Keeping Track

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This manual documents gnats, the gnu Problem Report Management System, version 4.1.999. gnats is a bug-tracking tool designed for use at a central Support Site. Users who experience problems use electronic mail, web-based or other clients communicating with the gnats network daemon running at the support site or direct database submissions to communicate these problems to maintainers at that Support Site. gnats partially automates the tracking of these Problem Reports (PRs) by:

gnats offers many of the same features offered by more generalized databases, including editing, querying, and basic reporting. The gnats database itself is an ordered repository for problem reports; each PR receives a unique, incremental PR number which identifies it throughout its lifetime. For a discussion on the working system adopted by gnats, see The database paradigm.

You can access the submitting, editing, and querying functions of gnats from within gnu Emacs. See The gnats user tools.

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1 Introducing gnats

Any support organization realizes that a large amount of data flows back and forth between the maintainers and the users of their products. This data often takes the form of problem reports and communication via electronic mail. gnats addresses the problem of organizing this communication by defining a database made up of archived and indexed problem reports.

gnats was designed as a tool for software maintainers. It consists of several utilities which, when used in concert, formulate and administer a database of Problem Reports grouped by site-defined problem categories. It allows a support organization to keep track of problems (hence the term Problem Report) in an organized fashion. Essentially, gnats acts as an active archive for field-separated textual data.

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1.1 The database paradigm

It is in your best interest as the maintainer of a body of work to organize the feedback you receive on that work, and to make it easy for users of your work to report problems and suggestions.

gnats makes this easy by automatically filing incoming problem reports into appropriate places, by notifying responsible parties of the existence of the problem and (optionally) sending an acknowledgment to the submitter that the report was received, and by making these Problem Reports accessible to queries and easily editable. gnats is a database specialized for a specific task.

gnats was designed for use at a Support Site that handles a high level of problem-related traffic. It maintains Problem Reports in the form of text files with defined fields (see gnats data fields). The location of the database, as well as the categories it accepts as valid, the maintainers for whom it provides service, and the submitters from whom it accepts Problem Reports, are all definable by the Support Site. See gnats administration.

Each PR is a separate file within a main repository (see Where gnats lives). Editing access to the database is regulated to maintain consistency. To make queries on the database faster, an index is kept automatically (see The index file).

We provide several software tools so that users may submit new Problem Reports, edit existing Problem Reports, and query the database.

Other interfaces to gnats include Gnatsweb, a web-based tool which provides features for submitting and editing PRs and querying the database, and TkGnats, a Tcl/Tk-based frontend. These tools are distributed together with gnats.

At the Support Site, a gnats administrator is charged with the duty of maintaining gnats. These duties are discussed in detail in gnats Administration, and generally include configuring gnats for the Support Site, editing PRs that gnats cannot process, pruning log files, setting up new problem categories, backing up the database, and distributing send-pr so that others may submit Problem Reports.

Responsibility for a given Problem Report initially depends on the category of the problem. Optionally, an automated reminder can be sent to the responsible person if a problem report is neglected for a requisite time period. See Overview of gnats configuration.

gnats does not have the ability to decipher random text. If there is no default category set, any problem reports which arrive in a format gnats does not recognize are placed in a separate directory pending investigation by the gnats administrator (see gnats Administration).

Once a problem is recorded in the database, work can begin toward a solution. A problem's initial state type is open (see States of Problem Reports). An acknowledgment may be sent to the originator of the bug report (depending on whether this feature has been switched on in the gnats configuration). gnats forwards copies of the report to the party responsible for that problem category and to the person responsible for problems arriving from that submitter.

When a problem has been identified, the maintainer can change its state to analyzed, and then to feedback when a solution is found. gnats may be configured so that each time the state of a PR changes, the submitter of the problem report is notified of the reason for the change. If the party responsible for the PR changes, the previous responsible party and the new responsible party receive notice of the change. The change and reason are also recorded in the Audit-Trail field of the Problem Report. (See Editing existing Problem Reports. For information on the Audit-Trail field, see Problem Report format.)

When the originator of the Problem Report confirms that the solution works, the maintainer can change the state to closed. If the PR cannot be closed, the maintainer can change its state to suspended as a last resort. (For a more detailed description of the standard states, see States of Problem Reports.)

It should be emphasized that what we describe here is the default way that gnats works, but as of version 4, gnats is extremely customizable, allowing sites to tailor almost every aspect of its behavior. See for instance The dbconfig file and See States of Problem Reports.)

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1.2 Flowchart of gnats activities

This informal flowchart shows the relationships of the gnats tools to each other and to the files with which they interoperate.

Flowchart Image

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1.3 States of Problem Reports

Each PR goes through a defined series of states between origination and closure. By default, the originator of a PR receives notification automatically of any state changes.

Unless your site has customized states (see states file (gnats)), gnats uses these states:

The initial state of a Problem Report. This means the PR has been filed and the responsible person(s) notified.

The responsible person has analyzed the problem. The analysis should contain a preliminary evaluation of the problem and an estimate of the amount of time and resources necessary to solve the problem. It should also suggest possible workarounds.

The problem has been solved, and the originator has been given a patch or other fix. The PR remains in this state until the originator acknowledges that the solution works.

A Problem Report is closed (“the bug stops here”) only when any changes have been integrated, documented, and tested, and the submitter has confirmed the solution.

Work on the problem has been postponed. This happens if a timely solution is not possible or is not cost-effective at the present time. The PR continues to exist, though a solution is not being actively sought. If the problem cannot be solved at all, it should be closed rather than suspended.

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1.4 Problem Report format

The format of a PR is designed to reflect the nature of gnats as a database. Information is arranged into fields, and kept in individual records (Problem Reports).

A Problem Report contains two different types of fields: Mail Header fields, which are used by the mail handler for delivery, and Problem Report fields, which contain information relevant to the Problem Report and its submitter. A Problem Report is essentially a specially formatted electronic mail message.

Problem Report fields are denoted by a keyword which begins with > and ends with :, as in >Confidential:. Fields belong to one of eight data types as listed in Field datatypes reference. As of version 4 of gnats all characteristics of fields, such as field name, data type, allowed values, permitted operations, on-change actions etc. are configurable.

For details, see see The dbconfig file.

Example Problem Report

The following is an example Problem Report with the fields that would be present in a standard gnats configuration. Mail headers are at the top, followed by gnats fields, which begin with > and end with :. The Subject: line in the mail header and the Synopsis field are usually duplicates of each other.

     Message-Id:  message-id
     Date:        date
     From:        address
     Reply-To:    address
     To:          bug-address
     Subject:     subject
     >Number:       gnats-id
     >Category:     category
     >Synopsis:     synopsis
     >Confidential: yes or no
     >Severity:     critical, serious, or non-critical
     >Priority:     high, medium or low
     >Responsible:  responsible
     >State:        open, analyzed, suspended, feedback, or closed
     >Class:        sw-bug, doc-bug, change-request, support,
     duplicate, or mistaken
     >Submitter-Id: submitter-id
     >Arrival-Date: date
     >Originator:   name
     >Organization: organization
     >Release:      release
     State-Changed-From-To: from-to
     State-Changed-When: date
     Responsible-Changed-From-To: from-to
     Responsible-Changed-When: date

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1.4.1 Field datatypes reference

The following is a short reference to the characteristics of the different field types.

For details, see Field datatypes.

A one-line text string.
Multiple lines of text.
The value in this field is required to be from a list of specified values, defined at the Support Site.

(See The dbconfig file, for details.

Similar to the enum datatype, except that the field can contain multiple values.
Similar to enum, but the allowed field values are listed in a separate file on the gnats server.
Similar to enumerated-in-file, except that the field can contain multiple values.
Used to hold dates.
Used to hold integer numbers.

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1.4.2 Mail header fields

A Problem Report may contain any mail header field described in the Internet standard RFC-822. The send-pr tool can be configured either to submit PRs to the support site by e-mail or by talking directly to the gnatsd network daemon on the gnats server. This is also true for other client tools such as Gnatsweb. Even when these tools are set up submit PRs directly to gnatsd, they will still include mail header fields that identify the sender and the subject in the submitted PR:

The mail address for the Support Site, automatically supplied by the tool used to submit the PR or by the originator if plain e-mail was used.

A terse description of the problem. This field normally contains the same information as the Synopsis field.

Supplied automatically when PRs are submitted by plain e-mail and when well-behaved tools such as send-pr are used; should always contain the originator's e-mail address.

A return address to which electronic replies can be sent; in most cases, the same address as the From: field.

One of the configurable options for gnats is whether or not to retain Received-By headers, which often consume a lot of space and are not often used. See The dbconfig file.

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1.4.3 Problem Report fields

In a standard gnats installation, certain fields will always be present in a Problem Report. If a PR arrives without one or more of these fields, gnats will add them, and if they have default values set by the configuration at the Support Site, they will be filled in with these values. Certain tools such as send-pr are set up to provide sensible defaults for most fields (see The send-pr.conf configuration file.)

In the list below, the field type (text, multitext, enumerated, etc.) is supplied in parantheses. The different field types are explained briefly in Field datatypes reference.

(enumerated-in-file) A unique identification code assigned by the Support Site. It is used to identify all Problem Reports coming from a particular site. Submitters without a value for this field can invoke send-pr with the --request-id option to apply for one from the support organization. Problem Reports from those not affiliated with the support organization should use the default value of net for this field.

See The submitters file, for details.

(text) Comma-separated list of e-mail-addresses of people to notify when the PR changes significantly, i.e. when the Audit-Trail changes. This list is independent from the Notify subfield of entries in the categories file of the gnats database.

(text) Originator's real name. Note that the Submitter and Originator might not be the same person/entity in all cases.

(multitext) The originator's organization.

(enum) Use of this field depends on the originator's relationship with the support organization; contractual agreements often have provisions for preserving confidentiality. Conversely, a lack of a contract often means that any data provided will not be considered confidential. Submitters should be advised to contact the support organization directly if this is an issue.

If the originator's relationship to the support organization provides for confidentiality, then if the value of this field is yes the support organization treats the PR as confidential; any code samples provided are not made publicly available.

(text) One-line summary of the problem. send-pr copies this information to the Subject line when you submit a Problem Report.

(enum) The severity of the problem. By default, accepted values include:
The product, component or concept is completely non-operational or some essential functionality is missing. No workaround is known.

The product, component or concept is not working properly or significant functionality is missing. Problems that would otherwise be considered critical are usually rated serious when a workaround is known.

The product, component or concept is working in general, but lacks features, has irritating behavior, does something wrong, or doesn't match its documentation.

(enumerated) How soon the originator requires a solution. Accepted values include:
A solution is needed as soon as possible.

The problem should be solved in the next release.

The problem should be solved in a future release.

(enumerated-in-file) The name of the product, component or concept where the problem lies. The values for this field are defined by the Support Site. See The categories file, for details.

(enumerated-in-file) The class of a problem in a default gnats installation can be one of the following:
A general product problem. (sw stands for “software”.)

A problem with the documentation.

A request for a change in behavior, etc.

A support problem or question.

duplicate (pr-number)
Duplicate PR. pr-number should be the number of the original PR.

No problem, user error or misunderstanding. This value can only be set by tools at the Support Site, since it has no meaning for ordinary submitters.

See The classes file, for details.

(text) Release or version number of the product, component or concept.

(multitext) Description of the environment where the problem occurred: machine architecture, operating system, host and target types, libraries, pathnames, etc.

(multitext) Precise description of the problem.

(multitext) Example code, input, or activities to reproduce the problem. The support organization uses example code both to reproduce the problem and to test whether the problem is fixed. Include all preconditions, inputs, outputs, conditions after the problem, and symptoms. Any additional important information should be included. Include all the details that would be necessary for someone else to recreate the problem reported, however obvious. Sometimes seemingly arbitrary or obvious information can point the way toward a solution. See also Helpful hints.

(multitext) A description of a solution to the problem, or a patch which solves the problem. (This field is most often filled in at the Support Site; we provide it to the submitter in case he or she has solved the problem.)

gnats adds the following fields when the PR arrives at the Support Site:

(enumerated) The incremental identification number for this PR. This is included in the automated reply to the submitter (if that feature of gnats is activated; see The dbconfig file). It is also included in the copy of the PR that is sent to the maintainer.

The Number field is often paired with the Category field as


in subsequent email messages. This is gnats' way of tracking followup messages that arrive by mail so that they are filed as part of the original PR.

(enumerated) The current state of the PR. In default gnats installations, accepted values are:
The PR has been filed and the responsible person notified.
The responsible person has analyzed the problem.
The problem has been solved, and the originator has been given a patch or other fix. Support organizations may also choose to temporarily ”park” PRs that are awaiting further input from the submitter under this state.
The changes have been integrated, documented, and tested, and the originator has confirmed that the solution works.
Work on the problem has been postponed.

The initial state of a PR is open. See States of Problem Reports.

(text) The person at the Support Site who is responsible for this PR. gnats retrieves this information from the categories file (see The categories file).

(date) The time that this PR was received by gnats. The date is provided automatically by gnats.

(date) The date by which a fix is required. This is up to the maintainers at the Support Site to determine, so this field is not available until after the PR has been submitted.

(multitext) Tracks related electronic mail as well as changes in the State and Responsible fields with the sub-fields:
State-Changed-<From>-<To>: oldstate>-<newstate
The old and new State field values.

Responsible-Changed-<From>-<To>: oldresp>-<newresp
The old and new Responsible field values.

State-Changed-By: name
Responsible-Changed-By: name
The name of the maintainer who effected the change.

State-Changed-When: timestamp
Responsible-Changed-When: timestamp
The time the change was made.

State-Changed-Why: reason...
Responsible-Changed-Why: reason...
The reason for the change.

The Audit-Trail field also contains any mail messages received by gnats related to this PR, in the order received. gnats needs to find a reference to the PR in the Subject field of received email in order to be able to file it correctly, see Following up via direct email.

(multitext) Any random text found outside the fields in the original Problem Report.

During a Problem Report's journey from open to closed, two more fields, Last-Modified and Closed Date (both of type date) will be added.

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2 The gnats User Tools

This chapter describes the user tools distributed with gnats. The gnats administrative and internal tools are described in gnats Administration. The user tools provide facilities for initial submission, querying and editing of Problem Reports:

Used by anyone who has a problem with a body of work to submit a report of the problem to the maintainers of that work (see Submitting Problem Reports).
Used to query the gnats database (see Querying the database).
Used to edit Problem Reports (to record new data, to change the responsible party, etc.) (see Editing existing Problem Reports).

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2.1 Environment variables and gnats tools

All the gnats user tools honor the GNATSDB environment variable which is used to determine which database to use. For a local database, it contains the name of the database to access.

For network access via gnatsd, it contains a colon-separated list of strings that describe the remote database in the form


Any of the fields may be omitted except for server, but at least one colon must appear; otherwise, the value is assumed to be the name of a local database.

If GNATSDB is not set and no command-line options are used to specify the database, it is assumed that the database is local and that its name is default.

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2.2 Submitting Problem Reports

Use send-pr to submit Problem Reports to the database. send-pr is a shell script which composes a template for submitters to complete.

You can invoke send-pr from a shell prompt, or from within gnu Emacs using M-x send-pr (see Submitting Problem Reports from Emacs.)

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2.2.1 Invoking send-pr from the shell

     send-pr [ -b | --batch ]
             [ -d database | --database database ]
             [ -f file | --file file ]
             [ -p | --print ] [ --request-id ]
             [ -s severity | --severity severity ]
             [ -V | --version ] [ -h | --help ]

Invoking send-pr with no options assumes that you want to submit to the local gnats database named default and calls the editor named in your environment variable EDITOR on a PR template for this database.

Suppresses printing of most of the messages send-pr usually prints while running.
-d database, --database database
Specifies the database to which the PR is to be submitted; if no database is specified, the local database named default is assumed. This option overrides the database specified in the GNATSDB environment variable. database can also be set to a remote database by using the format for GNATSDB described in Environment variables and gnats tools.
-f problem-report
--file problem-report
Specifies a file, problem-report, where a completed Problem Report or a PR template exists. send-pr verifies that the contents of the file constitute a valid PR and asks you if you want to edit it or send it directly. If the PR text is invalid you will be told what is wrong and be given the option to edit it. If problem-report is -, send-pr reads from standard input.
Displays the PR template for the specified database, or if the -d or --database options aren't specified, print the template for the local default database. No PR is submitted.
Sends a request for a Submitter-Id to the Support Site.
-s severity
--severity severity
Sets the initial value of the Severity field to severity.
Displays the send-pr version number and a usage summary. No mail is sent.
Displays a usage summary for send-pr. No mail is sent.

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2.2.2 Using send-pr from within Emacs

You can use an interactive send-pr interface from within gnu Emacs to fill out your Problem Report. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with Emacs before using this feature (see Introduction (GNU Emacs)).

Call send-pr with M-x send-pr.1 send-pr responds with a preconfigured Problem Report template. The Emacs interface is described in more detail in a separate section, See The Emacs interface to gnats.

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2.2.3 The Problem Report template

Invoking send-pr presents a PR template with a number of fields already filled in with default values for the database you are submitting to. Complete the template as thoroughly as possible to make a useful bug report. Submit only one bug with each PR.

A template consists of three sections:

The Comments section at the top of the template contains basic instructions for completing the Problem Report, as well as a list of valid entries for the Category field. One (and only one) of these values should be placed in the Category field further down in the Problem Report.

     SEND-PR: -*- send-pr  -*-
     SEND-PR: Lines starting with `SEND-PR' will be removed
     SEND-PR: automatically as well as all comments (the text
     SEND-PR: below enclosed in `<' and `>').
     SEND-PR: Please consult the document `Reporting Problems
     SEND-PR: Using send-pr' if you are not sure how to fill out
     SEND-PR: a problem report.
     SEND-PR: Choose from the following categories:

The comments lines are all preceded by the string SEND-PR: and are erased automatically when the PR is submitted. The instructional comments within < and > are also removed. (Only these comments are removed; lines you provide that happen to have those characters in them, such as examples of shell-level redirection, are not affected.)

The Mail Header section of the template contains a standard mail header constructed by send-pr. send-pr can be set up to submit PRs by e-mail or by speaking directly to the gnats server, but since this header is part of the standard format of Problem Reports, send-pr includes it even when it is set up to speak directly to the server.

     To: PR submission address
     Subject: complete this field
     From: your-login@your-site
     Reply-To: your-login@your-site
     X-send-pr-version: send-pr 4.1.999

send-pr automatically completes all the mail header fields except the Subject line with default values. (See Problem Report format.)

The gnats fields below the mail header form the bulk of a gnats Problem Report.

Each field is either automatically completed with valid information (such as your Submitter-Id) or contains a one-line instruction specifying the information that field requires in order to be correct. For example, the Confidential field expects a value of yes or no, and the answer must fit on one line; similarly, the Synopsis field expects a short synopsis of the problem, which must also fit on one line. Fill out the fields as completely as possible. See Helpful hints, for suggestions as to what kinds of information to include.

