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HowTo use git and the gitlab server

This page is intended as a quick reference to git and its integration with the Abinit project. If you are not familiar with git, we would strongly advise to watch this tutorial:

For further information about git, please consult the official documentation.


To access the online help for COMMAND, use:

git COMMAND --help

See also this page with the most commonly used git tips and tricks

In the next sections, we explain how to configure git to interoperate with our ABINIT gitlab server. It is assumed you already have an account on our internal gitlab server. Note that having an account on or is not enough since we run our own server (you need to contact Jean-Michel Beuken to have an account created for you).

Initial configuration

If this is the very first time you use git, please set the following global parameters before doing anything else:

mkdir -p $HOME/.config/git
git config --global "Firstname Lastname"
git config --global "someone@someserver.somedomain"
git config --global core.editor "my_preferred_editor"
git config --global core.excludesFile "$HOME/.config/git/ignore"
git config --global color.ui "auto"
git config --global merge.conflictstyle "diff3"

Replace Firstname, Lastname, someone@someserver.somedomain, and my_preferred_editor, by your respective first name, last name, email address, and preferred editor.

To be able to push your contributions to the Abinit Forge, you need to add the following section to your ~/.ssh/config file

Host abinit-forge
    User git
    ServerAliveInterval 52
    Compression yes

so that one can use the abinit-forge hostname to clone, pull, and push to your repository.

For further info, please consult the official documention

To clone your repository, execute:

git clone abinit-forge:DEVELOPER/abinit

where DEVELOPER must be replaced by your Abinit Forge login.

In order to avoid typing your password every time you issue a command that accesses gitlab, you have to introduce your public keys in your profile. See On your local machine, generate a RSA ssh key WITHOUT passphrase:

ssh-keygen -t rsa

and call it id_rsa_gitlab. Then add a section in the ~/.ssh/config file:

host gitlab
  User git
  KeepAlive yes
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_gitlab

Finally, copy the public key on gitlab. Now, you can use (on your local machine) the following syntax:

git clone gitlab:user_id/abinit.git

instead of:

git clone

To be sure the key is proposed each time git calls ssh, you can use ssh-agent:

ssh-agent # this starts the agent, and provides the process id
# execute the 3 lines of commands that ssh-agent proposes, e.g.
SSH_AUTH_SOCK=/tmp/ssh-ngsERHER3K1HS/agent.15589; export SSH_AUTH_SOCK;
echo Agent pid 15590;
ssh add ~/.ssh/id_rsa_gitlab # add the corresponding ssh key for gitlab

Every developer has his/her specific gitlab user_id e.g. gonze. An additional virtual developer, called trunk, is also defined. You have by default a master branch and a develop branch in your repo, but it is also possible to create and work in other branches.

To clone from the gitlab repository to your local repository, the recommended command is:

git clone gitlab:user_id/abinit.git -b develop

where user_id is to be replaced by the adequate name. Additional explanation: the normal clone command from the gitlab repository to his/her gitlab repository on his/her local machine is:

git clone

However, with the proper SSH environment, the following clone command can be used:

git clone gitlab:user_id/abinit.git

This will clone the master, while the usual working branch is the develop branch, that can be obtained directly with the above-mentioned command. After some modifications, using the git commands (e.g. git add, git commit …), you can push on the gitlab server thanks to:

git push  # Add --tags to push tags.

In order for the modifications to be merged in the trunk, a merge request (MR) has to be issued, as described later. The same might be done for other branches, created from the local develop one, using:

git branch another_branch
git checkout another_branch

For pushing, the first time, use:

git push -u origin another_branch

You are able to create your own additional branches, either locally or on gitlab. The name is your own choice.


Note that, according to the gitflow branching model, the master branch will be of little use for the physical developers (including you) while the develop and release-* branches will be quite important for normal developments. In a nutshell, new developments are always merged in trunk/develop while trunk/master contains the stable version. Finally, release- branches are mainly used for bug fixes and minor changes that should be included in the next release.

Git branches

In the ABINIT + git workflow:

  • In order to be merged in the trunk, the branch has to be on-track, as explained later
  • You have to issue a “merge request” on gitlab (usually to trunk/develop).
  • By default, all branches pushed on gitlab might be tested on-demand by the user.
  • Only branches that are on-track and that have succeeded (or passed) all the automatic tests are considered for merge (as was the case previously).

