Some notes from when I start using git

When I switched to git from subversion at my old business, I stored notes on how to do certain tasks. I’m pasting it below. Maybe some of this will help you out.

If you know a better way to do these tricks, please let me now.

My git diary

.. contents::

Slowly learning how to use git.

Typical upgrade flow

I just committed a bunch of code and I want to see what the diffs were,
so I ran this::

$ git diff HEAD^

My production server runs branch 3.5.1 of my software. I want to start
work on a scary new feature that may take a long time, so I made a new
branch called 3.5.2 in my local sandbox::

$ git checkout -b 3.5.2

Now I can commit all my intermediate stuff in here.

Somebody found a bug in the production site (running 3.5.1) so I switch
to my 3.5.1 checkout::

$ git checkout 3.5.1
$ vi # fixing the problem
$ git commit -a -m "Fixed the prod bug"
$ git push origin 3.5.1

That last line sends my local commits to my remote bare repository.
That remote bare repository is on a box with an SSH server and RAID

Then I connect to the production box and pull down the most recent

$ ssh prod
matt@prod$ cd where-the-repo-is
matt@prod$ git pull origin 3.5.1
matt@prod$ restart-everything

That restart-everything command is a homemade script that does just what
you think it does.

Now back in my dev sandbox, I want to pull the bug fix from 3.5.1 into
my 3.5.2 branch. So I do it like this::

$ git checkout 3.5.2
$ git pull . 3.5.1

And now my 3.5.2 branch has that code in it. Hurray! Understand that
the dot (.) in git pull . 3.5.1 means that git should retrieve code from
this repository, not the fancypants remote one.

Pulling stuff

When I run::

$ git pull origin 3.5.1

That means to pull from the origin's 3.5.1 branch into whatever branch I
currently have checked out.

A typical day

I have two branches, an experimental branch and a public branch.
The production server used by customer runs the public branch.

Usually I work in my development branch. Sometimes I have to do some
code into production so this is how I do it::

$ git checkout stable # switch my local copy to the stable branch.
$ git pull origin stable # update local copy, just in case.
$ vi # do the bug fixes.
$ git commit -a -m "Notes about bug fixes"
$ git push origin # This is my deploy system.
$ git checkout dev # Go back to my development branch.
$ git pull origin stable # merge in that bug fix.

So far, this works well. I did something similar with SVN, and it also
worked fine. But git is way better at safely merging and it is much

Undo changes to a single file

I typically edit a dozen files and then figure out that I want to undo
some stuff. If I did::

$ git reset --hard

Then my whole working copy would be destroyed. Usually, I just want to
do something like revert one file. So this is how::

$ git checkout that/particular/file

That deletes my working-copy changes just there. Everything else is
left as-is.

How to submit patches by email

I cloned the ditz project and tweaked the code, and I wanted to submit a
patch, so this is what they told me to do::

For this type of thing, it's "very simple". git commit -a, add a
one-line description followed by a blank line and more commentary, and
then git format-patch HEAD^.

When I ran git format-patch HEAD^, that produced a file on my local
machine that had a pretty formatted patch. Then I emailed that patch to
the list with some text.

How to branch from a remote repository

This is what somebody in the #git room told me to do, since I use a
remote bare repository::

$ git fetch origin
$ git checkout -b newbranch origin/original

Here's another person's opinion::

$ git fetch && git checkout --track -b mynewbranchagain remotename/mynewbranch

Set the remote branch

Normally I have to pull from my remote repo and specify the branch I
want to pull in like this::

$ git checkout experimental
$ git pull origin experimental

It is possible to associate my local branch of experimental with that
remote branch of experimental like this::

$ git config --add branch.experimental.remote origin
$ git config --add branch.experimental.merge experimental

And now I can run::

$ git pull origin

without specifying the remote branch. In fact this works too::

$ git pull

Compare one file across two local branches

I want to look at a diff of in my public branch vs my experimental
branch, so this is what I did::

$ git diff public experimental --

I can see everything different between the two branches like this::

$ git diff public experimental

Break up a whole bunch of changes into different commits

I'm irresponsible about committing after each conceptual unit of work.
Lots of time, I'll edit a file to fix one bug, then while I'm in there,
I'll edit some other code because I see a better way to do something
else. Then I'll maybe add a few doctests to a completely different
section just because I want to.