The mechanisms send-pr uses to fill in default values is as follows: Your preconfigured Submitter-Id is taken from the local send-pr.conf configuration file. send-pr will set the Originator field to the value of the NAME environment variable if it has been set; similarly, Organization will be set to the value of ORGANIZATION. If these variables aren't set in you environment, send-pr uses the values set in the local send-pr.conf configuration file, if that exists. If not, these values are left blank in the template. send-pr also attempts to find out some information about your system and architecture, and places this information in the Environment field if it finds any.

In this example, words in italics are filled in with pre-configured information:

     >Submitter-Id: your submitter-id
     >Originator:   your name here
         your organization
     >Confidential:<[ yes | no ] (one line)>
     >Synopsis:    <synopsis of the problem (one line)>
     >Severity:    <[non-critical | serious | critical](one line)>
     >Priority:    <[ low | medium | high ] (one line)>
     >Category:    <name of the product (one line)>
     >Class:       <[sw-bug | doc-bug | change-request | support]>
     >Release:     <release number (one line)>
              <machine, os, target, libraries (multiple lines)>
            <precise description of the problem (multiple lines)>
            <code/input/activities to reproduce (multiple lines)>
            <how to correct or work around the problem, if known
             (multiple lines)>

When you finish editing the Problem Report, send-pr validates the contents and if it looks OK either submits it directly to the gnats server or submits it by mail to the address named in the To field in the mail header.

If your PR contains one or more invalid field values, send-pr places the PR in a temporary file named /tmp/pbadnnnn on your machine. nnnn is the process identification number given to your current send-pr session. If you are running send-pr from the shell, you are prompted as to whether or not you wish to try editing the same Problem Report again. If you are running send-pr from Emacs, the Problem Report is placed in the buffer *gnats-send*; you can edit this file and then submit it with C-c C-c.

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2.2.4 Submitting a Problem Report via direct e-mail

In addition to using send-pr, there is another way to submit a problem report. You can simply send an e-mail message to the PR submission e-mail address of the support site (This address should be published by the support site.)

When you send unformatted e-mail to this address, gnats processes the message as a new problem report, filling in as many fields from defaults as it can:

The Synopsis field is filled in by the Subject header of the e-mail message.
Submitter ID
gnats will try to derive the Submitter field from the address in the From header of the e-mail.
All of the text in the body of the e-mail message is put into the Description field.

Other fields, such as Category, Version, Severity, etc. are set to default values as defined by the gnats administrator.

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2.2.5 Helpful hints

There is no orthodox standard for submitting effective bug reports, though you might do well to consult the section on submitting bugs for gnu gcc in Reporting Bugs (Using and Porting GNU CC), by Richard Stallman. This section contains instructions on what kinds of information to include and what kinds of mistakes to avoid.

In general, common sense (assuming such an animal exists) dictates the kind of information that would be most helpful in tracking down and resolving problems in software.

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2.3 Editing existing Problem Reports

Use edit-pr to make changes to existing PRs in the database. This tool can be invoked both from a shell prompt or from within GNU Emacs using M-x edit-pr.

edit-pr first examines the PR you wish to edit and locks it if it is not already locked. This is to prevent you from editing a PR at the same time as another user. If the PR you wish to edit is already in the process of being edited, edit-pr tells you the name of the person who owns the lock.

You may edit any non-readonly fields in the database. We recommend that you avoid deleting any information in the Text and MultiText fields (such as Description and How-To-Repeat (see Problem Report format). We also recommend that you record the final solution to the problem in the Fix field for future reference. Note that heavily customized installations of gnats may have differently named fields, and sites using such installations should provide their own set of routines and instructions regarding how PRs should be treated throughout their life span.

After the PR has been edited, it is then resubmitted to the database, and the index is updated (see The index file). For information on pr-edit, the main driver for edit-pr, see Internal utilities.

If you change a field that requires a reason for the change, such as the Responsible or State fields in the default configuration, edit-pr prompts you to supply a reason for the change. A message is then appended to the Audit-Trail field of the PR with the changed values and the change reason.

Depending on how the database is configured, editing various fields in the PR may also cause mail to be sent concerning these changes. In the default configuration, any fields that generate Audit-Trail entries will also cause a copy of the new Audit-Trail message to be sent.

Mail received at the PR submission email address and recognized by gnats as relating to an existing PR is also appended to the Audit-Trail field, see follow-up via email.

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2.3.1 Invoking edit-pr from the shell

The usage for edit-pr is:

     edit-pr [ -V | --version ] [ -h | --help ]
             [-d database | --database database] PR Number

Network-mode-only options:

              [--host host | -H host] [--port port]
              [--user user | -v user]
              [--passwd passwd | -w passwd]

The options have the following meaning:

-h, --help
Prints a brief usage message for edit-pr.
-V, --version
Prints the version number for edit-pr.
-d database, --database database
Specifies the database containing the PR to be edited; if no database is specified, the database named default is assumed. This option overrides the database specified in the GNATSDB environment variable.
--host host, -H host
Specifies the hostname of the gnatsd server to communicate with. This overrides the value in the GNATSDB environment variable.
--port port
Specifies the port number of the gnatsd server to communicate with. This overrides the value in the GNATSDB environment variable.
--user user, -v user
Specifies the username to login with when connecting to the gnatsd server. This overrides the value in the GNATSDB environment variable.
--passwd passwd, -w passwd
Specifies the password to login with when connecting to the gnatsd server. This overrides the value in the GNATSDB environment variable.

edit-pr calls the editor specified in your environment variable EDITOR on a temporary copy of that PR. (If you don't have the variable EDITOR defined in your environment, the default editor vi is used.)

Edit the PR, changing any relevant fields or adding to existing information. When you exit the editor, edit-pr prompts you on standard input for a reason if you have changed a field that requires specifying a reason for the change.

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2.3.2 Following up via direct email

If you have some additional information for a PR and for some reason do not want to (or cannot) edit the PR directly, you may append the information to the Audit-Trail field by mailing it to the PR submission address.

In order for GNATS to be able to recognize the mail as pertaining to an existing PR (as opposed to a new PR, see Submitting via e-mail), the Subject mail header field must contain a reference to the PR. GNATS matches the Subject header against the regular expression

     \<(PR[ \t#/]?|[-[:alnum:]+.]+/)[0-9]+

to determine whether such a reference is present. Any text may precede or follow the reference in the Subject header. If more than one reference is present, the first is used and the rest ignored.

A PR reference matching the regular expression above has two parts. The second is the PR number (one or more digits). The first is either the capital letters 'PR' optionally followed by a separator character (blank, tab, hash mark or forward slash) or the category name followed by a forward slash. Following are some examples which match the regular expression:

     PR 123 PR4567 PR#890 gnats/4711

The PR number and the category (if present) are checked for existence, and if the outcome is positive, the mail is appended to the Audit-Trail field of the PR. Note that the PR need not belong to the category because PRs may move between categories.

Outgoing emails sent by GNATS itself may be configured to have a Subject header field that refers to the PR in question:

     Subject: Re: PR category/gnats-id: original message subject

This makes it extremely easy to follow up on a PR by replying to such an email, see The dbconfig file and the sample, default dbconfig file installed by mkdb.

Next: , Previous: edit-pr, Up: GNATS user tools

2.4 Querying the database

Obtain information from the database by using the program query-pr. query-pr uses search parameters you provide to find matching Problem Reports in the database. You can invoke query-pr from the shell or from within Emacs. query-pr uses the same arguments whether it is invoked from the shell or from Emacs.

PRs may be selected via the use of the --expr option, directly by number, or by the use of the (now deprecated) field-specific query operators.

By default, query options are connected with a logical AND. For example,

     query-pr --category=foo --responsible=bar

only prints PRs which have a Category field of foo and a Responsible field of bar.

The --or option may be used to connect query options with a logical OR. For example,

     query-pr --category=baz --or --responsible=blee

prints PRs which have either a Category field of baz or a Responsible field of blee.

It should be emphasized, however, that the use of these field-specific options is strongly discouraged, since they exist only for compatibility with older versions of gnats and are likely to be deleted in the next release. The expressions specified by the --expr option are much more flexible (see below).

Next: , Up: query-pr

2.4.1 Invoking query-pr

From the shell, simply type query-pr, followed by any search parameters you wish to exercise. From Emacs, type M-x query-pr. query-pr prompts you for search parameters in the minibuffer.

query-pr can also be accessed by electronic mail, if your version of gnats is configured for this. To use this feature, simply send mail to the address query-pr@your-site with command line arguments or options in the Subject line of the mail header. gnats replies to your mail with the results of your query. The default settings for the query-pr mail server are

     --restricted --state="open|analyzed|feedback|suspended"

To override the --state parameter, specify --state=state in the Subject line of the mail header. You can not query on confidential Problem Reports by mail.

The usage for query-pr is:

     query-pr [--debug | -D] [--help | -h] [--version | -V]
              [--output file | -o file] [--list-databases]
              [--list-fields] [--list-input-fields]
              [--responsible-address name] [--field-type field]
              [--field-description field]
              [--field-flags field]
              [--adm-field field] [--adm-subfield subfield]
              [--adm-key key]
              [--valid-values field]
              [--format format | -f format]
              [--full | -F] [--summary | -q]
              [--database database | -d database] [--and | -&]
              [--or | -|] [--expr expr] [PR Number]

Non-network-mode options:

              [--print-sh-vars] [--print-directory-for-database]

Network-mode-only options:

              [--host host | -H host] [--port port]
              [--user user | -v user] [--passwd passwd | -w passwd]

Deprecated Options:

              [--list-categories | -j] [--list-states | -T]
              [--list-responsible | -k] [--list-submitters | -l]
              [--category category | -c category]
              [--synopsis synopsis | -y synopsis]
              [--confidential confidential | -C confidential]
              [--multitext multitext | -m multitext]
              [--originator originator | -O originator]
              [--release release | -A release]
              [--class class | -L class] [--cases cases | -E cases]
              [--quarter quarter | -Q quarter]
              [--keywords keywords | -K keywords]
              [--priority priority | -p priority]
              [--responsible responsible | -r responsible]
              [--restricted | -R] [--severity severity | -e severity]
              [--skip-closed | -x] [--sql | -i] [--sql2 | -I]
              [--state state | -s state]
              [--submitter submitter | -S submitter]
              [--text text | -t text]
              [--required-before date | -u date]
              [--required-after date | -U date]
              [--arrived-before date | -b date]
              [--arrived-after date | -a date]
              [--modified-before date | -B date]
              [--modified-after date | -M date]
              [--closed-before date | -z date]
              [--closed-after date | -Z date]

The options have the following meaning:

--help, -h
Prints a help message.
--version, -V
Displays the program version to stdout.
--output file, -o file
The results of the query will be placed in this file.
--database database, -d database
Specifies the database to be used for the query. If no database is specified, the database named default is assumed. (This option overrides the database specified in the GNATSDB environment variable; see Environment for more information.)
--list-categories, -j
Lists the available PR categories for the selected database.
--list-states, -T
Lists the valid PR states for PRs in this database.
--list-responsible, -k
Lists the users that appear in the database's responsible list.
--list-submitters, -l
Lists the valid submitters for this database.

The previous –list-* options are deprecated and may be removed in future releases of gnats; their functionality can be replaced with

     query-pr --valid-values field

where field is one of Category, Class, Responsible, Submitter-Id, or State.

Lists the known databases.
Lists the entire set of field names for PRs in the selected database.
Lists the fields that should be provided when creating a new PR for the currently-specified database. The fields are listed in an order that would make sense when used in a template or form.
--field-type field
Returns the data type contained in PR field field. The current set of data types includes text, multitext, enum, multienum, enumerated-in-file, multi-enumerated-in-file, date and integer.
--field-description field
Returns a human-readable description of the intended purpose of field.
--field-flags field
Returns the flags set for the field in the dbconfig file associated with the database, such as textsearch and readonly. See Individual field configuration.
--adm-field field
Used together with the --adm-key option, this returns a record from the administrative file (if any) associated with the field. For more material on administrative files, see Enumerated field administrative files.
--adm-subfield subfield
Used together with the --adm-field and --adm-key options, this returns the contents of a particular subfield from the record specified by --adm-field and --adm-key. Subfields are treated in Enumerated field administrative files.
--adm-key key
Used together with --adm-field to select a record from the administrative file associated with the field specified by --adm-field. See Enumerated field administrative files.
--valid-values field
For fields of type enum, a list of valid values (one per line) is returned. Otherwise, a regular expression is returned that describes the legal values in field.
--responsible-address name
The mail address of name is returned; name is assumed to be a name either appearing in the database's responsible list, or is otherwise a user on the system.
A set of /bin/sh variables is returned that describe the selected database. They include:
The name of the currently-selected database.
Set to 1 if the selected database is valid.
The directory where the database contents are stored.
Set to 1 if debug mode has been enabled for the database.
The default category for PRs in the database.
The default state for PRs in the database.

Prints the information about a remote server database in the format suitable for the GNATSDB environment variable. This option works only in the network mode.
Returns the directory where the selected database is located.
--format format, -f format
Used to specify the format of the output PRs, See Formatting query-pr output for a complete description.
--full, -F
When printing PRs, the entre PR is displayed. This is exactly equivalent to
          query-pr --format full

--summary, -q
When printing PRs, a summary format is used. This is exactly equivalent to
          query-pr --format summary

--debug, -D
Enables debugging output for network queries.
--host host, -H host
Specifies the hostname of the gnatsd server to communicate with. This overrides the value in the GNATSDB environment variable.
--port port
Specifies the port number of the gnatsd server to communicate with. This overrides the value in the GNATSDB environment variable.
--user user, -v user
Specifies the username to login with when connecting to the gnatsd server. This overrides the value in the GNATSDB environment variable.
--passwd passwd, -w passwd
Specifies the password to login with when connecting to the gnatsd server. This overrides the value in the GNATSDB environment variable.
--and, -&, --or, -|
These options are used when connecting multiple query operators together. They specify whether the previous and subsequent options are to be logically ANDed or logically ORed.
--expr expr
Specifies a query expression to use when searching for PRs. See Query expressions.

The remaining deprecated options are not described here, since their use is fairly obvious and their functionality is completely replaced by the use of the --expr option.

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2.4.2 Formatting query-pr output

Printing formats for PRs are in one of three forms:

This is a named format which is described by the database (specifically, these formats are described in the dbconfig file associated with the database). The default configuration contains five such formats: standard, full, summary, sql, and sql2.

The first three are the ones most commonly used when performing queries. standard is the format used by default if no other format is specified.

Use of the latter two are discouraged; they are merely kept for historical purposes. Other named formats may have been added by the database administrator.

A single field name may appear here. Only the contents of this field will be displayed.
'"printf string" fieldname fieldname ...'
This provides a very flexible mechanism for formatting PR output. (The formatting is identical to that provided by the named formats described by the database configuration, See Named query definitions. The printf string can contain the following % sequences:

%[positionalspecifiers]s: Prints the field as a string. The positional specifiers are similar to those of printf, as +, - and digit qualifiers can be used to force a particular alignment of the field contents.

%[positionalspecifiers]S: Similar to %s, except that the field contents are terminated at the first space character.

%[positionalspecifiers]d: Similar to %s, except that the field contents are written as a numeric value. For integer fields, the value is written as a number. For enumerated fields, the field is converted into a numeric equivalent (i.e. if the field can have two possible values, the result will be either 1 or 2). For date fields, the value is written as seconds since Jan 1, 1970.

%F: The field is written as it would appear within a PR, complete with field header.

%D: For date fields, the date is written in a standard gnats format.

%Q: For date fields, the date is written in an arbitrary "SQL" format.

An example formatted query looks as follows (note that the whole format specification should be quoted):

     query-pr --format '"%s, %s" Synopsis State'

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2.4.3 Query expressions

Query expressions are used to select specific PRs based on their field contents. The general form is

     fieldname|"value" operator fieldname|"value" [booleanop ...]

value is a literal string or regular expression; it must be surrounded by double quotes, otherwise it is interpreted as a fieldname.

fieldname is the name of a field in the PR.

operator is one of:

The value of the left-hand side of the expression must exactly match the regular expression on the right-hand side of the expression. See Querying using regular expressions.
Some portion of the left-hand side of the expression must match the regular expression on the right-hand side.
The value of the left-hand side must be equal to the value on the right-hand side of the expression.

The equality of two values depends on what type of data is stored in the field(s) being queried. For example, when querying a field containing integer values, literal strings are interpreted as integers. The query expression

          Number == "0123"

is identical to

          Number == "123"

as the leading zero is ignored. If the values were treated as strings instead of integers, then the two comparisons would return different results.

The not-equal operator. Produces the opposite result of the == operator.
The left-hand side must have a value less than or greater than the right-hand side. Comparisons are done depending on the type of data being queried; in particular, integer fields and dates use a numeric comparison, and enumerated fields are ordered depending on the numeric equivalent of their enumerated values.

booleanop is either | (logical or), or & (logical and). The query expression

     Category="baz" | Responsible="blee"

selects all PRs with a Category field of baz or a Responsible field of blee.

The not operator ! may be used to negate a test:

     ! Category="foo"

searches for PRs where the category is not equal to the regular expression foo.

Parentheses may be used to force a particular interpretation of the expression:

     !(Category="foo" & Submitter-Id="blaz")

skips PRs where the Category field is equal to foo and the Submitter-Id field is equal to blaz. Parentheses may be nested to any arbitrary depth.

Fieldnames can be specified in several ways. The simplest and most obvious is just a name:


which checks the value of the category field for the value foo.

A fieldname qualifier may be prepended to the name of the field; a colon is used to separate the qualifier from the name. To refer directly to a builtin field name:


In this case, Number is interpreted as the builtin name of the field to check. (This is useful if the fields have been renamed. For further discussion of builtin field names, see The dbconfig file.

To scan all fields of a particular type, the fieldtype qualifier may be used:


This searches all text fields for the regular expression bar.

Note that it is not required that the right-hand side of the expression be a literal string. To query all PRs where the PR has been modified since it was closed, the expression

     Last-Modified != Closed-Date

will work; for each PR, it compares the value of its Last-Modified field against its Closed-Date field, and returns those PRs where the values differ. However, this query will also return all PRs with empty Last-Modified or Closed-Date fields. To further narrow the search:

     Last-Modified != Closed-Date & Last-Modified != "" & Closed-Date != ""

In general, comparing fields of two different types (an integer field against a date field, for example) will probably not do what you want.

Also, a field specifier may be followed by the name of a subfield in braces:

     State[type] != "closed"

or even

     builtin:State[type] != "closed"

Subfields are further discussed in The dbconfig file.

