Gerrit is developed as a self-hosting open source project and very much welcomes contributions from anyone with a contributor’s agreement on file with the project.

Contributor License Agreement

A Contributor License Agreement must be completed before contributions are accepted. To view and accept the agreements do the following:

For reference, the actual agreements are linked below:

Code Review

As Gerrit is a code review tool, naturally contributions will be reviewed before they will get submitted to the code base. To start your contribution, please make a git commit and upload it for review to the main Gerrit review server. To help speed up the review of your change, review these guidelines before submitting your change. You can view the pending Gerrit contributions and their statuses here.

Depending on the size of that list it might take a while for your change to get reviewed. Naturally there are fewer approvers than contributors; so anything that you can do to ensure that your contribution will undergo fewer revisions will speed up the contribution process. This includes helping out reviewing other people’s changes to relieve the load from the approvers. Even if you are not familiar with Gerrit’s internals, it would be of great help if you can download, try out, and comment on new features. If it works as advertised, say so, and if you have the privileges to do so, go ahead and give it a +1 Verified. If you would find the feature useful, say so and give it a +1 code review.

And finally, the quicker you respond to the comments of your reviewers, the quicker your change might get merged! Try to reply to every comment after submitting your new patch, particularly if you decided against making the suggested change. Reviewers don’t want to seem like nags and pester you if you haven’t replied or made a fix, so it helps them know if you missed it or decided against it.

Review Criteria

Here are some hints as to what approvers may be looking for before approving or submitting changes to the Gerrit project. Let’s start with the simple nit picky stuff. You are likely excited that your code works; help us share your excitement by not distracting us with the simple stuff. Thanks to Gerrit, problems are often highlighted and we find it hard to look beyond simple spacing issues. Blame it on our short attention spans, we really do want your code.

Commit Message

It is essential to have a good commit message if you want your change to be reviewed.

  • Keep lines no longer than 72 chars

  • Start with a short one line summary

  • Followed by a blank line

  • Followed by one or more explanatory paragraphs

  • Use the present tense (fix instead of fixed)

  • Use the past tense when describing the status before this commit

  • Include a Bug: Issue <#> line if fixing a Gerrit issue, or a Feature: Issue <#> line if implementing a feature request.

  • Include a Change-Id line

Setting up Vim for Git commit message

Git uses Vim as the default commit message editor. Put this into your $HOME/.vimrc file to configure Vim for Git commit message formatting and writing:

" Enable spell checking, which is not on by default for commit messages.
au FileType gitcommit setlocal spell
" Reset textwidth if you've previously overridden it.
au FileType gitcommit setlocal textwidth=72

A sample good Gerrit commit message:

Add sample commit message to guidelines doc
The original patch set for the contributing guidelines doc did not
include a sample commit message, this new patchset does.  Hopefully this
makes things a bit clearer since examples can sometimes help when
explanations don't.
Note that the body of this commit message can be several paragraphs, and
that I word wrap it at 72 characters.  Also note that I keep the summary
line under 50 characters since it is often truncated by tools which
display just the git summary.
Bug: Issue 98765605
Change-Id: Ic4a7c07eeb98cdeaf44e9d231a65a51f3fceae52

The Change-Id line is, as usual, created by a local git hook. To install it, simply copy it from the checkout and make it executable:

cp ./gerrit-server/src/main/resources/com/google/gerrit/server/tools/root/hooks/commit-msg .git/hooks/
chmod +x .git/hooks/commit-msg

If you are working on core plugins, you will also need to install the same hook in the submodules:

export hook=$(pwd)/.git/hooks/commit-msg
git submodule foreach 'cp -p "$hook" "$(git rev-parse --git-dir)/hooks/"'

To set up git’s remote for easy pushing, run the following:

git remote add gerrit

The HTTPS access requires proper username and password; this can be obtained by clicking the 'Obtain Password' link on the HTTP Password tab of the user settings page.


This project has a policy of Eclipse’s warning free code. Eclipse configuration is added to git and we expect the changes to be warnings free.

We do not ask you to use Eclipse for editing, obviously. We do ask you to provide Eclipse’s warning free patches only. If for some reasons, you are not able to set up Eclipse and verify, that your patch hasn’t introduced any new Eclipse warnings, mention this in a comment to your change, so that reviewers will do it for you. Yes, the way to go is to extend gerrit CI to take care of this, but it’s not yet implemented.

