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SPATCH(1) General Commands Manual SPATCH(1)


spatch - apply a semantic patch file to a set of C files


spatch --sp-file <SP> <files> [-o <outfile> ] [--iso-file <iso> ] [ options ]


spatch is a program matching and transformation tool for C. The programmer describes the code to match and the transformation to perform as a semantic patch, which looks like a standard patch, but can transform multiple files at any number of code sites.

Further information about spatch is available at

Semantic patch examples can be found at, and at the scripts/coccinelle directory of the Linux Kernel source code.


Here is a summary of the most commonly used options (also see the "Configuration Mechanism" section below):

the semantic patch file
process all files in directory recursively
print some information to help debug the matching process
causes all available include files to be used
causes not even local include files to be used
the directory containing the include files
process header files independently
works with --dir, use information generated by glimpseindex
the output file. If none is specified, a patch is generated on the standard output
do the modification on the file directly
store modifications in a .cocci_res file
show the version of spatch
show the date on which spatch was compiled
see short list of options
see all the available options in different categories
show summary of options.


./spatch --sp-file foo.cocci foo.c

Apply the semantic patch foo.cocci to the C file foo.c. The semantic patch is applied modulo a set of isomorphisms contained in standard.iso (standard.iso is by default located in /usr/lib/coccinelle/standard.iso). A patch showing the effect of the application, if any, will be generated on the standard output.

./spatch --sp-file foo.cocci foo.c -o /tmp/newfoo.c

The same as the above, except that a modified version of foo.c is stored in /tmp/newfoo.c.

It is also possible to apply spatch to all of the C files in a directory:

./spatch --cocci-file foo.cocci --dir foodir

If the semantic patch is not working as expected, the option --debug shows selection of information about the application of a semantic patch to a file or directory.


<file> the semantic patch file
<file> the output file
do the modification on the file directly
suffix to use when making a backup for inplace
store modifications in a .cocci_res file
invert the semantic patch before applying it
set number of diff context lines
report partial matches of the SP on the C file
<file> (default=/usr/local/lib/coccinelle/standard.iso)
<file> (default=/usr/local/lib/coccinelle/standard.h)
causes all available include files, both those included in the C file(s) and those included in header files, to be used
causes all available include files included in the C file(s) to be used
causes not even local include files to be used
causes local include files to be used
For integration in a toolchain (must be set before the first unknown option)
process header files independently
<dir> containing the header files (optional)
run the C preprocessor before applying the semantic match
gcc/cpp compatibility mode
<dir> process all files in directory recursively
works with --dir, use info generated by glimpseindex
find relevant files using id-utils
<dir> path name with respect to which a patch should be created
"" for a file in the current directory
<file> improve --dir by grouping related c files
Sets output routine: Standard values: <coccilib.output.Gtk|coccilib.output.Console>
guess what
guess what
see short list of options
see all the available options in different categories
command line semantic patch
short option of --iso-file
<file> the semantic patch file



diff even if only spacing changes







show the name of each function being processed
show the dependencies related to each rule




generate a pdf file representing the matching process
remove graph label (requires option -graphical-trace)














filter some cpp message when the macro is a "known" cpp construct


filter the error msg







gather timing information about the main coccinelle functions
<level> for profiling the CTL engine
<sec> timeout in seconds
max number of model checking steps per code unit
max depth of iso application
disable limit on max depth of iso application
gather information about isomorphism usage
disable a specific isomorphism
gather information about the cost of isomorphism usage
keep comments around removed code


drop all back edges derived from looping constructs - unsafe
drop all jumps derived from gotos - unsafe
drop all inferred typedefs from one parse of some code to the next
use OCaml Str regular expressions for constraints


convert ifdef to if (experimental)
convert ifdef to if (experimental)






disallow an expression pattern from matching a term and its subterm


--only-return-is-error-exitif this flag is not set, then break and continue are also error exits

if this flag is set don't check for inconsistent paths; dangerous
make an expression disjunction not prioritise the topmost disjunct
the number of bits in an unsigned int
the number of bits in an unsigned long
spacing of + code follows the conventions of Linux
spacing of + code follows the semantic patch
indicate that a virtual rule should be considered to be matched
make a small attempt to parse C++ files. The supported extensions for source files are .cpp, .cxx, .cc, and for header files are .h, .hpp and .hxx. Note that this option disables the processing of .c files as Coccinelle behaviour is different for C++.
option to set if launch spatch in ocamldebug
to print more messages
show trace


the processor to use for this run of spatch
the number of processors available
use mod to distribute files among the processors
use .ast_raw pre-parsed cached C file
directory of cached ASTs, sets --use-cache
maximum number of cached ASTs, sets --use-cache
The test options don't work with the --sp-file and so on.
<file> launch spatch on tests/file.[c,cocci]
launch spatch on all files in tests/ having a .res
generates .{ok,failed,spatch_ok} files using .res files
process the .{ok,failed,spatch_ok} files in current dir
use also file.res
which score file to compare with in --testall
do not update the score file when --testall succeeds


The action options don't work with the --sp-file and so on. It's for the other (internal) uses of the spatch program.
<file or dir>
<file or dir>
<file or dir>
<file or dir>
<file or dir>
<file or file:function>
<file or file:function>
<file or file:function>
<file1> <file2>


<file or dir>
<file or dir>
<file1> <>
<file1> <file2>


Coccinelle uses a simple text format to store customizations into in which the configuration file is processed is as follows, where the later lines always extend and may override earlier ones:

o Your current user's home directory is processed first
o Your directory from which spatch is called is processed next
o The directory provided with the --dir option is processed last, if used

Such a configuration file may look like this:

	options = --jobs 4
	options = --show-trying



This file contains the default set of isomorphisms.
This file contains the default set of macro hints.
This file contains the custom set of spatch options.


The path to the Coccinelle share directory. Default is /usr/lib/coccinelle


Y. Padioleau, J.L. Lawall, R.R Hansen, G. Muller. "Documenting and Automating Collateral Evolutions in Linux Device Driver", EuroSys 2008 , Glasgow, Scotland, April 2008, pp. 247-260.

Julien Brunel, Damien Doligez, René Rydhof Hansen, Julia L. Lawall, Gilles Muller. "A foundation for flow-based program matching: using temporal logic and model checking", POPL 2009 , Savannah, GA, USA, January 21-23, 2009, pp. 114-126.


spatch was written by Julia Lawall <>, Yoann Padioleau <>, Rene Rydhof Hansen <>, Henrik Stuart <>, Nicolas Palix <>, Peter Senna Tschudin <>, Sébastien Hinderer <>, Xavier Clerc <> and Matthieu Caneill <>.

This manual page was written by Yoann Padioleau <>, Julia Lawall <>, Nicolas Palix <> and Peter Senna Tschudin <>.


Send a mail to <>


Copyright 2012, 2015, INRIA and University of Grenoble-Alpes LIG. Copyright 2010, 2011, University of Copenhagen DIKU and INRIA. Copyright 2005-2009, Ecole des Mines de Nantes, University of Copenhagen. spatch is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, according to version 2 of the License.


patch(1), diff(1)

February 26, 2015