Previous: Query expressions, Up: query-pr

2.4.4 Example queries

The following simple query:

     query-pr --expr 'Category~"rats" & State~"analyzed"
                      & Responsible~"fred"'

yields all PRs in the database which contain the field values:

     >Category:     rats         and
     >Responsible:  fred         and
     >State:        analyzed

The following query:

     query-pr --expr 'State~"open|analyzed"'

yields all PRs in the database whose State values match either open or analyzed (see Querying using regular expressions. This search is useful as a daily report that lists all Problem Reports which require attention.

The following query:

     query-pr --expr 'fieldtype:Text="The quick.*brown fox"'

yields all PRs whose Text fields contain the text The quick followed by brown fox within the same field. See Querying using regular expressions, which also contains further useful examples of query expressions.

Previous: query-pr, Up: GNATS user tools

2.5 The Emacs interface to gnats

Emacs interface to gnats provides basic access to gnats databases, i.e. sending, editing, and querying Problem Reports. It also defines a simple major mode for editing dbconfig files.

This section provides an overview of using gnats with Emacs. It does not describe the use of Emacs itself, for detailed instructions on using Emacs, see Top (GNU Emacs). For installation instructions of the gnats Emacs mode, see Installing utils.

Please note the Emacs interface was completely rewritten between gnats 3 and gnats 4. It now uses gnatsd, gnatsd, exclusively for its operations and uses modern Emacs features like faces. Its features are not complete though, you can send your suggestions and patches to the appropriate gnats mailing list, Support.

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2.5.1 Viewing Problem Reports

To view a particular Problem Report, use the command M-x view-pr. It asks for a Problem Report number and displays that Problem Report.

The displayed buffer is put in the view mode, Misc File Ops (GNU Emacs). If you decide to edit the displayed Problem Report, use the command e (gnats-view-edit-pr).

Hook run when gnats-view-mode is entered.

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2.5.2 Querying Problem Reports

Querying the database is performed by the M-x query-pr command. The command prompts for the query expression, Query expressions, and displays a buffer with the list of the matching Problem Reports.

The list of the Problem Reports is displayed in the summary query format, Formatting query-pr output. Currently, the display format cannot be changed and it must output each Problem Report's number in the first column.

The Problem Report list buffer is put in the view mode, Misc File Ops (GNU Emacs). You can use most of the standard view mode commands in it. Additionally, the following special commands are available:

View the current Problem Report (gnats-query-view-pr), Emacs viewing.

Edit the current Problem Report (gnats-query-edit-pr), Emacs editing.

Update the Problem Report list (gnats-query-reread). The last performed query is executed again and the buffer is filled with the new results.

Perform new query (query-pr).

Send new Problem Report (send-pr), Emacs submitting.

Change the current database (gnats-change-database), Emacs and databases.

Bury buffer, the buffer is put at the end of the list of all buffers. This is useful for quick escape of the buffer, without killing it.

If the value of the variable gnats-query-reverse-listing is non-nil, the listing appears in the reversed order, i.e. with the Problem Reports of the highest number first, in the buffer.

Similarly to other gnats Emacs modes, there is a hook available for the Problem Report list.

Hook run when gnats-query-mode is entered.

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2.5.3 Submitting new Problem Reports

You can submit new Problem Reports with the command M-x send-pr. The command puts you to the problem editing buffer, Emacs editing. The buffer is prefilled with the initial report fields and their default values, if defined. You can use the usual Problem Report editing commands, Emacs editing. When you have filled in all the fields, you can send the Problem Report by presing C-c C-c.

If you run M-x send-pr with a prefix argument, it runs the gnats-change-database command before putting you to the editing buffer, Emacs and databases.

You can set the following variables to get some fields pre-filled:

Default value of the Organization field used in new Problem Reports.

Default value of the Submitter-Id field used in new Problem Reports.

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2.5.4 Editing Problem Reports

To edit a particular Problem Report, use the command M-x edit-pr. It asks for a Problem Report number and puts the given Problem Report in the editing buffer. See Emacs editing buffer, for information how to edit the Problem Report in the buffer and how to submit your changes.

Note you can also start editing of a selected Problem Report directly from within the viewing buffer, Emacs viewing, or the query result buffer, Emacs querying.

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2.5.5 The Problem Report editing buffer

When you invoke a Problem Report editing command, the Problem Report is put into a special editing buffer. The Problem Report is formatted similarly to the query-pr -F output, Formatting query-pr output. Field identifiers are formatted as


with the text of the field following the identifier on the same line for single-line fields or starting on the next line for multi-line fields.

The Problem Report editing mode tries to prevent you from violating the Problem Report format and the constraints put on the possible field values. Generally, you can use usual editing commands, some of them have a slightly modified behavior though. (If you encounter a very strange behavior somewhere, please report it as a bug, Support.)

You can move between fields easily by pressing the TAB (gnats-next-field) or M-TAB (gnats-previous-field) keys.

The field tags are read-only and you cannot edit them nor delete them. If you want to “remove” a field, just make its value empty.

Editing a field value depends on the type of the edited field, Field datatypes. For text fields, you can edit the value directly, assuming you preserve the rule about single-line and multi-line values mentioned above.

For enumerated fields, you cannot edit the value directly. You can choose it from the list of the allowed values, either from the menu popped up by pressing the middle mouse button or from within minibuffer by pressing any key on the field's value. If the pressed key matches any of the allowed field values, that value is put as the default value after the minibuffer prompt. You can also cycle through the allowed field values directly in the editing buffer using the SPACE key. Enumerated field values are marked by a special face to not confuse you; you must have enabled font lock mode to benefit from this feature, Font Lock (GNU Emacs).

Some field values can be read-only, you cannot edit them at all.

Once you have edited the Problem Report as needed, you can send it to the server with the C-c C-c command (gnats-apply-or-submit). Successful submission is reported by a message and the buffer modification flag in mode line is cleared. Then you can either kill the buffer or continue with further modifications.

Hook run when gnats-edit-mode is entered.

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2.5.6 Changing the database

By default, the Emacs interface connects to the default database, databases file. If you want to connect to another database, use the command M-x gnats-change-database. It will ask you for the database name to use, server and port it can be accessed on, and your login name.

If you want to use the gnatsd command, gnatsd, directly, without connecting to a remote server or the localhost connection port, provide your local file system full path to gnatsd as the server name. Port number does not matter in this case.

If the database requires a password to allow you the access to it, you are prompted for the password the first time you connect to the database. If you provide an invalid password, you cannot connect to the database anymore and you have to run the M-x gnats-change-database command again.

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2.5.7 dbconfig mode

The Emacs interface defines a simple major mode gnats-dbconfig-mode for editing dbconfig files, dbconfig file. It defines basic mode attributes like character syntax and font lock keywords, it does not define any special commands now.

Hook run when gnats-dbconfig-mode is entered.

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2.5.8 Other commands

M-x unlock-pr
Ask for a Problem Report number and unlock that Problem Report. This function is useful if connection to a gnats server was interrupted during an editing operation and further modifications of the Problem Report are blocked by a stealth lock.

M-x unlock-database
Unlock the whole gnats database. This function is useful in situations similar to when unlock-pr is used.

M-x gnats-show-connection
Show the connection buffer associated with the current buffer. You can view the Emacs communication with gnatsd in it. This is useful when something strange happens during the communication with the server, e.g. when sending a Problem Report with C-c C-c from a Problem Report editing buffer.

Previous: Other Emacs commands, Up: Emacs

2.5.9 Customization

All the user variables can be customized in the customization group gnats, Easy customization (GNU Emacs).

Next: , Previous: GNATS user tools, Up: Top

3 Installing gnats

See also Where the tools and utilities reside.

There are several steps you need to follow to fully configure and install gnats on your system. You need root access in order to create a new account for gnats and to install the gnats utilities. You may need root access on some systems in order to set up mail aliases and to allow this new account access to cron and at.

If you are updating an older version of gnats rather than installing from scratch, see Upgrading from older versions.

gnats installation relies on two other freely available software packages, which should be installed before you go on to configure and build gnats. These are gnu make and Texinfo (version 4.2 or higher). Both are available from the gnu FTP site at

To build and install gnats, you must:

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3.1 Configuring and compiling the software

  1. First, unpack your distribution. We provide source code in a tar file which was compressed using gzip. The code can be extracted into a directory unpackdir using
              cd unpackdir
              gunzip gnats-4.1.999.tar.gz
              tar xvf gnats-4.1.999.tar

    The sources reside in a directory called gnats-4.1.999 when unpacked. We call this the top level of the source directory, or srcdir. The sources for the gnats tools are in the subdirectory gnats-4.1.999/gnats/*. Lists of files included in the distribution are in each directory in the file MANIFEST.

  2. As of gnats version 4, having Emacs installed on the gnats server is no longer a requirement. If you do not have Emacs installed, disregard this step altogether.

    You may wish to alter the installation directory for the Emacs lisp files. If your Emacs lisp library is not in prefix/share/emacs/site-lisp, edit the file srcdir/gnats/ Change the variable lispdir from prefix/emacs/site-lisp to the directory containing your Emacs lisp library. For information on prefix, see prefix.

  3. Create an account for the gnats user. You can actually name this user whatever you want to, as long as it is a valid username on your system, but we strongly recommend that you call the user gnats. If you do decide to give it some other name, remember to use the option --enable-gnats-user when running configure below. Below, we will anyway refer to this user by the name gnats.

    This user must have an entry in the file /etc/passwd. As for ordinary users, create a standard home directory for the gnats user. The default PATH for this user should contain exec-prefix/bin and exec-prefix/libexec/gnats. The exec-prefix value is configurable with the --exec-prefix configure option described below, but for standard installations, these two directories correspond to /usr/local/bin and /usr/local/libexec/gnats.

  4. Run configure. You can nearly always run configure with the simple command

    and the “Right Thing” happens:

    The most common options to configure are listed below:

              configure [ --prefix=prefix ]
                        [ --exec-prefix=exec-prefix ]
                        [ --enable-gnats-service=service-name ]
                        [ --enable-gnats-user=username ]
                        [ --enable-gnatsd-user-access-file=path ]
                        [ --enable-gnatsd-host-access-file=path ]
                        [ --enable-gnats-dblist-file=path ]
                        [ --enable-gnats-default-db=path ]
                        [ --with-kerberos ] [ --with-krb4 ]
                        [ --verbose ]
    All host-independent programs and files are to be installed under prefix. (Host-dependent programs and files are also installed in prefix by default.) The default for prefix is /usr/local. See Where gnats lives.

    All host-dependent programs and files are to be installed under exec-prefix. The default for exec-prefix is prefix. See Where gnats lives.

    Set service-name to be the gnats network service. Default name is support.

    Set username to be the user name for gnats. Default username is gnats.

    Set global (across all databases) gnatsd user access file to path. Default is /usr/local/etc/gnats/gnatsd.user_access. Per-database user access permissions are set in a gnatsd.user_access file in the gnats-adm subdirectory of each database.

    Set global (across all databases) gnatsd host access file to path. Default is /usr/local/etc/gnats/gnatsd_host.access. There is currently no way to specify host access permissions on a per-database basis.

    Specify the file containing the list of databases.

    Default is prefix/etc/gnats/databases.

    Specify the default database to use when gnats tools are invoked without the -d or --databasename option, and when the GNATSDB envrionment variable hasn't been set. Default is /prefix/com/gnatsdb.

    Include code for Kerberos authentication.

    Support Kerberos 4.
    Give verbose output while configure runs.

    configure supports several more options which allow you to specify in great detail where files are installed. For a complete list of options, run ./configure --help in the source directory.

    You can build gnats in a different directory (objdir) from the source code by calling the configure program from the new directory, as in

              mkdir objdir
              cd objdir
              srcdir/configure ...

    By default, make compiles the programs in the same directory as the sources (srcdir).

  5. Make sure you have gnu make, then run
              make all info

    from the directory where configure created a Makefile (this is objdir if you used it, otherwise srcdir.) These targets indicate:

    Compile all programs
    Create info files using makeinfo.

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3.2 Installing the utilities

The following steps are necessary for a complete installation. You may need root access for these.

  1. Install the utilities by invoking
              make install install-info

    These targets indicate:

    Installs all programs into their configured locations (see Where gnats lives).
    Installs info files into their configured locations (see Where gnats lives).

    After you have installed gnats, you can remove the object files with

              make clean

  2. If you do not have Emacs installed on your gnats server, this step should be skipped.

    Place the following lines in the file default.el in your Emacs lisp library, or instruct your local responsible parties to place the lines in their .emacs:

              (autoload 'send-pr "gnats"
                 "Command to create and send a problem report." t)
              (autoload 'edit-pr "gnats"
                 "Command to edit a problem report." t)
              (autoload 'view-pr "gnats"
                 "Command to view a problem report." t)
              (autoload 'query-pr "gnats"
                 "Command to query information about problem reports." t)
              (autoload 'unlock-pr "gnats"
                 "Unlock a problem report." t)
              (autoload 'gnats-dbconfig-mode "gnats"
                "Major mode for editing the `dbconfig' GNATS configuration file." t)
              (add-to-list 'auto-mode-alist '("\\<dbconfig$" . gnats-dbconfig-mode))

  3. If you want people who are logged into the gnats server itself to be able to use the send-pr tool to submit problem reports, you need to create a configuration file for send-pr on the server. See The send-pr.conf configuration file.

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3.3 Installing the default database

For the following steps, log in as the user gnats.

We are now going to initialize the default gnats database. Run the following command:

     mkdb default

This creates a database named default, with all its data stored below the directory prefix/com/gnatsdb, in a default installation this corresponds to /usr/local/com/gnatsdb. If you specified the --enable-gnats-default-db option when running configure, the default database will be created under the directory you specified instead. mkdb creates the database directory itself, together with three different subdirectories2:

The next configuration step is to edit the default files copied to the database's gnats-adm directory by mkdb.

The default dbconfig file installed by mkdb provides a good basis for many gnats databases. The default file causes similar behaviour to the 3.x versions of gnats. However, even if this might be precisely what you want, you should still go through the file and check that the default settings suit your needs. See The dbconfig file.

Then edit the files categories, responsible, and submitters in the gnats-adm directory (see Other database-specific config files) to reflect your local needs. For special configurations, you may also have to edit the states and classes files.

If you used the --enable-gnats-default-db option in the pre-build configure to change the location of the default database, you need to edit the databases config file, see The databases file. This file is by default located in the prefix/etc/gnats directory, but may have been changed by the option --enable-gnats-dblist-file option during configure.

Next: , Previous: Setting up the default database, Up: Installation

3.4 Setting up periodic jobs

Allow the new user gnats access to cron and at. To do this, add the name gnats to the files cron.allow and at.allow, which normally reside in the directory /var/spool/cron. If these files do not exist, make sure gnats does not appear in either of the files cron.deny and at.deny (in the same directory). If you changed the name of the gnats user during configure, remember to substitute as appropriate in the previous steps.

Create a crontab entry that periodically runs the program queue-pr with the --run option (see queue-pr). For example, to run queue-pr --run every ten minutes, create a file called .mycron in the home directory of the user gnats which contains the line:

     0,10,20,30,40,50 * * * * exec-prefix/libexec/gnats/queue-pr --run

(Specify the full path name for queue-pr.) Then run

     crontab .mycron

See the man pages for cron and crontab for details on using cron.

Next: , Previous: Setting up periodic jobs, Up: Installation

3.5 Setting up mail aliases

The following mail aliases must be added on the machine where the gnats server is installed. The instructions below are for Sendmail or Sendmail-like mail systems. If these instructions don't fit your system, particularly if you do not have an aliases file, ask your mail administrator for advice.

The following aliases should be placed in the file /etc/aliases. Yoy may need root access to add these aliases:

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3.6 Installing the daemon

By default, the daemon and clients are set to use port 1529. Add the line

     support		1529/tcp			# GNATS

to your /etc/services file. If you want a different service name, configure gnats with


In your inetd.conf file, add the line

     support	stream	tcp	nowait	gnats	/usr/local/libexec/gnats/gnatsd gnatsd

adjusting the path accordingly if you used configure options to make changes to the defaults. To make inetd start spawning the gnats daemon when connected on that port, send it a hangup signal (HUP).

Some operating systems have replaced inetd with the more modern xinetd. Instead of editing inetd.conf, you should create the file /etc/xinetd.d/support, containing something like the following:

     service support
        disable = no
        socket_type = stream
        protocol = tcp
        wait = no
        user = gnats
        server = /usr/local/libexec/gnats/gnatsd

If you specified a different service name when running configure, you need to give the file the same name as the service name, and you need to adjust the service line above. If the --prefix or --exec-prefix options were passed to configure, adjust the server line above, and if you used the --enable-gnats-user option, adjust the user line.

Then restart xinetd to make the new configuration current.

If you use an Internet superserver different from inetd or xinetd, please refer to its documentation for information how to configure it.

At this point, you will probably want to set the access permissions of the different hosts that are going to be accessing your databases. The access permissions can currently only be set on a global scale (that is, across all the databases on a gnats server). The location and name of the global host access configuration file can be set during the pre-build configure as shown above, but by default the file is /usr/local/etc/gnats/gnatsd_host.access. It lists the hosts allowed to access your server, and what their default access levels are. Each line in the file denotes one server, or one part of a network domain. There are three fields on each line, but only two are currently used. To grant all hosts from the domain edit access, use this line:

If you run a gnats web interface or similar tool on the same machine as the server is running on, you probably want to grant localhost edit access:


If you are using Kerberos, the gnatsd_host.access file shows the sites that don't require Kerberos authentication.

The third field might in the future be used for things like controlling what categories, submitter-id's PRs, etc., can be accessed from that site. Access attempts that are denied are logged to the syslog messages file (/var/adm/messages on many systems).

Next: , Previous: Installing the daemon, Up: Installation

3.7 Installing the user tools

When you install the gnats utilities, the user tools send-pr, query-pr and edit-pr are installed on the server machine. If your machine is part of a network, however, you may wish to install the user tools on each machine in the network so that responsible parties on those machines can submit new Problem Reports, query the database, and edit existing PRs. In the following discussion, machines with the gnats user tools installed are referred to as client machines. In general, there are three distinct types of client that a gnats server may have to cater for:

Each type of client requires a different approach when it comes to providing access.

3.7.1 User tools on a local network

If all the machines involved reside on the same local network as the gnats server, you can simply share out the directories on the server that contain the user tools, by default /usr/local/bin and the directory which contains the send-pr.conf configuration file (see The send-pr.conf configuration file), by default /usr/local/etc/gnats. If you have a heterogeneous environment, i.e. hosts running different operating systems, you need to create several shared gnats installations, one for each platform. The send-pr.conf file is platform-independent, though.

In order to submit a new PR, send-pr would then be invoked as follows on the client machines:

     send-pr -d hostname:port:database:username:password

Or by first setting the environment variable GNATSDB as follows (the exact syntax will vary depending on what shell you use):

     export GNATSDB=hostname:port:database:username:password

Then, send-pr can simply be invoked without any options.

