For some use cases, callers of the `git-config(1)` builtin would like to
fallback to default values when the variable asked for does not exist.
In addition, users would like to use existing type specifiers to ensure
that values are parsed correctly when they do exist in the

For example, to fetch a value without a type specifier and fallback to
`$fallback`, the following is required:

  $ git config || echo "$fallback"

This is fine for most values, but can be tricky for difficult-to-express
`$fallback`'s, like ANSI color codes.

This motivates `--get-color`, which is a one-off exception to the normal
type specifier rules wherein a user specifies both the configuration
variable and an optional fallback. Both are formatted according to their
type specifier, which eases the burden on the user to ensure that values
are correctly formatted.

This commit (and those following it in this series) aim to eventually
replace `--get-color` with a consistent alternative. By introducing
`--default`, we allow the `--get-color` action to be promoted to a
`--type=color` type specifier, retaining the "fallback" behavior via the
`--default` flag introduced in this commit.

For example, we aim to replace:

  $ git config --get-color variable [default] [...]


  $ git config --default default --type=color variable [...]

Values filled by `--default` behave exactly as if they were present in
the affected configuration file; they will be parsed by type specifiers
without the knowledge that they are not themselves present in the

Specifically, this means that the following will work:

  $ git config --int --default 1M does.not.exist

In subsequent commits, we will offer `--type=color`, which (in
conjunction with `--default`) will be sufficient to replace

Signed-off-by: Taylor Blau <>
 Documentation/git-config.txt |  4 ++++
 builtin/config.c             | 12 ++++++++++++
 t/    | 38 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 3 files changed, 54 insertions(+)
 create mode 100755 t/

diff --git a/Documentation/git-config.txt b/Documentation/git-config.txt
index c7e56e3fd..620492d1e 100644
--- a/Documentation/git-config.txt
+++ b/Documentation/git-config.txt
@@ -235,6 +235,10 @@ Valid `<type>`'s include:
        using `--file`, `--global`, etc) and `on` when searching all
        config files.
+--default value::
+  When using `--get`, and the requested slot is not found, behave as if value
+  were the value assigned to the that slot.
 `pager.config` is only respected when listing configuration, i.e., when
diff --git a/builtin/config.c b/builtin/config.c
index 6e1495eac..1328b568b 100644
--- a/builtin/config.c
+++ b/builtin/config.c
@@ -26,6 +26,7 @@ static char term = '\n';
 static int use_global_config, use_system_config, use_local_config;
 static struct git_config_source given_config_source;
 static int actions, type;
+static char *default_value;
 static int end_null;
 static int respect_includes_opt = -1;
 static struct config_options config_options;
@@ -122,6 +123,7 @@ static struct option builtin_config_options[] = {
        OPT_BOOL(0, "name-only", &omit_values, N_("show variable names only")),
        OPT_BOOL(0, "includes", &respect_includes_opt, N_("respect include 
directives on lookup")),
        OPT_BOOL(0, "show-origin", &show_origin, N_("show origin of config 
(file, standard input, blob, command line)")),
+       OPT_STRING(0, "default", &default_value, N_("value"), N_("with --get, 
use default value when missing entry")),
@@ -286,6 +288,16 @@ static int get_value(const char *key_, const char *regex_)
        config_with_options(collect_config, &values,
                            &given_config_source, &config_options);
+       if (! && default_value) {
+               struct strbuf *item;
+               ALLOC_GROW(values.items, + 1, values.alloc);
+               item = &values.items[];
+               strbuf_init(item, 0);
+               if (format_config(item, key_, default_value) < 0) {
+                       exit(1);
+               }
+       }
        ret = !;
        for (i = 0; i <; i++) {
diff --git a/t/ b/t/
new file mode 100755
index 000000000..ab4e35f06
--- /dev/null
+++ b/t/
@@ -0,0 +1,38 @@
+test_description='Test git config in different settings (with --default)'
+. ./
+test_expect_success 'uses --default when missing entry' '
+       echo quux >expect &&
+       git config -f config --default quux >actual &&
+       test_cmp expect actual
+test_expect_success 'canonicalizes --default with appropriate type' '
+       echo true >expect &&
+       git config -f config --default=true --bool >actual &&
+       test_cmp expect actual
+test_expect_success 'uses entry when available' '
+       echo bar >expect &&
+       git config --add bar &&
+       git config --default baz >actual &&
+       git config --unset &&
+       test_cmp expect actual
+test_expect_success 'dies when --default cannot be parsed' '
+       test_must_fail git config -f config --type=int --default=x --get \
+               not.a.section 2>error &&
+       test_i18ngrep "invalid unit" error
+test_expect_success 'does not allow --default without --get' '
+       test_must_fail git config --default quux --unset a >output 2>&1 &&
+       test_i18ngrep "\-\-default is only applicable to" output

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