the users' view

This page talks about what gitolite looks like to non-admins, and the commands and features available to them.

accessing gitolite

The most common setup is based on ssh, where your admin asks you to send him your public key, and uses that to setup your access.

Your actual access is either a git command (like git clone git@server:reponame, or an ssh command (like ssh git@server info).

Note that you do not get a shell on the server -- the whole point of gitolite is to prevent that!

Note to people who think gitolite requires or can only handle a specific syntax for the URL: Gitolite is designed in such a way that, unless there is an access violation, the client need not even know that something called gitolite is sitting between it and git on the server. In particular, this means any URL syntax listed in 'man git-clone' for ssh and/or http will work. The only things to note are:

  • In ssh mode, you must use key-based authentication (i.e., passwords won't work; see the two pages linked from the ssh page for why).
  • The path of the repo is what you put into the conf file (e.g., "testing", and not "repositories/testing" or "/home/git/repositories/testing" or such). A good rule of thumb is to use the exact name the info command (see below) shows you.
  • The ".git" at the end is optional for git commands (i.e., you can use "testing.git" instead of "testing" for clone, fetch, push, etc., if you like) but gitolite commands in general (see below) will not like the additional ".git" at the end.

the info command

The only command that is always available to every user is the info command (run ssh git@host info -h for help), which tells you what version of gitolite and git are on the server, and what repositories you have access to. The list of repos is very useful if you have doubts about the spelling of some new repo that you know was setup.

normal and wild repos

Gitolite has two kinds of repos. Normal repos are specified by their full names in the config file. "Wildcard" repos are specified by a regex in the config file. Try the info command and see if it shows any lines that look like regex patterns, (with a "C" permission).

If you see any, it means you are allowed to create brand new repos whose names fit that regex. Normally, you create such repos simply by cloning them or pushing to them -- gitolite automatically creates the repo on the server side. (If your site is different, your admin will tell you).

When you create such a repo, your "ownership" of it (as far as gitolite is concerned) is automatically recorded by gitolite.

other commands

set/get additional permissions for repos you created

The gitolite config may have several permissions lines for your repo, like so:

repo pub/CREATOR/..*
    C       =   ...some list of users allowed to create repos...
    RW+     =   CREATOR
    RW      =   user1 user2
    R       =   user3

If that's all it had, you really can't do much. Any changes to access must be done by the administrator. (Note that "CREATOR" is a reserved word that gets expanded to your userid in some way, so the admin can literally add just the first three lines, and every user listed in the second line (or every authenticated user, if you specified @all there) has his own personal repo namespace, starting with pub/<username>/).

To give some flexibility to users, the admin could add rules like this:

    RW      =   WRITERS
    R       =   READERS

(he could also add other roles but then he needs to read the documentation).

Once he does this, you can then use the perms command (run ssh git@host perms -h for help) to set permissions for other users by specifying which users are in the list of "READERS", and which in "WRITERS".

If you think of READERS and WRITERS as "roles", it will help. You can't change what access a role has, but you can say which users have that role.


There isn't a way for you to see the actual rule list unless you're given read access to the special 'gitolite-admin' repo. Sorry. The idea is that your admin will tell you what "roles" he added into rules for your repos, and what permissions those roles have.

adding a description to repos you created

The desc command is extremely simple. Run ssh git@host desc -h for help.

"site-local" commands

The main purpose of gitolite is to prevent you from getting a shell. But there are commands that you often need to run on the server (i.e., cannot be done by pushing something to a repo).

To enable this, gitolite allows the admin to setup scripts in a special directory that users can then run. Gitolite comes with a set of working scripts that your admin may install, or may use as a starting point for his own, if he chooses.

Think of these commands as equivalent to those in COMMAND_DIR in man git-shell.

You can get a list of available commands by running ssh git@host help.

"personal" branches

"personal" branches are great for environments where developers need to share work but can't directly pull from each other (usually due to either a networking or authentication related reason, both common in corporate setups).

Personal branches exist in a sub-tree of the ref/heads/[...] hierarchy. The syntax is

    RW+ personal/USER/  =   @userlist

where (a) the "personal" can be anything you like, but cannot be empty, (b) the "/USER/" part is necessary (including both slashes), and (c) the trailing slash can be optionally followed by additional restrictions on the ref name.

A user "alice" (if she's in the userlist) can then push any branches inside personal/alice/ (i.e., she can push personal/alice/foo and personal/alice/bar, but NOT personal/alice). As another example personal/USER/[a-zA-Z0-9_]+$ would mean that alice can create personal/alice/foo, but not personal/alice/foo/bar, because a / is not allowed by the expression following the /USER/.

(Background: at runtime the "USER" component will be replaced by the name of the invoking user. Access is determined by the right hand side, as usual).

Compared to using arbitrary branch names on the same server, this:

  • Reduces namespace pollution by corralling all these ad hoc branches into the "personal/" namespace.
  • Reduces branch name collision by giving each developer her own sub-hierarchy within that.
  • Removes the need to think about access control, because a user can push only to his own sub-hierarchy.