The other tools, query-pr and edit-pr, work in similar ways, honoring the -d option as well as the GNATSDB environment variable. See GNATS user tools.

3.7.2 User tools for remote users

When client machines reside on the general Internet, both security and practical considerations may make it impossible to provide a shared installation of the gnats tools. In this case, you may choose to only provide access through a web interface such as Gnatsweb. For clients that need the gnats tools, the following needs to be carried out on the remote machines:

  1. Configure and build gnats on the client machine
  2. Configure send-pr on the client machine

You should unpack the distribution and run configure on the client machine in the same way as described in Configuring and compiling the software. Note, however, that you do not need to create a gnats user on the client and you should not use the make all info command to build. Instead, issue the following commands from the top level directory of the source distribution:

     cd gnats
     make install-tools
     cd ../send-pr
     make all install

This builds and installs the send-pr, query-pr and edit-pr tools on the client machine. You should now configure send-pr by editing the send-pr.conf file (see The send-pr.conf configuration file.)

Users on the client machine can now either use the send-pr syntax or the GNATSDBenvironment variable described in the previous section.

For sites that need to submit Problem Reports by having send-pr send e-mail instead of speaking directly over the network to the gnats server, you need to create a problem report template on the gnats server and have that template copied to a suitable location on the client machine (any filename and any location will do, as long as send-pr on the client machine can read the file). On the gnats server, use the command

     send-pr -p > filename

The file filename now contains a PR template for your database. Copy this file to the client. Then edit the send-pr.conf file that you created on the client, set the TEMPLATE variable to point to the template file (see The send-pr.conf configuration file) and make sure that the MAILPROG and MAILADDR varables in send-pr.conf are correctly set. You should now have a working remote tool installation.

For clients that have no direct network access to your gnats server, such as those that are located behind strict firewalls, you either need to set up a web interface such as Gnatsweb (provided that the firewall lets web traffic through) or use the procedure above which sets up send-pr to submit Problem Reports by e-mail. In order to query PRs, users on the remote machines will then have to use the the e-mail functionality of query-pr (see Invoking query-pr. Editing PRs by e-mail is not possible, so clients in this group who need edit access have to get access through a web interface if possible.

Note that when send-pr is set up to work over e-mail, the GNATSDB environment variable and the -d command line option have no effect since send-pr is tied to a specific database by way of the value of MAILADDR in the send-pr.conf file.

Previous: Installing tools, Up: Installation

3.8 Upgrading from older versions

The following procedure covers an upgrade from all gnats 3 versions newer than 3.108. If your installation is an older 3.10x version, or even the ancient 3.2 version, you need to review the UPGRADING.old file in the gnats distribution before carrying out the steps detailed here.

3.8.1 Overview

Although almost all of the gnats internals have been redesigned and rewritten for gnats 4, little has changed in the format and structure of the database data. The only change that needs to be taken into account when upgrading is the fact that the database index format is binary in a default installation of gnats 4. Thus, you will need to regenerate your database index by using the gen-index tool. In addition, if your old gnats installation was so-called “release-based”, you need to make some simple modifications to the database setup file dbconfig. See below for details.

Apart from building and installing new binaries, the major changes which impinge on the upgrade procedure are all on the configuration side. The main database configuration file, dbconfig, is far more complex and powerful than the old config file, and while the installation process creates a sensible set of default values which are similar to gnats 3.11x's defaults, you still need to migrate any changes you may have made to your own local configuration.

Another aspect which needs consideration are remote submitter sites. Such sites either need to be instructed to upgrade their locally installed copies of the gnats user tools (send-pr, edit-pr and query-pr), or they should be given access through interfaces such as Gnatsweb.

Since the gnats network daemon has been completely reworked, with an entirely new command set, all network-based interfaces, such as Gnatsweb and TkGnats need to be upgraded to versions that support gnats 4. The contrib directory of this distribution contains some third-party interfaces, and the README file contains pointers to where you can obtain the newest versions of these tools.

This document only deals with upgrading gnats itself. Third-party tools should have separate upgrading instructions in their distributions.

3.8.2 Upgrading

  1. Before you begin, make a backup of your entire gnats database directory hierarchy, the gnats executables directory and the gnats user tools (send-pr, query-pr etc.) The locations of these may vary, but in a default gnats 3 installation, the database(s) reside under /usr/local/share/gnats, the executables are located in /usr/local/libexec/gnats and the user tools reside in /usr/local/bin.
  2. (optional) In order to avoid confusing your users, you may want to remove the old gnats 3 executables and tools, escpecially if you plan to install gnats 4 in a different location than version 3.
  3. Build and install gnats 4. See Installing gnats. It is recommended that you use the --enable-gnats-default-db option when running configure, in order to set the default database to be one of your already existing gnats 3 databases.
  4. Edit the gnats databases file and add entries for all your old gnats 3 databases. In a default gnats 4 installation the file is in /usr/local/etc/gnats. See The databases file.
  5. In gnats 3, the file gnatsd.conf specifies minimum access levels for the different hosts accessing the gnats daemon, gnatsd. There is one gnatsd.conf for each database. In gnats 4, these files have been replaced by a single file named gnatsd.host_access which contains settings that apply across all the databases on the server. This file is located in the same directory as the databases file. You need to combine the host access settings from all your gnats 3 databases and add them to the gnatsd.host_access file. Note that you are no longer able to control host access on a per-database basis. Optionally, you may delete the old gnatsd.conf files. See Controlling access to gnats databases.
  6. Next, you need to migrate the settings in the old config files of your databases to corresponding dbconfig files. The database you specified with the --enable-gnats-default-db configure option got a default dbconfig installed. This default file contains field definitions etc. which makes this version of gnats behave almost exactly like older versions. Copy this default file to the gnats-adm directories of any other gnats databases that you may have on your host before you proceed to migrate your old configuration settings.

    The following is a list of the configuration directives that may be present in a config file and their counterparts (if any) in gnats 4.

    This setting has no counterpart in gnats 4, since gnats no longer needs to know its own mail address.
    This setting is now set in the responsible file in the gnats-adm directory of your database(s).
    gnats 4 has no concept of a named `site', so this directive is obsolete.
    Obsolete, since it relates to GNATS_SITE.
    The gnats 4 dbconfig file has separate configuration sections for each defined field. Field defaults are set with the default keyword in these sections. See The dbconfig file.
    Controlled by the notify-about-expired-prs setting in the dbconfig file.
    Controlled by the send-submitter-ack setting in the dbconfig file.
    The default submitter is now always the first entry in the submitters file of your database.
    Controlled by the keep-all-received-headers setting in the dbconfig file.
    Controlled by the debug-mode setting in the dbconfig file.
    Controlled by the settings business-day-hours and business-week-days in the dbconfig file.
    The default category for PRs that arrive without one is now the first category listed in the categories file of your database.

    After your are done migrating the settings, you may optionally delete the old config files. Since there are many more configuration settings available in the gnats 4 dbconfig file, you should take some time to review them all before proceeding. See The dbconfig file.

    If your old gnats installations was release-based, i.e. it included the fields Quarter, Keywords and Date-Required, you need to define those fields in the dbconfig file by following the instructions in Supporting old gnats “release-based” fields.

  7. The file gnatsd.access has been renamed to gnatsd.user_access. Furthermore, gnats 4 uses a different password format in the gnatsd.user_access file than older versions, since it supports crypt() and MD5 passwords (see Controlling access to gnats databases). You need to translate your old gnatsd.user_access files to the new format by using the gnats-pwconv tool which was installed in the EXEC-PREFIX/libexec/gnats directory, typically /usr/local/libexec/gnats. See Managing user passwords.
  8. The final step involves regenerating the indexes of your databases. For this, log in as the user gnats. Then run the gen-index command for each of your databases. See Administrative Utilities for details on how to use gen-index.
  9. Sit back and enjoy your new gnats 4 setup...

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4 gnats Administration

In daily usage, gnats is self-maintaining. However, there are various administrative duties which need to be performed periodically. Also, requirements may change with time, so it may be necessary to make changes to the gnats configuration at some point:

emptying the pending directory
If a Problem Report arrives with a Category value that is unrecognized by the categories file, or if that field is missing, gnats places the PR in the pending directory (see Where gnats lives). PRs submitted in free-form by email will always be filed in the pending directory. If so configured, gnats sends a notice to the gnats-admin and to the party responsible for that submitter (as listed in the submitters file) when this occurs.

To have these "categoryless" PRs filed correctly, you can then use a gnats tool such as edit-pr to set the correct category of each PR in the pending directory.

In order to protect yourself from problems caused by full disks, you should arrange to have all mail that is sent to the gnats database copied to a log file (Setting up mail aliases). Then, should you run out of disk space, and an empty file ends up in the database's pending directory, you need only look in the log file, which should still contain the full message that was submitted.

adding another database
gnats supports multiple databases. If you find at some point that you need to add another database to your server, the mkdb tool does most of the work for you. See Adding another database.
adding new categories
Most installations of gnats will only require you to add a new line to the categories file. The category directory will then be created automatically as needed. However, if automatic directory creation has been switched off in the dbconfig file (see The dbconfig file), you need to use the mkcat program.
removing categories
To remove a category, you need to make sure the relevant subdirectory is empty (in other words, make sure no PRs exist for the category you wish to remove). You can then remove the category listing from the categories file, and invoke
          rmcat category...

to remove category (any number of categories may be specified on the command line to rmcat, so long as they abide by the above constraints).

adding and removing maintainers
Edit the responsible file to add a new maintainer or to remove an existing maintainer. See The responsible file.
building a new index
If your index becomes corrupted, or if you wish to generate a new one for some reason, use the program gen-index (see Regenerating the index).
pruning log files
Log files often grow to unfathomable proportions. As with gardening, it is best to prune these as they grow, lest they take over your disk and leave you with no room to gather more Problem Reports. If you keep log files, be sure to keep an eye on them. (See Setting up mail aliases.)
Any database is only useful if its data remains uncorrupted and safe. Performing periodic backups ensures that problems like disk crashes and data corruption are reversible.

See Where gnats lives.

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4.1 Overview of gnats configuration

See Where gnats lives.

gnats has two, well, actually three, different kinds of configuration file. The site-wide configuration files determine overall behaviour across all the databases on your machine, while the database-specific configuration files determine how gnats behaves when dealing with a specific database. In addition, there is a single file that needs to be set up for the send-pr tool to work properly. These files can be edited at any time — the next time a gnats tool is invoked, the new parameters will take effect.

These are the site-wide configuration files used by gnats:

Specifies database names and their associated parameters, such as in which directory they are located. This file is used by the gnats clients to determine the location of a database referred to by name. See The databases file.
This directory contains the set of default per-database configuration files used when a new database is created with mkdb.
Controls access levels for the different machines that will do lookups in the databases on this machine. See gnats access control.
Controls user access levels for the databases on this server. The settings apply to all databases (there is also a database-specific user access level file). See gnats access control.

The database-specific configuration is determined by the following files in the gnats-adm subdirectory of the database directory.

Controls most aspects of how gnats behaves when dealing with your database. See The dbconfig file.

The list of categories that gnats accepts as valid for the Category field, and the maintainers responsible for each category. Update this file whenever you have a new category, or whenever a category is no longer valid. You must also update this file whenever responsibility for a category changes, or if a maintainer is no longer valid. See The categories file.

An alias list mapping names to their associated mailing addresses. The names in this list can have multiple email addresses associated with them. If a responsible user does not show up in this list, they are assumed to be a user local to the system. This list is not associated with just the responsible user field; all email addresses are mapped through this file whenever mail is sent from gnats. See The responsible file.

Lists sites from whom gnats accepts Problem Reports. The existence of this file is mandatory, although the feature it provides is not; see The submitters file.

Mappings between submitter IDs and submitters' e-mail addresses. Use of this file is optional. If you get Problem reports where the Submitter field is not filled in, gnats will use entries in this file to try to derive the submitter ID from the e-mail headers. See The addresses file.

Lists the possible states for Problem Reports, typically ranging from open to closed. See The states file.

Lists the possible classes of Problem Report. This provides an easy way to have “subcategories”, for example by setting up classes such as sw-bug, doc-bug, change-request etc. See The classes file.

Specify the access levels for different users to your database. See gnats access control.

The last file in this menagerie is the send-pr configuration file send-pr.conf. This file contains some defaults that need to be known in order for send-pr to work. The file needs to be present on all hosts where send-pr is to be used. See the send-pr.conf file.

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4.2 The databases file

The databases configuration file is a site-wide configuration file containing the list of gnats databases that are available either on the host itself or remotely over the network, together with some parameters associated with each database.

The file contains one line for each database. For databases located on the host itself, each line consists of three fields separated by colons:

database name:short description of database:path/to/database

The first field is the database name. This is the name used to identify the database when invoking programs such as query-pr or send-pr, either by using the --database option of the program or by setting the GNATSDB environment variable to the name of the database. The second field is a short human-readable description of the database contents, and the final field is the directory where the database contents are kept.

For a database that is located across a network, but which should be accessible from this host, the entry for the database should look like this:

database name:short description of database::hostname:port

The first two fields are the same as for local databases, the third field is empty (notice the two adjacent : symbols, indicating an empty field), the fourth field is the hostname of the remote gnats server, and the fifth field is the port number that the remote gnats is running on.

If gnats was built with default options, the databases file will be located in the /usr/local/etc/gnats directory. However, if the option --enable-gnats-dblist-file was used during building of gnats, the databases file has the name and location given to this option. A sample databases file is installed together with gnats.

Note that if you add a new local database, you must create its data directory, including appropriate subdirectories and administrative files. This is best done using the mkdb tool, See mkdb.

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4.3 The dbconfig file

The dbconfig configuration file controls the configuration of a gnats database. Each database has its own individual copy of this file, which is located in the gnats-adm subdirectory of the database.

The file consists of standard plain text. Whitespace is completely optional and is ignored. Sets of braces @ are used to delimit the different sections, and all non-keyword values must be surrounded with double quotes. The values in dbconfig can be changed at any time; the new values take effect for all subsequent iterations of gnats tools.

The dbconfig file contains 6 major sections, which must appear in the following order:

The different sections are described below. While reading the following sections, it will be useful to refer to the sample dbconfig file which is installed when a new database is initialized with the mkdb tool. In fact, the sample file provides a configuration that should be usable for a great range of sites, since it reproduces the behaviour of the older, less customizable 3.x versions of gnats.

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4.3.1 Overall database configuration

The overall database options are controlled by settings in the database-info section of the dbconfig file. The following is the general format of this section:

     database-info {

The following options and values may be used in the database-info section:

debug-mode true | false
If set to true, the database is placed into debug mode. This causes all outgoing email to be sent to the gnats-admin user listed in the responsible file of the database. The default value is false.

keep-all-received-headers true | false
If set to true, all of the Received: headers for PRs submitted via email are kept in the PR. Otherwise, only the first one is kept. The default value is false.

notify-about-expired-prs true | false
If set to true, notification email about expired PRs is sent via the at-pr command. Otherwise, required times for PR fixes are not used. The default value is false.

send-submitter-ack true | false
When new PRs are submitted to the database, an acknowledgment email will be sent to the submitter of send-submitter-ack is set to true. This is in addition to the normal notification mail to the person(s) responsible for the new PR. The default value is false.

libexecdir "directory"
Specifies the directory where the gnats administrative executables are located. In particular, at-pr and mail-pr are invoked from this directory. The default value is the empty string, which is unlikely to be useful.

business-day-hours day-start - day-end
Used to specify the hours that define a business day. The values are inclusive and should be given in 24-hour format, with a dash separating them. gnats uses these values to determine whether the required completion time for a PR has passed. The default values are 8 for day-start and 17 for day-end.

business-week-days week-start - week-end
Specifies the start and ending days of the business week, where 0 is Sunday, 1 is Monday, etc. The days are inclusive, and the values should be given with a dash separating them. gnats uses these values to determine whether the required completion time for a PR has passed. The default values are 1 for week-start and 5 for week-end.

create-category-dirs true | false
If set to true, database directories for categories are automatically created as needed. Otherwise, they must be created manually (usually with the mkcat script). It is recommended that the default value of true be kept.

category-dir-perms mode
Standard octal mode-specification specifying the permissions to be set on auto-created category directories. Default is 0750, yielding user read, write and execute, and group read and execute. Note that if you have local users on the gnats server itself, running for instance query-pr, you may need to change the permissions to 0755.

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4.3.2 Individual field configuration

Each type of field in a PR must be described with a field section in the dbconfig file. These sections have the following general structure:

     field "fieldname" {
       description "string"
       [ field-options ... ]
       datatype [ datatype-options ... ]
       [ on-change { edit-options ... } ]

fieldname is used as the field header in the PR. The characters > and : are used internally as field markers by gnats, so they must not be used in fieldnames.

The order in which the field sections appear in the dbconfig file determines the order in which they appear in the PR text. There is no required order, unlike previous versions of gnats — the Unformatted field and multitext fields may appear anywhere in the PR.

The following field-options may be present within a field section:

builtin-name "name"
Indicates that this field corresponds to one of the gnats built-in fields.

gnats has several fields which are required to be present in a PR, and this option is used to map their external descriptions to their internal usage. The external field names are:

The arrival date of the PR
The audit-trail recording changes to the PR
The category that the PR falls into
The date that the PR was closed
If set to yes, the PR is confidential
A description of the problem
The date the PR was last modified
The PR's unique numeric identifier
The originator of the PR
Priority of the PR
The person responsible for handling the PR
Severity of the problem described by the PR
The current state of the PR
The user that submitted the PR
The one-line description of the PR
PR text which cannot be parsed and associated with other fields.

For these built-in fields, a matching field description must appear in the dbconfig file. Otherwise, the configuration will be considered invalid, and errors will be generated from the gnats clients and gnatsd. We also recommend that you leave the actual fieldnames of these fields at their default values (i.e. capitalized versions of their built-in names), since some clients may depend on these names.

description "description text"
A one-line human-readable description of the field. Clients can use this string to describe the field in a help dialog. The string is returned from the FDSC command in gnatsd and is also available via the --field-description option in query-pr.

This entry must be present in the field description, and there is no default value.

query-default exact-regexp | inexact-regexp
Used to specify the default type of searches performed on this field. This is used when the ^ search operator appears in a query, and is also used for queries in query-pr that use the old --field query options.

If the option is not given, the default search is exact-regexp.

If this option is present, the field will be searched when the user performs a --text search from query-pr. The field is also flagged as a textsearch field in the set of field flags returned by the FIELDFLAGS command in gnatsd.

By default, fields are not marked as textsearch fields.

When this option is present, the field contents may not be edited — they must be set when the PR is initially created. In general, this should only be used for fields that are given as internal values rather than fields supplied by the user.

By default, editing is allowed.