After a few hours, typically inside of the same file, I have edits
related to multiple separate tasks.

Before I commit my changes, I run::

$ git add -p

Which walks through all the changes in that file and asks me if I want
to stage each one. In the first pass, I stage all the hunks related to
the first issue. Then I commit those changes. Then I rerun git add -p again and march through the file for the next the second issue.

Keep in mind that I committed my changes after the first pass, so when I
go through the file the second time, I won't get prompted for those

This is one of those git features that you just couldn't do with svn.

Find the commits in branch A that are not in branch B

Sometimes I'll patch a production bug in my production branch and then I
will forget to merge it into the development branch. This is how I can
check for that::

$ git checkout production_branch
$ git cherry dev_branch

This will spit out a list of commits that are in production_branch but
not in dev_branch.

It will not return any commits made to dev_branch but not in

See a file as of a point in time

Looking at a commit shows the changes. Sometimes I want to see the file

Here's how to look at as of two commits ago::

$ git show HEAD^^:b/

Here's how to see what looked as of a particular commit::

$ git show bf51ebdbc:b/

b/ is the path to the from the top of the repository. I'm
not certain, but I don't think the current working directory matters.

Copy a file from one branch to another

I committed a file into one branch then checked out a new branch. This
is how I copied that file into the new branch WITHOUT merging it in::

$ git checkout newbranch # 1
$ git checkout otherbranch # 2

Step 1 moves me into the newbranch. Step 2 gets me a copy of the file from otherbranch and saves it into this branch named newbranch.

See a file in a different branch

After I checkout the maxhenry branch I want to see the version of
printable.kid in the mayfield branch::

$ git checkout maxhenry
$ git show mayfield:bazman/bazman/templates/printable/printable.kid

Set a file to an old version of itself

Sometimes I want to get the version of a file as of a certain commit and
check that in. There are lots of ways to do this, including using git
revert or git reset, but I've had good luck with this approach::

$ git log # Use this to find the commit you want.

$ git checkout ac778cbb5517e1aeef446c9a8a1092eef81717fa:repo-top/a/

After you run this, the index will have this old copy queued up to be
commited. You can use git diff --cached to see the changes.

Create a new branch on the remote repo

We just pushed the branch **mollusk** up to production, so now it is
time to create a new branch named **nosehair**::

$ git branch nosehair # creates the new branch
$ git checkout nosehair # switches to the new branch
$ git push origin nosehair # pushes it up to origin

Switch to a new branch that already exists on a remote repo

After somebody else already created the branch nosehair, and pushed it
up to the remote repository, here's how to switch to work on the
nosehair branch::

$ git fetch origin
$ git branch -a # make sure origin/nosehair exists!
$ git checkout -b nosehair origin/nosehair

Search through commit messages

This is how I found all commits that had a commit message that included
the word CCPL::

$ git log --grep=CCPL

This is how I limited it to just my (Matt's) commits for CCPL work::

$ git log --grep=CCPL --author=matt --all-match

Without the --all-match option, you'll see all commits by matt or that
have CCPL in the commit message.

Published by


My name is Matt Wilson. I make websites for Kiwee to pay the bills. I live in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, with my wife and son.

  • websubs

    MOst enlightening and i have also adopted this routine. Thankyou for posting such useful information for us all here .

  • websubs

    Most enlightening and very useful info thankyou for sharing this.

  • DVD Duplication

    Thanks for this guide.

  • Dmitrij

    Hi, my name is Dmitrij and recently I've started to use git. I created two sheets with git's basic concepts and commands. If you are interested in it you could visit the following link…/

  • bessie Talbot

    Thanks for sharing this post with us. It's really an amazing post. Keep posting the good work in future too.

  • WesleyS

    “git diff HEAD^” is the same as “git show” with no arguments.