Chapter 11. Customizing the output of Mercurial

Table of Contents

11.1. Using precanned output styles
11.1.1. Setting a default style
11.2. Commands that support styles and templates
11.3. The basics of templating
11.4. Common template keywords
11.5. Escape sequences
11.6. Filtering keywords to change their results
11.6.1. Combining filters
11.7. From templates to styles
11.7.1. The simplest of style files
11.7.2. Style file syntax
11.8. Style files by example
11.8.1. Identifying mistakes in style files
11.8.2. Uniquely identifying a repository
11.8.3. Listing files on multiple lines
11.8.4. Mimicking Subversion's output

Mercurial provides a powerful mechanism to let you control how it displays information. The mechanism is based on templates. You can use templates to generate specific output for a single command, or to customize the entire appearance of the built-in web interface.

11.1. Using precanned output styles

Packaged with Mercurial are some output styles that you can use immediately. A style is simply a precanned template that someone wrote and installed somewhere that Mercurial can find.

Before we take a look at Mercurial's bundled styles, let's review its normal output.

$ hg log -r1
changeset:   1:edce9f530636
tag:         mytag
user:        Bryan O'Sullivan <bos@serpentine.com>
date:        Tue Nov 17 02:39:26 2009 +0000
summary:     added line to end of <<hello>> file.

This is somewhat informative, but it takes up a lot of space—five lines of output per changeset. The compact style reduces this to three lines, presented in a sparse manner.

$ hg log --style compact
3[tip]   fb76626fbe4b   2009-11-17 02:39 +0000   bos
  Added tag v0.1 for changeset 5052517d1690

2[v0.1]   5052517d1690   2009-11-17 02:39 +0000   bos
  Added tag mytag for changeset edce9f530636

1[mytag]   edce9f530636   2009-11-17 02:39 +0000   bos
  added line to end of <<hello>> file.

0   d539d56c69f2   2009-11-17 02:39 +0000   bos
  added hello

The changelog style hints at the expressive power of Mercurial's templating engine. This style attempts to follow the GNU Project's changelog guidelines[web:changelog].

$ hg log --style changelog
2009-11-17  Bryan O'Sullivan  <bos@serpentine.com>

	* .hgtags:
	Added tag v0.1 for changeset 5052517d1690
	[fb76626fbe4b] [tip]

	* .hgtags:
	Added tag mytag for changeset edce9f530636
	[5052517d1690] [v0.1]

	* goodbye, hello:
	added line to end of <<hello>> file.

	in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope
	that some might consider it so) of goodbye.
	[edce9f530636] [mytag]

	* hello:
	added hello
	[d539d56c69f2]

You will not be shocked to learn that Mercurial's default output style is named default.

11.1.1. Setting a default style

You can modify the output style that Mercurial will use for every command by editing your ~/.hgrc file, naming the style you would prefer to use.

[ui]
style = compact

If you write a style of your own, you can use it by either providing the path to your style file, or copying your style file into a location where Mercurial can find it (typically the templates subdirectory of your Mercurial install directory).

11.2. Commands that support styles and templates

All of Mercurial's log-like commands let you use styles and templates: hg incoming, hg log, hg outgoing, and hg tip.

As I write this manual, these are so far the only commands that support styles and templates. Since these are the most important commands that need customizable output, there has been little pressure from the Mercurial user community to add style and template support to other commands.

11.3. The basics of templating

At its simplest, a Mercurial template is a piece of text. Some of the text never changes, while other parts are expanded, or replaced with new text, when necessary.

Before we continue, let's look again at a simple example of Mercurial's normal output.

$ hg log -r1
changeset:   1:edce9f530636
tag:         mytag
user:        Bryan O'Sullivan <bos@serpentine.com>
date:        Tue Nov 17 02:39:26 2009 +0000
summary:     added line to end of <<hello>> file.

Now, let's run the same command, but using a template to change its output.

$ hg log -r1 --template 'i saw a changeset\n'
i saw a changeset

The example above illustrates the simplest possible template; it's just a piece of static text, printed once for each changeset. The --template option to the hg log command tells Mercurial to use the given text as the template when printing each changeset.

Notice that the template string above ends with the text \n. This is an escape sequence, telling Mercurial to print a newline at the end of each template item. If you omit this newline, Mercurial will run each piece of output together. See Section 11.5, “Escape sequences” for more details of escape sequences.

A template that prints a fixed string of text all the time isn't very useful; let's try something a bit more complex.