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4.3.3 Field datatypes

Each field description has to contain a datatype declaration which describes what data are to be store in the field. The general format for such a declaration is

datatype [ options ... ]

The available datatypes are:

text [ matching { "regexp" [ "regexp" ... ] } ]
The text datatype is the most commonly used type; it is a one-line text string.

If the matching qualifier is present, the data in the field must match at least one of the specified regexps. This provides an easy and flexible way to limit what text is allowed in a field. If no matching qualifier is present, no restriction is placed on what values may appear in the field.

multitext [ { default "string" } ]
The field can contain multiple lines of text.

If the default option is present, the field will default to the specified string if the field is not given a value when the PR is initially created. Otherwise, the field will be left empty.

enum {
values {
"string" [ "string" ... ]
[ default "string" ]
Defines an enumerated field, where the values in the PR field must match an entry from a list of specified values. The list of allowed values is given with the values option. The values option is required for an enumerated field.

If a default option is present, it is used to determine the initial value of the field if no entry for the field appears in an initial OR (or if the value in the initial PR is not one of the acceptable values). However, the value in the default statement is not required to be one of the accepted values; this can be used to allow the field to be initially empty, for example.

If no default option is specified, the default value for the field is the first value in the values section.

multienum {
values {
"string" [ "string" ... ]
[ separators "string" ]
[ default "string" ]
The multienum datatype is similar to the enum datatype, except that the field can contain multiple values, separated by one or more characters from the separators list. If no separators option is present, the default separators are space ( ) and colon (:).

The values in the default string for this field type should be separated by one of the defined separators. An example clarifies this. If we have a field named ingredients where the default values should be sugar, flour and baking powder and the separator is a colon :, the following sets these defaults:

          default "sugar:flour:baking powder"

enumerated-in-file {
path "filename"
fields {
"name" [ "name" ... ]
} key "name"
[ allow-any-value ]
The enumerated-in-file type is used to describe an enumerated field with an associated administrative file which lists the legal values for the field, and may optionally contain additional fields that can be examined by query clients or used for other internal purposes. It is similar to the enum datatype, except that the list of legal values is stored in a separate file. An example of this kind of field is the built-in Category field with its associeted categories administrative file.

filename is the name of a file in the gnats-adm administrative directory for the database.

The format of the administrative file should be simple ASCII. Subfields within the file are separated with colons (:). Lines beginning with a hash sign (#) are ignored as comments. Records within the file are separated with newlines.

The field option is used to name the subfields in the administrative file. There must be at least one subfield, which is used to list the legal values for the field. If the administrative file is empty (or does not contain any non-empty non-comment lines), the PR field must be empty.

The key option is used to designate which field in the administrative file should be used to list the legal values for the PR field. The value must match one of the field names in the field option.

If the allow-any-value option is present, the value of the PR field is not required to appear in the administrative file — any value will be accepted.

Note that there is no default keyword for enumerated-in-file. These fields get their default value from the first entry in the associated administrative file.

multi-enumerated-in-file {
path "filename"
fields {
"name" [ "name" ... ]
} key "name"
[ default "string" ]
[ allow-any-value ]
[ separators "string" ]
multi-enumerated-in-file is to multienum what enumerated-in-file is to enum. Its options have the same meaning as their counterparts in the multienum and enumerated-in-file fields.

NOTE: Keywords may appear in any sequence, with one exception – the separators keyword, if present, has to come last. This rule only applies to fields of type multi-enumerated-in-file.

The date datatype is used to hold dates. Date fields must either be empty or contain a correctly formatted date.

No defaults or other options are available. The field is left empty if no value for the field is given in the initial PR.

integer [ { default "integer" } ]
Integer fields are used to hold numbers. They must either be empty or contain a value composed entirely of digits, with an optional leading sign.

If the default option is present, the field will have the value of integer if the field is not given a value when the PR is initially created. Otherwise, the field will be left empty.

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4.3.4 Edit controls

The on-change subsection of a fields section specifies one or more actions to be performed when the field value is edited by the user. It has the general form

     on-change [ "query-expression" ] {
       [ add-audit-trail ]
       [ audit-trail-format {
         format "formatstring"
         [ fields { "fieldname" ... } ]
       } ]
       [ require-change-reason ]
       [ set-field | append-to-field "fieldname" {
         "format-string" [ fieldlist ]
       } ]
       [ require { "fieldname" ... } ]

The optional query-expression controls whether or not the actions in the on-change section are taken. If the expression fails to match, the actions are skipped.

The add-audit-trail option indicates that an entry should be appended to the PR's audit-trail when this field is changed. The format of the entry is controlled by the optional audit-trail-format section within the field, or by the global audit-trail-format section. See Audit-trail formats and Outgoing email formats.

The require-change-reason option specifies that a change reason must be present in the PR when this field is edited. This option only makes sense if an audit-trail entry is required, as the change reason is otherwise unused.

The set-field and append-to-field options are used to change the value of the field fieldname in the PR. The supplied format is used to format the value that will be placed in the field.

append-to-field appends the resulting formatted string to the existing, while set-field completely replaces the contents.

Any field may be edited by the set-field or append-to-field option (the read-only option on a field is ignored). However, the changes are subject to the usual field content checks.

The require option specifies that one or more fields must have a (non-blank) value when this field is changed.

A field may be enforced to have a (non-blank) value at all times by including it in the set of fields required for the initial PR, see Initial PR input fields, as well as in the set of fields required on change of the field itself.

There is also a global on-change section that is executed once for each PR edit. A typical use for such a section is to set the last-modified date of the PR.

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4.3.5 Named query definitions

When queries are performed via query-pr, they can refer to a query format described by a query section in the dbconfig file:

     query "queryname" {
       format "formatstring"
       [fields { "fieldname" [ "fieldname" ... ] } ]

formatstring is as described in Formatting query-pr output. It basically contains a string with printf-like % escapes. The output of the query is formatted as specified by this format string.

The fields option lists the fields to be used with the format string. If the fields option is present without a format option, the contents of the listed fields are printed out, separated by newlines.

The named query formats full, standard amd summary must be present in the dbconfig file. full and summary correspond to the query-pr options --full and --summary, while standard is used when no format option is given to query-pr.

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4.3.6 Audit-trail formats

These formats are similar to the named query formats, but they include more options. They are used for formatting audit-trail entries and for outgoing email messages.

There is currently only one audit-trail format, defined by the audit-trail-format option:

     audit-trail-format {
       format "formatstring"
       [ fields { "fieldname" [ "fieldname" ... ] } ]

For those fields that require an audit-trail entry, the audit-trail text to be appended is formatted as described by this format. The per-field audit-trail-format is used in preference to this one, if it exists.

formatstring and fieldname are similar to those used by the named query format. fieldname may also be a format parameter, which is a context-specific value. (Format parameters are distinguished from fieldnames by a leading dollar sign ($)).

The following format parameters are defined for audit-trail-format entries:

The name of the field for which an audit-trail entry is being created.
The old value of the field.
The new field value.
The email address of the user editing the field. Set by the EDITADDR gnatsd command or from the responsible file; if not available, user's local address is used.
The current date.
The reason for the change; may be blank if no reason was supplied.

These parameters may be used anywhere a fieldname can appear.

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4.3.7 Outgoing email formats

During the life of a PR, gnats can be configured to send out a range of email messages. When a PR first arrives, an acknowledgment message is sent out if the send-submitter-ack parameter above is set to true. Certain edits to the PR may also cause email to be sent out to the various parties, and if a PR is deleted, gnats may send notification email.

The formats of the email messages are controlled by mail-format sections in the dbconfig file. The general structure of a mail-format section is as follows:

     mail-format "format-name" {
       from-address {
         [ fixed-address "address" ]
         [ email-header-name | [ mail-header-name | ... ] ]
       to-address {
         [ fixed-address "address" ]
         [ "email-header-name" | [ "mail-header-name" | ... ] ]
       reply-to {
         [ fixed-address "address" ]
         [ "email-header-name" | ... ] | [ "gnats-field-name" | ... ]
       header {
         format "formatstring"
         [ fields { "fieldname" [ "fieldname" ... ] } ]
       body {
         format "formatstring"
         [ fields { "fieldname" [ "fieldname" ... ] } ]

gnats recognizes and uses 6 different format-name values:

Format of the message used when mailing an initial response back to the PR submitter. This message will only be sent if send-submitter-ack in the overall database configuration is set to true.
Format of the message sent to the responsible parties when a new PR with category different from “pending” arrives.
Format of the message sent to the responsible parties when a new PR that ends up with category “pending” arrives.
Format of the notification message sent out when a response to a PR is received via email.
Format of the message sent out when a PR edit generates an Audit-Trail entry.
Format of the message sent out when a PR is deleted.

The from-address, to-address and reply-to subsections of a mail-format section specify the contents of the To:, From: and Reply-To: headers in outgoing email. There are two ways to specify the contents: by using a fixed-address specification, or by specifying email-header-names or gnats-field-names.

When an email-header-name or gnats-field-name value is given, gnats will attempt to extract an email address from the specified location. If several values are given on the same line, separated by | characters, gnats will try to extract an address from each location in turn until it finds a header or field which is nonempty. The following example should clarify this:

     mail-format "initial-response-to-submitter" {
       from-address {
         fixed-address "gnats-admin"
       to-addresses {
         "Reply-To:" | "From:" | "Submitter-Id"
       } ...

This partial mail-format section specifies the format of the address headers in the email message that is sent out as an acknowledgment of a received PR. The From: field of the message will contain the email address of the gnats administrator, as specified by the gnats-admin line in the responsible file. To fill in the To: header, gnats will first look for the mail header Reply-To: in the PR and use the contents of that, if any. If that header doesn't exist or is empty, it will look for the contents of the From: email header, and if that yields nothing, it will look for the gnats Submitter-Id field and use the contents of that.

Other email headers to be included in messages sent out by gnats can be specified by header subsections of the mail-header section. formatstring and fieldname are similar to those used by the named query format. Each header line must have a newline character (\n) at the end.

The email message body is specified in the body subsection of the mail-format section. Just as for a header section, the body section must contain a formatstring and fieldname values.

For some of the formats that gnats recognizes, special variables are available for use. The following table lists the formats that provide special variables. See the example below for an illustration of how they are used.

The From: line of the original message.
The To: line of the original message.
The Subject: line of the original message.
The CC: line of the original message.
The text of the new audit trail entry (corresponds to the body of the message).

The email address of the user editing the PR. Set by the EDITADDR gnatsd command or from the responsible file; if not available, user's local address is used.
The previous Responsible field entry, if it was changed.
The Audit-Trail: entries that have been appended by the edits.

The email address of the user deleting the PR. Set by the EDITADDR gnatsd command or from the responsible file; if not available, user's local address is used.
The number of the PR that was deleted.

The following example illustrates the use of these special variables:

     mail-format "deleted-pr-mail" {
       from-address {
       to-addresses {
         fixed-address "gnats-admin"
       header {
         format "Subject: Deleted PR %s\n"
         fields { "$PRNum" }
       body {
         format "PR %s was deleted by user %s.\n"
         fields { "$PRNum" "$EditUserEmailAddr" }

This mail-format section specifies the format of the email message that is sent out when a PR is deleted. The From: field is set to the email address field of the user who deleted the PR, the subject of the message contains the number of the deleted PR, and the message body contains both the PR number and the user's email address.

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4.3.8 Index file description

The index section of the dbconfig file lists the fields that appear in the database index. The index is always keyed by PR number. The general format for the index section is

     index {
       path "file"
       fields { "fieldname" [ "fieldname" ... ] }
       binary-index true | false
       [ separator "symbol" ]

The path parameter gives the name of the index file in the gnats-adm directory of the database. Only one index is allowed per database, so only one path entry is allowed.

The fields parameter controls what fields will appear, and in what order, in the index. Fields are listed by their names, separated by spaces ( ). Fields will appear in the order they are listed.

The binary-index parameter controls whether the index is supposed to be in plaintext or binary format. Binary format is recommended, as it avoids potential problems when field separators appear as bona-fide field contents.

When plaintext format is used, by setting binary-index false, the symbol (|) is used as a field separator in the index, unless the optional separator parameter is used to redefine the separator character.

Previous: Index file description, Up: dbconfig file

4.3.9 Initial PR input fields

An initial-entry section in the dbconfig file is used to describe which fields should be present on initial PR entry; this is used by tools such as send-pr to determine which fields to include in a “blank” PR template. An optional require parameter can be defined to specify a subset of the intial-entry fields which must be assigned a value upon initial creation of the PR.

The general format for the initial-entry section is

     initial-entry {
       fields { "fieldname" [ "fieldname" ... ] }
       [ require { "fieldname" [ "fieldname" ... ] } ]

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4.4 Other database-specific config files

Next: , Up: Other config files

4.4.1 The categories file

The categories file contains a list of problem categories, specific to the database, which gnats tracks. This file also matches responsible people with these categories. You must edit this file initially, creating valid categories. In most installations, gnats is configured to create directories on disk for valid categories automatically as needed (see Overall database configuration). If gnats isn't set up to do this, you need to run mkcat to create the corresponding subdirectories of the database directory. For instructions on running mkcat, see Adding a problem category.

To create a new category, log in as gnats, add a line to this file, and run mkcat if applicable. Lines beginning with # are ignored.

A line in the categories file consists of four fields delimited by colons, as follows:


A unique category name, made up of text characters. This name cannot contain spaces or any of the following characters:
          ! $ & * ( ) { } [ ] ` ' " ; : < > ~

Ideally, category names should not contain commas or begin with periods. Each line has a corresponding subdirectory in the database directory.

A terse textual description of the category.
The name tag of the party responsible for this category of problems, as listed in the responsible file (see The responsible file).
One or more other parties which should be notified when a Problem Report with this category arrives, such as a project manager, other members of the same project, other interested parties, or even log files. These should be separated with commas.

A good strategy for configuring this file is to have a different category for each product your organization supports or wishes to track information for.

     rock:ROCK program:me:myboss,fred
     stone:STONE utils:barney:fred
     iron:IRON firewall:me:firewall-log

In the above example, the nametags myboss, me, fred, and barney must be defined in the responsible file (see The responsible file).

Problem Reports with a category of rock are sent to the local mail address (or alias) me, and also sent to the addresses myboss and fred. PRs with a category of stone are sent to the local addresses barney and fred only, while PRs with the category iron are sent only to me, and are also filed in firewall-log (in this case, a mail alias should be set up, see Setting up mail aliases.

If you want to separate PRs in each problem category into specific subsets, say documentation and software bugs, using the classes file is recommended. See The classes file.

Only one category must be present for gnats to function:

     pending:Non-categorized PRs:gnats-admin:

The pending directory is created automatically when you run mkdb to initialize a new database. (see Configuring and compiling the software).

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4.4.2 The responsible file

This file contains a list of the responsible parties. Lines beginning with # are ignored. Each entry contains three fields, separated by colons:


A name-tag description of the party in question, such as her or his user name, or the name of the group. This name is listed in the PR in the Responsible field.
The full name of the party (“Charlotte Bronte”; “Compiler Group”).
The full, valid mail address of the party. This field is only necessary if the responsible party has no local mail address or alias.

A sample responsible listing might be:

     ren:Ren Hoek:
     stimpy:Stimpson J.

Here, ren is a local user. stimpy is remote, so his full address must be specified.

The following entry must be present for gnats to function:

     gnats-admin:GNATS administrator:

gnats-admin is usually defined as a mail alias when gnats is installed, so for this purpose gnats-admin is a local address. However, this line can alos be used to redefine the email address of the gnats administrator, by adding the desired address at the end of the line.

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4.4.3 The submitters file

This is a database of sites which submit bugs to your support site. It contains six fields delineated by colons. Lines beginning with # will be ignored.

Entries are of the format:


A unique identifier for a specific site or other entity who submits Problem Reports. The first submitter-id listed in the file will be the default for PRs that arrive with invalid or empty submitter fields.
The full name or a description of this entity.
Optional description for the type of relationship of this submitter to your support site. This could indicate a contract type, a level of expertise, etc., or it can remain blank.
Optional quoted response time in business hours. If the database dbconfig file has the notify-about-expired-prs entry set to true (see Overall database configuration, gnats will use this field to schedule when it should notify the gnats-admin, responsible person and submitter contact that the PR wasn't analyzed within the agreed response time. Business hours and business-week days are set in the dbconfig file. For information on at-pr, the program which sends out this reminder, see Timely Reminders.
The name tag of the main contact at the Support Site for this submitter. This contact should be in the responsible file (see The responsible file). Incoming bugs from submitter are sent to this contact. Optionally, this field can be left blank.
Any other parties who should receive copies of Problem Reports sent in by submitter. They need not be listed in the responsible file.

A few example entries in the submitters file:

     univ-hell:University of Hades:eternal:3:beelzebub:lucifer
     tta:Telephones and Telegraphs of America:support:720:dave:

In this example, when a PR comes in from the University of Hades (who has an eternal contract), it should have univ-hell in its Submitter-Id field. This Problem Report goes to beelzebub (who should be in the responsible file), and if it is not analyzed within three business hours a reminder message is sent. lucifer also receives a copy of the bug, and a copy of the reminder message as well (if it is sent). When Telephones and Telegraphs of America utilizes their support contract and submits a bug, a copy is sent only to dave, who has 720 business hours to return an analysis before a reminder is sent.

To disable the feature of gnats which tracks the Submitter-Id, simply alter the submitters file to only contain one submitter-id value, and instruct your submitters to ignore the field.

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4.4.4 The states file

This file lists the possible states for Problem Reports. Each entry has up to three fields, separated by colons. Lines beginning with # will be ignored.


The name of the state. It may contain alphanumerics as well as - (hyphen), _ (underscore), or . (period), but no other characters.
This is the type of the state. This field is optional and it may contain alphanumerics as well as - (hyphen), _ (underscore), or . (period), but no other characters.

The concept of the type of a state recognizes that there may for instance be several possible states for a Problem Report which effectively means that the PR is closed and that there may be certain actions that need to be taken when a PR reaches a “closed state”. The problem may have been resolved, it might have been decided that the problem is unsolvable or simply that it won't be solved. Some organizations may for instance wish to consider the “suspended” state as a state of type “closed”.

Currently, the only defined state types are “open” and “closed”, the “open” type isn't currently used for anything while the “closed” type is only used to control the Closed-Date field of PRs. Changing the state of a PR to any state of type “closed” will set the Closed-Date field with a time stamp and changing the state of a PR from one “closed” state to another will leave the Closed-Date field as it was. Changing the state of a PR from any state of type “closed” to a non-closed state will clear the Closed-Date field.

The --skip-closed option of query-pr refers to all states of type “closed”, not to a specific state name of “closed”.

This is is an optional one-line description of what the state means. Any character is okay in the description; a newline ends it. gnats itself does not currently use the description for anything, but certain external tools (such as TkGnats and Gnatsweb) look for it, so it's a good idea to include one for every state.

