manifest has zero or more Q-cards. A Q-card is similar to a P-card in that it defines a predecessor to the current check-in. But whereas a P-card defines the immediate ancestor or a merge ancestor, the Q-card is used to identify a single check-in or a small range of check-ins which were cherry-picked for inclusion in or exclusion from the current manifest. The first argument of the Q-card is the artifact ID of another manifest (the "target") which has had its changes included or excluded in the current manifest. The target is preceeded by "+" or "-" to show inclusion or exclusion, respectively. The optional second argument to the Q-card is another manifest artifact ID which is the "baseline" for the cherry-pick. If omitted, the baseline is the primary parent of the target. The changes included or excluded consist of all changes moving from the baseline to the target.

The Q-card was added to the interface specification on 2011-02-26. Older versions of Fossil will reject manifests that contain Q-cards.

A manifest may optionally have a single R-card. The R-card has a single argument which is the MD5 checksum of all files in the check-in except the manifest itself. The checksum is expressed as 32-characters of lowercase hexadecimal. The checksum is computed as follows: For each file in the check-in (except for the manifest itself) in strict sorted lexicographical order, take the pathname of the file relative to the root of the repository, append a single space (ASCII 0x20), the size of the file in ASCII decimal, a single newline character (ASCII 0x0A), and the complete text of the file. Compute the MD5 checksum of the result.

A manifest might contain one or more T-cards used to set tags or properties on the check-in. The format of the T-card is the same as described in Control Artifacts section below, except that the second argument is the single character "*" instead of an artifact ID. The * in place of the artifact ID indicates that the tag or property applies to the current artifact. It is not possible to encode the current artifact ID as part of an artifact, since the act of inserting the artifact ID would change the artifact ID, hence a * is used to represent "self". T-cards are typically added to manifests in order to set the branch property and a symbolic name when the check-in is intended to start a new branch.

Each manifest has a single U-card. The argument to the U-card is the login of the user who created the manifest. The login name is encoded using the same character escapes as is used for the check-in comment argument to the C-card.

A manifest must have a single Z-card as its last line. The argument to the Z-card is a 32-character lowercase hexadecimal MD5 hash of all prior lines of the manifest up to and including the newline character that immediately precedes the "Z". The Z-card is a sanity check to prove that the manifest is well-formed and consistent.

A sample manifest from Fossil itself can be seen here.

2.0 Clusters

A cluster is an artifact that declares the existence of other artifacts. Clusters are used during repository synchronization to help reduce network traffic. As such, clusters are an optimization and may be removed from a repository without loss or damage to the underlying project code.

Clusters follow a syntax that is very similar to manifests. A Cluster is a line-oriented text file. Newline characters (ASCII 0x0a) separate the artifact into cards. Each card begins with a single character "card type". Zero or more arguments may follow the card type. All arguments are separated from each other and from the card-type character by a single space character. There is no surplus white space between arguments and no leading or trailing whitespace except for the newline character that acts as the card separator. All cards of a cluster occur in strict sorted lexicographical order. No card may be duplicated. The cluster may not contain additional text or data beyond what is described here. Unlike manifests, clusters are never PGP signed.

Allowed cards in the cluster are as follows:

M artifact-id
Z checksum

A cluster contains one or more "M" cards followed by a single "Z" line. Each M card has a single argument which is the artifact ID of another artifact in the repository. The Z card work exactly like the Z card of a manifest. The argument to the Z card is the lower-case hexadecimal representation of the MD5 checksum of all prior cards in the cluster. The Z-card is required.

An example cluster from Fossil can be seen here.

3.0 Control Artifacts

Control artifacts are used to assign properties to other artifacts within the repository. The basic format of a control artifact is the same as a manifest or cluster. A control artifact is a text file divided into cards by newline characters. Each card has a single-character card type followed by arguments. Spaces separate the card type and the arguments. No surplus whitespace is allowed. All cards must occur in strict lexicographical order.

Allowed cards in a control artifact are as follows:

D time-and-date-stamp
T (+|-|*)tag-name artifact-id ?value?
U user-name
Z checksum

A control artifact must have one D card, one U card, one Z card and one or more T cards. No other cards or other text is allowed in a control artifact. Control artifacts might be PGP clearsigned.

The D card and the Z card of a control artifact are the same as in a manifest.

