Init From the Ground Up

This is an example program that works similarly to git init. Many of the options available to the git command line tool map easily to concepts in libgit2.

Note that a large portion of the code deals with the command-line interface. This article is about the portions of the code that deal with libgit2, so we’ll be skipping all the argument parsing and such.


Let’s skip the frontmatter, and jump straight to the meat of this thing. The main function starts off with some boilerplate and a bit of command-line parsing noise, which we’ll ignore for the purposes of this article.

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
	git_repository *repo = NULL;
	struct opts o = { 1, 0, 0, 0, GIT_REPOSITORY_INIT_SHARED_UMASK, 0, 0, 0 };

	parse_opts(&o, argc, argv);

Next we have a bit of a shortcut; if we were called with no options, we can use the simplest API for doing this, since its defaults match those of the command line. That check_lg2 utility checks the value passed in the first parameter, and if it’s not zero, prints the other two parameters and exits the program. Not the greatest error handling, but it’ll do for these examples.

	if (o.no_options) {
		check_lg2(git_repository_init(&repo, o.dir, 0),
			"Could not initialize repository", NULL);

If the situation is more complex, you can use the extended API to handle it. The fields in the options structure are designed to provide much of what git init does. Note that it’s important to use the _INIT structure initializers; these structures have version numbers so future libgit2’s can maintain backwards compatibility.

	else {
		git_repository_init_options initopts = GIT_REPOSITORY_INIT_OPTIONS_INIT;
		initopts.flags = GIT_REPOSITORY_INIT_MKPATH;

		if (o.bare)
			initopts.flags |= GIT_REPOSITORY_INIT_BARE;

		if (o.template) {
			initopts.template_path = o.template;

Libgit2’s repository is always oriented at the .git directory, so specifying an external git directory turns things a bit upside-down:

		if (o.gitdir) {
			initopts.workdir_path = o.dir;
			o.dir = o.gitdir;

		if (o.shared != 0)
			initopts.mode = o.shared;

Now the call that does all the work: git_repository_init_ext. The output (if the call succeeds) lands in repo, which is a git_repository*, which we can then go on and use.

		check_lg2(git_repository_init_ext(&repo, o.dir, &initopts),
				"Could not initialize repository", NULL);

	if (!o.quiet) {
		if (o.bare || o.gitdir)
			o.dir = git_repository_path(repo);
			o.dir = git_repository_workdir(repo);

		printf("Initialized empty Git repository in %s\n", o.dir);

If we get this far, the initialization is done. This example goes one step farther than git, by providing an option to create an empty initial commit. The body of this function is below.

	if (o.initial_commit) {
		printf("Created empty initial commit\n");

Now to clean up our mess; C isn’t your mother. Unless the docs specifically say otherwise, any non-const pointer that’s filled in by libgit2 needs to be freed by the caller.


	return 0;

Creating the Initial Commit

First, we declare all of our variables, which might give you a clue as to what’s coming.

static void create_initial_commit(git_repository *repo)
	git_signature *sig;
	git_index *index;
	git_oid tree_id, commit_id;
	git_tree *tree;

Next, we generate a commit signature using the values in the user’s config, and timestamp of right now.

	if (git_signature_default(&sig, repo) < 0)
		fatal("Unable to create a commit signature.",
		      "Perhaps '' and '' are not set");

Now we store the index’s tree into the ODB to use for the commit. Since the repo was just initialized, the index has an empty tree.

	if (git_repository_index(&index, repo) < 0)
		fatal("Could not open repository index", NULL);

	if (git_index_write_tree(&tree_id, index) < 0)
		fatal("Unable to write initial tree from index", NULL);


It’s worth noting that this doesn’t actually write the index to disk. There’s a separate call for that: git_index_write. All this code does is use the empty index to get the SHA-1 hash of the empty tree.

Okay, now we have the empty tree’s SHA-1 hash, but we need an actual git_tree object to create a commit.

	if (git_tree_lookup(&tree, repo, &tree_id) < 0)
		fatal("Could not look up initial tree", NULL);

Now we’re ready to write the initial commit. Normally you’d look up HEAD to use as the parent, but this commit will have no parents.

	if (git_commit_create_v(
			&commit_id, repo, "HEAD", sig, sig,
			NULL, "Initial commit", tree, 0) < 0)
		fatal("Could not create the initial commit", NULL);

And (of course) clean up our mess.



If you compile and run this program, you’ll get output something like this:

$ ./init --initial-commit ./foo
Initialized empty Git repository in /tmp/foo/
Created empty initial commit
$ cd foo
$ git log
commit 156cebb6100829b61b757d7ade498b664d20ee4b
Author: Ben Straub <>
Date:   Sat Oct 5 20:59:50 2013 -0700

    Initial commit

What’s next?

Go back to the Learning center for more, or check out the API documentation.