Yay! You’ve written a new Drupal module, theme or installation profile as part
of your site, and now you’ve decided to open source it and upload it to
Drupal.org as a new contrib project. But how do you split it from the main site
repository into it’s own?
Well, there are a couple of options.
Does it need to be part of the site repository?
An interesting thing to consider is, does it need to be a part of the site
repository in the first place?
If from the beginning you intend to contribute the module, theme or distribution
and it’s written as generic and re-usable from the start, then it could be
created as a separate project on Drupal.org or as a private repository on your
Git server from the beginning, and added as a dependency of the main project
rather than part of it. It could already have the correct branch name and adhere
to the Drupal.org release conventions and be managed as a separate project, then
there is no later need to “clean it up” or split it from the main repo at all.
This is how I worked at the Drupal Association - with all of the modules
needed for Drupal.org hosted on Drupal.org itself, and managed as a dependency
of the site repository with Drush Make.
Whether this is a viable option or not will depend on your processes. For
example, if your code needs to go through a peer review process before releasing
it, then pushing it straight to Drupal.org would either complicate that process
or bypass it completely. Pushing it to a separate private repository may depend
on your team’s level of familiarity with Composer, for example.
It does though avoid the “we’ll clean it up and contribute it later” scenario
which probably happens less than people intend.
Create a new, empty repository
If the project is already in the site repo, this is probably the most common
method - to create a new, empty repository for the new project, add everything
to it and push it.
# Create a new Git repository.
# Add everything and make a new commit.
git add -A .
git commit -m 'Initial commit'
# Rename the branch.
git branch -m 8.x-1.x
# Add the new remote and push everything.
git remote add origin [email protected]:project/my_new_module.git
git push origin 8.x-1.x
There is a huge issue with this approach though - you now have only one single
commit, and you’ve lost the commmit history!
This means that you lose the story and context of how the project was developed,
and what decisions and changes were made during the lifetime of the project so
far. Also, if multiple people developed it, now there is only one person being
attributed - the one who made the single new commit.
Also, if I’m considering adding your module to my project, personally I’m less
likely to do so if I only see one “initial commit”. I’d like to see the activity
from the days, weeks or months prior to it being released.
What this does allow though is to easily remove references to client names etc
before pushing the code.
Use a subtree split
An alternative method is to use git-subtree, a Git command that “merges
subtrees together and split repository into subtrees”. In this scenario, we can
split to take a directory from within the site repo and split it into it’s
own separate repository, keeping the commit history intact.
Here is the description for the
split command from the Git project itself:
Extract a new, synthetic project history from the history of the
subtree. The new history includes only the commits (including merges) that
affected , and each of those commits now has the contents of
at the root of the project instead of in a subdirectory. Thus, the newly
created history is suitable for export as a separate git repository.
__Note__: This command needs to be run at the top level of the repository. Otherwise you will see an error like "You need to run this command from the toplevel of the working tree.".
To find the path to the top level, run
git rev-parse --show-toplevel.
In order to do this, you need specify the prefix for the subtree (i.e. the
directory that contains the project you’re splitting) as well as a name of a new
branch that you want to split onto.
git subtree split --prefix web/modules/custom/my_new_module -b split_my_new_module
When complete, you should see a confirmation message showing the branch name and
the commit SHA of the branch.
Created branch 'split_my_new_module'
If you run
git branch, you should now be able to see the new branch, and if
git log --oneline split_my_new_module, you should only see commits for
If you do need to tidy up a particular commit to remove client references etc,
change a commit message or squash some commits together, then you can do that by
checking out the new branch, running an interactive rebase and making the
git checkout split_my_new_module
git rebase -i --root
Once everything is in the desired state, you can use
git push to push to the
remote repo - specifying the repo URL, the local branch name and the remote
git push [email protected]:project/my_new_module.git split_my_new_module:8.x-1.x
In this case, the new branch will be
Here is a screenshot of example module that I’ve split and pushed to GitLab.
Notice that there are multiple commits in the history, and each still attributed
to it’s original author.
Also, as this is standard Git functionality, you can follow the same process to
extract PHP libraries, Symfony bundles, WordPress plugins or anything else.