Gerrit generally follows the Google Java Style Guide.

To format Java source code, Gerrit uses the google-java-format tool (version 1.7), and to format Bazel BUILD, WORKSPACE and .bzl files the buildifier tool (version 0.26.0). These tools automatically apply format according to the style guides; this streamlines code review by reducing the need for time-consuming, tedious, and contentious discussions about trivial issues like whitespace.

You may download and run google-java-format on your own, or you may run ./tools/ to download a local copy and set up a wrapper script. If you run your own copy, please use the same version, as there may be slight differences between versions.

When considering the style beyond just formatting rules, it is often more important to match the style of the nearby code which you are modifying than it is to match the style guide exactly. This is especially true within the same file.

Additionally, you will notice that most of the newline spacing is fairly consistent throughout the code in Gerrit, it helps to stick to the blank line conventions. Here are some specific examples:

  • Keep a blank line between all class and method declarations.

  • Do not add blank lines at the beginning or end of class/methods.

When to use final modifier and when not (in new code):


  • final fields: marking fields as final forces them to be initialized in the constructor or at declaration

  • final static fields: clearly communicates the intent

  • to use final variables in inner anonymous classes


  • final classes: use when appropriate, e.g. API restriction

  • final methods: similar to final classes


  • local variables: it clutters the code, and makes the code less readable. When copying old code to new location, finals should be removed

  • method parameters: similar to local variables

Code Organization

Do your best to organize classes and methods in a logical way. Here are some guidelines that Gerrit uses:

  • Ensure a standard copyright header is included at the top of any new files (copy it from another file, update the year).

  • Always place loggers first in your class!

  • Define any static interfaces next in your class.

  • Define non static interfaces after static interfaces in your class.

  • Next you should define static types, static members, and static methods, in decreasing order of visibility (public to private).

  • Finally instance types, instance members, then constructors, and then instance methods.

  • Some common exceptions are private helper static methods, which might appear near the instance methods which they help (but may also appear at the top).

  • Getters and setters for the same instance field should usually be near each other barring a good reason not to.

  • If you are using assisted injection, the factory for your class should be before the instance members.

  • Annotations should go before language keywords (final, private, etc)
    Example: @Assisted @Nullable final type varName

  • Prefer to open multiple AutoCloseable resources in the same try-with-resources block instead of nesting the try-with-resources blocks and increasing the indentation level more than necessary.

Wow that’s a lot! But don’t worry, you’ll get the habit and most of the code is organized this way already; so if you pay attention to the class you are editing you will likely pick up on it. Naturally new classes are a little harder; you may want to come back and consult this section when creating them.


Here are some design level objectives that you should keep in mind when coding:

  • Most client pages should perform only one RPC to load so as to keep latencies down. Exceptions would apply to RPCs which need to load large data sets if splitting them out will help the page load faster. Generally page loads are expected to complete in under 100ms. This will be the case for most operations, unless the data being fetched is not using Gerrit’s caching infrastructure. In these slower cases, it is worth considering mitigating this longer load by using a second RPC to fill in this data after the page is displayed (or alternatively it might be worth proposing caching this data).

  • @Inject should be used on constructors, not on fields. The current exceptions are the ssh commands, these were implemented earlier in Gerrit’s development. To stay consistent, new ssh commands should follow this older pattern; but eventually these should get converted to eliminate this exception.

  • Don’t leave repository objects (git or schema) open. A .close() after every open should be placed in a finally{} block.

  • Don’t leave UI components, which can cause new actions to occur, enabled during RPCs which update Git repositories, including NoteDb. This is to prevent people from submitting actions more than once when operating on slow links. If the action buttons are disabled, they cannot be resubmitted and the user can see that Gerrit is still busy.

  • …​and so is Guava (previously known as Google Collections).


  • Tests for new code will greatly help your change get approved.

Change Size/Number of Files Touched

And finally, I probably cannot say enough about change sizes. Generally, smaller is better, hopefully within reason. Do try to keep things which will be confusing on their own together, especially if changing one without the other will break something!

  • If a new feature is implemented and it is a larger one, try to identify if it can be split into smaller logical features; when in doubt, err on the smaller side.

  • Separate bug fixes from feature improvements. The bug fix may be an easy candidate for approval and should not need to wait for new features to be approved. Also, combining the two makes reviewing harder since then there is no clear line between the fix and the feature.

