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Sapling has bookmarks instead of branches. Like a Git branch, a bookmark is just a name that points to a particular commit and can be used to refer to that commit during checkout, rebase, etc. Sapling has two different types of bookmarks: local and remote.

Sapling does not require local bookmarks for development. In fact, for day-to-day development, bookmarks are discouraged since people find it easier not to use them.

Local bookmarks:

  • Exist only on your local machine.
  • Can be seen and modified only by you, using the sl bookmark command.
  • Are completely optional, and generally unnecessary for normal workflows.
  • Can be active or inactive (see below). Active means they move when you commit.

Remote bookmarks:

  • Are local copies of the server’s bookmarks.
  • Appear prefixed with remote/ (example: remote/main)
  • Cannot be modified locally by you. They can only be updated by sl pull or moved by sl push.

All of your local bookmarks and your most important remote bookmarks are shown in smartlog output. In this example, remote/main is a remote bookmark and my_feature is created as a local bookmark.

$ sl
o b84224608 13 minutes ago remote/main

@ 15de72785 35 seconds ago mary
╭─╯ Implement glorious features

o a555d064c Wednesday at 09:06


$ sl bookmark my_feature

$ sl
o b84224608 13 minutes ago remote/main

@ 15de72785 35 seconds ago mary my_feature*
╭─╯ Implement glorious features

o a555d064c Wednesday at 09:06


Active bookmarks

The asterisk (*) on the my_feature bookmark indicates the bookmark is active. If you make a commit, the active bookmark will move forward to point at the new commit. If my_feature was not active, making a new commit would not change my_feature, which would remain pointing at 15de72785.

A bookmark is made active when it is first created or when it is explicitly checked out with sl goto my_feature. It is made inactive when you explicitly go to another commit, like with sl goto OTHER_COMMIT.

Differences from Git branches

  • In Git you must always be working on a local branch, otherwise you end up in the confusing "detached head" state and any commits you make may be hard to find later or may be garbage collected. In Sapling, you do not need a bookmark when creating a new commit, and commits are visible in smartlog regardless of whether they have a bookmark or not.
  • In Git, deleting a branch makes it difficult to find the commits that were on that branch. In Sapling, deleting a local bookmark doesn’t hide commits, and bookmarks are safe and easy to add and delete.
  • In Git, rebasing or amending a branch will only affect that branch. If multiple branches were pointing at the same commit, the other branches will be left behind, still pointing at the old commit. In Sapling, when you rebase or amend, every bookmark on a commit will be moved to the new version of the commit.