$ hg log --template 'i saw a changeset: {desc}\n'
i saw a changeset: Added tag v0.1 for changeset 5052517d1690
i saw a changeset: Added tag mytag for changeset edce9f530636
i saw a changeset: added line to end of <<hello>> file.

in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope that some might consider it so) of goodbye.
i saw a changeset: added hello

As you can see, the string {desc} in the template has been replaced in the output with the description of each changeset. Every time Mercurial finds text enclosed in curly braces ({ and }), it will try to replace the braces and text with the expansion of whatever is inside. To print a literal curly brace, you must escape it, as described in Section 11.5, “Escape sequences”.

11.4. Common template keywords

You can start writing simple templates immediately using the keywords below.

  • author: String. The unmodified author of the changeset.

  • branches: String. The name of the branch on which the changeset was committed. Will be empty if the branch name was default.

  • date: Date information. The date when the changeset was committed. This is not human-readable; you must pass it through a filter that will render it appropriately. See Section 11.6, “Filtering keywords to change their results” for more information on filters. The date is expressed as a pair of numbers. The first number is a Unix UTC timestamp (seconds since January 1, 1970); the second is the offset of the committer's timezone from UTC, in seconds.

  • desc: String. The text of the changeset description.

  • files: List of strings. All files modified, added, or removed by this changeset.

  • file_adds: List of strings. Files added by this changeset.

  • file_dels: List of strings. Files removed by this changeset.

  • node: String. The changeset identification hash, as a 40-character hexadecimal string.

  • parents: List of strings. The parents of the changeset.

  • rev: Integer. The repository-local changeset revision number.

  • tags: List of strings. Any tags associated with the changeset.

A few simple experiments will show us what to expect when we use these keywords; you can see the results below.

$ hg log -r1 --template 'author: {author}\n'
author: Bryan O'Sullivan <bos@serpentine.com>
$ hg log -r1 --template 'desc:\n{desc}\n'
desc:
added line to end of <<hello>> file.

in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope that some might consider it so) of goodbye.
$ hg log -r1 --template 'files: {files}\n'
files: goodbye hello
$ hg log -r1 --template 'file_adds: {file_adds}\n'
file_adds: goodbye
$ hg log -r1 --template 'file_dels: {file_dels}\n'
file_dels: 
$ hg log -r1 --template 'node: {node}\n'
node: edce9f530636cd6dbb8181937861a89bdcae19e5
$ hg log -r1 --template 'parents: {parents}\n'
parents: 
$ hg log -r1 --template 'rev: {rev}\n'
rev: 1
$ hg log -r1 --template 'tags: {tags}\n'
tags: mytag

As we noted above, the date keyword does not produce human-readable output, so we must treat it specially. This involves using a filter, about which more in Section 11.6, “Filtering keywords to change their results”.

$ hg log -r1 --template 'date: {date}\n'
date: 1258425566.00
$ hg log -r1 --template 'date: {date|isodate}\n'
date: 2009-11-17 02:39 +0000

11.5. Escape sequences

Mercurial's templating engine recognises the most commonly used escape sequences in strings. When it sees a backslash (\) character, it looks at the following character and substitutes the two characters with a single replacement, as described below.

  • \: Backslash, \, ASCII 134.

  • \n: Newline, ASCII 12.

  • \r: Carriage return, ASCII 15.

  • \t: Tab, ASCII 11.

  • \v: Vertical tab, ASCII 13.

  • \{: Open curly brace, {, ASCII 173.

  • \}: Close curly brace, }, ASCII 175.

As indicated above, if you want the expansion of a template to contain a literal \, {, or { character, you must escape it.

11.6. Filtering keywords to change their results

Some of the results of template expansion are not immediately easy to use. Mercurial lets you specify an optional chain of filters to modify the result of expanding a keyword. You have already seen a common filter, isodate, in action above, to make a date readable.

Below is a list of the most commonly used filters that Mercurial supports. While some filters can be applied to any text, others can only be used in specific circumstances. The name of each filter is followed first by an indication of where it can be used, then a description of its effect.

  • addbreaks: Any text. Add an XHTML <br/> tag before the end of every line except the last. For example, foo\nbar becomes foo<br/>\nbar.

  • age: date keyword. Render the age of the date, relative to the current time. Yields a string like 10 minutes.

  • basename: Any text, but most useful for the files keyword and its relatives. Treat the text as a path, and return the basename. For example, foo/bar/baz becomes baz.

