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Using Git/GitLab


We use protected and feature branches. You must not (even if you have the rights) commit to it directly.

  • master, a protected branch and also the default branch. Represents the latest stable release (i.e. what the current official NOMAD runs on).
  • develop, a quasi protected branch. It contains the latest, potentially unreleased, features and fixes.
  • feature branches, this is where you work. Typically they are automatically named after issues: <issue-number>-<issue-title>.
  • vX.X.X, tags for releases.

Flow: From issue to merge

Create issues

Everyone with an MPCDF GitLab account can create issues.

  • Use descriptive short titles. Specific words over general works. Try to describe the problem and do not assume causes.
  • You do not need to greet us or say thx and goodbye. Let's keep it purely technically.
  • For bugs: think about how to re-produce the problem and provide examples when applicable.
  • For features: in addition to the feature descriptive, try to provide a use-case that might help us understand the feature and its scope.
  • You can label the issue if you know the label system.

Labeling issues

There are three main categories for labels. Ideally each issue gets one of each category:

  • The state labels (grey). Those are used to manage when and how the issue is addressed. This should be given the NOMAD team member who is currently responsible to moderate the development. If its a simple fix and you want to do it yourself, assign yourself and use "bugfixes".

  • The component label (purple). This denote the part of the NOMAD software that is most likely effected. Multiple purple labels are possible.

  • The kind label (key). Wether this is a bug, feature, refactoring, or documentation issue.

Unlabeled issues will get labeled by the NOMAD team as soon as possible.

Working on an issue

Within the development team and during development meetings we decide who is acting on an issue. The person is assigned to the issue on GitLab. It typically switches its grey state label from backlog to current or bugfixes. The assigned person is responsible to further discuss the problem with the issue author and involve more people if necessary.

To contribute code changes, you should create a branch and merge request (MR) from the GitLab issue via the button offered by GitLab. This will create a branch of develop and create a merge request that targets develop.

You can work on this branch and push as often as you like. Each push will cause a pipeline to run. The solution can be discussed in the merge request.

Code review and merge

When you are satisfied with your solution, and your CI/CD pipeline passes you can mark your MR as ready. Make sure that the delete option is checked to automatically remove you branch after merge. In most cases you should also check squash commits. This will replace all the commits in the MR with a single squash commit. If you do not want to squash your branch, make sure that you produce a reasonable and clean version history.

To review GUI changes, you should deploy your branch to the dev-cluster via CI/CD actions. Find someone on the NOMAD developer team to review your MR and request a review through GitLab. The review should be performed shortly and should not stall the MR longer than two full work days.

The reviewer will open threads that need to be solved by the MR author. If all threads are resolved, you can re-request a review. The reviewer should eventually merge the MR. Typically we squash MRs to keep the revision history short. This will typically auto-close the issue.


We have an automatically generated changelog in the repository file This changelog is produced from commit messages and to maintain this file, you need to write commit messages accordingly.

To trigger a changelog entry, your commit needs to end with a so called git trailer called Changelog. A typical commit message for a changelog entry should look like this:

A brief one line title of the change.

A longer *markdown* formatted description of the change. Keep in mind that gitlab
will automatically link the changelog entry with this commit and a respective merge
requests. You do not need to manually link to any gitlab resources.

This could span multiple paragraphs. However, keep it short. Documentation should
go into the actual documentation, but you should mention breaks in backward compatibility,
deprecation of features, etc.

Changelog: Fixed

The trailer value (Fixed in the example) has to be one of the following values:

  • Fixed, for bugfixes.
  • Added, for new features.
  • Changed, for general improvements, e.g. updated documentation, refactoring, improving performance, etc.

These categories are consistent with ([]. For more information about the changelog generation read the gitlab documentation.

Clean version history

It is often necessary to consider code history to reason about potential problems in our code. This can only be done, if we keep a "clean" history.

  • Use descriptive commit messages. Use simple verbs (added, removed, refactored, etc.) name features and changed components. Include issue numbers to create links in gitlab.

  • Learn how to amend to avoid lists of small related commits.

  • Learn how to rebase. Only merging feature-branches should create merge commits.

  • Squash commits when merging.

  • Some videos on more advanced git usage:,


While working on a feature, there are certain practices that will help us to create a clean history with coherent commits, where each commit stands on its own.

  git commit --amend

If you committed something to your own feature branch and then realize by CI that you have some tiny error in it that you need to fix, try to amend this fix to the last commit. This will avoid unnecessary tiny commits and foster more coherent single commits. With amend you are basically adding changes to the last commit, i.e. editing the last commit. If you push, you need to force it git push origin feature-branch --force-with-lease. So be careful, and only use this on your own branches.


  git rebase <version-branch>

Lets assume you work on a bigger feature that takes more time. You might want to merge the version branch into your feature branch from time to time to get the recent changes. In these cases, use rebase and not merge. Rebase puts your branch commits in front of the merged commits instead of creating a new commit with two ancestors. It basically moves the point where you initially branched away from the version branch to the current position in the version branch. This will avoid merges, merge commits, and generally leave us with a more consistent history. You can also rebase before creating a merge request, which basically allows no-op merges. Ideally the only real merges that we ever have, are between version branches.


  git merge --squash <other-branch>

When you need multiple branches to implement a feature and merge between them, try to use squash. Squashing basically puts all commits of the merged branch into a single commit. It basically allows you to have many commits and then squash them into one. This is useful if these commits were made just to synchronize between workstations, due to unexpected errors in CI/CD, because you needed a save point, etc. Again the goal is to have coherent commits, where each commits makes sense on its own.


The main NOMAD GitLab-project (nomad-fair) uses Git-submodules to maintain its parsers and other dependencies. All these submodules are places in the /dependencies directory. There are helper scripts to install (./ and commit changes to all submodules (./ After merging or checking out, you have to make sure that the modules are updated to not accidentally commit old submodule commits again. Usually you do the following to check if you really have a clean working directory.

  git checkout something-with-changes
  git submodule update --init --recursive
  git status

We typically use the master/main branch on all dependencies. Of course feature branches can be used on dependencies to manage work in progress.