Normally commands like git annex add always add files to the annex. And when using the v6 repository mode, even git add and git commit -a will add files to the annex.

Let's suppose you're developing a video game, written in C. You have source code, and some large game assets. You want to ensure the source code is stored in git -- that's what git's for! And you want to store the game assets in the git annex -- to avod bloating your git repos with possibly enormous files, but still version control them.

The annex.largefiles configuration is useful for such mixed content repositories. It's checked by git annex add, by git add and git commit -a (in v6 repositories), by git annex import and the assistant. It's also used by git annex addurl and git annex importfeed when downloading files. When a file does not match annex.largefiles, these commands will add its content to git instead of to the annex.

This saves you the bother of keeping things straight when adding files.


For example, let's make only files larger than 100 kb be added to the annex, and never *.c and *.h source code files.

Write this to the .gitattributes file:

* annex.largefiles=(largerthan=100kb)
*.c annex.largefiles=nothing
*.h annex.largefiles=nothing

Or, set the git configuration instead:

git config annex.largefiles 'largerthan=100kb and not (include=*.c or include=*.h)'

Both of these settings do the same thing. Setting it in the .gitattributes file makes any checkout of the repository share that configuration, so is often a good choice. Setting the annex.largefiles git configuration lets different checkouts behave differently. The git configuration overrides the .gitattributes configuration.


The value of annex.largefiles is similar to a preferred content expression. The following terms can be used in annex.largefiles:

  • include=glob / exclude=glob

    Specify files to include or exclude.

    The glob can contain * and ? to match arbitrary characters.

  • smallerthan=size / largerthan=size

    Matches only files smaller than, or larger than the specified size.

    The size can be specified with any commonly used units, for example, "0.5 gb" or "100 KiloBytes"

  • mimetype=glob

    Looks up the MIME type of a file, and checks if the glob matches it.

    For example, "mimetype=text/*" will match many varieties of text files, including "text/plain", but also "text/x-shellscript", "text/x-makefile", etc.

    The MIME types are the same that are displayed by running file --mime-type

    This is only available to use when git-annex was built with the MagicMime build flag.

  • anything

    Matches any file.

  • nothing

    Matches no files. (Same as "not anything")

  • not expression

    Inverts what the expression matches.

  • and / or / ( expression )

    These can be used to build up more complicated expressions.

The way the .gitattributes example above works is, *.c and *.h files have the annex.largefiles attribute set to "nothing", and so those files are never treated as large files. All other files use the other value, which checks the file size.

Note that, since git attribute values cannot contain whitespace, it's useful to instead parenthesize the terms of the annex.largefiles attribute. This trick allows for more complicated expressions. For example, this is the same as the git config shown earlier, shoehorned into a git attribute:

* annex.largefiles=(largerthan=100kb)and(not((include=*.c)or(include=*.h)))

temporarily override

If you've set up an annex.largefiles configuration but want to force a file to be stored in the annex, you can temporarily override the configuration like this:

git annex add -c annex.largefiles=anything smallfile

converting git to annexed

When you have a file that is currently stored in git, and you want to convert that to be stored in the annex, here's how to accomplish that:

git rm --cached file
git annex add -c annex.largefiles=anything file
git commit file

This first removes the file from git's index cache, and then adds it back using git-annex. You can modify the file before the git-annex add step, perhaps replacing it with new larger content that necessitates git-annex.

converting annexed to git

When you have a file that is currently stored in the annex, and you want to convert that to be stored in git, here's how to accomplish that:

git annex unlock file
git -c annex.largefiles=nothing add file
git commit -n file

You can modify the file after unlocking it and before adding it to git. And this is probably a good idea if it was really a big file, so that you can replace its content with something smaller.

Notice the -n switch when committing the file. This bypasses the ?git-annex-precommit hook. In this situation, that hook sees an unlocked file and wants to add it back to the annex, so you have to bypass the hook to get the file committed to git.