  • date: date keyword. Render a date in a similar format to the Unix date command, but with timezone included. Yields a string like Mon Sep 04 15:13:13 2006 -0700.

  • domain: Any text, but most useful for the author keyword. Finds the first string that looks like an email address, and extract just the domain component. For example, Bryan O'Sullivan <bos@serpentine.com> becomes serpentine.com.

  • email: Any text, but most useful for the author keyword. Extract the first string that looks like an email address. For example, Bryan O'Sullivan <bos@serpentine.com> becomes bos@serpentine.com.

  • escape: Any text. Replace the special XML/XHTML characters &, < and > with XML entities.

  • fill68: Any text. Wrap the text to fit in 68 columns. This is useful before you pass text through the tabindent filter, and still want it to fit in an 80-column fixed-font window.

  • fill76: Any text. Wrap the text to fit in 76 columns.

  • firstline: Any text. Yield the first line of text, without any trailing newlines.

  • hgdate: date keyword. Render the date as a pair of readable numbers. Yields a string like 1157407993 25200.

  • isodate: date keyword. Render the date as a text string in ISO 8601 format. Yields a string like 2006-09-04 15:13:13 -0700.

  • obfuscate: Any text, but most useful for the author keyword. Yield the input text rendered as a sequence of XML entities. This helps to defeat some particularly stupid screen-scraping email harvesting spambots.

  • person: Any text, but most useful for the author keyword. Yield the text before an email address. For example, Bryan O'Sullivan <bos@serpentine.com> becomes Bryan O'Sullivan.

  • rfc822date: date keyword. Render a date using the same format used in email headers. Yields a string like Mon, 04 Sep 2006 15:13:13 -0700.

  • short: Changeset hash. Yield the short form of a changeset hash, i.e. a 12-character hexadecimal string.

  • shortdate: date keyword. Render the year, month, and day of the date. Yields a string like 2006-09-04.

  • strip: Any text. Strip all leading and trailing whitespace from the string.

  • tabindent: Any text. Yield the text, with every line except the first starting with a tab character.

  • urlescape: Any text. Escape all characters that are considered special by URL parsers. For example, foo bar becomes foo%20bar.

  • user: Any text, but most useful for the author keyword. Return the user portion of an email address. For example, Bryan O'Sullivan <bos@serpentine.com> becomes bos.

$ hg log -r1 --template '{author}\n'
Bryan O'Sullivan <bos@serpentine.com>
$ hg log -r1 --template '{author|domain}\n'
serpentine.com
$ hg log -r1 --template '{author|email}\n'
bos@serpentine.com
$ hg log -r1 --template '{author|obfuscate}\n' | cut -c-76
&#66;&#114;&#121;&#97;&#110;&#32;&#79;&#39;&#83;&#117;&#108;&#108;&#105;&#11
$ hg log -r1 --template '{author|person}\n'
Bryan O'Sullivan
$ hg log -r1 --template '{author|user}\n'
bos
$ hg log -r1 --template 'looks almost right, but actually garbage: {date}\n'
looks almost right, but actually garbage: 1258425566.00
$ hg log -r1 --template '{date|age}\n'
2 seconds ago
$ hg log -r1 --template '{date|date}\n'
Tue Nov 17 02:39:26 2009 +0000
$ hg log -r1 --template '{date|hgdate}\n'
1258425566 0
$ hg log -r1 --template '{date|isodate}\n'
2009-11-17 02:39 +0000
$ hg log -r1 --template '{date|rfc822date}\n'
Tue, 17 Nov 2009 02:39:26 +0000
$ hg log -r1 --template '{date|shortdate}\n'
2009-11-17
$ hg log -r1 --template '{desc}\n' | cut -c-76
added line to end of <<hello>> file.

in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope that some m
$ hg log -r1 --template '{desc|addbreaks}\n' | cut -c-76
added line to end of <<hello>> file.<br/>
<br/>
in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope that some m
$ hg log -r1 --template '{desc|escape}\n' | cut -c-76
added line to end of &lt;&lt;hello&gt;&gt; file.

in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope that some m
$ hg log -r1 --template '{desc|fill68}\n'
added line to end of <<hello>> file.

in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope
that some might consider it so) of goodbye.
$ hg log -r1 --template '{desc|fill76}\n'
added line to end of <<hello>> file.