  • Separate supporting refactoring from feature changes. If your new feature requires some refactoring, it helps to make the refactoring a separate change which your feature change depends on. This way, reviewers can easily review the refactor change as a something that should not alter the current functionality, and feel more confident they can more easily spot errors this way. Of course, it also makes it easier to test and locate later on if an unfortunate error does slip in. Lastly, by not having to see refactoring changes at the same time, it helps reviewers understand how your feature changes the current functionality.

  • Separate logical features into separate changes. This is often the hardest part. Here is an example: when adding a new ability, make separate changes for the UI and the ssh commands if possible.

  • Do only what the commit message describes. In other words, things which are not strictly related to the commit message shouldn’t be part of a change, even trivial things like externalizing a string somewhere or fixing a typo. This helps keep git blame more useful in the future and it also makes git revert more useful.

  • Use topics to link your separate changes together.


Development in stable branches

As their name suggests stable branches are intended to be stable. This means that generally only bug-fixes should be done on stable branches, however this is not strictly enforced and exceptions may apply:

  • When a stable branch is initially created to prepare a new release the Gerrit community discusses on the mailing list if there are pending features which should still make it into the release. Those features are blocking the release and should be implemented on the stable branch before the first release candidate is created.

  • To stabilize the code before doing a major release several release candidates are created. Once the first release candidate was done no more features should be accepted on the stable branch. If more features are found to be required they should be discussed with the Gerrit maintainers and should only be allowed if the risk of breaking things is considered to be low.

  • Once a major release is done only bug-fixes and documentation updates should be done on the stable branch. These updates will be included in the next minor release.

  • For minor releases new features are only acceptable if they are important to the Gerrit community, if they are backwards compatible and the risk of breaking things is low and if there are no objections from the Gerrit community.

  • In cases of doubt it’s the responsibility of the release maintainer to evaluate the risk of new features and make a decision based on these rules and opinions from the Gerrit community.

  • The older a stable branch is the more stable it should be. This means old stable branches should only receive bug-fixes that are either important or low risk. Security fixes, including security updates for third party dependencies, are always considered as important and hence can always be done on stable branches.

Backporting to stable branches

From time to time bug fix releases are made for existing stable branches.

Developers concerned with stable branches are encouraged to backport or push fixes to these branches, even if no new release is planned. Backporting features is only possible in compliance with the rules above.

Fixes that are known to be needed for a particular release should be pushed for review on that release’s stable branch. They will then be included into the master branch when the stable branch is merged back.

Finding starter projects to work on

We have created a StarterProject category in the issue tracker and try to assign easy hack projects to it. If in doubt, do not hesitate to ask on the developer mailing list.

Upgrading Libraries

Gerrit’s library dependencies should only be upgraded if the new version contains something we need in Gerrit. This includes new features, API changes as well as bug or security fixes. An exception to this rule is that right after a new Gerrit release was branched off, all libraries should be upgraded to the latest version to prevent Gerrit from falling behind. Doing those upgrades should conclude at the latest two months after the branch was cut. This should happen on the master branch to ensure that they are vetted long enough before they go into a release and we can be sure that the update doesn’t introduce a regression.

Deprecating features

Gerrit should be as stable as possible and we aim to add only features that last. However, sometimes we are required to deprecate and remove features to be able to move forward with the project and keep the code-base clean. The following process should serve as a guideline on how to deprecate functionality in Gerrit. Its purpose is that we have a structured process for deprecation that users, administrators and developers can agree and rely on.

General process:

  • Make sure that the feature (e.g. a field on the API) is not needed anymore or blocks further development or improvement. If in doubt, consult the mailing list.

  • If you can provide a schema migration that moves users to a comparable feature, do so and stop here.

  • Mark the feature as deprecated in the documentation and release notes.

  • If possible, mark the feature deprecated in any user-visible interface. For example, if you are deprecating a Git push option, add a message to the Git response if the user provided the option informing them about deprecation.

  • Annotate the code with @Deprecated and @RemoveAfter(x.xx) if applicable. Alternatively, use // DEPRECATED, remove after x.xx (where x.xx is the version number that has to be branched off before removing the feature)

  • Gate the feature behind a config that is off by default (forcing admins to turn the deprecated feature on explicitly).

  • After the next release was branched off, remove any code that backed the feature.

You can optionally consult the mailing list to ask if there are users of the feature you wish to deprecate. If there are no major users, you can remove the feature without following this process and without the grace period of one release.