Manual page for PATCH(1)
patch - apply a diff file to an original
[options] [origfile [patchfile]] [+ [options] [origfile]]...
but usually just
will take a patch file containing any of the four forms of difference
listing produced by the
program and apply those differences to an original file, producing a patched
By default, the patched version is put in place of the original, with
the original file backed up to the same name with the
extension ``.orig'' (``~'' on systems that do not
support long file names), or as specified by the
The extension used for making backup files may also be specified in the
environment variable, which is overridden by the above options.
If the backup file already exists,
creates a new backup file name by changing the first lowercase letter
in the last component of the file's name into uppercase. If there are
no more lowercase letters in the name, it removes the first character
from the name. It repeats this process until it comes up with a
backup file that does not already exist.
You may also specify where you want the output to go with a
option; if that file already exists, it is backed up first.
is omitted, or is a hyphen, the patch will be read from standard input.
Upon startup, patch will attempt to determine the type of the diff listing,
unless over-ruled by a
Context diffs (old-style, new-style, and unified) and
normal diffs are applied by the
program itself, while
diffs are simply fed to the
editor via a pipe.
will try to skip any leading garbage, apply the diff,
and then skip any trailing garbage.
Thus you could feed an article or message containing a
diff listing to
and it should work.
If the entire diff is indented by a consistent amount,
this will be taken into account.
With context diffs, and to a lesser extent with normal diffs,
can detect when the line numbers mentioned in the patch are incorrect,
and will attempt to find the correct place to apply each hunk of the patch.
As a first guess, it takes the line number mentioned for the hunk, plus or
minus any offset used in applying the previous hunk.
If that is not the correct place,
will scan both forwards and backwards for a set of lines matching the context
given in the hunk.
looks for a place where all lines of the context match.
If no such place is found, and it's a context diff, and the maximum fuzz factor
is set to 1 or more, then another scan takes place ignoring the first and last
line of context.
If that fails, and the maximum fuzz factor is set to 2 or more,
the first two and last two lines of context are ignored,
and another scan is made.
(The default maximum fuzz factor is 2.)
cannot find a place to install that hunk of the patch, it will put the
hunk out to a reject file, which normally is the name of the output file
plus ``.rej'' (``#'' on systems that do not support
long file names).
(Note that the rejected hunk will come out in context diff form whether the
input patch was a context diff or a normal diff.
If the input was a normal diff, many of the contexts will simply be null.)
The line numbers on the hunks in the reject file may be different than
in the patch file: they reflect the approximate location patch thinks the
failed hunks belong in the new file rather than the old one.
As each hunk is completed, you will be told whether the hunk succeeded or
failed, and which line (in the new file)
thought the hunk should go on.
If this is different from the line number specified in the diff you will
be told the offset.
A single large offset MAY be an indication that a hunk was installed in the
You will also be told if a fuzz factor was used to make the match, in which
case you should also be slightly suspicious.
If no original file is specified on the command line,
will try to figure out from the leading garbage what the name of the file
to edit is.
In the header of a context diff, the file name is found from lines beginning
with ``***'' or ``---'', with the shortest name of an existing
Only context diffs have lines like that, but if there is an ``Index:''
line in the leading garbage,
will try to use the file name from that line.
The context diff header takes precedence over an Index line.
If no file name can be intuited from the leading garbage, you will be asked
for the name of the file to patch.
If the original file cannot be found or is read-only, but a suitable
SCCS or RCS file is handy,
will attempt to get or check out the file.
Additionally, if the leading garbage contains a ``Prereq: '' line,
will take the first word from the prerequisites line (normally a version
number) and check the input file to see if that word can be found.
will ask for confirmation before proceeding.
The upshot of all this is that you should be able to say, while in a news
interface, the following:
| patch -d /usr/src/local/blurfl
and patch a file in the blurfl directory directly from the article containing
If the patch file contains more than one patch,
will try to apply each of them as if they came from separate patch files.
This means, among other things, that it is assumed that the name of the file
to patch must be determined for each diff listing,
and that the garbage before each diff listing will
be examined for interesting things such as file names and revision level, as
You can give options (and another original file name) for the second and
subsequent patches by separating the corresponding argument lists
by a `+'.
(The argument list for a second or subsequent patch may not specify a new
patch file, however.)
recognizes the following options:
- -b suff, --suffix=suff
to be interpreted as the backup extension, to be
used in place of ``.orig'' or ``~''.
- -B pref, --prefix=pref
to be interpreted as a prefix to the backup file
name. If this argument is specified, any argument from
will be ignored.
- -c, --context
to interpret the patch file as a context diff.
- -d dir, --directory=dir
as a directory, and cd to it before doing
- -D sym, --ifdef=sym
to use the "#ifdef...#endif" construct to mark changes.
will be used as the differentiating symbol.
- -e, --ed
to interpret the patch file as an
- -E, --remove-empty-files
to remove output files that are empty after the patches have been applied.
- -f, --force
to assume that the user knows exactly what he or she is doing, and to not
ask any questions. It assumes the following: skip patches for which a
file to patch can't be found; patch files even though they have the
wrong version for the ``Prereq:'' line in the patch; and assume that
patches are not reversed even if they look like they are.
This option does not suppress commentary; use
- -t, --batch
in that it suppresses questions, but makes some different assumptions:
skip patches for which a file to patch can't be found (the same as -f);
skip patches for which the file has the wrong version for the ``Prereq:'' line
in the patch; and assume that patches are reversed if they look like
- -F number, --fuzz=number
sets the maximum fuzz factor.
This option only applies to context diffs, and causes
to ignore up to that many lines in looking for places to install a hunk.
