patch takes comparison output produced by
diff and applies
the differences to a copy of the original file, producing a patched
patch, you can distribute just the changes to a
set of files instead of distributing the entire file set; your
correspondents can apply
patch to update their copy of the files
with your changes.
patch automatically determines the diff
format, skips any leading or trailing headers, and uses the headers to
determine which file to patch. This lets your correspondents feed an
article or message containing a difference listing directly to
patch detects and warns about common problems like forward
patches. It saves the original version of the files it patches, and
saves any patches that it could not apply. It can also maintain a
patchlevel.h file to ensures that your correspondents apply
diffs in the proper order.
patch accepts a series of diffs in its standard input, usually
separated by headers that specify which file to patch. It applies
diff hunks (see section Hunks) one by one. If a hunk does not
exactly match the original file,
patch uses heuristics to try to
patch the file as well as it can. If no approximate match can be found,
patch rejects the hunk and skips to the next hunk.
normally replaces each file f with its new version, saving the
original file in `f.orig', and putting reject hunks (if any)
See section Invoking
patch, for detailed information on the options to
patch. See section Backup File Names, for more information on how
patch names backup files. See section Reject File Names, for more information
patch puts reject hunks.
patch normally determines which
diff format the patch
file uses by examining its contents. For patch files that contain
particularly confusing leading text, you might need to use one of the
following options to force
patch to interpret the patch file as a
certain format of diff. The output formats listed here are the only
patch can understand.
patch tries to skip any leading text in the patch file, apply the
diff, and then skip any trailing text. Thus you can feed a news article
or mail message directly to
patch, and it should work. If the
entire diff is indented by a constant amount of white space,
automatically ignores the indentation.
However, certain other types of imperfect input require user intervention.
patchfind close matches.
Sometimes mailers, editors, or other programs change spaces into tabs,
or vice versa. If this happens to a patch file or an input file, the
files might look the same, but
patch will not be able to match
them properly. If this problem occurs, use the `-l' or
`--ignore-white-space' option, which makes
white space loosely so that any sequence of white space in the patch file
matches any sequence of white space in the input files. Non-white-space
characters must still match exactly. Each line of the context must
still match a line in the input file.
Sometimes people run
diff with the new file first instead of
second. This creates a diff that is "reversed". To apply such
patch the `-R' or `--reverse' option.
patch then attempts to swap each hunk around before applying it.
Rejects come out in the swapped format. The `-R' option does not
ed scripts because there is too little information in
them to reconstruct the reverse operation.
patch can guess that the patch is reversed. If the first
hunk of a patch fails,
patch reverses the hunk to see if it can
apply it that way. If it can,
patch asks you if you want to have
the `-R' option set; if it can't,
patch continues to apply
the patch normally. This method cannot detect a reversed patch if it is
a normal diff and the first command is an append (which should have been
a delete) since appends always succeed, because a null context matches
anywhere. But most patches add or change lines rather than delete them,
so most reversed normal diffs begin with a delete, which fails, and
If you apply a patch that you have already applied,
it is a reversed patch and offers to un-apply the patch. This could be
construed as a feature. If you did this inadvertently and you don't
want to un-apply the patch, just answer `n' to this offer and to
the subsequent "apply anyway" question--or type C-c to kill the
patchFind Inexact Matches
For context diffs, and to a lesser extent normal diffs,
detect when the line numbers mentioned in the patch are incorrect, and
it attempts to find the correct place to apply each hunk of the patch.
As a first guess, it takes the line number mentioned in the hunk, plus
or minus any offset used in applying the previous hunk. If that is not
the correct place,
patch scans both forward and backward for a
set of lines matching the context given in the hunk.
patch looks for a place where all lines of the context
match. If it cannot find such a place, and it is reading a context or
unified diff, and the maximum fuzz factor is set to 1 or more, then
patch makes another scan, ignoring the first and last line of
context. If that fails, and the maximum fuzz factor is set to 2 or
more, it makes another scan, ignoring the first two and last two lines
of context are ignored. It continues similarly if the maximum fuzz
factor is larger.
