This page is primarily intended for developers of Mercurial.


The hub for summing up issue with Feature branches and pointing at possible solution.

1. Problem Statement

The Mercurial community has been struggling for years to define a nice way to handle 'topic' branches (sometimes also called 'feature' branches), especially when it comes to sharing them with other people (mainly for code review or other collaboration.)

Bookmarks are a clone of git's refs, which seems to work more poorly in Mercurial than they do in Git, in part because the synchronization parts of bookmarks aren't really done. Adding the remaining bits of git's refs to Mercurial has been controversial, and may represent enough of a behavior change that it's infeasible.

Named branches are visible forever in the revision history, which makes them unsuitable for feature branch work as the feature branch names rapidly pollute the output of things like hg branches.

1.1. Goals

We need a solution that solve the handling of "in progress" changesets. This solution should provide

1.2. Challenge

The main challenges to get such a feature right are:

- Life cycle:

- Distributed:

- Clearly defined set of changes:

A topic for a change can't be derived from "its topological branch"+"a bookmark" because sometimes topics will share a root, and sometimes exploring multiple solutions leads to multiple heads on a topic. It can also be confusing when a topic is rebased.]

- Anonymous branching:

- name conflict handling:

- Tracking/Target:

- Handling large number of feature branch:

Having large team collaborating together can lead to very large to feature branch at the same time. Having a way to only see/interract with the one relevant becomes necessary. This is not entirely in the scope of this discussion but closely related.

1.3. Leads for solution

1.4. Current shortcomings of bookmarks

This plan is not meant as "bookmarks are doomed, lets do something else." The idea here is more driven by "we have some long standing issues with bookmarks, lets think again from scratch and see what emerges." We'll reconcile topics with bookmarks at a later date, once we know what we want. It's entirely possible that bookmarks can grow bits of new functionality and become topics.

There is currently an experimentation around the idea of "remote bookmarks" [TODO(augie): link to a remote bookmarks wiki page] and wider workflow changes, it will be "evaluated" independently. (it's a wiki, please feel free to update the content of this section)




Life cycle






defined set



partial exch












The lifecycle of bookmarks is problematic because we still have not figured out a good way to handle deletion and renaming. Once in the wild, it is very hard to get rid of a feature related bookmark. [augie and marmoute are not sure if remote-bookmarks improves that.]

Bookmark behavior in the distributed area is okay-ish for the in-core bookmark. The current behavior on pull works in a distributed way: it will exchange any bookmark along with the matching changeset. Behavior on push is problematic as the local bookmark may not be pushed (Mercurial may warn about it, but this is not reliable.)

[TODO(marmoute): work with augie to clarify this sentence] The 'remote-boomarks' change is more problematic in this aspect as remote name are not propagated so changesets can get exchanged without there topic information.

tracking is not covered at all by current core version. It is introduced with 'remote-bookmark' but only covers rebase. Additionally, the UI to configure and observe tracking is unclear to [marmoute] yet.

A bookmark can implicitly define a set of revisions since everything 'only' under that bookmark it can be considered in the topic. This has issues:

Because they refer to a single changeset at the top of the stack, bookmark are bad at partial exchange. It is often practical to push or to pull only a part of the topic because the rest is not ready yet. Because the bookmark have no "start" the shared changesets are pulled anonymously in this case.

For the same reason (referring to a single revision), bookmarks do not allow for experimental branches within a topic label.

Divergent bookmarks provide a solution for conflict. However it does not handle rewinding a bookmark or deletion/recreation cycles.

1.5. See Also

* Long Gregory Szorc email about MQ usage at Mozilla *

CategoryDeveloper and CategoryNewFeatures

FeatureBranchesStruggle (last edited 2017-06-19 17:48:45 by Pierre-YvesDavid)