git send-email using Gmail on a Mac

Some open source projects, most famously the Linux kernel, require patches to be submitted by way of an email to their mailing list.

If you’re used to submitting patches using GitHub Pull-Requests or Gerrit reviews, the idea of sending a patch by email can be a bit daunting at first.

Luckily, it’s actually pretty simple! Here’s how:


…but first. Let’s start with some assumptions.

Configure System

Gmail requires email to be sent via TLS which the Homebrew package of git doesn’t support by default. So, the first thing we need to do is install the SSL Perl module:

brew install cpanm
cpanm --sudo Net::SMTP::SSL

In general, --sudo is not a good idea with Homebrew, but in this case it makes things easier by allowing git to find the Perl module in its default search path. (If you want to avoid sudo, it’s possible, just more work…)

Setup Google

If you’re not using 2-factor authentication (2fa) for Gmail, go set that up first (seriously!).

Now that you have 2fa setup, you need to generate an application-specific password for git send-email.

Go to Gmail’s “Account” Settings, and click the “Security” tab.

Follow the steps to generate a application-specific password and copy it into your clipboard.

Setup .gitconfig

The next step is to add your Gmail settings to your .gitconfig file.

Open up your .gitconfig and add the following stanza filled in with your personal information:

from = Your name <>
smtpserver =
smtpuser =
smtppass = your-application-specific-password
smtpencryption = tls
chainreplyto = false
smtpserverport = 587

Format Patch

At this point, git should be configured to send email; you just need to create your patch file and send it.

To create your patch, you use the git format-patch command which will generate a patch in the mbox format, appropriate for sending via email.

A common-case is to want to send the last commit. The command to do that would be:

git format-patch --to HEAD^

This will create a file named something like 0001-name-of-my-patch.patch in your repo’s base directory.

Send Email

Now that you’ve created the patch file, you just need to send it to the mailing list. To do that, use the git send-email command.

The command is:

git send-email 0001-name-of-my-patch.patch

If everything worked properly, you should now see your patch show up on the mailing-list.

Advanced - Multiple patch files

If you’re submitting multiple patches to the ML, it’s convenient to store the patches in a separate directory so you can email them all at once.

To do this, use the -o option to git-format-patch to specify the output directory:

# Create patch files for last 5 commits
git format-patch -o outgoing HEAD~5

Now you can send these patches in one-shot using

git send-email outgoing/*.patch

Once the email has been sent, you can clean up with:

rm outgoing/*.patch
rmdir outgoing
Posted on 30 September 2014.
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