For most of the my projects I use Git as a distributed version-control system to track changes in the source code for both my personal and work related projects. Even though Git is around for several years now (since 2005), a lot of people are still relatively new to Git. This post goes through some of the Git tips and tricks I learned by using Git everyday, and is geared towards Git beginners.

Git help

Using git help you can display a synopsis of the help information about Git, this includes a list of commonly used Git commands. Whenever the --all of -a option is used, all the available commands are shown. If you want to learn more about a specific command your can simply run git help COMMAND.

Git guides

Besides the displaying the help information using git help, Git includes some very useful guides with the  git help --guides command:

The common Git guides are:
   attributes          Defining attributes per path
   cli                 Git command-line interface and conventions
   core-tutorial       A Git core tutorial for developers
   cvs-migration       Git for CVS users
   diffcore            Tweaking diff output
   everyday            A useful minimum set of commands for Everyday Git
   glossary            A Git Glossary
   hooks               Hooks used by Git
   ignore              Specifies intentionally untracked files to ignore
   modules             Defining submodule properties
   namespaces          Git namespaces
   repository-layout    Git Repository Layout
   revisions           Specifying revisions and ranges for Git
   tutorial            A tutorial introduction to Git
   tutorial-2          A tutorial introduction to Git: part two
   workflows           An overview of recommended workflows with Git

Just run git help everyday to learn the most common Git commands, or execute git help workflows to get an overview of the recommend Git workflows.

Git checkout

Whenever you switch a branch in Git you will you use the git-checkout command. But did you known you can switch more than just branches?

Checking out a file from another branch

The git-checkout command allows the user to checkout files from another branch. For example, while being on the master branch you can checkout just the file from the develop branch:

git checkout master
git checkout develop --

The pattern is the following:

git checkout <branch_name> -- <paths>

Git configuration

If you ever followed a Git tutorial for beginners, you probably came across the git config --global "John Doe" command. You can get an set  a lot more repository and global Git options using git-config. The Git configuration gets stored in the ~/.gitconfig file. For repository specific Git configuration, you can create a .gitconfig file in the base of your repository.

Running git config --global "John Doe" result in the following ~/.gitconfig file:

        name = John Doe

So you can also edit the ~/.gitconfig file directly and add it to your personal dotfiles.

Visualizing branch topology

Some people favor the tree like-view that comes with most graphical tools when displaying the Git log. It's also possible to do this in the terminal using the following command:

git log --graph --abbrev-commit --decorate --format=format:'%C(bold blue)%h%C(reset) - %C(bold green)(%ar)%C(reset) %C(white)%s%C(reset) %C(dim white)- %an%C(reset)%C(auto)%d%C(reset)'


For the SaltStack project this looks like this:

The only downside is that the command is hard to remember. Instead of copying and pasting the command, you can also create a Git alias using the following command:

git config --global alias.graph "log --graph --abbrev-commit --decorate --format=format:'%C(bold blue)%h%C(reset) - %C(bold green)(%ar)%C(reset) %C(white)%s%C(reset) %C(dim white)- %an%C(reset)%C(auto)%d%C(reset)'"

Or place it directly in you /.gitconfig:

	graph = log --graph --abbrev-commit --decorate --format=format:'%C(bold blue)%h%C(reset) - %C(bold green)(%ar)%C(reset) %C(white)%s%C(reset) %C(dim white)- %an%C(reset)%C(auto)%d%C(reset)'

You can now simply run git graph to get the Git log in a tree-like style!