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Sparse Patterns v2 redesign

Authors: Daniel Ploch

Summary: This Document documents a redesign of the sparse command and it's internal storage format in jj, in order to facilitate several desirable improvements for large repos. It covers both the migration path and the planned end state.


Redesign Sparse Patterns to accommodate more advanced features for native and custom implementations. This includes three main goals:

  1. Sparse Patterns should be versioned with the working copy
  2. Sparse Patterns should support more flexible matching rules
  3. Sparse Patterns should support client path remapping

Current State (as of jj 0.13.0)

Sparse patterns are an effectively unordered list of prefix strings:


The set of files identified by the Sparse Patterns is all paths which match any provided prefix. This governs what gets materialized in the working copy on checkout, and what is updated on snapshot. The set is stored in working copy state files which are not versioned in the Op Store.

Because all paths are bare strings with no escaping or higher-level formatting, the current design makes it difficult to add new features like exclusions or path remappings.

Proposed State (Sparse Patterns v2)

Sparse Patterns v2 will be stored as objects in the Op Store, referenced by a WorkingCopyPatternsId from the active View. They will have a new, ordered structure which can fully represent previous patterns.

/// Analogues of RepoPath, specifically describing paths in the working copy.
struct WorkingCopyPathBuf {
struct WorkingCopyPath {

pub enum SparsePatternsPathType {
    Dir,    // Everything under <path>/...
    Files,  // Files under <path>/*
    Exact,  // <path> exactly

pub struct SparsePatternsPath {
    path_type: SparsePatternsPathType,
    include: bool,  // True if included, false if excluded.
    path: RepoPathBuf,

pub struct WorkingCopyMapping {
    src_path: RepoPathBuf,
    dst_path: WorkingCopyPathBuf,
    recursive: bool,  // If false, only immediate children of src_path (files) are renamed.

pub struct WorkingCopyPatterns {
    sparse_paths: Vec<SparsePatternsPath>,
    mappings: Vec<WorkingCopyMapping>,

pub trait OpStore {
    pub fn read_working_copy_patterns(&self, id: &WorkingCopyPatternsId) -> OpStoreResult<WorkingCopyPatterns> { ... }
    pub fn write_working_copy_patterns(&self, sparse_patterns: &WorkingCopyPatterns) -> OpStoreResult<WorkingCopyPatternsId> { .. }

To support these more complex behaviors, a new WorkingCopyPatterns trait will be introduced, initially only as a thin wrapper around the existing prefix format, but soon to be expanded with richer types and functionality.

impl WorkingCopyPatterns {
    pub fn to_matcher(&self) -> Box<dyn Matcher> {


Command Syntax

SparsePatternsPath rules can be specified on the CLI and in an editor via a compact syntax:


If both prefix terms are omitted, then include:dir: is assumed. If any prefix is specified, both must be specified. The editor and CLI will both accept path rules in either format going forward.

  • jj sparse set --add foo/bar is equal to jj sparse set --add include:dir:foo/bar
  • jj sparse set --add exclude:dir:foo/bar adds a new Dir type rule with include = false
  • jj sparse set --exclude foo/bar as a possible shorthand for the above
  • jj sparse list will print the explicit rules

Paths will be stored in an ordered, canonical form which unambiguously describes the set of files to be included. Every --add command will append to the end of this list before the patterns are canonicalized. Whether a file is included is determined by the first matching rule in reverse order.

For example:


Produces rule set which includes "foo/file.txt", excludes "foo/bar/file.txt", includes "foo/bar/baz/file.txt", and excludes "foo/bar/baz/qux/file.txt".

If the rules are subtly re-ordered, they become canonicalized to a smaller, but functionally equivalent form:

# Before

# Canonicalized


There are many ways to represent functionally equivalent WorkingCopyPatterns. For instance, the following 4 rule sets are all functionally equivalent:

# Set 1

# Set 2

# Set 3

# Set 4

Because these patterns are stored in the Op Store now, it is useful for all of these representations to be rewritten into a minimal, canonical form before serialization. In this case, Set 1 will be the canonical set. The canonical form of a WorkingCopyPatterns is defined as the form such that:

  • Every rule affects the functionality (there are no redundant rules)
  • Rules are sorted lexicographically, but with '/' sorted before all else
    • This special sorting order is useful for constructing path tries

Working Copy Map

WARNING: This section is intentionally lacking, more research is needed.

