Git is a version control tool that we use to:

  • track changes over time in the VIC model source code,
  • facilitate parallel development between multiple model developers and research projects,
  • encourage peer code review as well as issue and bug tracking

Github is a web-based Git repository hosting service. We use Github for:

  • collaboration and discussion on VIC development issues,
  • code peer review,
  • bug and issue tracking, and
  • distribution of official and bleeding edge releases of the model source code.

VIC for Model users (non developers)

In general, if you are only going to be using the model and not working directly on the source code, you may just download the model either from VIC github page. Additional archived tags and releases (including all previous VIC versions) are available here.

VIC for Developers

If you plan on contributing to model development or would like a systematic way to incorporate updates to the VIC source code, we encourage you to use Git. The following sections are designed to get you started using git and working with the VIC source code repository.

Git Resources

If you are not familiar with Git yet, we encourage you to get acquainted with it before you start working with the VIC source code. A few minutes of learning about Git will go along way in helping you manage your code development.

There are a number of good Git learning resources that will provide a basic introduction to the version control system.


Getting the code

To obtain the VIC source code repository, follow the steps in this tutorial:

Step 0: A few definitions

Using Git involves a few different copies of the archive:

  1. Truth Repo: this is the master copy of the archive, maintained on the GitHub server by the VIC Administrator.

  2. Your Fork of the Repo: this is your version of the archive, maintained on the GitHub server by you. This is generally not where you edit code; it is more of a transfer point between your clone (see below) and the truth repo. Git keeps track of the differences between your fork and the truth repo. To move code changes from your fork to the truth repo, you must make a "pull request" for the VIC administrator, who will do the actual pull.

  3. Your Clone(s) of your Fork: a clone is a copy of your fork, stored on your local machine, where you can edit and test the code. You can have one or more clones. Each clone is a snapshot of a particular version of the code in your fork (e.g., you select which branches, and which versions of the code on those branches, to copy to your clone). You can change which version of the code each of your clones points to at any time. Your clone is where you edit files and commit changes. You can then push code changes from your clone back up to your fork.

Step 1: Fork the repo

If you do not have a github account, create one. It's free for public repos (like the VIC one). On the UW-Hydro/VIC page, click "Fork" in the upper right hand corner.

Step 2: Clone your fork

You've successfully forked the VIC repository, but so far it only exists on GitHub. To be able to work on the project, you will need to clone it to your local machine.

Run the following code on your local machine:

git clone

This clones your fork of the repository into the current directory. The clone will live in a directory called "VIC".

Step 3: Configure remotes

When a repository is cloned, it has a default remote called origin that points to your fork on GitHub, not the original repository it was forked from. To keep track of the original repository, you need to add another remote. You can name this anything you want, but the name upstream is descriptive and an informal convention.

Change the active directory in the prompt to the newly cloned "VIC" directory:

cd VIC

Assign the original repository to a remote tracking branch called "upstream":

git remote add --tracking upstream

Step 4. Sync up your clone with the truth repo

4.a. Fetch information from the truth repo

Before starting to edit the code, pull in any new changes to the truth repo that have been made by other people since you first created the clone.

git fetch upstream

If you have already made changes to the code, this command by itself will not overwrite your files. For updates from the truth repo to show up in your files, you must do a merge.

4.b. Merge changes

Determine which branches you will need to work with. At the very least, this will include the master branch. If you are working on a hotfix or a feature branch that already exists, you will need this branch as well; the VIC administrator has likely given you the name of the appropriate branch to use. Alternatively, you may want to create a new branch (e.g., if you are the first person to work on a new feature or bug fix). For more information about the branches in the VIC archive, see the VIC [Git]( Workflow Wiki.

For each branch, merge any changes from the truth repo into your local version:

git checkout branchname

git merge upstream/branchname

where branchname = name of the branch

Working with the code

Making changes

1. Select a branch

Change your active branch to the desired branch:

git checkout branchname

where "branchname" is the name of the branch

2. Make changes

You can edit the code using any editor or development environment you prefer. You can also create new files, and move, rename, or delete existing files. You will not be able to push these changes to your fork until you commit them.

It is a good idea to compile and test your changes on your local machine before you commit them. This avoids extra commits to fix typos, etc.

At any point during the process of changing the code, you can pull in any changes that other people have made via the fetch/merge procedure described above.

Committing changes

Before committing your changes, remove any extraneous files that have been created during compiling and testing (e.g., *.o files, executables, .depends files, etc.). An easy way to do this is to type make clean in VIC's "src" subdirectory.

1. Register your changes for commit

To register all edited and new files:

git add *

To register the changes to (or creation of) a specific file:

git add filename

To register moving or renaming any files:

git mv oldpath/oldfilename newpath/newfilename

To register the deletion of a file:

git rm filename

2. Commit the changes

git commit

This will bring up a commit log in your default editor. The list of files whose changes will be committed (i.e. were registered via "git add" etc) is shown in the header at the top of the file. If you disagree with this list, exit the editor and do "git add" etc as necessary to correct the list, and then try "git commit" again. If satisfied with the list of changed files, add a description of the set of changes (including a brief description of the problem that motivated the changes). Save and exit.

Pushing commits to your fork

After committing your changes, you should push them to your fork (which has the alias origin) stored on GitHub:

git push origin branchname

where "branchname" is the name of the branch where you made the commits.

Making a pull request

To make your changes visible other users/developers, your changes must be incorporated into the truth repo. To do this, you must create a pull request on GitHub.


You should run the VIC test suite prior to issuing a pull request. Depending on the content of your pull request, you may need to demonstrate that 1) the change did not introduce any new bugs, 2) the change works as expected, and 3) that the Travis Continuous Integration tests have passed.

The VIC administrator and other developers will examine your pull request and decide if/how they want to incorporate your changes into the code.

Github Issues

We use Github Issues to track bugs and model development in the VIC source code. When issuing a Github Issue for a bug, it is import to include the following information:

  • Version of VIC that you are using (e.g. VIC.4.2.b)
  • Name and version of the C compiler you are using
  • Operating system
  • A description of relevant model settings
  • A summary of the bug or error message you are getting

When proposing a new feature, be specific about the functionality you are would like to see in VIC. Remember that VIC is an open source model with no official support for development, so be prepared to contribute to the implementation of your feature request. Also note that features that are only of interest to you are unlikely to be implemented in the main source code repo (although you are of course free to modify the code in any way you see fit).

Git Workflow

In order for us to leverage Git to its full potential, we have implemented a Git-oriented workflow. This requires developers to adhere to a few rules regarding branch names and merge requests. A full description of the workflow we use can be found here.