The `-F lines' or `--fuzz=lines' option sets the maximum fuzz factor to lines. This option only applies to context and unified diffs; it ignores up to lines lines while looking for the place to install a hunk. Note that a larger fuzz factor increases the odds of making a faulty patch. The default fuzz factor is 2; it may not be set to more than the number of lines of context in the diff, ordinarily 3.
patch cannot find a place to install a hunk of the patch, it
writes the hunk out to a reject file (see section Reject File Names, for information
on how reject files are named). It writes out rejected hunks in context
format no matter what form the input patch is in. If the input is a
ed diff, many of the contexts are simply null. The
line numbers on the hunks in the reject file may be different from those
in the patch file: they show the approximate location where
thinks the failed hunks belong in the new file rather than in the old
As it completes each hunk,
patch tells you whether the hunk
succeeded or failed, and if it failed, on which line (in the new file)
patch thinks the hunk should go. If this is different from the
line number specified in the diff, it tells you the offset. A single
large offset may indicate that
patch installed a hunk in
the wrong place.
patch also tells you if it used a fuzz factor
to make the match, in which case you should also be slightly suspicious.
patch cannot tell if the line numbers are off in an
script, and can only detect wrong line numbers in a normal diff when it
finds a change or delete command. It may have the same problem with a
context diff using a fuzz factor equal to or greater than the number of
lines of context shown in the diff (typically 3). In these cases, you
should probably look at a context diff between your original and patched
input files to see if the changes make sense. Compiling without errors
is a pretty good indication that the patch worked, but not a guarantee.
patch usually produces the correct results, even when it must
make many guesses. However, the results are guaranteed only when
the patch is applied to an exact copy of the file that the patch was
Sometimes when comparing two directories, the first directory contains a
file that the second directory does not. If you give
`-N' or `--new-file' option, it outputs a diff that deletes
the contents of this file. By default,
patch leaves an empty
file after applying such a diff. The `-E' or
`--remove-empty-files' option to
patch deletes output files
that are empty after applying the diff.
If the patch file contains more than one patch,
patch tries to
apply each of them as if they came from separate patch files. This
means that it determines the name of the file to patch for each patch,
and that it examines the leading text before each patch for file names
and prerequisite revision level (see section Tips for Making Patch Distributions, for more on
For the second and subsequent patches in the patch file, you can give options and another original file name by separating their argument lists with a `+'. However, the argument list for a second or subsequent patch may not specify a new patch file, since that does not make sense.
For example, to tell
patch to strip the first three slashes from
the name of the first patch in the patch file and none from subsequent
patches, and to use `code.c' as the first input file, you can use:
patch -p3 code.c + -p0 < patchfile
The `-S' or `--skip' option ignores the current patch from the patch file, but continue looking for the next patch in the file. Thus, to ignore the first and third patches in the patch file, you can use:
patch -S + + -S + < patch file
patch can produce a variety of messages, especially if it has
trouble decoding its input. In a few situations where it's not sure how
patch normally prompts you for more information from
the keyboard. There are options to suppress printing non-fatal messages
and stopping for keyboard input.
The message `Hmm...' indicates that
patch is reading text in
the patch file, attempting to determine whether there is a patch in that
text, and if so, what kind of patch it is.
You can inhibit all terminal output from
patch, unless an error
occurs, by using the `-s', `--quiet', or `--silent'
There are two ways you can prevent
patch from asking you any
questions. The `-f' or `--force' option assumes that you know
what you are doing. It assumes the following:
The `-t' or `--batch' option is similar to `-f', in that it suppresses questions, but it makes somewhat different assumptions:
patch exits with a non-zero status if it creates any reject
files. When applying a set of patches in a loop, you should check the
exit status, so you don't apply a later patch to a partially patched