Nested git repositories without remotes (a.k.a. git submodule without remotes)

I have a project of which I am interested in breaking out portions as open-source. I've set up nested git repositories main, one, two and three:

├── one
├── three
└── two

I thought that by going into "main" and doing

git add one
git add two
git add three

(note the lack of trailing slashes), I'd set up submodules with the sub-repositories and be good to go.

However, as noted in How to track untracked content?, this only creates gitlinks and not real submodules.

Unfortunately, that answer doesn't help, as it assumes that there is a "master" repository somewhere else for "main/one", "main/two", and "main/three". I'd like these sub-repo's to be the master repositories. I'm considering fake submodules (as per Git fake submodules), but that's not a particularly ideal situation for cloning.

Any other suggestions out there?


  • You can do what you want, but your one, two, and three would need to be accessible to whoever will need to clone them—this is not usually the case for “random” development repositories.

    If you do set this up, you will need to be very careful not to delete “your” repository (or make it otherwise inaccessible) since it is not just “yours”: it will be origin in your collaborator’s clones and it will serve as the “central”/“upstream” repository (as specified in .gitmodules).

    If all your collaborators are local (and can read from the repositories), you can add your existing sub-repositories as submodules by giving their local paths as URLs:

    git rm --cached one two three
    git submodule add `pwd`/one
    git submodule add `pwd`/two
    git submodule add `pwd`/three

    If not all your collaborators will be working on the same machine, then that will probably not work correctly (since it will store a local path in .gitmodules; non-local collaborators would have to adjust the URLs after git submodule init).

    If your one, two, and three are remotely Git-accessible, then you can specify their effecive URLs instead:

    git rm --cached one two three
    git -c protocol.file.allow=always submodule add server:/path/to/your/main/one
    git -c protocol.file.allow=always submodule add server:/path/to/your/main/two
    git -c protocol.file.allow=always submodule add server:/path/to/your/main/three

    In both cases, since you already have a sub-repository in place, git submodule add will use that instead of trying to clone from the specified path/URL.