Annexed files can have their content either present in the repository, or not locally present (but stored in other repositories). Normally such missing files are represented by broken symlinks or pointer files.

Sometimes it can be useful to hide the missing files, so you can focus on only the files whose content is available to use. This is possible to do, but it needs some different workflows of using git-annex.

getting started

To get started, your repository needs to be upgraded to v7, since the feature does not work in v5 repositories.

git annex upgrade

The git-annex adjust command sets up an adjusted form of a git branch, in this case we'll ask it to hide missing files.

git annex adjust --hide-missing

And now the working tree only contains annexed files whose content is present. Files with missing content are gone (but not forgotten).

The command switched to a branch with a name like "master(hidemissing)". Since it's a regular git branch, you can switch back and forth between it and the full branch at any time:

git checkout master
git checkout "master(hidemissing)"

git commands in the adjusted branch

When in the adjusted branch, you can use the usual git commands, adding files, renaming them, and deleting them, and committing. But bear in mind you're not in the master branch, and so your commits won't touch the master branch. So, you need a way to update the master branch the changes you made to the adjusted branch. That's easy, just sync:

touch new-file
git annex add new-file
git commit -m 'added a file'
git annex sync --no-push --no-pull

That sync updated the master branch, cherry-picking the commit into it:

> git log --stat master -n 1
commit 175ce2309a9a6f61b2c918f0878ea3060eab10ea
Author: Joey Hess <>
Date:   Sat Oct 20 12:12:00 2018 -0400

    added a file

 new-file | 1 +
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+)

Similarly, you can delete a file and sync, and it will be removed from the master branch.

A tricky point, that's worth mentioning here is that, when you git annex drop a file, and then delete it, and sync, it won't be removed from the master branch.

Why not? Well, the adjusted branch hides missing files; after dropping the file is missing, and after deletion it's hidden. And you generally don't want to remove hidden files from the master branch in a sync from the adjusted branch.

If that seems complicated, don't worry, the behavior will probably make sense when you encounter this situation.

You can also use git annex sync to pull changes from remotes into the adjusted branch. It will automatically filter out missing files while merging the other changes.

So that's all the usual git operations covered; you can use regular git commands on the working tree and to commit files, and you use git annex sync to push and pull. Now we need to talk about git-annex operations that get or drop content, which can be tricky since missing files are hidden.

getting and dropping files

So, you're in a branch, missing files are hidden, and you want git-annex to get some file. What do you do?

> git annex get some_file
git-annex: some_file not found
git-annex: get: 1 failed

Well of course, that doesn't work, the file's pointer is not in the working tree; it's been hidden. Asking git-annex to get a whole directory won't work either; all files in the working tree are present so it won't find any missing ones to operate on. (This might be improved later, but it's how things are currently.)

What will work is to use git annex sync, which knows you're in an adjusted branch and can get hidden files.

git annex sync --content-of some_file --no-push --no-pull

Unlike getting files that are hidden, dropping files is no problem, since the file you want to drop will be present. But, after dropping a file, it won't be hidden right away. This is because updating the adjusted branch to hide the dropped file is a bit expensive. Here's how to drop and then hide files:

git annex drop some_file
git annex adjust --hide-missing

Re-running git annex adjust while in the adjusted branch updates the branch to hide any newly missing files, and unhide any files whose content is now present. (Running git annex sync also does that, along with the other syncing.)

If this seems a bit of a pain, read on for a simpler way ...

a simple workflow

Here's how I use this for my podcasts repository. I use git-annex to download podcasts to a server. I want to keep all the podcasts, but on my laptop of phone, I mostly want to only see podcasts I've not already listened to.

I set up the repository like this:

git clone server:/path/to/podcasts
cd podcasts
git annex upgrade
git annex adjust --hide-missing
git annex group here client
git annex wanted here standard

The last two commands make the repository use the standard preferred content setting for client repositories, so it wants to get a copy of all files except for files inside "archive" directories. When I'm done with listening to a podcast, I'll move it into an "archive" directory to indicate I'm done with it.

To download all the new podcasts and make the files visible, and drop the drop the archived podcasts, and hide their files, I now only need to run one command:

git annex sync --content

Later, when I want to revisit an old podcast, I can simply check out the master branch to make all the old files appear, and git annex get the one I want.