The T card represents a tag or property that is applied to some other artifact. The T card has two or three values. The second argument is the 40 character lowercase artifact ID of the artifact to which the tag is to be applied. The first value is the tag name. The first character of the tag is either "+", "-", or "*". The "+" means the tag should be added to the artifact. The "-" means the tag should be removed. The "*" character means the tag should be added to the artifact and all direct descendants (but not descendents through a merge) down to but not including the first descendant that contains a more recent "-" or "+" tag with the same name. The optional third argument is the value of the tag. A tag without a value is a boolean.

When two or more tags with the same name are applied to the same artifact, the tag with the latest (most recent) date is used.

Some tags have special meaning. The "comment" tag when applied to a check-in will override the check-in comment of that check-in for display purposes. The "user" tag overrides the name of the check-in user. The "date" tag overrides the check-in date. The "branch" tag sets the name of the branch that at check-in belongs to. Symbolic tags begin with the "sym-" prefix.

The U card is the name of the user that created the control artifact. The Z card is the usual required artifact checksum.

An example control artifacts can be seen here.

4.0 Wiki Pages

A wiki page is an artifact with a format similar to manifests, clusters, and control artifacts. The artifact is divided into cards by newline characters. The format of each card is as in manifests, clusters, and control artifacts. Wiki artifacts accept the following card types:

D time-and-date-stamp
L wiki-title
N mimetype
P parent-artifact-id+
U user-name
W size \n text \n
Z checksum

The D card is the date and time when the wiki page was edited. The P card specifies the parent wiki pages, if any. The L card gives the name of the wiki page. The optional N card specifies the mimetype of the wiki text. If the N card is omitted, the mimetype is assumed to be text/x-fossil-wiki. The U card specifies the login of the user who made this edit to the wiki page. The Z card is the usual checksum over the either artifact and is required.

The W card is used to specify the text of the wiki page. The argument to the W card is an integer which is the number of bytes of text in the wiki page. That text follows the newline character that terminates the W card. The wiki text is always followed by one extra newline.

An example wiki artifact can be seen here.

5.0 Ticket Changes

A ticket-change artifact represents a change to a trouble ticket. The following cards are allowed on a ticket change artifact:

D time-and-date-stamp
J ?+?name ?value?
K ticket-id
U user-name
Z checksum

The D card is the usual date and time stamp and represents the point in time when the change was entered. The U card is the login of the programmer who entered this change. The Z card is the required checksum over the entire artifact.

Every ticket has a distinct ticket-id: 40-character lower-case hexadecimal number. The ticket-id is given in the K-card. A ticket exists if it contains one or more changes. The first "change" to a ticket is what brings the ticket into existence.

J cards specify changes to the "value" of "fields" in the ticket. If the value parameter of the J card is omitted, then the field is set to an empty string. Each fossil server has a ticket configuration which specifies the fields its understands. The ticket configuration is part of the local state for the repository and thus can vary from one repository to another. Hence a J card might specify a field that do not exist in the local ticket configuration. If a J card specifies a field that is not in the local configuration, then that J card is simply ignored.

The first argument of the J card is the field name. The second value is the field value. If the field name begins with "+" then the value is appended to the prior value. Otherwise, the value on the J card replaces any previous value of the field. The field name and value are both encoded using the character escapes defined for the C card of a manifest.

An example ticket-change artifact can be seen here.

6.0 Attachments

An attachment artifact associates some other artifact that is the attachment (the source artifact) with a ticket or wiki page or event to which the attachment is connected (the target artifact). The following cards are allowed on an attachment artifact:

A filename target ?source?
C comment
D time-and-date-stamp
N mimetype
U user-name
Z checksum

The A card specifies a filename for the attachment in its first argument. The second argument to the A card is the name of the wiki page or ticket or event to which the attachment is connected. The third argument is either missing or else it is the 40-character artifact ID of the attachment itself. A missing third argument means that the attachment should be deleted.

The C card is an optional comment describing what the attachment is about. The C card is optional, but there can only be one.

A single D card is required to give the date and time when the attachment was applied.

There may be zero or one N cards. The N card specifies the mimetype of the comment text provided in the C card. If the N card is omitted, the C card mimetype is taken to be text/plain.

A single U card gives the name of the user to added the attachment. If an attachment is added anonymously, then the U card may be omitted.

The Z card is the usual checksum over the rest of the attachment artifact. The Z card is required.

