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Mutagen is a fast file synchronization tool designed for remote development. It is designed to replace tools like SSHFS, Unison, and SFTP editor plugins.

Design and features

Mutagen uses a bidirectional version of the rsync algorithm to synchronize the filesystem contents at two locations. Each location can be either a local filesystem location or a remote location accessible via SSH. Filesystem contents are monitored for changes on both endpoints and any non-conflicting changes are propagated automatically.

Mutagen is unique amongst synchronizers in that it does not need to be installed on remote systems, has no dependencies, and runs completely in user space (no pesky kernel extensions required). It also has some nifty safety features to avoid accidental data deletion.

Although it can synchronize any content efficiently, Mutagen is tailored for synchronizing code for remote development. It handles cross-platform quirks by default, manages conflicts safely, and provides powerful configuration options for handling things like symlinks and ignores in a portable fashion.

Mutagen is also extremely robust to connection dropouts. Since the contents it deals with exist on the actual filesystem, they won't disappear or become unavailable if the connection drops, and they can continue to be accessed and edited offline. As soon as Mutagen can reconnect, it will automatically resume synchronization right where it left off.

Mutagen can manage any number of active synchronization sessions at once. It provides a number of subcommands that allow for the creation and management of sessions, as well as management of Mutagen's daemon component. The following sections outline usage of these commands. Additional usage information is available through the built-in help:

$ mutagen --help

More detailed information about Mutagen's design can be found in the README.


Mutagen can be installed by downloading the appropriate release for your platform and adding its contents to your path.

Alternatively, Homebrew users can install Mutagen with:

$ brew install havoc-io/mutagen/mutagen

There is no need to install Mutagen on remote systems.

Starting the daemon

Mutagen relies on a daemon that runs in the background as a per-user process and manages synchronization sessions. If a session becomes disconnected from a remote endpoint, the daemon will automatically attempt to reconnect the session in the background.

The Mutagen daemon is started using the daemon command:

$ mutagen daemon start

This command is fast and idempotent, so it can safely be added to your shell initialization script (e.g. .bashrc, etc).

The daemon will automatically stop at shutdown, but you can also manually stop it using mutagen daemon stop. Make sure to stop the daemon before upgrading Mutagen and to restart it afterwards.

Experimental support for registering the daemon to start automatically on login is available for macOS and Windows via the mutagen daemon register command.

Creating a synchronization session

Sessions can be created using the create command:

$ mutagen create Projects/my_project user@hostname:~/my_project_copy

The locations specified can be local paths or SCP-style URLs. The order of the locations is not important — it only determines which will be referred to as "alpha" and which will be referred to as "beta."

Mutagen uses OpenSSH under the hood, so all of your configuration, keys, and aliases will be automatically available. If authentication is required to connect to a remote endpoint, then the create command will ask for credentials.

The create command supports a number of configuration options for symlinks, ignores, and filesystem watching.

Each session is assigned a unique identifier that can be used to refer to it in subsequent commands. Sessions can also be referred to by a fragment of either endpoint path or hostname, so long as this specification is unambiguous.

Listing sessions

The list command shows the current status of sessions, as well as any conflicts or problems that have arisen in the propagation of changes between endpoints:

$ mutagen list my_project
Session: 7bb4a56b-f4be-4083-be24-7f590beda02e
    URL: /Users/me/Projects/my_project
    Status: Connected
    URL: user@hostname:~/my_project_copy
    Status: Connected
Status: Watching for changes

If no sessions are specified to the list command, it will simply print all sessions. More detailed listing output is available through the -l/--long flag.

Monitoring a session

The monitor command shows live monitoring information for a session:

$ mutagen monitor my_project
Session: 7bb4a56b-f4be-4083-be24-7f590beda02e
Alpha: /Users/me/Projects/my_project
Beta: user@hostname:~/my_project_copy
Status: Staging files on beta: 75% (8942/11782)

If no session is specified, monitor will show information for the most recently created session.

Pausing a session

Synchronization can be temporarily halted for a session using the pause command:

$ mutagen pause my_project

Resuming a session

Sessions can be resumed using the resume command:

$ mutagen resume my_project

This command will ensure that a session is unpaused and attempting to synchronize. If the daemon can't automatically reconnect to an endpoint because authentication is required, the resume command can be used to provide credentials.

Terminating a session

Synchronization can be permanently halted for a session (and the session deleted) using the terminate command:

$ mutagen terminate my_project

This will not delete files on either endpoint (but should be done before completely deleting files on either endpoint to avoid propagating the deletion).