Stack Multiple PRs

The differences between spr’s commit-based workflow and GitHub’s default branch-based workflow are most apparent when you have multiple reviews in flight at the same time.

This guide assumes you’re already familiar with the workflow for simple, non-stacked PRs.

You’ll use Git’s interactive rebase quite often in managing stacked-PR situations. It’s a very powerful tool for reordering and combining commits in a series.

This is the workflow for creating multiple PRs at the same time. This example only creates two, but the workflow works for arbitrarily deep stacks.

  1. Make a change and commit it on main. We’ll call this commit A.

  2. Make another change and commit it on top of commit A. We’ll call this commit B.

  3. Run spr diff --all. This is equivalent to calling spr diff on each commit starting from HEAD and going to back to the first commit that is part of upstream main. Thus, it will create a PR for each of commits A and B.

  4. Suppose you need to update commit A in response to review feedback. You would:

    1. Make the change and commit it on top of commit B, with a throwaway message.

    2. Run git rebase --interactive. This will bring up an editor that looks like this:

      pick 0a0a0a Commit A
      pick 1b1b1b Commit B
      pick 2c2c2c throwaway

      Modify it to look like this1:

      pick 0a0a0a Commit A
      fixup 2c2c2c throwaway
      exec spr diff
      pick 1b1b1b Commit B

      This will (1) amend your latest commit into commit A, discarding the throwaway message and using commit A’s message for the combined result; (2) run spr diff on the combined result; and (3) put commit B on top of the combined result.

  5. You must land commit A before commit B. (See the next section for what to do if you want to be able to land B first.) To land commit A, you would:

    1. Run git rebase --interactive. The editor will start with this:

      pick 3a3a3a Commit A
      pick 4b4b4b Commit B

      Modify it to look like this:

      pick 3a3a3a Commit A
      exec spr land
      pick 4b4b4b Commit B
  6. Now you’re left with just commit B on top of upstream main, and you can use the non-stacked workflow to update and land it.

There are a few possible variations to note:

  • Instead of a single run of spr diff --all at the beginning, you could run plain spr diff right after making each commit.

  • Instead of step 4, you could use interactive rebase to swap the order of commits A and B (as long as B doesn’t depend on A), and then simply use the non-stacked workflow to amend A and update the PR.

  • In step 4.2, if you want to update the commit message of commit A, you could instead do the following interactive rebase:

    pick 0a0a0a Commit A
    squash 2c2c2c throwaway
    exec spr diff --update-message
    pick 1b1b1b Commit B

    The squash command will open an editor, where you can edit the message of the combined commit. The --update-message flag on the next line is important; see this guide for more detail.


In the above example, you would not be able to land commit B before landing commit A, even if they were totally independent of each other.

First, some behind-the-scenes explanation. When you create the PR for commit B, spr diff will create a PR whose base branch is not main, but rather a synthetic branch that contains the difference between main and B’s parent. This is so that the PR for B only shows the changes in B itself, rather than the entire difference between main and B.

When you run spr land, it checks that each of these two operations would produce exactly the same tree:

  • Merging the PR directly into upstream main.
  • Cherry-picking the local commit onto upstream main.

If those operations wouldn’t result in the same tree, spr land fails. This is to prevent you from landing a commit whose contents aren’t the same as what reviewers have seen.

In the above example, then, the PR for commit B has a synthetic base branch that contains the changes in commit A. Thus, if you tried to land B before A, spr land’s “merge PR vs. cherry-pick” check would fail.

If you want to be able to land commit B before A, do this:

  1. Make commit A on top of main as before, and run spr diff.

  2. Make commit B on top of A as before, and run spr diff --cherry-pick. The flag causes spr diff to create the PR as if B were cherry-picked onto upstream main, rather than creating the synthetic base branch. (This step will fail if B does not cherry-pick cleanly onto upstream main, which would imply that A and B are not truly independent.)

  3. Once B is ready to land, you can do one of two things:

    • Run spr land --cherry-pick. (By default, spr land refuses to land a commit whose parent is not on upstream main; the flag makes it skip that check.)

    • Do an interactive rebase that puts B directly on top of upstream main, then runs spr land, then puts A on top of B.

Rebasing the whole stack

One of the major advantages of committing everything to local main is that rebasing your work onto new upstream main commits is much simpler than if you had a branch for every in-flight review. The difference is especially pronounced if some of your reviews depend on others, which would entail dependent feature branches in a branch-based workflow.

Rebasing all your in-flight reviews and updating their PRs is as simple as:

  1. Run git pull --rebase on main, resolving conflicts along the way as needed.

  2. Run spr diff --all.


You can shorten exec to x, fixup to f, and squash to s; they are spelled out here for clarity.