Migrate a git Repository with Submodules

With git-sync-mirror migrating or mirroring a git repository is a piece of cake. But when the migrated repository contains submodules additional steps are required.

The Problem

Submodule references are not updated when mirroring git repositories. This is because those references are tracked in a file called .gitmodules inside the repository. This file is not changed during migration.

As an example imagine you want to mirror the githubtraining/example-dependency repository to Enteee/example-dependency. Using git-sync-mirror this is simple:

$ GITHUB_USER="Enteee"
$ docker run \
  --rm \
  --env ONCE=true \
  --env SRC_REPO="https://github.com/githubtraining/example-dependency.git" \
  --env DST_REPO=https://${GITHUB_USER}:${GITHUB_ACCESS_TOKEN}@github.com/Enteee/example-dependency.git \

The just mirrored githubtraining/example-dependency repository contains one submodule at js. This submodule references the githubtraining/example-submodule repository.

$ git clone https://github.com/githubtraining/example-dependency.git
Cloning into 'example-dependency'...
remote: Enumerating objects: 39, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (39/39), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (30/30), done.
remote: Total 39 (delta 5), reused 39 (delta 5), pack-reused 0
Unpacking objects: 100% (39/39), done.
$ cat example-dependency/.gitmodules
[submodule "js"]
  path = js
  url = https://github.com/githubtraining/example-submodule.git

For a full migration we now also have to mirror githubtraining/example-submodule to Enteee/example-submodule. We can do this exactly the same way as we did it before with githubtraining/example-dependency. But since we were creating 1:1 mirrors, the first repository Enteee/example-dependency still points to githubtraining/example-submodule. This is probably not what we want. The repository Enteee/example-dependency should point to Enteee/example-submodule instead.

The Solution: git-submodule-url-rewrite

git-submodule-url-rewrite is a git command that lets you rewrite submodule urls. Installing the command is as simple as copying the script somewhere to your ${PATH} and making it executable.

$ cd /usr/local/bin
$ curl \
  --output git-submodule-url-rewrite \
$ chmod a+x git-submodule-url-rewrite

Now, git-submodule-url-rewrite should be available as a git command.

$ git submodule-url-rewrite -h
usage: git submodule-url-rewrite [-h|--help] [-v|--verbose] [-q|--quiet] [-r|--recursive] [-s|--no-stage] [-u|--no-update] sed-command

Rewrites all submodule urls using the given sed-script

  -h|--help       Print this help
  -v|--verbose    Make this script verbose
  -q|--quiet      Don't print anything
  -r|--recursive  Also rewrite submodules of submodules
  -s|--no-stage   Don't stage changed .gitmodule files for commit
  -u|--no-update  Don't run 'git submodule --quiet update --init' in each submodule

sed-command: A sed command used to transform urls.

Using this command we can now rewrite all urls in Enteee/example-dependency. We just have to use a substituting sed command (s) which replaces all githubtraining strings with Enteee. The following command does this: 's|githubtraining|Enteee|'. For more information about sed commands I recommend this tutorial on computerhope.com.

$ cd example-dependency/
$ git submodule-url-rewrite 's|githubtraining|Enteee|'
rewrite url for submodule 'js' in '/tmp/example-dependency' from 'https://github.com/githubtraining/example-submodule.git' to 'https://github.com/Enteee/example-submodule.git'

git commit && git push, done!

Why should I use this?

In this section I try to answer a few common questions. Keep in mind that git-submodule-url-rewrite is a very simple git command which I found useful in the past. Hence, I decided to open source it. Nobody forces you to use it. If you find good reasons not to, then don’t. In order to improve git-submodule-url-rewrite, I would still be interested in those reasons. Why not share them here?

Rewriting a a submodule url is a simple as:

$ git config --file .gitmodules submodule.js.url 'https://github.com/Enteee/example-submodule.git'
$ git submodule sync

why should I use git-submodule-url-rewrite?

– unknown git user

This is exactly what git-submodule-url-rewrite does. No magic involved. But in addition, git-submodule-url-rewrite provides the convenience of regex and a recursive ([-r|--recursive]) switch. Using recursion you can simply rewrite submodules of submodules of submodules of … You get the idea.

But I can just implement the same recursion with git submodule foreach --recursive 'git config ...'.

– the same unknown git user

Yes. Almost. Please note that git submodule foreach evaluates an arbitrary shell command in each checked out submodule 1. This means you have to run git submodule update --init --recursive first. Which will connect and clone to the originally referenced repository. This was not possible in my environment. Also, looping over all submodules in a shell script, without git submodule foreach, is not trivial 23. Hence, I had to implement a looping mechanism which does not rely on git submodule foreach.

By open sourcing git-submodule-url-rewrite, I do hope I can provide functionality which maybe does help others. If you find a bug or have a feature request, please open an issue on GitHub. All comments and thoughts are welcome here on this page.

  1. From the manpage 

  2. See: this answer on StackOverflow 

  3. Maybe I should implement a command that does just that at some point.