Note that a larger fuzz factor increases the odds of a faulty patch.
The default fuzz factor is 2, and it may not be set to more than
the number of lines of context in the context diff, ordinarily 3.
- -l, --ignore-whitespace
causes the pattern matching to be done loosely, in case the tabs and
spaces have been munged in your input file.
Any sequence of whitespace in the pattern line will match any sequence
in the input file.
Normal characters must still match exactly.
Each line of the context must still match a line in the input file.
- -n, --normal
to interpret the patch file as a normal diff.
- -N, --forward
to ignore patches that it thinks are reversed or already applied.
- -o file, --output=file
to be interpreted as the output file name.
- -p[number], --strip[=number]
sets the pathname strip count,
which controls how pathnames found in the patch file are treated, in case
the you keep your files in a different directory than the person who sent
out the patch.
The strip count specifies how many slashes are to be stripped from
the front of the pathname.
(Any intervening directory names also go away.)
For example, supposing the file name in the patch file was
gives the entire pathname unmodified,
without the leading slash,
and not specifying
at all just gives you "blurfl.c", unless all of the directories in the
leading path (u/howard/src/blurfl) exist and that path is relative,
in which case you get the entire pathname unmodified.
Whatever you end up with is looked for either in the current directory,
or the directory specified by the
- -r file, --reject-file=file
to be interpreted as the reject file name.
- -R, --reverse
that this patch was created with the old and new files swapped.
(Yes, I'm afraid that does happen occasionally, human nature being what it
will attempt to swap each hunk around before applying it.
Rejects will come out in the swapped format.
option will not work with
diff scripts because there is too little
information to reconstruct the reverse operation.
If the first hunk of a patch fails,
will reverse the hunk to see if it can be applied that way.
If it can, you will be asked if you want to have the
If it can't, the patch will continue to be applied normally.
(Note: this method cannot detect a reversed patch if it is a normal diff
and if the first command is an append (i.e. it should have been a delete)
since appends always succeed, due to the fact that a null context will match
Luckily, most patches add or change lines rather than delete them, so most
reversed normal diffs will begin with a delete, which will fail, triggering
- -s, --silent, --quiet
do its work silently, unless an error occurs.
- -S, --skip
to ignore this patch from the patch file, but continue on looking
for the next patch in the file.
patch -S + -S + <patchfile
will ignore the first and second of three patches.
- -u, --unified
to interpret the patch file as a unified context diff (a unidiff).
- -v, --version
to print out its revision header and patch level.
- -V method, --version--control=method
to be interpreted as a method for creating
backup file names. The type of backups made can also be given in the
environment variable, which is overridden by this option.
option overrides this option, causing the prefix to always be used for
making backup file names.
The value of the
environment variable and the argument to the
option are like the GNU
Emacs `version-control' variable; they also recognize synonyms that
are more descriptive. The valid values are (unique abbreviations are
- `t' or `numbered'
Always make numbered backups.
- `nil' or `existing'
Make numbered backups of files that already
have them, simple backups of the others.
This is the default.
- `never' or `simple'
Always make simple backups.
- -x number, --debug=number
sets internal debugging flags, and is of interest only to
Larry Wall <email@example.com>
with many other contributors.
Directory to put temporary files in; default is /tmp.
Extension to use for backup file names instead of ``.orig'' or
Selects when numbered backup files are made.
NOTES FOR PATCH SENDERS
There are several things you should bear in mind if you are going to
be sending out patches.
First, you can save people a lot of grief by keeping a patchlevel.h file
which is patched to increment the patch level as the first diff in the
patch file you send out.
If you put a Prereq: line in with the patch, it won't let them apply
patches out of order without some warning.
Second, make sure you've specified the file names right, either in a
context diff header, or with an Index: line.
If you are patching something in a subdirectory, be sure to tell the patch
user to specify a
option as needed.
Third, you can create a file by sending out a diff that compares a
null file to the file you want to create.
This will only work if the file you want to create doesn't exist already in
the target directory.
Fourth, take care not to send out reversed patches, since it makes people wonder
whether they already applied the patch.
Fifth, while you may be able to get away with putting 582 diff listings into
one file, it is probably wiser to group related patches into separate files in
case something goes haywire.
Too many to list here, but generally indicative that
couldn't parse your patch file.
The message ``Hmm...'' indicates that there is unprocessed text in
the patch file and that
is attempting to intuit whether there is a patch in that text and, if so,
what kind of patch it is.
will exit with a non-zero status if any reject files were created.
When applying a set of patches in a loop it behooves you to check this
exit status so you don't apply a later patch to a partially patched file.
cannot tell if the line numbers are off in an
script, and can only detect
bad line numbers in a normal diff when it finds a ``change'' or
a ``delete'' command.
A context diff using fuzz factor 3 may have the same problem.
Until a suitable interactive interface is added, you should probably do
a context diff in these cases to see if the changes made sense.
Of course, compiling without errors is a pretty good indication that the patch
worked, but not always.
usually produces the correct results, even when it has to do a lot of
However, the results are guaranteed to be correct only when the patch is
applied to exactly the same version of the file that the patch was
Could be smarter about partial matches, excessively deviant offsets and
swapped code, but that would take an extra pass.
If code has been duplicated (for instance with #ifdef OLDCODE ... #else ...
is incapable of patching both versions, and, if it works at all, will likely
patch the wrong one, and tell you that it succeeded to boot.
If you apply a patch you've already applied,
will think it is a reversed patch, and offer to un-apply the patch.
This could be construed as a feature.
Created by unroff & hp-tools.
© by Hans-Peter Bischof. All Rights Reserved (1997).
Last modified 21/April/97