The first state listed will be the state automatically assigned to Problem Reports when they arrive; by default this is named “open”. The last state listed is the end state for Problem Reports — one should usually assume that a PR in this state is not being actively worked on; by default this state is named “closed”. Even if a different name has been chosen for this state, gnats will force this state to be of type “closed”.

It is recommended that you keep the default names of “open” and “closed” for the first and last states respectively, since there may be external tools that depend on these names.

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4.4.5 The addresses file

This file contains mappings between submitter IDs and corresponding e-mail addresses.

When a PR comes in without a submitter ID (if someone sends unformatted e-mail to the PR submission email address), gnats will try to derive the submitter ID from the address in the "From:" header. The entries in this file consist of two fields, separated by a colon:


A valid submitter ID
Part of, or all of the e-mail address to be matched

Here is an example of an addresses file:

     # Addresses for Yoyodine Inc
     # Addresses for Foobar Inc.

gnats checks each line in the addresses file, comparing address-fragment to the end of the "From:" header, until it finds a match. If no match is found, gnats uses the default submitter ID.

You can only have one address fragment per line, but you can have more than one line for a given submitter ID. An address fragment can be a domain (i.e., a machine location (, or a full e-mail address (

gnats can match addresses in three e-mail formats:

The address by itself without a full name, not enclosed in brackets
From: Real Person <>
A full name (optional, with or without quotation marks), followed by the address enclosed in angle brackets
From: (Real Person)
An address, followed by a name or comment in parentheses

If gnats sees other e-mail address formats, it uses the default submitter ID.

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4.4.6 The classes file

This file lists the possible classes of Problem Reports. Each line consists of a class name, followed by a colon and an optional class type name (the class type name is not used for anything in the current implementation of gnats, so it may be left blank. The class and class-type-name fields may only contain alphanumerics, -, _, and ., but no other characters.

Then comes another colon, followed by an optional one-line description of the class. gnats itself does not use the class description, but external tools such as Gnatsweb and TkGnats may use it. Therefore, a line in this file should at least contain the following:

     class::class description

Lines beginning with # will be ignored, and the first listed class is the default class for an incoming Problem Report.

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4.5 The send-pr.conf file

This file contains some default values that need to be known in order for send-pr to work properly. This file needs to be copied to all hosts where send-pr will be used.

If gnats was built with default options, the send-pr.conf file should be placed in the /usr/local/etc/gnats directory. However, if the option --sysconfdir was used during building of gnats, the send-pr.conf file resides at the location given to this option.

Entries in this file are on the format


The valid variables are:

The default value to be used for the Submitter-Id field when send-pr is invoked.
The default value to be used for the Release field (only applicable if the Release field is defined in the dbconfig file.
The default value to be used for the Organization field. (only applicable if the Organization field is defined in the dbconfig file.
If the gnats server can't be reached directly over the network, i.e. it is behind a firewall or suchlike, send-pr can be set up to submit Problem Reports by e-mail. This is done by setting the MAILPROG variable to point to a mailer such as Sendmail. If MAILPROG needs to have the address that the mail is being sent to specified on the command line, it should be specified here as well (for example, MAILPROG=''mail'' should work). If Sendmail is used, use MAILPROG=''/usr/lib/sendmail -oi -t''. See also MAILADDR and TEMPLATE below.
If using e-mail to submit PRs, this is the address that PRs should be sent to.
When invoked, send-pr communicates directly over the network with the gnats server to determine what fields to include in a correctly formatted Problem Report so that it can present the user with a template. If the gnats server can't be reached directly over the network, a template must be provided. Set the TEMPLATE variable to point to a template file created on the gnats server by using the command send-pr -p. See Installing the user tools.

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4.6 Administrative data files

The following files are database-specific and are located in the gnats-adm subdirectory of the database directory. These files are maintained by gnats; you should never need to touch them.

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4.6.1 The index file

The index is used to accelerate searches on the database by query-pr and edit-pr. This file is not created until the first PR comes in. It is then kept up to date by gnats; you should never touch this file.

Searches on subjects contained in the index are much faster than searches which depend on data not in the index. Inexes come in two different formats: binary and plain-text. Binary indexes are safer, in that they avoid certain problems that may crop up if the field separators used by plain-text indexes appear in field data.

A plain-text index contains single-line entries for all PR fields except for the multitext fields such as Description, How-To-Repeat, etc. Fields are separated by bars (|) except for Category and Number, which are separated by a slash (/).

Binary indexes are not meant to be human-readable, but they are safer than the plain-text variety, in that they avoid certain problems that may crop up if the field separators used by plain-text indexes appear in field data.

The format of the index for a database is set in the dbconfig file. See Index file description.

Should the index file become corrupted, the gen-index utility can be used to regenerate it. See Regenerating the index.

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4.6.2 The current file

This file contains the last serial number assigned to an incoming PR. It is used internally by gnats; you need never touch this file.

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4.7 Administrative utilities

These tools are used by the gnats administrator as part of the periodic maintenance and configuration of gnats. See gnats Administration.

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4.7.1 Adding another database

To initialize a new gnats database:

  1. Add a line for the new database in the databases file (see Where gnats lives.
  2. Run mkdb, using
              mkdb database

    where database is the database you specified in the databases file. mkdb creates the database directory and populates it with the directories pending, gnats-queue and gnats-adm. A full set of sample configuration files is copied to the gnats-adm directory.

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4.7.2 Adding a problem category

To add new categories to the database:

  1. Add a line to for each new category to the categories file in the gnats-adm directory of the database. See The categories file.
  2. Run mkcat If applicable. If create-category-dirs is set to false in the database dbconfig file, you need to create category directories with mkcat. mkcat creates a subdirectory under the database directory for any new categories which appear in the categories file.

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4.7.3 Removing a problem category

To remove a category from the database:

  1. Remove the Problem Reports from the subdirectories corresponding to the categories you wish to remove, or assign the PRs to new categories. All PRs for a given category reside in a subdirectory of the database directory, with the same name as the category.
  2. Run rmcat using
              rmcat category [ category... ]

    where category is the category you wish to remove. You can specify as many categories as you wish as long as each category has no PRs associated with it. rmcat removes the directory where the Problem Reports for that category had been stored.

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4.7.4 Regenerating the index

If your index file becomes corrupted, or if you need a copy of the current index for some reason, use

     gen-index [ -n | --numeric ]
               [ -d databasename | --database=databasename ]
               [ -o filename | --outfile=filename ]
               [ -i | --import ] [ -e | --export ]
               [ -h | --help] [ -V | --version ]

With no options, gen-index generates an index that is sorted by the order that the categories appear in the categories file. The index is generated in plaintext or binary format according to the value of binary-index in the dbconfig file (see Index file description). The results are printed to standard output. The options are:

Sorts index entries numerically.
-d databasename
Specifies the database to index. If this option is left out, gen-index attempts to index the database with name taken from the the GNATSDB environment variable, and if that is undefined, the default database, as set when gnats was built (usually default).
-o filename
Places output in filename rather than sending it to standard output.
Import the existing index file instead of re-indexing the database.
Force plaintext output.
Prints the usage for gen-index.
Prints the version number for gen-index.

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4.7.5 Checking database health

The check-db script is useful for performing periodic checks on database health. It accepts the following options:

-d databasename
Determines the database which to operate on.
Check all gnats databases on the system. This option takes precedence over the --database option.

If no option is given, the default database is checked.

During its operation, check-db first attempts to lock database. If this is not possible, it repeats the locking attempts for five minutes; if it fails, it sends a mail message notifying the administrator of the failure and exits.

Once the database is locked, the script searches the database for lock files that are more than 24 hours old. Any old lock files are reported to the administrator in a mail message.

After checking for old lock files, it calls gen-index (see Regenerating the index) and compares the results with the current index file of the database; any inconsistencies are reported to the administrators in a mail message.

After checking the index file for inconsistencies, the script unlocks the database and exits.

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4.7.6 Managing user passwords

Older versions of gnats, up to and including version 3.x, stored user passwords in plaintext in the gnatsd.user_access files. Version 4 has the options of storing the password as MD5 or standard DES crypt() hashes (as most UNIX versions do in the system password files) as well as in plaintext. Since the password strings require a prefix to indicate how they are encrypted, one is forced to convert the old password files to a new format when upgrading to gnats version 4. See Upgrading from older versions.

The gnats-pwconv tool takes care of converting the old password files to the new format:

     gnats-pwconv [ -c | --crypt ] [ -m | --md5 ] [ -p | --plaintext ]
              [ -h | --help] [ -V | --version ] INFILE [OUTFILE]

Unless the --version or --help options are given, exactly one encryption method must be specified, as well as an input file. The output file parameter is optional. If one is not specified, results will be printed on standard output.

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4.8 Internal utilities

These tools are used internally by gnats. You should never need to run these by hand; however, a complete understanding may help you locate problems with the gnats tools or with your local implementation.

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4.8.1 Handling incoming traffic

The program queue-pr handles traffic coming into gnats. queue-pr queues incoming Problem Reports in the gnats-queue directory of the database, and then periodically (via cron) passes them on to file-pr to be filed in the gnats database. See Installing gnats.

The usage for queue-pr is as follows:

     queue-pr [ -q | --queue ] [ -r | --run ]
              [ -f filename | --file=filename ]
              [ -m kbytes | --max-size=kbytes ]
              [ -d databasename | --database=databasename ]
              [ -h | --help] [ -V | --version ]

One of -q or -r (or their longer-named counterparts) must be present upon each call to queue-pr. These options provide different functions, as described below.

Accepts standard input as an incoming mail message, placing this message in an incrementally numbered file in the gnats-queue directory under the database directory (see Where gnats lives).
Redirects files in the gnats-queue directory into the program file-pr one by one.
-f filename
Used with -q (or --queue), accepts the file denoted by filename as input rather than reading from standard input.
-m kbytes
Do not process messages larger then kbytes kilobytes. Files larger than the limit are left for human intervention.
-d databasename
Specifies database to operate on. If this option is left out, the value of the GNATSDB environment variable is used, and if that is undefined, the default database name set when gnats was built is used (usually default).
Prints the usage for gen-index.
Prints the version number for gen-index.

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4.8.2 Processing incoming traffic

queue-pr hands off queued Problem Reports to file-pr one at a time. file-pr checks each Problem Report for correct information in its fields (particularly a correct Category), assigns it an identification number, and files it in the database under the appropriate category.

If the Category field does not contain a valid category value (i.e., matching a line in the categories file; see The categories file), the PR is assigned to the default category, as set in the dbconfig file. If there is no default category defined, the PR is given a Category value of pending and is placed in the pending directory. The gnats administrator is notified of the unplaceable PR.

file-pr assigns the Problem Report an identification number, files it in the gnats database (under the default, if the Category field contains an invalid category), and sends acknowledgments to appropriate parties. For the default gnats configuration, the person responsible for that category of problem (see The categories file) and the person responsible for the submitter site where the PR originated (see The submitters file) receive a copy of the PR in its entirety. Optionally, the originator of the PR receives an acknowledgment that the PR arrived and was filed (see Changing your gnats configuration).

The usage for file-pr is as follows:

     file-pr [ -f filename | --file=filename ]
             [ -d databasename | --database=databasename ]
     	    [ -h | --help ] [ -V | --version ]
            network options:
             [ -H host | --host=host ]
             [ -P port | --port=port ]
             [ -v username | --user=username ]
             [ -w password | --passwd=password ]

file-pr requires no options in order to operate, and takes input from standard input (normally, the output of queue-pr -r) unless otherwise specified. The options include:

-f filename
Uses filename as input rather than standard input.
-d databasename
Performs refiling operations on database. If this option is left out, the value of the GNATSDB environment variable is used, and if that is undefined, the default database name set when gnats was built is used (usually default).
Prints the usage for file-pr.
Prints the version number for file-pr.

file-pr can file PRs across a network, talking to a remote gnatsd. The following options relate to network access:

-H host
Hostname of the gnats server.
-P port
The port that the gnats server runs on.
-v username
Username used to log into the gnats server.
-w password
Password used to log into the gnats server.

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4.8.3 Timely reminders

at-pr creates a queued job using at which, after an allotted response time is past, checks the PR to see if its state has changed from open. When the PR is originally filed, file-pr checks the notify-about-expired-prs parameter in the dbconfig file. If this parameter is set to true, file-pr calls at-pr, which sets up the expiry check.

The submitters file contains the response time for each >Submitter-Id: (see The submitters file). The time is determined in business hours, which are defined in the database's dbconfig file (see Overall database configuration).

If the PR is urgent and is still open after the requisite time period has passed, at-pr sends a reminder to the gnats administrator, to the maintainer responsible for that submitter, and to the maintainer responsible for the PR with the following message:

     To: submitter-contact responsible gnats-admin
     Subject: PR gnats-id not analyzed in #hours hours
     PR gnats-id was not analyzed within the acknowledgment period
     of #hours business hours.  The pertinent information is:
      Submitter-Id: submitter
      Originator: full name of the submitter
      Synopsis: synopsis
      Person responsible for the PR: responsible
     The GNU Problem Report Management System (GNATS)

The PR is urgent if its priority is critical or if its priority is serious and the severity is high.

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4.8.4 The edit-pr driver

pr-edit does the background work for edit-pr, including error-checking and refiling newly edited Problem Reports, handling file and database locks and deletion of PRs. It can be called interactively, though it has no usable editing interface.

The usage for pr-edit is:

     pr-edit   [ -l username | --lock=username ] [ -u | --unlockdb ]
               [ -L | --lockdb ] [ -U | --unlockdb ] [ -c | --check ]
               [ -C | --check-initial ] [ -s | --submit [ --show-prnum ] ]
               [ -a field | --append field=field ]
               [ -r field | --replace=field ] [ --delete-pr ]
               [ -R reason | --reason=reason ]
               [ -p process-id | --process=process-id ]
               [ -d databasename | --database=databasename ]
               [ -f filename | --filename=filename ]
               [ -V | --version ]
               [ -h | --help ] [ -v username | --user=username ]
               [ -w passwd | --passwd=passwd ]
               [ -H host | --host=host ]
               [ -P port | --port=port ]
               [ -D | --debug ] [ PR number ]

A lock is placed on a Problem Report while the PR is being edited. The lock is simply a file in the locks subdirectory of the gnats-adm directory of the database, with the name gnats-id.lock, which contains the name of the user who created the lock. user then “owns” the lock, and must remove it before the PR can be locked again, even by the same user3. If a PR is already locked when you attempt to edit it, pr-edit prints an error message giving the name of the user who is currently editing the PR.

If you do not specify PR number, pr-edit reads from standard input. You must specify PR number for the functions which affect PR locks, --lock=username and --unlock.

Locks the database specified with the --database or -d option. No PRs may be edited, created or deleted while the database is locked. This option is generally used when editing the index file.
Unlocks the specified database. No check is made that the invoking user actually had locked the database in the first place; hence, it is possible for anyone to steal a database lock.
The --check options are used to verify that a proposed PR's field contents are valid. The PR is read in (either from stdin or a file specified with --filename), and its fields are compared against the rules specified by the database configuration of the selected database. Warnings are given for enumerated fields whose contents do not contain one of the required values or fields that do not match required regexps. --check-initial is used to verify initial PRs, rather than proposed edits of existing PRs.
Used to submit a new PR to the database. The PR is read in and verified for content; if the PR is valid as an initial PR, it is then added to the database. If the submission is successful a zero exit code is returned. Otherwise, the reason(s) for the PR being rejected are printed, and a non-zero exit code is returned.
This option is used with the --submit option to display the PR number associated with the submitted PR.

The following options require a PR number to be given.

Deletes the specified PR from the database. The PR must be in a closed state, and not locked. Only the user gnats (or the user name specified instead of gnats during the building of gnats) is permitted to delete PRs.
-l username
Locks the PR. username is associated with the lock, so the system administrator can determine who actually placed the lock on the PR. However, anyone is permitted to remove locks on a PR. If the optional --process or -p option is also given, that process-id is associated with the lock.
Unlocks the specified PR.
-a field
-r field
--append and --replace are used to append or replace content of a specific field within a PR. The new field content is read in from stdin (or from the file specified with the --filename option), and either appended or replaced to the specified field. The field contents are verified for correctness before the PR is rewritten. If the edit is successful, a zero exit status is returned. If the edit failed, a non-zero exit status is returned, and the reasons for the failure are printed to stdout.
-R reason
Certain PR fields are configured in the database configuration to require a short text describing the reason of every change that happens to them, See dbconfig file. If you edit a problem and change any of such fields, you must issue a short text, the reason of the change, through this option. If the option is used and no change-reason requiring field is actually changed, the option has no effect.
PR number
If only a PR number is specified with no other options, a replacement PR is read in (either from stdin or the file specified with --filename). If the PR contents are valid and correct, the existing PR is replaced with the new PR contents. If the edit is successful, a zero exit status is re turned. If the edit failed, a non-zero exit status is returned, and the reasons for the failure are printed to stdout.
-d database
Specifies the database which is to be manipulated. If no database is specified, the default database name set when gnats was built is used (usually default). This option overrides the database specified in the GNATSDB environment variable.
-f filename
For actions that require reading in a PR or field content, this specifies the name of a file to read. If --filename is not specified, the PR or field content is read in from stdin.
Prints the usage for pr-edit.
Prints the version number for pr-edit.

pr-edit can edit PRs across a network, talking to a remote gnatsd. The following options relate to network access:

-H host
Hostname of the gnats server.
-P port
The port that the gnats server runs on.
-v username
Username used to log into the gnats server.
-w password
Password used to log into the gnats server.
Used to debug network connections.

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4.8.5 The diff-prs tool

The diff-prs tool is invoked as follows:

     diff-prs prfile1 prfile2

diff-prs simply reads the PRs contained in prfile1 and prfile2 and returns a list of the fields that are different between the two. No output is produced if the PRs are identical.

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4.8.6 The pr-age tool

The pr-age tool reports the time, in days and hours, since the PR arrived. Usage is

     pr-age  [ -d databasename | --database=databasename ]
             [ -H host | --host=host ]
             [ -P port | --port=port ]
             [ -v username | --user=username ]
             [ -w password | --passwd=password ]
             [ -h | --help ] [ -V | --version ]

For an explanation of the arguments listed above, please refer to the usage description for file-pr (file-pr).

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Appendix A Where gnats lives

We use a few conventions when referring to the installation structure gnats uses. These values are adjustable when you build and install gnats (see Installing gnats).

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A.1 prefix

prefix corresponds to the variable prefix for configure, which passes it on to the Makefile it creates. prefix sets the root installation directory for host-independent files as follows:

the directory path of the default database

site-wide configuration files

man pages
info documents
include files

The default value for prefix is /usr/local, which can be changed on the command line to configure using

     configure --prefix=prefix ...

See Configuring and compiling the software.

