vcsh - Man Page

Version Control System for $HOME ā€” multiple Git repositories in $HOME

Examples (TL;DR)


vcsh [options] command

vcsh clone [-b branch] url [repo]

vcsh delete repo

vcsh enter repo

vcsh foreach [-g] git command

vcsh help

vcsh init repo

vcsh list

vcsh list-tracked [repo]

vcsh list-untracked [-a] [-r] [repo]

vcsh pull

vcsh push

vcsh rename repo newname

vcsh run repo shell command

vcsh status [repo]

vcsh upgrade repo

vcsh version

vcsh which substring

vcsh write-gitignore [repo]

vcsh repo gitcommand

vcsh repo


vcsh allows you to have several git(1) repositories, all maintaining their working trees in $HOME without clobbering each other. That, in turn, means you can have one repository per config set (zsh, vim, ssh, etc), picking and choosing which configs you want to use on which machine.

vcsh is using a technique called fake bare Git repositories, keeping $GIT_DIR in a different directory from $GIT_WORK_TREE which is pointed to $HOME.

The use of symlinks is not needed in this setup, making for a cleaner setup.

vcsh was designed with mr(1) in mind so you might want to install it alongside vcsh. That being said, you can easily use vcsh without mr if you prefer.

A sample configuration for vcsh and mr can be found at and used with vcsh clone mr.

Please note that you can always use a path instead of a name for repo. This is needed to support mr and other scripts properly and of no concern to an interactive user.



Source file prior to other configuration files


Enable debug mode


Enable verbose mode



Clone an existing repository.

If you need to clone a bundle of repositories, look into the post-clone-retired hook.

You can also use a single git repository with several branches. Use the -b option to specify a branch at clone time, the default is master.


Commit in all repositories


Delete an existing repository.


Enter repository; spawn new $SHELL with $GIT_DIR set.


Execute git command for every vcsh repository.

-g: Execute in general context.


Display help.


Initialize an empty repository.


List all local vcsh repositories.


List all files tracked by vcsh.

If you want to list files tracked by a specific repository, simply append the repository's name last.


List files tracked by a repository.

This is a legacy command; you should use list-tracked <repo> instead.


List all files NOT tracked by vcsh.

-a: Show all files. By default, the git ls-files --exclude-standard is called.

-r: Recursive mode. By default, the file list is shallow and stops at directory levels where possible.

$repo: List files not tracked by this specific repository.


Pull from all vcsh remotes.


Push to all vcsh remotes.


Rename a repository.


Run command with $GIT_DIR and $GIT_WORK_TREE set. Allows you to run any and all commands without any restrictions. Use with care.

Please note that there is a somewhat magic feature for run. Instead of repo it accepts path, as well. Anything that has a slash in it will be assumed to be a path. vcsh run will then operate on this directory instead of the one normally generated from the repository's name. This is needed to support mr and other scripts properly and of no concern to an interactive user.


Show statuses of all/one vcsh repositories.


Upgrade repository to currently recommended settings.


Print version information.

which substring

Find substring in name of any tracked file.


Write .gitignore.d/repo via git ls-files. If repo is not specified but we're withing a vcsh repository, use that.

repo gitcommand

Shortcut to run git commands on a repo. Will prepend git to gitcommand.


Shortcut to run vcsh enter <repo>.


As noted earlier, vcsh will set $GIT_DIR and $GIT_WORK_TREE to the appropriate values for fake bare Git repositories.


There are several ways to turn the various knobs on vcsh. In order of ascending precedence, they are:

Please note that those files are sourced. Any and all commands will be executed in the context of your shell.

Interesting knobs you can turn:


Can be none, or any other value.

none will not maintain Git attributes in a special location.

If set to any other value, repo-specific gitattributes files will be maintained.

Defaults to none.


Can be exact, none, or recursive.

exact will seed the repo-specific ignore file with all file and directory names which git ls-files returns.

none will not write any ignore file.

recursive will descend through all directories recursively additionally to the above.

Defaults to exact.


Can be absolute, or relative.

absolute will set an absolute path; defaulting to $HOME.

relative will set a path relative to $GIT_DIR.

Defaults to absolute.

Less interesting knobs you could turn:


Enter debug mode.


As specified in the 'XDG Base Directory Specification', see

Defaults to <$HOME/.config>.


The directory where repositories are read from and stored.

Defaults to <$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/vcsh/repo.d>.


The directory where hooks are read from.

Defaults to <$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/vcsh/hooks-enabled>.


The directory where repositories are checked out to.

Defaults to $HOME.

Hook System

vcsh provides a hook system. Hook scripts must be executable and should be placed in <$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/vcsh/hooks-available>. From there, they can be soft-linked into <$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/vcsh/hooks-enabled>; vcsh will only execute hooks that are in this directory.

Hooks follow a simple format. pre-run will be run before anything is run. If you want to have more than one script for a certain hook, just append any kind of string to order them. A system of pre-run, <pre-run.10>, <pre-run.20> etc is suggested; other options would be pre-run-10 or <>. A dot after the hook name is optional.

If you want to create hooks for a specific vcsh repository, simply prepend the repository's name, followed by a dot, i.e. <zsh.pre-run>. Otherwise, the same rules as above apply. The dot between the repository's name and the hook is mandatory, though.

Available hooks are pre-clone, post-clone, post-clone-retired, pre-command, post-command, pre-enter, post-enter, pre-init, post-init, pre-pull, post-pull, pre-push, post-push, pre-run, post-run, pre-upgrade, and post-upgrade. If you need more, vcsh is trivial to patch, but please let upstream know so we can ship them by default.

Overlay System

vcsh also provides an overlay system. Similar to hooks, the recommended locations are <$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/vcsh/overlays-available> and <$XDG_CONFIG_HOME/vcsh/overlays-enabled>.

Overlays follow the same rules as hooks and you are free to overwrite any and all functions. Same as hooks, you can use global or repository-specific overlays by using either <$VCSH_OVERLAY_D/$VCSH_COMMAND> or <$VCSH_OVERLAY_D/$VCSH_REPO_NAME.$VCSH_COMMAND>.

Please note that nothing stops you from, e.g. overwriting status() in <$VCSH_OVERLAY_D/commit>. As the overlays will be sourced and you are replacing arbitrary functions, any and all features may stop working, or you may even lose data.

You have been warned.

Detailed Howto and Further Reading

Manpages are often short and sometimes useless to glean best practices from. While the author tried to avoid this in this case, manpages can not cover detailed howtos.

This software also comes with a file called <>. It contains various approaches to setting up and using vcsh. You can view the file it as plain text or render it into various other formats via Markdown.

On Debian-based systems, this file can be found in </usr/share/doc/vcsh>.

Security Considerations

vcsh allows you to execute arbitrary commands via vcsh run. For example, adding a sudo(8) rule for vcsh would be pretty stupid.

Additionally, vcsh will source, i.e. execute, all files listed in Config. You can put any and all commands into these config files and they will be executed.


None are known at this time, but reports and/or patches are more than welcome.


If you rely on git submodule use git 1.7.12 or later. Earlier versions do not clean internal variables properly before descending into submodules, resulting in unhappy end users.


Like most people, the author initially made do with a single repository for all config files, all of which were soft-linked into $HOME.

Martin F. Krafft aka madduck came up with the concept of fake bare Git repositories.

vcsh was initially written by madduck. This version is a re-implementation from scratch with a lot more features. madduck graciously agreed to let the author take over the name.


This manpage and vcsh itself were written by Richard "RichiH" Hartmann.

See Also

git(1), mr(1)


February 2024