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Pack and multi-pack bitmaps

Bitmaps store reachability information about the set of objects in a packfile, or a multi-pack index (MIDX). The former is defined obviously, and the latter is defined as the union of objects in packs contained in the MIDX.

A bitmap may belong to either one pack, or the repository’s multi-pack index (if it exists). A repository may have at most one bitmap.

An object is uniquely described by its bit position within a bitmap:

  • If the bitmap belongs to a packfile, the nth bit corresponds to the nth object in pack order. For a function offset which maps objects to their byte offset within a pack, pack order is defined as follows:

    o1 <= o2 <==> offset(o1) <= offset(o2)
  • If the bitmap belongs to a MIDX, the nth bit corresponds to the nth object in MIDX order. With an additional function pack which maps objects to the pack they were selected from by the MIDX, MIDX order is defined as follows:

    o1 <= o2 <==> pack(o1) <= pack(o2) /\ offset(o1) <= offset(o2)

    The ordering between packs is done according to the MIDX’s .rev file. Notably, the preferred pack sorts ahead of all other packs.

The on-disk representation (described below) of a bitmap is the same regardless of whether or not that bitmap belongs to a packfile or a MIDX. The only difference is the interpretation of the bits, which is described above.

Certain bitmap extensions are supported (see: Appendix B). No extensions are required for bitmaps corresponding to packfiles. For bitmaps that correspond to MIDXs, both the bit-cache and rev-cache extensions are required.

On-disk format

  • A header appears at the beginning:

    4-byte signature:

    {B, I, T, M}

    2-byte version number (network byte order):

    The current implementation only supports version 1 of the bitmap index (the same one as JGit).

    2-byte flags (network byte order):

    The following flags are supported:


      This flag must always be present. It implies that the bitmap index has been generated for a packfile or multi-pack index (MIDX) with full closure (i.e. where every single object in the packfile/MIDX can find its parent links inside the same packfile/MIDX). This is a requirement for the bitmap index format, also present in JGit, that greatly reduces the complexity of the implementation.


      If present, the end of the bitmap file contains N 32-bit name-hash values, one per object in the pack/MIDX. The format and meaning of the name-hash is described below.


      If present, the end of the bitmap file contains a table containing a list of N <commit_pos, offset, xor_row> triplets. The format and meaning of the table is described below.

      Unlike the xor_offset used to compress an individual bitmap, xor_row stores an absolute index into the lookup table, not a location relative to the current entry.
    4-byte entry count (network byte order):

    The total count of entries (bitmapped commits) in this bitmap index.

    20-byte checksum:

    The SHA1 checksum of the pack/MIDX this bitmap index belongs to.

  • 4 EWAH bitmaps that act as type indexes

    Type indexes are serialized after the hash cache in the shape of four EWAH bitmaps stored consecutively (see Appendix A for the serialization format of an EWAH bitmap).

    There is a bitmap for each Git object type, stored in the following order:

    • Commits

    • Trees

    • Blobs

    • Tags

    In each bitmap, the `n`th bit is set to true if the `n`th object in the packfile or multi-pack index is of that type.

    The obvious consequence is that the OR of all 4 bitmaps will result in a full set (all bits set), and the AND of all 4 bitmaps will result in an empty bitmap (no bits set).

  • N entries with compressed bitmaps, one for each indexed commit

    Where N is the total number of entries in this bitmap index. Each entry contains the following:

    • 4-byte object position (network byte order):

      The position in the index for the packfile or multi-pack index where the bitmap for this commit is found.

    • 1-byte XOR-offset:

      The xor offset used to compress this bitmap. For an entry in position x, an XOR offset of y means that the actual bitmap representing this commit is composed by XORing the bitmap for this entry with the bitmap in entry x-y (i.e. the bitmap y entries before this one).

      This compression can be recursive. In order to XOR this entry with a previous one, the previous entry needs to be decompressed first, and so on.

      The hard-limit for this offset is 160 (an entry can only be xor’ed against one of the 160 entries preceding it). This number is always positive, and hence entries are always xor’ed with previous bitmaps, not bitmaps that will come afterwards in the index.

    • 1-byte flags for this bitmap:

      At the moment the only available flag is 0x1, which hints that this bitmap can be re-used when rebuilding bitmap indexes for the repository.

    • The compressed bitmap itself, see Appendix A.


    Trailing checksum of the preceding contents.

Appendix A: Serialization format for an EWAH bitmap

Ewah bitmaps are serialized in the same protocol as the JAVAEWAH library, making them backwards compatible with the JGit implementation:

  • 4-byte number of bits of the resulting UNCOMPRESSED bitmap

  • 4-byte number of words of the COMPRESSED bitmap, when stored

  • N x 8-byte words, as specified by the previous field

    This is the actual content of the compressed bitmap.

  • 4-byte position of the current RLW for the compressed bitmap

All words are stored in network byte order for their corresponding sizes.

The compressed bitmap is stored in a form of run-length encoding, as follows. It consists of a concatenation of an arbitrary number of chunks. Each chunk consists of one or more 64-bit words

H  L_1  L_2  L_3 .... L_M

H is called RLW (run length word). It consists of (from lower to higher order bits):

  • 1 bit: the repeated bit B

  • 32 bits: repetition count K (unsigned)

  • 31 bits: literal word count M (unsigned)

The bitstream represented by the above chunk is then:

  • K repetitions of B

  • The bits stored in L_1 through L_M. Within a word, bits at lower order come earlier in the stream than those at higher order.

The next word after L_M (if any) must again be a RLW, for the next chunk. For efficient appending to the bitstream, the EWAH stores a pointer to the last RLW in the stream.

Appendix B: Optional Bitmap Sections

These sections may or may not be present in the .bitmap file; their presence is indicated by the header flags section described above.

Name-hash cache

If the BITMAP_OPT_HASH_CACHE flag is set, the end of the bitmap contains a cache of 32-bit values, one per object in the pack/MIDX. The value at position i is the hash of the pathname at which the `i`th object (counting in index or multi-pack index order) in the pack/MIDX can be found. This can be fed into the delta heuristics to compare objects with similar pathnames.

The hash algorithm used is:

hash = 0;
while ((c = *name++))
 if (!isspace(c))
  hash = (hash >> 2) + (c << 24);

Note that this hashing scheme is tied to the BITMAP_OPT_HASH_CACHE flag. If implementations want to choose a different hashing scheme, they are free to do so, but MUST allocate a new header flag (because comparing hashes made under two different schemes would be pointless).

Commit lookup table

If the BITMAP_OPT_LOOKUP_TABLE flag is set, the last N * (4 + 8 + 4) bytes (preceding the name-hash cache and trailing hash) of the .bitmap file contains a lookup table specifying the information needed to get the desired bitmap from the entries without parsing previous unnecessary bitmaps.

For a .bitmap containing nr_entries reachability bitmaps, the table contains a list of nr_entries <commit_pos, offset, xor_row> triplets (sorted in the ascending order of commit_pos). The content of the i’th triplet is -

  • commit_pos (4 byte integer, network byte order):

    It stores the object position of a commit (in the midx or pack index).

  • offset (8 byte integer, network byte order):

    The offset from which that commit’s bitmap can be read.

  • xor_row (4 byte integer, network byte order):

    The position of the triplet whose bitmap is used to compress this one, or 0xffffffff if no such bitmap exists.