patch - apply a diff file to an original
patch [options] [origfile [patchfile]] [+ [options] [origfile]]...
but usually just
Patch will take a patch file containing any of the four forms of dif-
ference listing produced by the diff program and apply those differ-
ences to an original file, producing a patched version. 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 sys-
tems that do not support long file names), or as specified by the -b
(--suffix), -B (--prefix), or -V (--version-control) options. The
extension used for making backup files may also be specified in the
SIMPLE_BACKUP_SUFFIX environment variable, which is overridden by the
If the backup file already exists, patch 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
You may also specify where you want the output to go with a -o (--out-
put) option; if that file already exists, it is backed up first.
If patchfile is omitted, or is a hyphen, the patch will be read from
standard input. If a -i argument is specified, the filename following
it will be used, instead of standard input. You may specify only one -i
Upon startup, patch will attempt to determine the type of the diff
listing, unless over-ruled by a -c (--context), -e (--ed), -n (--nor-
mal), or -u (--unified) option. Context diffs (old-style, new-style,
and unified) and normal diffs are applied by the patch program itself,
while ed diffs are simply fed to the ed editor via a pipe.
Patch 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 patch, and it should work. If the entire
diff is indented by a consistent amount, this will be taken into
With context diffs, and to a lesser extent with normal diffs, patch 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, patch will scan both forwards and backwards for a
set of lines matching the context given in the hunk. First patch 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.) If
patch 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) patch 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 wrong place. 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, patch 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
file winning. Only context diffs have lines like that, but if there is
an "Index:" line in the leading garbage, patch 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, patch will attempt to get or check out the
Additionally, if the leading garbage contains a "Prereq: " line, patch
will take the first word from the prerequisites line (normally a ver-
sion number) and check the input file to see if that word can be found.
If not, patch 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 con-
taining the patch.
If the patch file contains more than one patch, 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 mentioned previously. You can
give options (and another original file name) for the second and subse-
quent 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.)
Patch recognizes the following options:
-b suff, --suffix=suff
causes suff to be interpreted as the backup extension, to be used
in place of ".orig" or "~".
-B pref, --prefix=pref
causes pref to be interpreted as a prefix to the backup file name.
If this argument is specified, any argument from -b will be
forces patch to interpret the patch file as a context diff.
see what would happen, but don't do it.
-d dir, --directory=dir
causes patch to interpret dir as a directory, and cd to it before
doing anything else.
-D sym, --ifdef=sym
causes patch to use the "#ifdef...#endif" construct to mark
changes. sym will be used as the differentiating symbol.
forces patch to interpret the patch file as an ed script.
causes patch to remove output files that are empty after the
patches have been applied.
forces patch 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 commen-
tary; use -s for that.
similar to -f, 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 they are.
-F number, --fuzz=number
sets the maximum fuzz factor. This option only applies to context
diffs, and causes patch 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 con-
text in the context diff, ordinarily 3.
tells patch to apply patchfile instead of stdin.
forces patch to take ``Index:'' line precedence over context diff
header. The same effect have PATCH_INDEX_FIRST environment vari-
able if present.
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.
forces patch to interpret the patch file as a normal diff.
causes patch to ignore patches that it thinks are reversed or
already applied. See also -R .
-o file, --output=file
causes file to be interpreted as the output file name.
sets the pathname strip count, which controls how pathnames found
in the patch file are treated, in case 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
setting -p or -p0 gives the entire pathname unmodified, -p1 gives
without the leading slash, -p4 gives
and not specifying -p 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 path-
name unmodified. Whatever you end up with is looked for either in
the current directory, or the directory specified by the -d
-r file, --reject-file=file
causes file to be interpreted as the reject file name.
tells patch 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 is.) Patch will attempt to swap each hunk
around before applying it. Rejects will come out in the swapped
format. The -R option will not work with ed diff scripts because
there is too little information to reconstruct the reverse opera-
If the first hunk of a patch fails, patch 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 -R option set. 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 anywhere. 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 the heuristic.)
-s, --silent, --quiet
makes patch do its work silently, unless an error occurs.
causes patch to ignore this patch from the patch file, but con-
tinue on looking for the next patch in the file. Thus
patch -S + -S + -u, --unified
forces patch to interpret the patch file as a unified context diff
causes patch to print out its revision header and patch level.
-V method, --version-control=method
causes method to be interpreted as a method for creating backup
file names. The type of backups made can also be given in the
VERSION_CONTROL environment variable, which is overridden by this
option. The -B option overrides this option, causing the prefix
to always be used for making backup file names. The value of the
VERSION_CONTROL environment variable and the argument to the -V
option are like the GNU Emacs `version-control' variable; they
also recognize synonyms that are more descriptive. The valid val-
ues are (unique abbreviations are accepted):
`t' or `numbered'
Always make numbered backups.
`nil' or `existing'
Make numbered backups of files that already have them, sim-
ple 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 patch
with many other contributors.
TMPDIR 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 -p 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 hay-
Too many to list here, but generally indicative that patch couldn't
parse your patch file.
The message "Hmm..." indicates that there is unprocessed text in the
patch file and that patch is attempting to intuit whether there is a
patch in that text and, if so, what kind of patch it is.
Patch will exit with a non-zero status if any reject files were cre-
ated. 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
Patch cannot tell if the line numbers are off in an ed 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 indi-
cation that the patch worked, but not always.
Patch usually produces the correct results, even when it has to do a
lot of guessing. 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 generated from.
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
... #endif), patch 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, patch will think it is a
reversed patch, and offer to un-apply the patch. This could be con-
strued as a feature.