in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope that some
might consider it so) of goodbye.
$ hg log -r1 --template '{desc|firstline}\n'
added line to end of <<hello>> file.
$ hg log -r1 --template '{desc|strip}\n' | cut -c-76
added line to end of <<hello>> file.

in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope that some m
$ hg log -r1 --template '{desc|tabindent}\n' | expand | cut -c-76
added line to end of <<hello>> file.

        in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope tha
$ hg log -r1 --template '{node}\n'
edce9f530636cd6dbb8181937861a89bdcae19e5
$ hg log -r1 --template '{node|short}\n'
edce9f530636
[Note] Note

If you try to apply a filter to a piece of data that it cannot process, Mercurial will fail and print a Python exception. For example, trying to run the output of the desc keyword into the isodate filter is not a good idea.

11.6.1. Combining filters

It is easy to combine filters to yield output in the form you would like. The following chain of filters tidies up a description, then makes sure that it fits cleanly into 68 columns, then indents it by a further 8 characters (at least on Unix-like systems, where a tab is conventionally 8 characters wide).

$ hg log -r1 --template 'description:\n\t{desc|strip|fill68|tabindent}\n'
description:
	added line to end of <<hello>> file.

	in addition, added a file with the helpful name (at least i hope
	that some might consider it so) of goodbye.

Note the use of \t (a tab character) in the template to force the first line to be indented; this is necessary since tabindent indents all lines except the first.

Keep in mind that the order of filters in a chain is significant. The first filter is applied to the result of the keyword; the second to the result of the first filter; and so on. For example, using fill68|tabindent gives very different results from tabindent|fill68.

11.7. From templates to styles

A command line template provides a quick and simple way to format some output. Templates can become verbose, though, and it's useful to be able to give a template a name. A style file is a template with a name, stored in a file.

More than that, using a style file unlocks the power of Mercurial's templating engine in ways that are not possible using the command line --template option.

11.7.1. The simplest of style files

Our simple style file contains just one line:

$ echo 'changeset = "rev: {rev}\n"' > rev
$ hg log -l1 --style ./rev
rev: 3

This tells Mercurial, if you're printing a changeset, use the text on the right as the template.

11.7.2. Style file syntax

The syntax rules for a style file are simple.

  • The file is processed one line at a time.

  • Leading and trailing white space are ignored.

  • Empty lines are skipped.

  • If a line starts with either of the characters # or ;, the entire line is treated as a comment, and skipped as if empty.

  • A line starts with a keyword. This must start with an alphabetic character or underscore, and can subsequently contain any alphanumeric character or underscore. (In regexp notation, a keyword must match [A-Za-z_][A-Za-z0-9_]*.)

  • The next element must be an = character, which can be preceded or followed by an arbitrary amount of white space.

  • If the rest of the line starts and ends with matching quote characters (either single or double quote), it is treated as a template body.

  • If the rest of the line does not start with a quote character, it is treated as the name of a file; the contents of this file will be read and used as a template body.

11.8. Style files by example

To illustrate how to write a style file, we will construct a few by example. Rather than provide a complete style file and walk through it, we'll mirror the usual process of developing a style file by starting with something very simple, and walking through a series of successively more complete examples.

11.8.1. Identifying mistakes in style files

If Mercurial encounters a problem in a style file you are working on, it prints a terse error message that, once you figure out what it means, is actually quite useful.

$ cat broken.style
changeset =

Notice that broken.style attempts to define a changeset keyword, but forgets to give any content for it. When instructed to use this style file, Mercurial promptly complains.

$ hg log -r1 --style broken.style
** unknown exception encountered, details follow
** report bug details to http://mercurial.selenic.com/bts/
** or mercurial@selenic.com
** Mercurial Distributed SCM (version 1.4)
** Extensions loaded: 
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/home/steve/bin/hg", line 27, in <module>
    mercurial.dispatch.run()
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/dispatch.py", line 16, in run
    sys.exit(dispatch(sys.argv[1:]))
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/dispatch.py", line 30, in dispatch
    return _runcatch(u, args)
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/dispatch.py", line 46, in _runcatch
    return _dispatch(ui, args)
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/dispatch.py", line 449, in _dispatch
    return runcommand(lui, repo, cmd, fullargs, ui, options, d)
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/dispatch.py", line 319, in runcommand
    ret = _runcommand(ui, options, cmd, d)
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/dispatch.py", line 500, in _runcommand
    return checkargs()
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/dispatch.py", line 454, in checkargs
    return cmdfunc()
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/dispatch.py", line 448, in <lambda>
    d = lambda: util.checksignature(func)(ui, *args, **cmdoptions)
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/util.py", line 386, in check
    return func(*args, **kwargs)
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/commands.py", line 2055, in log
    displayer = cmdutil.show_changeset(ui, repo, opts, True, matchfn)
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/cmdutil.py", line 1017, in show_changeset
    t = changeset_templater(ui, repo, patch, opts, mapfile, buffered)
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/cmdutil.py", line 747, in __init__
    'filecopy': '{name} ({source})'})
  File "/home/steve/lib/python/mercurial/templater.py", line 160, in __init__
    if val[0] in "'\"":
IndexError: string index out of range

