The documentation of -S and -G is very sketchy.  Completely rewrite the
sections in Documentation/diff-options.txt and

52e9578 ([PATCH] Introducing software archaeologist's tool "pickaxe".)
f506b8e (git log/diff: add -G<regexp> that greps in the patch text)

Inputs-from: Phil Hord <>
Co-authored-by: Junio C Hamano <>
Signed-off-by: Ramkumar Ramachandra <>
 Documentation/diff-options.txt | 38 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++--------
 Documentation/gitdiffcore.txt  | 43 ++++++++++++++++++++++++------------------
 2 files changed, 55 insertions(+), 26 deletions(-)

diff --git a/Documentation/diff-options.txt b/Documentation/diff-options.txt
index 104579d..2835eef 100644
--- a/Documentation/diff-options.txt
+++ b/Documentation/diff-options.txt
@@ -383,14 +383,36 @@ ifndef::git-format-patch[]
        that matches other criteria, nothing is selected.
-       Look for differences that introduce or remove an instance of
-       <string>. Note that this is different than the string simply
-       appearing in diff output; see the 'pickaxe' entry in
-       linkgit:gitdiffcore[7] for more details.
+       Look for differences that change the number of occurrences of
+       the specified string (i.e. addition/deletion) in a file.
+       Intended for the scripter's use.
+It is especially useful when you're looking for an exact block of code
+(like a struct), and want to know the history of that block since it
+first came into being: use the feature iteratively to feed the
+interesting block in the preimage back into `-S`, and keep going until
+you get the very first version of the block.
-       Look for differences whose added or removed line matches
-       the given <regex>.
+       Look for differences whose patch text contains added/removed
+       lines that match <regex>.
+To illustrate the difference between `-S<regex> --pickaxe-regex` and
+`-G<regex>`, consider a commit with the following diff in the same
++    return !regexec(regexp, two->ptr, 1, &regmatch, 0);
+-    hit = !regexec(regexp, mf2.ptr, 1, &regmatch, 0);
+While `git log -G"regexec\(regexp"` will show this commit, `git log
+-S"regexec\(regexp" --pickaxe-regex` will not (because the number of
+occurrences of that string did not change).
+See the 'pickaxe' entry in linkgit:gitdiffcore[7] for more
        When `-S` or `-G` finds a change, show all the changes in that
@@ -398,8 +420,8 @@ ifndef::git-format-patch[]
        in <string>.
-       Make the <string> not a plain string but an extended POSIX
-       regex to match.
+       Treat the <string> given to `-S` as an extended POSIX regular
+       expression to match.
diff --git a/Documentation/gitdiffcore.txt b/Documentation/gitdiffcore.txt
index 568d757..ef4c04a 100644
--- a/Documentation/gitdiffcore.txt
+++ b/Documentation/gitdiffcore.txt
@@ -222,26 +222,33 @@ version prefixed with '+'.
 diffcore-pickaxe: For Detecting Addition/Deletion of Specified String
-This transformation is used to find filepairs that represent
-changes that touch a specified string, and is controlled by the
--S option and the `--pickaxe-all` option to the 'git diff-*'
-When diffcore-pickaxe is in use, it checks if there are
-filepairs whose "result" side and whose "origin" side have
-different number of specified string.  Such a filepair represents
-"the string appeared in this changeset".  It also checks for the
-opposite case that loses the specified string.
-When `--pickaxe-all` is not in effect, diffcore-pickaxe leaves
-only such filepairs that touch the specified string in its
-output.  When `--pickaxe-all` is used, diffcore-pickaxe leaves all
-filepairs intact if there is such a filepair, or makes the
-output empty otherwise.  The latter behaviour is designed to
-make reviewing of the changes in the context of the whole
+There are two kinds of pickaxe: the S kind (corresponding to 'git log
+-S') and the G kind (mnemonic: grep; corresponding to 'git log -G').
+"-S<block of text>" detects filepairs whose preimage and postimage
+have different number of occurrences of the specified block of text.
+By definition, it will not detect in-file moves.  Also, when a
+changeset moves a file wholesale without affecting the interesting
+string, rename detection kicks in as usual, and `-S` omits the
+filepair (since the number of occurrences of that string didn't change
+in that rename-detected filepair).  The implementation essentially
+runs a count, and is significantly cheaper than the G kind.  When used
+with `--pickaxe-regex`, treat the <block of text> as an extended POSIX
+regular expression to match, instead of a literal string.
+"-G<regular expression>" detects filepairs whose textual diff has an
+added or a deleted line that matches the given regular expression.
+This means that it can detect in-file (or what rename-detection
+considers the same file) moves.  The implementation runs diff twice
+and greps, and this can be quite expensive.
+When `-S` or `-G` are used without `--pickaxe-all`, only filepairs
+that match their respective criterion are kept in the output.  When
+`--pickaxe-all` is used, if even one filepair matches their respective
+criterion in a changeset, the entire changeset is kept.  This behavior
+is designed to make reviewing changes in the context of the whole
 changeset easier.
 diffcore-order: For Sorting the Output Based on Filenames

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