Code Vigorous

Dustin J. Mitchell

Hg Workflow

04 May 2015

I’ll admit it, I’m a big fan of Git. I find its model to be simple and powerful. It’s extremely flexible, and extremely fast. Conversely, I find Mercurial to be slow and far too opinionated. Its prohibition on editing history is easy to overcome by blowing away the local repository and re-cloning, then applying the old patch. I know because I have used this technique many times.

Mozilla uses Mercurial for much of its work, notably the Firefox source code (Gecko), and a few projects I work on - PuppetAgain, Mozharness, and the vaguely-named and vaguely-defined Tools to name a few. For the last few years, I’ve accessed these repositories via git-remote-hg, a “bridge” allowing me to push from a local Git repository to a remote Mercurial repository. This tool has had a lot of issues, though, many involving severe repository corruption. There’s work afoot to build a better, more compatible version, but after conversations with Gregory Szorc a few weeks ago, I determined to make the effort and give Mercurial a fair shake.

The rest of this post outlines my approach, as usual as much for my reference as for yours.

Repository Setup

I have a single local repository for each codebase, as shown above. Mercurial doesn’t have the nice git config interface, so you need to set the repository up by grubbing around in .hg, mostly in .hg/hgrc.


All of the good stuff in Mercurial is in extensions. Fortunately, most of them are built in. Here’s the list of those built-in extensions:

color =
rebase =
purge =
histedit =
record =
pager =
shelve =
progress =
graphlog =

I’ll talk more about the functionality these afford below.

Mozilla-Specific Extensions

There are a few fantastic extensions written specifically to interact with Mozilla stuff. These are in the repository. To set this up (assuming the extensions are the last thing listed in your hgrc):

cd .hg
hg clone
echo firefoxtree = $PWD/version-control-tools/hgext/firefoxtree >> hgrc
echo reviewboard = $PWD/version-control-tools/hgext/reviewboard/ >> hgrc

Unfortunately those need to be absolute paths. The firefoxtree extension is only useful for Gecko.


I added the following. You’ll want to use something slightly different:

username = Dustin J. Mitchell <>

Ignoring local files

I generally have a virtualenv or some other stuff in my working copy that I don’t want versioned, but which is too specific to my use-case to commit to the versioned .hgignore file. In Git, such files are simply added to .git/info/exclude, but in Mercurial you’ll need to set up an ignore file, again with a full path:

ignore = /path/to/repo/.hg/hgignore

Then list the ignored files, noting that Mercurial uses regular expressions, in .hg/hgignore.

Diff Improvements

Mozilla has a preferred diff configuration:

git = 1
showfunc = 1
unified = 8

Reviewboard Setup

Reviewboard will need your IRC nick for pushing review requests:

ircnick = dustin


I like to set my default path to point to my “public” repository (I use bitbucket because there’s a bug with Mozilla’s user repo hosting that means bookmarks don’t work correctly). For most repos, I use upstream to point to the read-only copy of the repository of record: For Gecko, the firefoxtree extension defines central, incoming, aurora, and so on.

Note that I had to check a box in the Bitbucket repository settings to make the repository non-publishing.

You’ll also need a review repository (except for Gecko, where firefoxtree defines it for you):

review = ssh://


When I start working on a new task, I first need to get a clean copy of the code. That requires

hg pull upstream
hg up -C default

Then I create a new bookmark for the project I’m working on, generally named after the bug ID

hg bookmark bug1122334

I then hack and commit, trying to generate small, meaningful commits (microcommits).

When I’ve added a little bit extra to the most recent commit, I can update that commit with hg commit --amend. When I’ve made a few changes that I want to commit separately, hg record is the tool for the job, similar to git add -p.

In my Git workflow, I generally break my commits along conceptual boundaries, but as I write I find myself wanting to add this or that bit of code to an already-committed unit. In Git, I use git commit --fixup <sha1>. Mercurial doesn’t have quite that level of convenience, but I can commit with a helpful message like hg commit -m "fixup preliminary stuff".

Once I have a few such commits, or otherwise want to directly manipulate the last few commits, I use hg histedit, passing it the earliest commit I wish to edit (different from Git!)

I’ll periodically rebase this on top of the upstream code, to avoid bitrot:

hg rebase -b bug1122334 -d default

I make sure my work is duplicated elsewhere by pushing periodically. Since my Bitbucket repo is non-publishing, this doesn’t change my commits to the immutable “public” phase. The -B option updates the remote bookmark.

hg push -r . -f -B bug112234

This operation is slow – go-get-a-sandwich slow – and I’m not sure if that’s due to Mercurial or Bitbucket or both.

Switching projects

To work on a different project, just run hg up -C bug2233445.


Once I have a set of commits I’m happy with, it’s time for review. First, see what changes will go out for review:

hg outgoing -r . review

and if you’re happy with it,

hg push -r . review

You’ll get a link to Follow that link, make sure everything is OK, pick reviewers for each commit, and then publish the review request.


That’s about as far as I’ve gotten so far. The following links were helpful in getting set up, and have suggestions for further improvements: