export CVS_SERVER=git-cvsserver cvs -d :ext:user@server/path/repo.git co <HEAD_name>


This application is a CVS emulation layer for git.

It is highly functional. However, not all methods are implemented, and for those methods that are implemented, not all switches are implemented.

Testing has been done using both the CLI CVS client, and the Eclipse CVS plugin. Most functionality works fine with both of these clients.


Currently cvsserver works over SSH connections for read/write clients, and over pserver for anonymous CVS access.

CVS clients cannot tag, branch or perform GIT merges.


  1. If you are going to offer anonymous CVS access via pserver, add a line in /etc/inetd.conf like

       cvspserver stream tcp nowait nobody git-cvsserver pserver

    Note: In some cases, you need to pass the pserver argument twice for git-cvsserver to see it. So the line would look like

       cvspserver stream tcp nowait nobody git-cvsserver pserver pserver

    No special setup is needed for SSH access, other than having GIT tools in the PATH. If you have clients that do not accept the CVS_SERVER env variable, you can rename git-cvsserver to cvs.

  2. For each repo that you want accessible from CVS you need to edit config in the repo and add the following section.

            # optional for debugging

    Note: you need to ensure each user that is going to invoke git-cvsserver has write access to the log file and to the git repository. When offering anon access via pserver, this means that the nobody user should have write access to at least the sqlite database at the root of the repository.

  3. On the client machine you need to set the following variables. CVSROOT should be set as per normal, but the directory should point at the appropriate git repo. For example:

    For SSH access, CVS_SERVER should be set to git-cvsserver


         export CVSROOT=:ext:user@server:/var/git/project.git
         export CVS_SERVER=git-cvsserver
  4. For SSH clients that will make commits, make sure their .bashrc file sets the GIT_AUTHOR and GIT_COMMITTER variables.

  5. Clients should now be able to check out the project. Use the CVS module name to indicate what GIT head you want to check out. Example:

         cvs co -d project-master master

Eclipse CVS Client Notes

To get a checkout with the Eclipse CVS client:

  1. Select "Create a new project → From CVS checkout"

  2. Create a new location. See the notes below for details on how to choose the right protocol.

  3. Browse the modules available. It will give you a list of the heads in the repository. You will not be able to browse the tree from there. Only the heads.

  4. Pick HEAD when it asks what branch/tag to check out. Untick the "launch commit wizard" to avoid committing the .project file.

Protocol notes: If you are using anonymous access via pserver, just select that. Those using SSH access should choose the ext protocol, and configure ext access on the Preferences→Team→CVS→ExtConnection pane. Set CVS_SERVER to git-cvsserver. Not that password support is not good when using ext, you will definitely want to have SSH keys setup.

Alternatively, you can just use the non-standard extssh protocol that Eclipse offer. In that case CVS_SERVER is ignored, and you will have to replace the cvs utility on the server with git-cvsserver or manipulate your .bashrc so that calling cvs effectively calls git-cvsserver.

Clients known to work

Operations supported

All the operations required for normal use are supported, including checkout, diff, status, update, log, add, remove, commit. Legacy monitoring operations are not supported (edit, watch and related). Exports and tagging (tags and branches) are not supported at this stage.

The server should set the -k mode to binary when relevant, however, this is not really implemented yet. For now, you can force the server to set -kb for all files by setting the gitcvs.allbinary config variable. In proper GIT tradition, the contents of the files are always respected. No keyword expansion or newline munging is supported.


git-cvsserver depends on DBD::SQLite.

This program is copyright The Open University UK - 2006.


with ideas and patches from participants of the git-list <>.


Documentation by Martyn Smith <>, Martin Langhoff <>, and Matthias Urlichs <>.


Part of the gitlink:git[7] suite