This error message looks intimidating, but it is not too hard to follow.

  • The first component is simply Mercurial's way of saying I am giving up.

    ___abort___: broken.style:1: parse error
  • Next comes the name of the style file that contains the error.

    abort: ___broken.style___:1: parse error
  • Following the file name is the line number where the error was encountered.

    abort: broken.style:___1___: parse error
  • Finally, a description of what went wrong.

    abort: broken.style:1: ___parse error___
  • The description of the problem is not always clear (as in this case), but even when it is cryptic, it is almost always trivial to visually inspect the offending line in the style file and see what is wrong.

11.8.2. Uniquely identifying a repository

If you would like to be able to identify a Mercurial repository fairly uniquely using a short string as an identifier, you can use the first revision in the repository.

$ hg log -r0 --template '{node}'
30f15f98cd6c33c09ada53f6a92767977a02f447

This is likely to be unique, and so it is useful in many cases. There are a few caveats.

  • It will not work in a completely empty repository, because such a repository does not have a revision zero.

  • Neither will it work in the (extremely rare) case where a repository is a merge of two or more formerly independent repositories, and you still have those repositories around.

Here are some uses to which you could put this identifier:

  • As a key into a table for a database that manages repositories on a server.

  • As half of a {repository ID, revision ID} tuple. Save this information away when you run an automated build or other activity, so that you can replay the build later if necessary.

11.8.3. Listing files on multiple lines

Suppose we want to list the files changed by a changeset, one per line, with a little indentation before each file name.

$ cat > multiline << EOF
> changeset = "Changed in {node|short}:\n{files}"
> file = "  {file}\n"
> EOF
$ hg log --style multiline
Changed in 237511a84c8d:
  .bashrc
  .hgrc
  test.c

11.8.4. Mimicking Subversion's output

Let's try to emulate the default output format used by another revision control tool, Subversion.

$ svn log -r9653
------------------------------------------------------------------------
r9653 | sean.hefty | 2006-09-27 14:39:55 -0700 (Wed, 27 Sep 2006) | 5 lines

On reporting a route error, also include the status for the error,
rather than indicating a status of 0 when an error has occurred.

Signed-off-by: Sean Hefty <sean.hefty@intel.com>

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Since Subversion's output style is fairly simple, it is easy to copy-and-paste a hunk of its output into a file, and replace the text produced above by Subversion with the template values we'd like to see expanded.

$ cat svn.template
r{rev} | {author|user} | {date|isodate} ({date|rfc822date})

{desc|strip|fill76}

------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are a few small ways in which this template deviates from the output produced by Subversion.

  • Subversion prints a readable date (the Wed, 27 Sep 2006 in the example output above) in parentheses. Mercurial's templating engine does not provide a way to display a date in this format without also printing the time and time zone.

  • We emulate Subversion's printing of separator lines full of - characters by ending the template with such a line. We use the templating engine's header keyword to print a separator line as the first line of output (see below), thus achieving similar output to Subversion.

  • Subversion's output includes a count in the header of the number of lines in the commit message. We cannot replicate this in Mercurial; the templating engine does not currently provide a filter that counts the number of lines the template generates.

It took me no more than a minute or two of work to replace literal text from an example of Subversion's output with some keywords and filters to give the template above. The style file simply refers to the template.

$ cat svn.style
header = '------------------------------------------------------------------------\n\n'
changeset = svn.template

We could have included the text of the template file directly in the style file by enclosing it in quotes and replacing the newlines with \n sequences, but it would have made the style file too difficult to read. Readability is a good guide when you're trying to decide whether some text belongs in a style file, or in a template file that the style file points to. If the style file will look too big or cluttered if you insert a literal piece of text, drop it into a template instead.