Fossil Quick Start Guide

Fossil Quick Start Guide

Fossil Quick Start

This is a guide to get you started using fossil quickly and painlessly.


Fossil is a single self-contained C program. You need to either download a precompiled binary or build it yourself from sources. Install fossil by putting the fossil binary someplace on your PATH environment variable.

Cloning An Existing Repository

Most fossil operations interact with a repository that is on the local disk drive, not on a remote system. Hence, before accessing a remote repository it is necessary to make a local copy of that repository. Making a local copy of a remote repository is called "cloning".

Clone a remote repository as follows:

fossil clone URL repository-filename

The URL above is the http URL for the fossil repository you want to clone, and it may include a "user:password" part, e.g. You can call the new repository anything you want - there are no naming restrictions. As an example, you can clone the fossil repository this way:

fossil clone myclone.fossil

The new local copy of the respository is stored in a single file, which in the example above is named "myclone.fossil". You can name your repositories anything you want. The ".fossil" suffix is not required.

Note: If you are behind a restrictive firewall, you might need to specify an HTTP proxy to use.

Starting A New Project

To start a new project with fossil, create a new empty repository this way:

fossil new repository-filename

Configuring Your Local Repository

When you create a new repository, either by cloning an existing project or create a new project of your own, you usually want to do some local configuration. This is easily accomplished using the webserver that is built into fossil. Start the fossil webserver like this:

fossil ui repository-filename

This starts a webserver listening on port 8080. You can specify a different port using the -port option on the command-line. After the server is running, fossil will then attempt to launch your web browser and make it point to this web server. If your system has an unusual configuration, fossil might not be able to figure out how to start your web browser. In that case, start the web browser yourself and point it at http://localhost:8080/. Click on the "Admin" link on the menu bar to start configuring your repository.

By default, fossil does not require a login for HTTP connections coming in from the IP loopback address You can, and perhaps should, change this after you create a few users.

When you are finished configuring, just press Control-C or use the kill command to shut down the mini-server.

Checking Out A Local Tree

To work on a project in fossil, you need to check out a local copy of the source tree. Create the directory you want to be the root of your tree and cd into that directory. Then do this:

fossil open repository-filename

This leaves you with the newest version of the tree checked out. From anywhere underneath the root of your local tree, you can type commands like the following to find out the status of your local tree:

fossil info
fossil status
fossil changes
fossil timeline
fossil leaves
fossil ls
fossil branch list

Making Changes

To add new files to your project, or remove old files, use these commands:

fossil add file...
fossil rm file...

You can also edit files freely. Once you are ready to commit your changes, type:

fossil commit

You will be prompted for check-in comments using whatever editor is specified by your VISUAL or EDITOR environment variable. If you have GPG installed, you may be prompted for your GPG passphrase so that the check-in can be signed with your GPG signature. After this your changes will be checked in.

Sharing Changes

The changes you commit are only on your local repository. To share those changes with other repositories, do:

fossil push URL

Where URL is the http: URL of the server repository you want to share your changes with. If you omit the URL argument, fossil will use whatever server you most recently synced with.

The push command only sends your changes to others. To Receive changes from others, use pull. Or go both ways at once using sync:

fossil pull URL
fossil sync URL

When you pull in changes from others, they go into your repository, not into your checked-out local tree. To get the changes into your local tree, use update:

fossil update AID

The AID is some unique abbreviation to the 40-character artifact identifier (AID) for a particular check-in. If you omit the AID fossil moves you to the leaf version of the branch your are currently on. If your branch has multiple leaves, you get an error - you'll have to specify the leaf you want using a AID argument.

Branching And Merging

You can create branches by doing multiple commits off of the same base version. To merge to branches back together, first update to the leaf of one branch. Then do a merge of the leaf of the other branch:

fossil merge AID

Test to make sure your merge didn't mess up the code, then commit and possibly also push your changes. Remember that nobody else can see your changes until you commit and if other are using a different repository you will also need to push.

Setting Up A Server

The easiest way to set up a server is:

fossil server repository-filename


fossil ui repository-filename

The difference between these two command is that ui attempts to automatically start your web browser pointing at the server whereas server does not. You can omit the repository-filename if you are within a checked-out local tree. This server uses port 8080 by default but you can specify a different port using the -port command.

Command-line servers like this are useful when two people want to share a repository on temporary or ad-hoc basis. For a more permanent installation, you should use either the CGI server or the inetd server. To use the CGI server, create a CGI script that looks something like this:

repository: /home/proj1/repos1.fossil

Adjust the paths in this CGI script to match your installation and make sure both repository file and the directory that contains it are readable and writable by the user that CGI scripts run as. Then point clients at the CGI script. That's all there is to it!

You can also run fossil from inetd or xinetd. For an inetd installation, make an entry in /etc/inetd.conf that looks something like this:

80 stream tcp nowait.1000 root /usr/bin/fossil \
/usr/bin/fossil http /home/proj1/repos1.fossil

Adjust the paths to suit your installation, of course. Notice that fossil runs as root. This is not required - you can run it as an unprivileged user. But it is more secure to run fossil as root. When you do run fossil as root, it automatically puts itself in a chroot jail in the same directory as the repository, then drops root privileges prior to reading any information from the request.

HTTP Proxies

If you are behind a restrictive firewall that requires you to use an HTTP proxy to reach the internet, then you can configure the proxy in three different ways. You can tell fossil about your proxy using a command-line option on commands that use the network, sync, clone, push, and pull.

fossil clone URL --proxy Proxy-URL

It is annoying to have to type in the proxy URL every time you sync your project, though, so you can make the proxy configuration persistent using the setting command:

fossil setting proxy Proxy-URL

Or, you can set the "http_proxy" environment variable:

export http_proxy=Proxy-URL

To stop using the proxy, do:

fossil setting proxy off

Or unset the environment variable. The fossil setting for the HTTP proxy takes precedence over the environment variable and the command-line option overrides both. If you have an persistent proxy setting that you want to override for a one-time sync, that is easily done on the command-line. For example, to sync with a co-workers repository on your LAN, you might type:

fossil sync --proxy off

More Hints

Try these commands:

fossil help
fossil test-commands

Explore and have fun!