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For commands that query based on time, watchman offers a couple of different ways to measure time.

  • number of seconds since the unix epoch (unix time_t style)
  • a clock id of the form c:123:234
  • a named cursor of the form n:whatever (but clock ids are faster!)

The first and most obvious is passing a unix timestamp. Watchman records the observed time that files change and allows you to find files that have changed since that time. Using a timestamp is prone to race conditions in understanding the complete state of the file tree.

Using an abstract clock id insulates the client from these race conditions by ticking as changes are detected rather than as time moves. Watchman returns the current clock id when it delivers match results; you can use that value as the clockspec in your next time relative query to get a race free assessment of changed files.

As a convenience, watchman can maintain the last observed clock for a client by associating it with a client defined cursor name. For example, you could enumerate all the "C" source files on your first invocation of:

watchman since /path/to/src n:c_srcs '*.c'

and when you run it a second time, it will show you only the "C" source files that changed since the last time that someone queried using "n:c_srcs" as the clock spec. However, it's not possible to "roll back" a named cursor, so advanced users desiring such functionality should use clock ids instead.

Since 4.7.

We recommend not using the n:whatever form as it requires an exclusive lock on the view to execute; this can increase contention and result in slower queries.