Created: 2008-02-03 21:14
Updated: 2019-02-16 01:18
License: mit


Build Status Gem

Braid is a simple tool to help track vendor branches in a Git repository.


Vendoring allows you take the source code of an external library and ensure it's version controlled along with the main project. This is in contrast to including a reference to a packaged version of an external library that is available in a binary artifact repository such as Maven Central, RubyGems or NPM.

Vendoring is useful when you need to patch or customize the external libraries or the external library is expected to co-evolve with the main project. The developer can make changes to the main project and patch the library in a single commit.

The problem arises when the external library makes changes that you want to integrate into your local vendored version or the developer makes changes to the local version that they want integrated into the external library.

A typical "implementation" of vendoring is to simply download or checkout the source for the external library, remove the .git or .svn directories and commit it to the main source tree. However this approach makes it very difficult to update the library. When you want to update the library do you re-apply your local changes onto a new copy of the vendored library or do you re-apply the changes from the external library to local version? Both cases involve manual generation and application of patch files to source trees.

This is where Braid comes into play. Braid makes it easy to vendor in remote git repositories and use an automated mechanism for updating the external library and generating patches to upgrade the external library.

Braid creates a file .braids.json in the root of your repository that contains references to external libraries or mirrors. The configuration allows you to control aspects of the mirroring process such as;

  • whether the mirror is locked to a particular version of the external library.
  • whether the mirror is tracking a tag or a branch.
  • whether the mirror includes the entire external library or just a subdirectory.


gem install braid

Quick usage - ruby project

Let's assume we're writing the project myproject that needs grit in lib/grit. Initialize the repo (nothing braid related here):

git init myproject
cd myproject
touch README
git add README
git commit -m "initial commit"

Now let's vendor grit:

braid add git:// lib/grit

And you're done! Braid vendored grit into lib/grit. Feel free to inspect the changes with git log or git show.

If further down the line, you want to bring new changes from grit into your repository, just update the mirror:

braid update lib/grit

If you make changes to the grit library and want to generate a patch file so that you can submit the patch file to the grit project:

braid diff lib/grit > grit.patch

Alternatively you can push changes back to the source directory directly using the following command. The command will push the changes to the branch myproject_customizations that has been branched off the source branch (master in this example). Omit the --branch argument to push directly to the source branch.

braid push lib/grit --branch myproject_customizations

Once those changes have been applied to grit you probably want to update your local version of grit again.

braid update lib/grit

More usage

Use the built in help system to find out about all commands and options:

braid help
braid help add # or braid add --help


Adding a mirror

braid add git:// vendor/rails

Adding a subdirectory from a mirror

This is useful if you want to add a subdirectory from a mirror into your own project.

braid add --path dist vendor/assets/bootstrap

Adding a mirror based on a branch

braid add --branch 5-0-stable vendor/rails

Adding a mirror based on a tag

braid add --tag v1.0 vendor/tools/backpack

Adding mirror locked to a revision

braid add --revision bf1b1e0 git:// vendor/rails

Updating mirrors

# Update a specific mirror
braid update vendor/plugins/cache_fu
# Update all mirrors
braid update

Updating mirrors with conflicts

If a braid update creates a conflict, braid will stop execution and leave the partially committed files in your working copy, just like a normal git merge conflict would.

You will then have to resolve all conflicts and manually run git commit. The commit message is already prepared.

If you want to cancel the braid update and the merge, you'll have to reset your working copy and index with git reset --hard.

Locking and unlocking mirrors

Lock to a particular version in the mirror.

braid update --revision 6c1c16b vendor/rails

Go back to tracking a particular branch.

braid update --branch master vendor/rails

Showing local changes made to mirrors

braid diff vendor/rails

Braid version compatibility

Since Braid has been regularly changing the configuration format and adding new features that some projects may choose to rely on, and somewhat less often making breaking changes in how the configuration is handled, problems can arise if different developers work on the same project using different versions of Braid. Since version 1.1.0, Braid refuses to operate if it detects potentially problematic version skew. If this happens, Braid will tell you what you can do. If you'd like an overview of what to expect, read on.

Roughly speaking, the .braids.json configuration file contains a configuration version number that corresponds to a range of compatible Braid minor versions (x.y). "Patch" upgrades to Braid (i.e., x.y.z -> x.y.(z+1)) will never (intentionally!) have configuration compatibility implications and are always recommended as they may fix critical bugs.

If you use a Braid version too old for your configuration file, Braid will direct you to the configuration version history page with instructions to upgrade Braid. If you use a Braid version too new, Braid will tell you how you can upgrade your configuration file or find a compatible older Braid version to use. (As an exception, a newer version of Braid can run read-only commands on an older configuration file without upgrading it if there are no breaking changes.) If you upgrade your configuration file, then other developers on the project may need to upgrade Braid. Braid does not support downgrading a configuration file, though you can revert the commit that upgraded it if you haven't made any subsequent changes to the configuration.

If you work on multiple projects, you may need to install multiple versions of Braid and manually run the correct version for each project. Fortunately, the RubyGems system makes this reasonably straightforward.

Another approach is to standardize the Braid version for a project by listing Braid in a Gemfile (either checking in Gemfile.lock or using a version constraint in the Gemfile) and run the project's version of Braid via Bundler with bundle exec braid. Even non-Ruby projects can do this if it's acceptable to have a Gemfile and Gemfile.lock. Ruby projects that don't want Braid to interact with their other gems can potentially put the Gemfile in a subdirectory and provide a wrapper script for bundle that sets the BUNDLE_GEMFILE environment variable. We do not yet have enough experience with this approach to make a firm recommendation for or against it.

This is the best design we could find to prevent surprises and adequately support normal development processes while minimizing the additional maintenance cost of the version compatibility mechanism. We want to have a scheme in place that is robust enough to make it reasonable to encourage serious adoption of Braid, yet we don't want to spend extra work adding conveniences until there's evidence of sufficient demand for them.


We appreciate any patches, error reports and usage ideas you may have. Please submit an issue or pull request on GitHub.


While preparing to release Braid v1.0 the support for subversion repositories was removed as there was no active maintainers and inadequate test coverage. If there is anyone motivated to re-add and maintain the Subversion support, please contact the authors.


  • Cristi Balan
  • Norbert Crombach
  • Peter Donald

Contributors (alphabetically)

  • Alan Harper
  • Brad Durrow
  • Christoph Sturm
  • Dennis Muhlestein
  • Ferdinand Svehla
  • Matt McCutchen
  • Michael Klishin
  • Roman Heinrich
  • Travis Tilley
  • Tyler Rick
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