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Michael Haggerty 3bc581b940 refs: introduce an iterator interface
Currently, the API for iterating over references is via a family of
for_each_ref()-type functions that invoke a callback function for each
selected reference. All of these eventually call do_for_each_ref(),
which knows how to do one thing: iterate in parallel through two
ref_caches, one for loose and one for packed refs, giving loose
references precedence over packed refs. This is rather complicated code,
and is quite specialized to the files backend. It also requires callers
to encapsulate their work into a callback function, which often means
that they have to define and use a "cb_data" struct to manage their

The current design is already bursting at the seams, and will become
even more awkward in the upcoming world of multiple reference storage

* Per-worktree vs. shared references are currently handled via a kludge
  in git_path() rather than iterating over each part of the reference
  namespace separately and merging the results. This kludge will cease
  to work when we have multiple reference storage backends.

* The current scheme is inflexible. What if we sometimes want to bypass
  the ref_cache, or use it only for packed or only for loose refs? What
  if we want to store symbolic refs in one type of storage backend and
  non-symbolic ones in another?

In the future, each reference backend will need to define its own way of
iterating over references. The crux of the problem with the current
design is that it is impossible to compose for_each_ref()-style
iterations, because the flow of control is owned by the for_each_ref()
function. There is nothing that a caller can do but iterate through all
references in a single burst, so there is no way for it to interleave
references from multiple backends and present the result to the rest of
the world as a single compound backend.

This commit introduces a new iteration primitive for references: a
ref_iterator. A ref_iterator is a polymorphic object that a reference
storage backend can be asked to instantiate. There are three functions
that can be applied to a ref_iterator:

* ref_iterator_advance(): move to the next reference in the iteration
* ref_iterator_abort(): end the iteration before it is exhausted
* ref_iterator_peel(): peel the reference currently being looked at

Iterating using a ref_iterator leaves the flow of control in the hands
of the caller, which means that ref_iterators from multiple
sources (e.g., loose and packed refs) can be composed and presented to
the world as a single compound ref_iterator.

It also means that the backend code for implementing reference iteration
will sometimes be more complicated. For example, the
cache_ref_iterator (which iterates over a ref_cache) can't use the C
stack to recurse; instead, it must manage its own stack internally as
explicit data structures. There is also a lot of boilerplate connected
with object-oriented programming in C.

Eventually, end-user callers will be able to be written in a more
natural way—managing their own flow of control rather than having to
work via callbacks. Since there will only be a few reference backends
but there are many consumers of this API, this is a good tradeoff.

More importantly, we gain composability, and especially the possibility
of writing interchangeable parts that can work with any ref_iterator.

For example, merge_ref_iterator implements a generic way of merging the
contents of any two ref_iterators. It is used to merge loose + packed
refs as part of the implementation of the files_ref_iterator. But it
will also be possible to use it to merge other pairs of reference
sources (e.g., per-worktree vs. shared refs).

Another example is prefix_ref_iterator, which can be used to trim a
prefix off the front of reference names before presenting them to the
caller (e.g., "refs/heads/master" -> "master").

In this patch, we introduce the iterator abstraction and many utilities,
and implement a reference iterator for the files ref storage backend.
(I've written several other obvious utilities, for example a generic way
to filter references being iterated over. These will probably be useful
in the future. But they are not needed for this patch series, so I am
not including them at this time.)

In a moment we will rewrite do_for_each_ref() to work via reference
iterators (allowing some special-purpose code to be discarded), and do
something similar for reflogs. In future patch series, we will expose
the ref_iterator abstraction in the public refs API so that callers can
use it directly.

Implementation note: I tried abstracting this a layer further to allow
generic iterators (over arbitrary types of objects) and generic
utilities like a generic merge_iterator. But the implementation in C was
very cumbersome, involving (in my opinion) too much boilerplate and too
much unsafe casting, some of which would have had to be done on the
caller side. However, I did put a few iterator-related constants in a
top-level header file, iterator.h, as they will be useful in a moment to
implement iteration over directory trees and possibly other types of
iterators in the future.

Signed-off-by: Ramsay Jones <>
Signed-off-by: Michael Haggerty <>
Signed-off-by: Junio C Hamano <>
2016-06-20 11:38:20 -07:00