Nicolas Martyanoff β€” Brain dump

Improving Git diffs for Lisp

All my code is stored in various Git repositories. When Git formats a diff between two objects, it generates a list of hunks, or groups of changes.

Each hunk can be displayed with a title which is automatically extracted. Git ships with support for multiple languages, but Lisp dialects are not part of it. Fortunately Git lets users configure their own extraction.

The first step is to identify the language using a pattern applied to the filename. Edit your Git attribute file at $HOME/.gitattributes and add entries for both Emacs Lisp and Common Lisp:

*.lisp diff=common-lisp
*.el diff=elisp

Then edit your Git configuration file at $HOME/.gitconfig and configure the path of the Git attribute file:

[core]
    attributesfile = ~/.gitattributes

Finally, set the regular expression used to match a top-level function name:

[diff "common-lisp"]
    xfuncname="^\\((def\\S+\\s+\\S+)"
    
[diff "elisp"]
    xfuncname="^\\((((def\\S+)|use-package)\\s+\\S+)"

For Lisp dialects, we do not just identify function names: it is convenient to identify hunks for all sorts of top-level definitions. We use a regular expression which captures the first symbol of the form and the name that follows.

Of course you can modifiy these expressions to identify more complex top-level forms. For example, for Emacs Lisp, I also want to identify use-package expressions.

You can see the result in all tools displaying Git diffs, for example in Magit with Common Lisp code:

Common Lisp diff

Or for my Emacs configuration file:

Emacs Lisp diff

Hunk titles, highlighted in blue, now contain the type and name of the top-level construction the changes are associated with.

A simple change, but one which really helps reading diffs.