All WorkingCopyPatterns will come equipped with a default no-op mapping. These mappings are inspired by and similar to Perforce client views.

vec![WorkingCopyMapping {
    src_path: RepoPathBuf::root(),
    dst_path: WorkingCopyPathBuf::root(),
    recursive: true,

WorkingCopyPatterns will provide an interface to map working copy paths into repo paths and vice versa. The `WorkingCopy`` trait will apply this mapping to all snapshot and checkout operations, and jj commands which accept relative paths will need to be updated to perform working copy path -> repo path translations as needed. It's not clear at this time which commands will need changing, as some are more likely to refer to repo paths rather than working copy paths.

TODO: Expand this section.

In particular, the path rules for sparse patterns will always be repo paths, not working copy paths. Thus, if the working copy wants to track "foo" and rename it to "subdir/bar", they must jj sparse set --add foo and jj map set --from foo --to bar. In other words, the mapping operation can be thought of as always after the sparse operation.

Command Syntax

New commands will enable editing of the WorkingCopyMappings:

TODO: Maybe this should be jj workspace map ...?

  • jj map list will print all mapping pairs.
  • jj map add --from foo --to bar will add a new mapping to the end of the list.
  • jj map remove --from foo will remove a specific mapping rule.
  • jj map edit will pull up a text editor for manual editing.

Like sparse paths, mappings will have a compact text syntax for editing in file form, or for adding a rule textually on the CLI:

"<from>" -> "<to>" [nonrecursive]

Like sparse paths, mapping rules are defined to apply in order and on any save operation will be modified to a minimal canonical form. Thus, jj map set --from "" --to "" will always completely wipe the map. The first matching rule in reverse list order determines how a particular repo path should be mapped into the working copy, and likewise how a particular working copy path should be mapped into the repo. For simplicity, the 'last rule wins' applies both for repo->WC conversions, as well as WC->repo conversions, using the same ordering.

If a working copy mapping places the same repo file at two distinct working copy paths, snapshotting will fail unless these files are identical. Some specialized filesystems may even treat these as the 'same' file, allowing this to work in some cases.

If a working copy mapping places two distinct repo files at the same working copy path, checkout will fail with an error regardless of equivalence.

Versioning and Storage

Updating the active WorkingCopyPatterns for a particular working copy will now take place in two separate steps: one transaction which updates the op store, and a separate LockedWorkingCopy operation which actually updates the working copy. The working copy proto will no longer store WorkingCopyPatterns directly, instead storing only a WorkingCopyPatternsId. On mismatch with the current op head, the user will be prompted to run jj workspace update-stale.

This gives the user the ability to update the active WorkingCopyPatterns whilst not interacting with the local working copy, which is useful for custom integrations which may not be able to check out particular working copy patterns due to problems with the backend (encoding, permission errors, etc.). A bad jj sparse set --add oops command can thus be undone, even via jj op undo if desired.

View Updates

The View object will be migrated to store working copy patterns via id. The indirection will save on storage since working copy patterns are not expected to change very frequently.

// Before:
pub wc_commit_ids: HashMap<WorkspaceId, CommitId>,

// After:
pub struct WorkingCopyInfo {
    pub commit_id: CommitId,
    pub wc_patterns_id: WorkingCopyPatternsId,
pub wc_info: HashMap<WorkspaceId, WorkingCopyInfo>,

A View object with no stored working copy patterns will be modified at read time to include the current working copy patterns, thus all read_view operations will need to pass in the current working copy patterns for a migration period of at least 6 months. After that, we may choose to auto-fill missing working copy infos with a default WorkingCopyPatterns as needed.


Perforce client maps are very similar in concept to the entirety of WorkingCopyPatterns, and this design aims to achieve similar functionality.

The Josh Project implements partial git clones in a way similar to how sparse patterns try to work.

Patterns via configuration

There may be some scenarios where it is valuable to configure working copy patterns via a configuration file, rather than through explicit commands. Generally this only makes sense for automated repos, with the configuration coming from outside the repo - there are too many caveats and edge cases if the configuration comes from inside the repo and/or is fought with by a human.

No configuration syntax is planned at this time but if we add any, we should probably reuse the compact line syntaxes as much as possible for consistency.