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A.2 exec-prefix

exec-prefix corresponds to the variable exec-prefix for configure, which passes it on to the Makefile it creates. exec-prefix sets the root installation for host-dependent files as follows:

gnats user tools
administrative and support utilities
compiled libraries


configure supports several more options which allow you to specify in great detail where different files are installed. The locations given in this appendix do not take into account highly customized installations, but fairly ordinary gnats installations should be covered by the material here. For a complete list of options accepted by configure, run ./configure --help in the gnats subdirectory of the distribution.

Since most installations are not intended to be distributed around a network, the default value for exec-prefix is the value of prefix, i.e., /usr/local. However, using exec-prefix saves space when you are installing a package on several different platforms for which many files are identical; rather than duplicate them for each host, these files can be shared in a common repository, and you can use symbolic links on each host to find the host-dependent files.

Use exec-prefix in conjunction with prefix to share host-independent files, like libraries and info documents. For example:

        for each host:
     configure --prefix=/usr/gnu --exec-prefix=/usr/gnu/H-host
     make all install ...

Using this paradigm, all host-dependent binary files are installed into /usr/gnu/H-host/bin, while files which do not depend on the host type for which they were configured are installed into /usr/gnu.

You can then use a different symbolic link for /usr/gnu on each host (/usr is usually specific to a particular machine; it is always specific to a particular architecture).

       on host-1:
     ln -s /usr/gnu/H-host-1 /usr/gnu
       on host-2:
     ln -s /usr/gnu/H-host-2 /usr/gnu

To the end user, then, placing /usr/gnu/bin in her or his PATH simply works transparently for each host type.

You can change exec-prefix on the command line to configure using

     configure --exec-prefix=exec-prefix ...

We recommend that you consult Using configure (Cygnus configure), before attempting this.

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A.3 The gnats-adm directory

Each gnats database located on a server has its own directory, as listed in the databases (see The databases file and given when the mkdb utility is invoked to initialize the database (see Initializing a new database). This directory has several subdirectories, one of which is named gnats-adm. This directory contains all configuration files related to this specific database, including the categories, submitters, responsible, states, classes, dbconfig, addresses, states and gnatsd.user_access, as well as two files generated and maintained by gnats, index and current.

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A.4 Default installation locations

defaults to /usr/local; change using configure (see Configuring and compiling the software).
defaults to prefix; change using configure (see Configuring and compiling the software).

gnats installs tools, utilities, and files into the following locations.

See Submitting Problem Reports.
See Editing existing Problem Reports.
See Querying the database.

See Timely reminders.
See Checking database health.
Tool for deleting PRs. Deprecated. Use the –delete-pr option of pr-edit instead (see The edit-pr driver).
See The diff-prs tool.
See Interface to pr-edit for filing new PRs.
See Regenerating the index.
The gnats daemon.
See Converting old password files.
See Setting up mail aliases.
See Adding a problem category.
See Script for creating new databases.
See The pr-age tool.
See The main PR processor.
See Handling incoming traffic.
See Removing categories.

The gnu libiberty library.
See The databases file.
See Overview of gnats configuration.
See The gnatsd.host_access file.
See The gnatsd.user_access file.

The Emacs versions of the programs send-pr, query-pr, edit-pr, and view-pr. See The gnats user tools. To change this directory you must change the lispdir variable in; see Configuring and compiling the software.

The gnats manuals, in a form readable by info (the gnu hypertext browser). See Reading GNU Online Documentation (GNU Online Documentation).

man pages for all the gnats tools and utilities.
See The gnats user tools.

Per-database directory
Administration and configuration data files that define behaviour of the particular database. The files
(This file is created by gnats.)
(This file is created by gnats.)

exist here. See Other database-specific config files, Administrative data files and Controlling access to databases.

Incoming Problem Reports are queued here until the next iteration of queue-pr -r (see Handling incoming traffic).
If no default category is set, problem reports without a category are reassigned to the category pending and placed here pending intervention by gnats administrators. See gnats administration.
Each valid category has a corresponding subdirectory in the database. All Problem Reports associated with that category are kept in that subdirectory.

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Appendix B The gnats network server – gnatsd

This section describes in details how the gnats network daemon works. This information is mainly assumed to be useful for developers of gnats client software.

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B.1 Description of gnatsd

The gnatsd network daemon is used to service remote gnats requests such as querying PRs, PR creation, deletion, and editing, and miscellaneous database queries. It uses a simple ASCII-based command protocol (similar to SMTP or POP3) for communicating with remote clients.

It also provides a security model based either on IP-based authentication (generally considered very weak) or username/passwords, where passwords may be in cleartext, UNIX crypt or MD5 hash format. Access through gnatsd is granted according to certain predefined access levels. Access levels are further discussed in Controlling access to databases. It should be emphasized that security has not been a focus of development until now, but future versions are expected to address this more thoroughly.

All of the gnats clients are capable of communicating via the gnats remote protocol to perform their functions.

gnatsd is usually started from the inetd facility and should run as the gnats user (the actual username of this user is configurable during installation, see Configuring and compiling the software for details.)

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B.2 gnatsd options

The daemon supports the following command-line options:

     gnatsd [--database database | -d database]
            [--not-inetd | -n] [--max-access-level level | -m level]
            [--version | -V] [--help | -h]

-V, --version
Prints the program version to stdout and exits.
-h, --help
Prints a short help text to stdout and exits.
-d, --database
Specifies the default database which is to be serviced by this invocation of gnatsd. (The selected database may be changed via the CHDB command; the name set with this option is simply the default if no CHDB command is issued.) If no database is specified, the database named default is assumed. This option overrides the database specified in the GNATSDB environment variable.
-n, --not-inetd
As its name suggests, indicates that gnatsd is not being invoked from inetd. This can be used when testing gnatsd, or if it is being run via ssh or some other mechanism.

This has the effect of using the local hostname where gnatsd is being invoked for authentication purposes, rather than the remote address of the connecting client.

--max-access-level, -m
Specifies the maximum access level that the connecting client can authenticate to. Authentication is as normal but if the user or host authenticates at a higher level, access level is still forced to this level. See Controlling access to databases for details on access levels.

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B.3 gnatsd command protocol

Commands are issued to gnatsd as one or more words followed by a carriage-return/linefeed pair. For example, the CHDB (change database) command is sent as CHDB database<CR><LF> (the CRLF will not be explicitly written for future examples.)

Replies from gnatsd are returned as one or more response lines containing a 3-digit numeric code followed by a human-readable string; the line is terminated with a <CR><LF> pair. For example, one possible response to the CHDB command above would be:

     210 Now accessing GNATS database 'database'.

The three-digit code is normally followed by a single ASCII space (character 0x20). However, if additional response lines are to be returned from the server, there will be a single dash - instead of the space character after the three-digit code.

Response code values are divided into ranges. The first digit reflects the general type of response (such as ”successful” or ”error”), and the subsequent digits identify the specific type of response.

Codes 200-299
Positive response indicating that the command was successful. No subsequent data will be transmitted with the response. In particular, code 210 (CODE_OK) is used as the positive result code for most simple commands.

Commands that expect additional data from the client (such as SUBM or VFLD) use a two-step mechanism for sending the data. The server will respond to the initial command with either a 211 (CODE_SEND_PR) or 212 (CODE_SEND_TEXT) response line, or an error code if an error occurred with the initial command. The client is then expected to send the remaining data using the same quoting mechanism as described for server responses in the 300-349 range. The server will then send a final response line to the command.

Codes 300-399
Positive response indicating that the query request was successful, and that a PR or other data will follow. Codes 300-349 are used when transmitting PRs, and 350-399 are used for other responses.

Codes in the 300-349 range are followed by a series of CRLF-terminated lines containing the command response, usually a PR. The final line of the result is a single period .. Result lines that begin with a period have an extra period prepended to them.

Codes in the 350-399 range use a different scheme for sending their responses. The three-digit numeric code will be followed by either a dash - or a single space. If the code is followed by a dash, that indicates that another response line will follow. The final line of the response has a single space after the three-digit code.

In previous versions of the protocol the first line of a CODE_INFORMATION (310) response was to be ignored. This is no longer the case. Instead, any lines marked with code CODE_INFORMATION_FILLER (351) are to be ignored. This allows the server to transmit additional headers or other human-readable text that can be safely ignored by the clients.

Codes 400-599
An error occurred, usually because of invalid command parameters or invalid input from the client, missing arguments to the command, or a command was issued out of sequence. The human-readable message associated with the response line describes the general problem encountered with the command.

Multiple error messages may be returned from a command; in this case the - continuation character is used on all but the last response line.

Codes 600-799
An internal error occurred on the server, a timeout occurred reading data from the client, or a network failure occurred. These errors are of the ”this should not occur” nature, and retrying the operation may resolve the problem. Fortunately, most gnats transactions are idempotent; unfortunately, locking the database or a PR are not repeatable actions (we cannot determine if an existing lock is the one we originally requested, or someone else's).

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B.4 gnatsd commands

Note that the set of gnats commands and their responses is somewhat inconsistent and is very much in flux. At present the gnats clients are rather simple-minded and not very strict about processing responses. For example, if the server were to issue a code 300 (CODE_PR_READY) response to a CHDB command, the client would happily expect to see a PR appear (and would print it out if one was sent).

It is thus suggested that any clients that use the gnats protocol be equally flexible about the way received responses are handled; in particular, only the first digit of the response code should be assumed to be meaningful, although subsequent digits are needed in some cases (codes 300-399). No attempt should be made to parse the message strings on error response lines; they are only intended to be read by humans, and will be changed on a regular basis.

Almost every command may result in the response 440 (CODE_CMD_ERROR). This indicates that there was a problem with the command arguments, usually because of insufficient or too many arguments being specified.

Access to most gnatsd commands requires a certain access level. For details of this, see Privileged gnatsd commands.

USER [userid password]
Specifies the userid and password for database access. Either both a username and password must be specified, or they both may be omitted; in the latter case, the current access level is returned.

The possible server responses are:

The current access level is specified.

A matching username and password could not be found.

200 (CODE_OK)
A matching username and password was found, and the login was successful.

Requests that the connection be closed. Possible responses:

Normal exit.

The QUIT command has the dubious distinction of being the only command that cannot fail.

LIST list type
Describes various aspects of the database. The lists are returned as a list of records, one per line. Each line may contain a number of colon-separated fields.

Possible values for list type include

Describes the legal categories for the database.

Describes the set of submitters for the database.

Lists the names in the responsible administrative file, including their full names and email addresses.

Lists the states listed in the state administrative file, including the state type (usually blank for most states; the closed state has a special type).

Lists the entire set of PR fields.

Lists the fields that should be present when a PR is initially entered.

Lists fields that have to be present and nonempty when a PR is initially entered (fields containing only blank characters such as spaces or newlines are considered empty.)

Lists the set of databases.

The possible responses are:

Normal response, followed by the records making up the list as described above.

The requested list does not exist.

FTYP field [field ...]
Describes the type of data held in the field(s) specified with the command. The currently defined data types are:

A plain text field, containing exactly one line.

A text field possibly containing multiple lines of text.

An enumerated data field; the value is restricted to one entry out of a list of values associated with the field.

The field contains one or more enumerated values. Values are separated with spaces or colons :.

The field contains an integer value, possibly signed.

The field contains a date.

The value in the field must match one or more regular expressions associated with the field.

The possible responses are:

The normal response; the supplied text is the data type.

The specified field does not exist.

If multiple field names were given, multiple response lines will be sent, one for each field, using the standard continuation protocol; each response except the last will have a dash - immedately after the response code.

FTYPINFO field property
Provides field-type-related information. Currently, only the property separators for MultiEnum fields is supported. When separators is specified, the possible return codes are:

350 (CODE_INFORMATION) A proper MultiEnum field was specified and the returned text is the string of separators specified for the field in the dbconfig file (see Field datatypes) quoted in ''s.

435 (CODE_INVALID_FTYPE_PROPERTY) The separators property is not defined for this field, i.e. the specified field is not of type MultiEnum.

Currently, specifying a different property than separators results in return code 435 as above.

FDSC field [field ... ]
Returns a human-readable description of the listed field(s). The possible responses are:

350 (CODE_INFORMATION) The normal response; the supplied text is the field description.

410 (CODE_INVALID_FIELD_NAME) The specified field does not exist.

Like the FVLD command, the standard continuation protocol will be used if multiple fields were specified with the command.

FIELDFLAGS field [field ... ]
Returns a set of flags describing the specified field(s). The possible responses are either

meaning that the specified field is invalid or nonexistent, or

which contains the set of flags for the field. The flags may be blank, which indicate that no special flags have been set for this field.

Like the FDSC and FTYP commands, multiple field names may be listed with the command, and a response line will be returned for each one in the order that the fields appear on the command line.

The flags include:

The field will be searched when a text field search is requested.

For fields that contain enumerated values, any legal value may be used in the field, not just ones that appear in the enumerated list.

If the field is edited, a reason for the change must be supplied in the new PR text describing the reason for the change. The reason must be supplied as a multitext PR field in the new PR whose name is field-Changed-Why (where field is the name of the field being edited).

The field is read-only, and cannot be edited.

FVLD field

Returns one or more regular expressions or strings that describe the valid types of data that can be placed in field. Exactly what is returned is dependent on the type of data that can be stored in the field. For most fields a regular expression is returned; for enumerated fields, the returned values are the list of legal strings that can be held in the field.

The possible responses are:

The normal response, which is followed by the list of regexps or strings.

410 (CODE_INVALID_FIELD_NAME) The specified field does not exist.

VFLD field
VFLD can be used to validate a given value for a field in the database. The client issues the VFLD command with the name of the field to validate as an argument. The server will either respond with 212 (CODE_SEND_TEXT), or 410 (CODE_INVALID_FIELD_NAME) if the specified field does not exist.

Once the 212 response is received from the server, the client should then send the line(s) of text to be validated, using the normal quoting mechanism described for PRs. The final line of text is followed by a line containing a single period, again as when sending PR text.

The server will then either respond with 210 (CODE_OK), indicating that the text is acceptable, or one or more error codes describing the problems with the field contents.

INPUTDEFAULT field [field ... ]
Returns the suggested default value for a field when a PR is initially created. The possible responses are either 410 (CODE_INVALID_FIELD_NAME), meaning that the specified field is invalid or nonexistent, or 350 (CODE_INFORMATION) which contains the default value for the field.

Like the FDSC and FTYP commands, multiple field names may be listed with the command, and a response line will be returned for each one in the order that the fields appear on the command line.

Used to reset the internal server state. The current query expression is cleared, and the index of PRs may be reread if it has been updated since the start of the session. The possible responses are:

200 (CODE_OK)
The state has been reset.

One or more arguments were supplied to the command.

6xx (internal error)
There were problems resetting the state (usually because the index could not be reread). The session will be immediately terminated.

Locks the main gnats database. No subsequent database locks will succeed until the lock is removed. Sessions that attempt to write to the database will fail. The possible responses are:

200 (CODE_OK) The lock has been established.

440 (CODE_CMD_ERROR) One or more arguments were supplied to the command.

431 (CODE_GNATS_LOCKED) The database is already locked, and the lock could not be obtained after 10 seconds.

6xx (internal error) An internal error occurred, usually because of permission or other filesystem-related problems. The lock may or may not have been established.

Unlocks the database. Any session may steal a database lock; no checking of any sort is done. The possible responses are:

200 (CODE_OK)
The lock has been removed.

The database was not locked.

One or more arguments were supplied to the command.

6xx (internal error)
The database lock could not be removed, usually because of permissions or other filesystem-related issues.

LOCK PR user [pid]
Locks the specified PR, marking the lock with the user name and the optional pid. (No checking is done that the user or pid arguments are valid or meaningful; they are simply treated as strings.)

The EDIT command requires that the PR be locked before it may be successfully executed. However, it does not require that the lock is owned by the editing session, so the usefulness of the lock is simply as an advisory measure.

The APPN and REPL commands lock the PR as part of the editing process, and they do not require that the PR be locked before they are invoked.

The possible responses are:

Insufficient or too many arguments were specified to the command.

The lock was successfully obtained; the text of the PR (using the standard quoting mechanism for PRs) follows.

The PR specified does not exist.

The PR is already locked by another session.

6xx (internal error)
The PR lock could not be created, usually because of permissions or other filesystem-related issues.

Unlocks PR. Any user may unlock a PR, as no checking is done to determine if the requesting session owns the lock.

The possible responses are:

Insufficient or too many arguments were specified to the command.

200 (CODE_OK)
The PR was successfully unlocked.

The PR was not locked.

6xx (internal error)
The PR could not be unlocked, usually because of permission or other filesystem-related problems.

Deletes the specified PR. The user making the request must have admin privileges (see Controlling access to databases). If successful, the PR is removed from the filesystem and the index file; a gap will be left in the numbering sequence for PRs. No checks are made that the PR is closed.

The possible responses are:

200 (CODE_OK)
The PR was successfully deleted.

The user requesting the delete does not have admin privileges.

The PR is locked by another session.

The database has been locked, and no PRs may be updated until the lock is cleared.

6xx (internal error)
The PR could not be successfully deleted, usually because of permission or other filesystem-related problems.

CHEK [initial]
Used to check the text of an entire PR for errors. Unlike the VFLD command, it accepts an entire PR at once instead of the contents of an individual field.

The initial argument indicates that the PR text to be checked is for a PR that will be newly created, rather than an edit or replacement of an existing PR.

After the CHEK command is issued, the server will respond with either a 440 (CODE_CMD_ERROR) response indicating that the command arguments were incorrect, or a 211 (CODE_SEND_PR) response code will be sent.

Once the 211 response is received from the server, the client should send the PR using the normal PR quoting mechanism; the final line of the PR is then followed by a line containing a single period, as usual.

The server will then respond with either a 200 (CODE_OK) response, indicating there were no problems with the supplied text, or one or more error codes listing the problems with the PR.

Verifies the replacement text for PR. If the command is successful, the contents of PR are completely replaced with the supplied text. The PR must previously have been locked with the LOCK command.

The possible responses are:

The database has been locked, and no PRs may be updated until the lock is cleared.

The PR was not previously locked with the LOCK command.

The specified PR does not currently exist. The SUBM command should be used to create new PRs.

The client should now transmit the replacement PR text using the normal PR quoting mechanism. After the PR has been sent, the server will respond with either 200 (CODE_OK) indicating that the edit was successful, or one or more error codes listing problems either with the replacement PR text or errors encountered while updating the PR file or index.

EDITADDR address
Sets the e-mail address of the person communicating with gnatsd. The command requires at least the edit access level.

The possible responses are:

200 (CODE_OK)
The address was successfully set.

Invalid number of arguments were supplied.

APPN PR field
REPL PR field
Appends to or replaces the contents of field in PR with the supplied text. The command returns a 201 (CODE_SEND_TEXT) response; the client should then transmit the new field contents using the standard PR quoting mechanism. After the server has read the new contents, it then attempts to make the requested change to the PR.

