Getting started with Chapel and the Developer Certificate of Origin (DCO)

In order to merge a pull request (PR) to the Chapel repository, all git commits must be signed by their developers to certify that they wrote, or otherwise have the right to submit, the changes to the project. The full text of the DCO is available in Chapel’s file.

This means that the message for each commit you submit must contain a line that reads:

Signed-off-by: Random J Developer <>

where the name and email address must match those of your GitHub account as indicated by git config and git config The presence of this line signifies that you’re making the commit in accordance with the DCO.

The rest of this document describes some tips and tricks for signing commits proactively or retroactively.

Ways to Sign Commits

  1. Signing each commit manually

    Of course, when you are making a commit and editing the commit message, you can sign it manually, by typing the line above but with your GitHub account’s name and email address. However, this has the obvious downsides of being tedious and error-prone.

  2. Using git -s

    Git has a -s | --signoff command-line flag that will automatically add your ‘Signed-off-by’ line to your commit message. For an interactive commit like the following:

    git commit -s

    you should see the ‘Signed-off-by’ line in your editor when it brings up the buffer representing the commit message. If you supply the commit message on the command-line, the ‘Signed-off-by’ line will be automatically added for you.

    git commit -s -m "This is my commit message"

    This approach has the advantage of being fairly straightforward and requiring no configuration, but the downside that you need to remember to use the flag with each commit.

  3. Using a git commit template

    This approach uses a template file that contains your signature for interactive commit messages. It has the advantage of being fairly straightforward and making your signature visible to you when you commit. However, a downside is that it doesn’t apply your signature to git commits that skip the interactive editing of commit messages, like git revert or git commit -m ....

    To take this approach, create a file (say, ~/.gitmessage) that will form the basis for any interactive commit messages, containing your signature line:

    Signed-off-by: Random J Developer <>

    Then, tell your git configuration to open this file for any new interactive commit messages using one of the following forms. To set this up for the current repository only:

    git config commit.template ~/.gitmessage

    To set it up across repositories via your ~/.gitconfig file:

    git config --global commit.template ~/.gitmessage
  4. Using a git commit hook

    This approach uses a script to automatically add your signature line to new commits within a given repository if it isn’t found in the commit message. Relative to the previous approach, it has the advantage of being used more consistently across different styles of committing, but the slight downside of making the fact that you’re signing your commits less visible to you / easier to forget about.

    To take this approach, copy the script from $CHPL_HOME/util/misc/pre-commit-msg-hook to $CHPL_HOME/.git/hooks/commit-msg:

    cp $CHPL_HOME/util/misc/pre-commit-msg-hook $CHPL_HOME/.git/hooks/commit-msg

    You can also use variations on this script to exit with an error if the signature line is missing rather than adding it automatically.

Troubleshooting DCOs

If you have authored a commit that is missing its ‘Signed-off-by’ line, you can amend your commits and push them to GitHub.

git commit --amend --signoff

If you’ve pushed your changes to GitHub already you’ll need to force push your branch after this with git push -f.

If your Pull Request fails the DCO check, it will be necessary to fix the entire commit history for the PR. Best practice is to squash the commit history to a single commit, append the DCO sign-off as described above, and force push. For example, if you have 2 commits in your history (Note the ~2):

git rebase -i HEAD~2
(interactive squash + DCO append)
git push origin -f

Note that, in general, rewriting history in this way may introduce issues to the review process and this should only be done to correct a DCO mistake.