Crate automerge

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Automerge is a library of data structures for building collaborative, local-first applications. The idea of automerge is to provide a data structure which is quite general - consisting of nested key/value maps and/or lists - which can be modified entirely locally but which can at any time be merged with other instances of the same data structure.

In addition to the core data structure (which we generally refer to as a “document”), we also provide an implementation of a sync protocol (in crate::sync) which can be used over any reliable in-order transport; and an efficient binary storage format.

This crate is organised around two representations of a document - Automerge and AutoCommit. The difference between the two is that AutoCommit manages transactions for you. Both of these representations implement ReadDoc for reading values from a document and sync::SyncDoc for taking part in the sync protocol. AutoCommit directly implements transaction::Transactable for making changes to a document, whilst Automerge requires you to explicitly create a transaction::Transaction.

NOTE: The API this library provides for modifying data is quite low level (somewhat analogous to directly creating JSON values rather than using serde derive macros or equivalent). If you’re writing a Rust application which uses automerge you may want to look at autosurgeon.

§Data Model

An automerge document is a map from strings to values (Value) where values can be either

  • A nested composite value which is either
  • A primitive value (ScalarValue) which is one of
    • A string
    • A 64 bit floating point number
    • A signed 64 bit integer
    • An unsigned 64 bit integer
    • A boolean
    • A counter object (a 64 bit integer which merges by addition) (ScalarValue::Counter)
    • A timestamp (a 64 bit integer which is milliseconds since the unix epoch)

All composite values have an ID (ObjId) which is created when the value is inserted into the document or is the root object ID ROOT. Values in the document are then referred to by the pair (object ID, key). The key is represented by the Prop type and is either a string for a maps, or an index for sequences.


There are some things automerge cannot merge sensibly. For example, two actors concurrently setting the key “name” to different values. In this case automerge will pick a winning value in a random but deterministic way, but the conflicting value is still available via the ReadDoc::get_all() method.

§Change hashes and historical values

Like git, points in the history of a document are identified by hash. Unlike git there can be multiple hashes representing a particular point (because automerge supports concurrent changes). These hashes can be obtained using either Automerge::get_heads() or AutoCommit::get_heads() (note these methods are not part of ReadDoc because in the case of AutoCommit it requires a mutable reference to the document).

These hashes can be used to read values from the document at a particular point in history using the various *_at() methods on ReadDoc which take a slice of ChangeHash as an argument.

§Actor IDs

Any change to an automerge document is made by an actor, represented by an ActorId. An actor ID is any random sequence of bytes but each change by the same actor ID must be sequential. This often means you will want to maintain at least one actor ID per device. It is fine to generate a new actor ID for each change, but be aware that each actor ID takes up space in a document so if you expect a document to be long lived and/or to have many changes then you should try to reuse actor IDs where possible.

§Text Encoding

Text is encoded in UTF-8 by default but uses UTF-16 when using the wasm target.

§Sync Protocol

See the sync module.

§Patches, maintaining materialized state

Often you will have some state which represents the “current” state of the document. E.g. some text in a UI which is a view of a text object in the document. Rather than re-rendering this text every single time a change comes in you can use a PatchLog to capture incremental changes made to the document and then use Automerge::make_patches() to get a set of patches to apply to the materialized state.

Many of the methods on Automerge, crate::sync::SyncDoc and crate::transaction::Transactable have a *_log_patches() variant which allow you to pass in a PatchLog to collect these incremental changes.

§Serde serialization

Sometimes you just want to get the JSON value of an automerge document. For this you can use AutoSerde, which implements serde::Serialize for an automerge document.


Let’s create a document representing an address book.

use automerge::{ObjType, AutoCommit, transaction::Transactable, ReadDoc};

let mut doc = AutoCommit::new();

// `put_object` creates a nested object in the root key/value map and
// returns the ID of the new object, in this case a list.
let contacts = doc.put_object(automerge::ROOT, "contacts", ObjType::List)?;

// Now we can insert objects into the list
let alice = doc.insert_object(&contacts, 0, ObjType::Map)?;

// Finally we can set keys in the "alice" map
doc.put(&alice, "name", "Alice")?;
doc.put(&alice, "email", "")?;

// Create another contact
let bob = doc.insert_object(&contacts, 1, ObjType::Map)?;
doc.put(&bob, "name", "Bob")?;
doc.put(&bob, "email", "")?;

// Now we save the address book, we can put this in a file
let data: Vec<u8> =;

Now modify this document on two separate devices and merge the modifications.

use std::borrow::Cow;
use automerge::{ObjType, AutoCommit, transaction::Transactable, ReadDoc};

// Load the document on the first device and change alices email
let mut doc1 = AutoCommit::load(&saved)?;
let contacts = match doc1.get(automerge::ROOT, "contacts")? {
    Some((automerge::Value::Object(ObjType::List), contacts)) => contacts,
    _ => panic!("contacts should be a list"),
let alice = match doc1.get(&contacts, 0)? {
   Some((automerge::Value::Object(ObjType::Map), alice)) => alice,
   _ => panic!("alice should be a map"),
doc1.put(&alice, "email", "")?;

// Load the document on the second device and change bobs name
let mut doc2 = AutoCommit::load(&saved)?;
let contacts = match doc2.get(automerge::ROOT, "contacts")? {
   Some((automerge::Value::Object(ObjType::List), contacts)) => contacts,
   _ => panic!("contacts should be a list"),
let bob = match doc2.get(&contacts, 1)? {
  Some((automerge::Value::Object(ObjType::Map), bob)) => bob,
  _ => panic!("bob should be a map"),
doc2.put(&bob, "name", "Robert")?;

// Finally, we can merge the changes from the two devices
doc1.merge(&mut doc2)?;
let bobsname: Option<automerge::Value> = doc1.get(&bob, "name")?.map(|(v, _)| v);
assert_eq!(bobsname, Some(automerge::Value::Scalar(Cow::Owned("Robert".into()))));

let alices_email: Option<automerge::Value> = doc1.get(&alice, "email")?.map(|(v, _)| v);
assert_eq!(alices_email, Some(automerge::Value::Scalar(Cow::Owned("".into()))));

§Cursors, referring to positions in sequences

When working with text or other sequences it is often useful to be able to refer to a specific position within the sequence whilst merging remote changes. You can manually do this by maintaining your own offsets and observing patches, but this is error prone. The Cursor type provides an API for allowing automerge to do the index translations for you. Cursors are created with ReadDoc::get_cursor() and dereferenced with ReadDoc::get_cursor_position().







  • The object ID for the root map of a document


  • Methods for reading values from an automerge document

Type Aliases§