The develop branch corresponds to the development stage. The release- branches corresponds to release candidates or hotfix branches. It is slightly simpler than the gitflow naming scheme.


In the git philosophy, branches are often created, then merged, then destroyed. Developers are encouraged to take advantage of this flexibility.

How to trigger the action of buildbot? (On-demand)

The developer has to use the on-demand form on the ABINIT buildbot portal The authentification is made with the gitlab login/password. One important feature has to be taken into account: with git, each commit is characterized by a SHA-1 code (40 hexadecimal characters). The four first characters actually define the commit with 1 combination out of 65536 4-character combinations, while the five first characters define the commit with 1 combination out of 1048576 5-character combinations. Gitlab knows the repository of the different users, the existing branches, as well as the SHA-1 code of each commit. The three following fields must be defined by the developer for buildbot to know which is the revision of ABINIT to be run:

  • “User” : choose one of the existing User_ID from the menu. Default value: user_id.
  • “Branch” : choose one of the existing User_ID from the menu. Default value: develop.
  • “Commit” : the developer can enter a free text with the first hexadecimal characters of the SHA-1 code of the commit (in case different commits of the user on the branch have the same first characters, the last commit will be taken by buildbot). Default value: the last commit of User/Branch.

What is an on-track branch?

For a branch to be on-track, a specific commit must be contained in the history of the branch. This specific commit will be created in trunk/develop and corresponds to the release of a new version (not necessarly a public version). For a release- branch to be on-track, not only a specific commit must be contained in the past history of the branch, but also the commit that starts the next development version cannot be present. Only one among the release- branches is on-track at any time.


As an example, suppose we were on ABINIT v8.9.x, and want to start preparing a release 8.10.0 (for production) and a new v8.11.0 (for development):

  • a branch entitled release-8.10.0 will be forked from the develop branch
  • after this branching, the first commit in the release-8.10.0 branch will be tagged start-8.10.0, while the first commit in the develop branch will be tagged start-8.11.0,
  • for a develop branch to be considered on-track (and eligible for a merge request), the commit tagged start-8.11.0 will have to be present;
  • for a release-8.10.0 branch to be considered on-track (and eligible for a merge request), the commit tagged start-8.10.0 will have to be present, while it will be forbidden to contain the commit tagged start-8.11.0 .

In complement to the start of a X.Y.Z version being tagged as “start-X.Y.Z”, the commit that ends some X.Y.Z version of ABINIT will be tagged “X.Y.Z”.

What is shown in the Buildbot Status table?

The Buildbot Status table shows a summary of the recent results obtained by the test farm for alll active branches. If you want to see all the results, select the filters: all + all, then click on the update button. The default selection of bots, that is the night set, should be adequate for all merge requests. The selection capabilities of the Buildbot Status table are rather extended, you have to play a bit wit them.

By the way, the behaviour of this Buildbot Status table when changing the selections has still some problems -as of May 2018-. Do not hesitate to click on the update button, and the “Grouping” button -the latter back and forth-, sorry for the inconvenience.

How and when will the merge in the master branch be done?

In order for your development to be incorporated, there should be merge request from your specific branch to the trunk. For most branches, the merge request will be to the trunk/develop branch. The list of merge requests is available here.

However, when a release- branch is ready to be merged, the merge request should target the corresponding trunk/release- branch. The master branch is only used by the trunk. So, never issue a merge request to trunk/master. You are supposed to merge, inside your branches, specific tagged branches from trunk, in order to avoid divergences. These specific tagged branches will be advertised. As mentioned earlier, the presence of such tagged commits allows one to identify whether the branch is on-track, before an automatic testing to be done.

How to synchronize with the trunk?

In order to keep your branches up to date with those of the trunk, you should first register as a remote with:

git remote add trunk gitlab:trunk/abinit.git

At this point, one can fetch the branches in trunk with:

git fetch trunk

then, if the develop branch is to be updated, supposing it is checked out, To merge trunk/develop in your develop branch:

git checkout develop
git merge trunk develop

You can combine the last two commands in one as:

git pull trunk develop

If, on the contrary, a new branch (e.g. a release branch, let’s says 8.8 to fix the ideas) has to be created:

git branch release-8.8 start-8.8.1    # this creates the branch release-8.8 from the start-8.8.1 tag
git checkout release-8.8
git merge remotes/trunk/release-8.8
git push -u origin release-8.8

That’s it! You can now make modifications in your release-8.8, then issue a merge request to the trunk/release-8.8.