7.0 Events

An event artifact associates a timeline comment and a page of text (similar to a wiki page) with a point in time. Events can be used to record project milestones, release notes, blog entries, process checkpoints, or news articles. The following cards are allowed on an event artifact:

C comment
D time-and-date-stamp
E event-time event-id
N mimetype
P parent-artifact-id+
T +tag-name * ?value?
U user-name
W size \n text \n
Z checksum

The C card contains text that is displayed on the timeline for the event. The C card is optional, but there can only be one.

A single D card is required to give the date and time when the event artifact was created. This is different from the time at which the event occurs.

A single E card gives the time of the event (the point on the timeline where the event is displayed) and a unique identifier for the event. When there are multiple artifacts with the same event-id, the one with the most recent D card is the only one used. The event-id must be a 40-character lower-case hexadecimal string.

The optional N card specifies the mimetype of the text of the event that is contained in the W card. If the N card is omitted, then the W card text mimetype is assumed to be text/x-fossil, which is the Fossil wiki format.

The optional P card specifies a prior event with the same event-id from which the current event is an edit. The P card is a hint to the system that it might be space efficient to store one event as a delta of the other.

An event might contain one or more T-cards used to set tags or properties on the event. The format of the T-card is the same as described in Control Artifacts section above, except that the second argument is the single character "*" instead of an artifact ID and the name is always prefaced by "+". The * in place of the artifact ID indicates that the tag or property applies to the current artifact. It is not possible to encode the current artifact ID as part of an artifact, since the act of inserting the artifact ID would change the artifact ID, hence a * is used to represent "self". The "+" on the name means that tags can only be add and they can only be non-propagating tags. A an event, T cards are normally used to set the background display color for timelines.

The optional U card gives name of the user who entered the event.

A single W card provides wiki text for the document associated with the event. The format of the W card is exactly the same as for a wiki artifact.

The Z card is the required checksum over the rest of the artifact.

8.0 Card Summary

The following table summarizes the various kinds of cards that appear on Fossil artifacts. A blank entry means that combination of card and artifact is not legal. A number or range of numbers indicates the number of times a card may (or must) appear in the corresponding artifact type. e.g. a value of 1 indicates a required unique card and 1+ indicates that one or more such cards are required.

Card Format

Used By
Manifest Cluster Control Wiki Ticket Attachment Event
A filename target ?source?           1  
B baseline 0-1*            
 * = Required for delta manifests
C comment-text 1         0-1 0-1
D date-time-stamp 1   1 1 1 1 1
E event-time event-id             1
F filename ?uuid? ?permissions? ?oldname? 0+            
J name ?value?         1+    
K ticket-uuid         1    
L wiki-title       1      
M uuid   1+          
N mimetype 0-1     0-1   0-1 0-1
P uuid ... 0-1     0-1     0-1
Q (+|-)uuid ?uuid? 0+            
R md5sum 0-1            
T (+|*|-)tagname uuid ?value? 0+   1+       0+
U username 1   1 1 1 0-1 0-1
W size       1     1
Z md5sum 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

9.0 Addenda

This section contains additional information which may be useful when implementing algorithms described above.

R Card Hash Calculation

Given a manifest file named MF, the following Bash shell code demonstrates how to compute the value of the R card in that manifest. This example uses manifest 28987096ac. Lines starting with # are shell input and other lines are output. This demonstration assumes that the file versions represented by the input manifest are checked out under the current directory.

# head MF
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

C Make\sthe\s"clearsign"\sPGP\ssigning\sdefault\sto\soff.
D 2010-02-23T15:33:14
F BUILD.txt 4f7988767e4e48b29f7eddd0e2cdea4555b9161c
F COPYRIGHT-GPL2.txt 06877624ea5c77efe3b7e39b0f909eda6e25a4ec
...

# grep '^R ' MF
R c0788982781981c96a0d81465fec7192

# for i in $(awk '/^F /{print $2}' MF); do \
  echo $i $(stat -c '%s' $i); \
  cat $i; \
done | md5sum
c0788982781981c96a0d81465fec7192  -

Minor caveats: the above demonstration will work only when none of the filenames in the manifest are "fossilized" (encoded) because they contain spaces. In that case the shell-generated hash would differ because the stat calls will fail to find such files (which are output in encoded form here). That approach also won't work for delta manifests. Calculating the R-card for delta manifests requires traversing both the delta and its baseline in lexical order of the files, preferring the delta's copy if both contain a given file.