The possible responses are:

200 (CODE_OK)
The PR field was successfully changed.

The PR specified does not exist.

The specified field does not exist.

The PR could not be read.

The database has been locked, and no PRs may be updated until the lock is cleared.

The PR is locked, and may not be altered until the lock is cleared.

The supplied (or resulting) field contents are not valid for the field.

6xx (internal error)
An internal error occurred, usually because of permission or other filesystem-related problems. The PR may or may not have been altered.

Submits a new PR into the database. The supplied text is verified for correctness, and if no problems are found a new PR is created.

The possible responses are:

The database has been locked, and no PRs may be submitted until the lock is cleared.

The client should now transmit the new PR text using the normal quoting mechanism. After the PR has been sent, the server will respond with either 351 (CODE_INFORMATION_FILLER) and 350 (CODE_INFORMATION) responses indicating that the new PR has been created and supplying the number assigned to it, or one or more error codes listing problems with the new PR text.

CHDB database
Switches the current database to the name specified in the command.

The possible responses are:

The user does not have permission to access the requested database.

The database specified does not exist, or one or more configuration errors in the database were encountered.

220 (CODE_OK)
The current database is now database. Any operations performed will now be applied to database.

Lists the known set of databases.

The possible responses are:

6xx (internal error)
An internal error was encountered while trying to obtain the list of available databases, usually due to lack of permissions or other filesystem-related problems, or the list of databases is empty.

The list of databases follows, one per line, using the standard quoting mechanism. Only the database names are sent.

The gnatsd access level listdb denies access until the user has authenticated with the USER command. The only other command available at this access level is DBLS. This access level provides a way for a site to secure its gnats databases while still providing a way for client tools to obtain a list of the databases for use on login screens etc. See Controlling access to databases.

DBDESC database
Returns a human-readable description of the specified database.

Responses include:

6xx (internal error)
An internal error was encountered while trying to read the list of available databases, usually due to lack of permissions or other filesystem-related problems, or the list of databases is empty.

The normal response; the supplied text is the database description.

The specified database name does not have an entry.

EXPR query expression
Specifies a query expression used to limit which PRs are returned from the QUER command. The expression uses the normal query expression syntax, (see Query expressions).

Multiple EXPR commands may be issued; the expressions are boolean ANDed together.

Expressions are cleared by the RSET command.

Possible responses include:

The specified expression is invalid, and could not be parsed.

200 (CODE_OK)
The expression has been accepted and will be used to limit the results returned from QUER.

QFMT query format
Use the specified query format to format the output of the QUER command. The query format may be either the name of a query format known to the server (see Named query definitions), or an actual query format (see Formatting query-pr output). The possible responses are:

200 (CODE_OK)
The normal response, which indicates that the query format is acceptable.

No query format was supplied.

The specified query format does not exist, or could not be parsed.

QUER [PR] [PR] [...]
Searches the contents of the database for PRs that match the (optional) specified expressions with the EXPR command. If no expressions were specified with EXPR, the entire set of PRs is returned.

If one or more PRs are specified on the command line, only those PRs will be searched and/or output.

The format of the output from the command is determined by the query format selected with the QFMT command.

The possible responses are:

A valid format was not specified with the QFMT command prior to invoking QUER.

One or more PRs will be output using the requested query format. The PR text is quoted using the normal quoting mechanisms for PRs.

No PRs met the specified criteria.

ADMV field key [subfield]
Returns an entry from an administrative data file associated with field. key is used to look up the entry in the data file. If subfield is specified, only the value of that subfield is returned; otherwise, all of the fields in the adm data file are returned, separated by colons :.

The responses are:

410 (CODE_INVALID_FIELD_NAME) The specified field does not exist.

221 (CODE_NO_ADM_ENTRY) An adm entry matching the key was not found, or the field does not have an adm file associated with it.

350 (CODE_INFORMATION) The normal response; the supplied text is the requested field(s).

Previous: gnatsd commands, Up: gnatsd

B.5 gnatsd environment variables

gnatsd supports the GNATSDB environment varable, See Environment, in almost the same way as the gnats tools do. This variable is used to determine which database to use. For a local database, it contains the name of the database to access. gnatsd cannot service remote databases (though it might be interesting if it could) so the database is always assumed to be local.

If GNATSDB is not set and the --database option is not supplied, it is assumed that the database is local and that its name is default.

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Appendix C Controlling access to databases

Next: , Up: Access Control

C.1 Overview

gnats supports granting various levels of access to the gnats databases served by the network daemon, gnatsd.

gnats access can be controlled at these levels:

gnatsd closes the connection
no further access until userid and password given
only listing of available databases is allowed
query and view PRs with Confidential=no only
query and view PRs with Confidential=yes
full edit access
full admin access

These access levels are used in the following settings:

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C.2 Overall gnatsd access level

The overall gnatsd access level is set by starting gnatsd with the option

     -m level or --maximum-access-level=level,

where level is one of the six access levels listed above. This restricts any access to the gnats daemon to levels up to and including level, regardless of the settings in the access control files discussed below. If this option is left out, any access levels set in the access control files will be allowed.

The discussion below assumes that the pre-build configure of gnats was done without altering the default values for the --enable-gnatsd-user-access-file and --enable-gnatsd-host-access-file options. If non-default values were given, substitute as appropriate below.

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C.3 Overall access levels per host

The host access file (by default /usr/local/etc/gnats/gnatsd.host_access) controls overall access levels on a per-host basis, meaning that settings in this file apply across all databases on the server. Entries in this file are in the following format:


host is the hostname or IP address of the host contacting gnatsd. Wildcard characters are supported: * matches anything; ? matches any single character. By using wildcards, you can specify access levels for entire network subnets and domains. Note that when gnats authenticates hosts, it reads the entries in this file in sequence until a match is found. This means that wildcard entries must be placed near the end of the file, otherwise, they will override non-wildcard entries appearing after the wildcard ones.

The second field is the access level of host. The default is deny. If the user's hostname isn't in the file or its access level is set to deny, the connection is closed immediately.

gnats currently doesn't make use of the third field. Remember to still include the second : on the line if you choose to leave the third field empty.

Whenever a CHDB command is processed (or defaulted), the user's access level is set to the level for their host, as determined by the values in the gnatsd.host_access file. However, even if a host is given the none access level, an individual can still give the USER command to possibly gain a higher (but never lower) access than is set for their host. The gnatsd USER command takes two arguments: USER <userid> <passwd>.

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C.4 Access levels per user

Access levels per user can be set both across all databases on the server or on a per-database basis. The gnatsd.user_access file in a database's gnats-adm directory specifies the user access rules for that database. If it doesn't exist, or doesn't contain the user name given to gnatsd, then the overall user access file (by default /usr/local/etc/gnats/gnatsd.user_access) specifying the per-user access levels across all the databases on the server is checked.

The user access files can only increase the access level defined in the host access files for the given host, they can never lower it.

If the access level is none after processing the userid and password, the connection is closed.

The gnatsd.user_access files can contain plain text passwords, in such a case they should be owned by the gnats user with file permission 600.

Wildcard characters are supported for the userid and password with plain text passwords. A null string or * matches anything; ? matches any one character. Note that when gnats authenticates users, it reads the entries in this file in sequence until a match is found. This means that wildcard entries must be placed near the end of the file, otherwise, they will override non-wildcard entries appearing after the wildcard ones.

Entries in the database-specific gnatsd.user_access user access file in the gnats-adm directory of the database have the following general format:


The overall gnatsd.user_access user access file adds a fourth databases field:


password should either be in plain text, DES crypt()4 or MD5 hash format5.

If the password is in plain text format, it must be prefixed by $0$ and if it is in MD5 format, it needs to be prefixed by the string $1$.6 Passwords encrypted by crypt() should have no prefix. If no password is given then users can login with an empty password string.

A gnats-passwd tool to manage gnatsd.user_access files is planned. In the meantime, crypt() passwords can be generated by using standard UNIX passwords tools, while MD5 passwords can be generated with the following little Perl snippet:

     perl -e 'use Crypt::PasswdMD5 ; print Crypt::PasswdMD5::unix_md5_crypt
     "password" , time() % 100000000'

If your Perl installation doesn't have the Crypt module installed, you need to install it. On most systems, the following command achieves this:

     perl -MCPAN -e 'install Crypt::PasswdMD5'

A tool for conversion of pre-version 4 gnatsd.user_access files is distributed with gnats 4. See Converting old password files.

The access-level field should contain one of the values listed at the beginning of this appendix. This overrides (increases but never lowers) the access level given as the default for the user's host in the global gnatsd.host_access file.

The following shows an example gnatsd.user_access file with plain text passwords:


And this is the same file with MD5-encrypted passwords:


In these examples, anybody other than rickm and pablo get denied access, assuming that the host access level is also none. You could set the catch-all rule at the end to be *::view to allow view access to anyone who does not supply a password. Note the important detail that such a rule would allow view access only to persons who do not supply a password at all, i.e. if rickm or pablo tries to log in but mistypes his password, this rule would not apply and they would be denied access entirely. This is by design, since people might be surprised if they suddenly found themselves logged in, but with a lower access level than they usually have.

The databases field contains a comma-separated list of database names, as defined in the databases file (see The databases file. Wildcard characters are supported. The databases listed in this field are the ones to which the other settings on the same line will be applied.

Previous: gnatsd.user_access, Up: Access Control

C.5 Privileged gnatsd commands

Every gnatsd command has a minimum access level attached to it. If your access level is too low for a command, you get this response:

       LOCK 12
       422 You are not authorized to perform this operation (LOCK).

The commands CHDB, USER and QUIT are unrestricted.

The DBLS command requires at least listdb access.

A user must have at least edit access for these commands:

lock the main gnats database.
unlock the main gnats database.
LOCK PR user pid
lock PR for user and optional pid and return PR text.
unlock PR.
check in edited PR.
APPN PR field, REPL PR field
Appends to or replaces the contents of field in PR.

The DELETE PR command is special in that it requires admin access.

All other commands require view access.

edit-pr and query-pr accept the command line arguments -v|--user and -w|--passwd. See The gnats User Tools.

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Appendix D Querying using regular expressions

See also Query expressions.

Unfortunately, we do not have room in this manual for a complete exposition on regular expressions. The following is a basic summary of some regular expressions you might wish to use.

NOTE: When you use query expressions containing regular expressions as part of an ordinary query-pr shell command line, you need to quote them with '', otherwise the shell will try to interpret the special characters used, yielding highly unpredictable results.

See Regular Expression Syntax (Regex), for details on regular expression syntax. Also see Syntax of Regular Expressions (GNU Emacs Manual), but beware that the syntax for regular expressions in Emacs is slightly different.

All search criteria options to query-pr rely on regular expression syntax to construct their search patterns. For example,

     query-pr --expr 'State="open"' --format full

matches all PRs whose State values match with the regular expression open.

We can substitute the expression o for open, according to gnu regular expression syntax. This matches all values of State which begin with the letter o.

We see that

     query-pr --expr 'State="o"' --format full

is equivalent to

     query-pr --expr 'State="open"' --format full

in this case, since the only value for State which matches the expression o in a standard installation is open. State="o" also matches o, oswald, and even oooooo, but none of those values are valid states for a Problem Report in default gnats installations.

We can also use the expression operator | to signify a logical OR, such that

     query-pr --expr 'State="o|a"' --format full

matches all open or analyzed Problem Reports.

Regular expression syntax considers a regexp token surrounded with parentheses, as in (regexp), to be a group. This means that (ab)* matches any number (including zero) of contiguous instances of ab. Matches include , ab, and ababab.

Regular expression syntax considers a regexp token surrounded with square brackets, as in [regexp], to be a list. This means that Char[(ley)(lene)(broiled) matches any of the words Charley, Charlene, or Charbroiled (case is significant; charbroiled is not matched).

Using groups and lists, we see that

     query-pr --expr 'Category="gcc|gdb|gas"' --format full

is equivalent to

     query-pr --expr 'Category="g(cc|db|as)"' --format full

and is also very similar to

     query-pr --expr 'Category="g[cda]"' --format full

with the exception that this last search matches any values which begin with gc, gd, or ga.

The . character is known as a wildcard. . matches on any single character. * matches the previous character (except newlines), list, or group any number of times, including zero. Therefore, we can understand .* to mean “match zero or more instances of any character.”

     query-pr --expr 'State=".*a"' --format full

matches all values for State which contain an a. (These include analyzed and feedback.)

Another way to understand what wildcards do is to follow them on their search for matching text. By our syntax, .* matches any character any number of times, including zero. Therefore, .*a searches for any group of characters which end with a, ignoring the rest of the field. .*a matches analyzed (stopping at the first a) as well as feedback.

Note: When using fieldtype:Text or fieldtype:Multitext (see Query expressions), you do not have to specify the token .* at the beginning of your expression to match the entire field. For the technically minded, this is because these queries use re_search rather than re_match. re_match anchors the search at the beginning of the field, while re_search does not anchor the search.

For example, to search in the >Description: field for the text

     The defrobulator component returns a nil value.

we can use

     query-pr --expr 'fieldtype:Multitext="defrobulator.*nil"' --format full

To also match newlines, we have to include the expression (.|^M) instead of just a dot (.). (.|^M) matches “any single character except a newline (.) or (|) any newline (^M).” This means that to search for the text

     The defrobulator component enters the bifrabulator routine
     and returns a nil value.

we must use

     query-pr --expr 'fieldtype:Multitext="defrobulator(.|^M)*nil"'
              --format full

To generate the newline character ^M, type the following depending on your shell:

control-V control-M
control-V control-J
sh (or bash)
Use the <RETURN> key, as in

Again, see Regular Expression Syntax (Regex), for a much more complete discussion on regular expression syntax.

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Appendix E dbconfig recipes

The dbconfig file (The dbconfig file) is the heart of any gnats installation. It contains some very powerful machinery, something which this appendix tries to illustrate.

We provide a range of examples that are both intended to be useful in their own right and to serve as starting points or building blocks for your own modifications.

Provide Gnatsweb URL in initial response

Sites that have Gnatsweb installed may wish to modify the response e-mail which is sent to the submitter of a PR so that it includes a URL where the status of the PR can be monitored. In order to allow this, you should first create an entry in gnatsd.user_access which allows viewing of PRs in your database (See The gnatsd.user_access file.)

Next, locate the entry mail-format "initial-response-to-submitter" in the dbconfig file of your database and add the following before the line reading “The individual assigned...” in the body section:

\nYou can follow the status of this report on\n\

Substitute hostname, cgi-bin and scriptname as appropriate for the setup of your web server. The part before the ? would typically look something like Substitute the name of your database for dbname, and the username and password of the user with view rights for username and passwd.

Next, add a Number to the fields list statement inside the body so it reads as follows:

fields { "Category" "Number" "Number" "Responsible"
         "Category" "Responsible" "Synopsis"
         "Arrival-Date" }
State full name of responsible in initial response

The initial e-mail response to the submitter of a PR identifies the responsible person assigned to the PR as follows: “The individual assigned to look at your report is: GNATS username”. Some sites may wish to modify this so that the full name of the responsible person is used instead of the gnats user name.

The full name is contained in the fullname subfield of the user's entry in the responsible file and can be accessed as Responsible[fullname] (see Enumerated field administrative files.)

The change is achieved by editing the dbconfig item mail-format "initial-response-to-submitter" and changing the fields part of the Body from

fields { "Category" "Number" "Responsible"
         "Category" "Responsible" "Synopsis"
         "Arrival-Date" }


fields { "Category" "Number" "Responsible[fullname]"
         "Category" "Responsible" "Synopsis"
         "Arrival-Date" }
Append-only Audit-Trail

The Audit-Trail of a PR is by default editable. For some applications, one might want to make the Audit-Trail append-only, so it provides a full and unchangeable case history. Also by default, only certain changes, such as change of state and change of responsible gets recorded in the Audit-Trail. In some cases, it might also be convenient to have a way of inserting comments directly into the Audit-Trail.

The following procedure creates such an append-only Audit-Trail and adds a PR field which makes it possible to register comments in the Audit-Trail.

First, add the keyword read-only to the Audit-Trail field definition in dbconfig.

Then, add the following field definition to dbconfig:

field "Add-To-Audit-Trail" {
   description "Add a log entry to the Audit Trail"
   multitext { default "\n" }
   on-change  {
        audit-trail-format {
        format "**** Comment added by %s on %s ****\n %s\n\n"
        fields { "$EditUserEmailAddr" "$CurrentDate" "$NewValue"
    on-change {
        set-field "Add-To-Audit-Trail" { "\n" }

Supporting gnats “release-based” fields

When installing gnats version 3.x, it was possible to choose whether to enable three optional fields: Quarter, Keywords and Date-Required. Default installations had these fields switched off, and installations which had them were called “release-based”.

The default dbconfig shipped with gnats version 4 or newer does not have these fields, so if you are upgrading from an old release-based system, you need to add the following field definitions to your dbconfig file:

field "Quarter" {
    description "What quarter does the PR fall into?"
    query-default inexact-regexp

field "Keywords" {
    description "Keywords used to index this PR"
    query-default inexact-regexp

field "Date-Required" {
    description "Date that the PR must be fixed by"

A side note: Pre-release versions of gnats 4 also had a field named Cases. For those who may need it, here is the field definition of Cases:

field "Cases" {
    query-default inexact-regexp

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Appendix F gnats support

The gnats home page is located at It contains all the important references to the available information about gnats and the related software.

There is also a special page dedicated to the gnats development at

There are several gnats mailing lists. The most important ones are:
Announcements and other important information about gnats and the related software. This is a very low volume moderated list.
The bug reporting mailing list on the gnats itself. Please note that the preferred way to report gnats bugs is to submit them via the web interface at New bug reports submitted via the web interface are copied to the mailing list automatically.
General discussion about gnats. Anything related to gnats (user questions, development, suggestions, etc.) can be discussed there.

The complete list of gnats related mailing lists is available from the web page at

When you report problems concerning gnats itself, please do not forget to provide especially the following information:

Providing this information in the initial report avoids further unnecessary communication, saves our limited development resources and helps to track down and fix the problem soon.

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[1] If typing M-x send-pr doesn't work, see your system administrator for help loading gnats.el into Emacs.

[2] Upgraders from older versions of gnats should note that category directories are now created “on-the-fly” as needed by default.

[3] This approach may seem heavy-handed, but it ensures that changes are not overwritten.

[4] DES crypt is the standard password encryption format used by most UNIX systems

[5] MD5 is only supported on platforms that have a crypt() function that supports MD5. Among others, this currently includes gnu Linux and OpenBSD.

[6] Some systems support even more encryption methods. In FreeBSD, for instance, a prefix of $2$ implies Blowfish encoding. gnats will happily accept any encryption that the OS supports.