Git In Five Minutes

Many people consider Git to be too confusing or complex to be a choice for version control. Yet Git considers to grow in adoption, and many interesting things have grown up around it. This document is geared for someone wanted to get started with Git, often coming from a Subversion background. For most basic needs this document will cover 70 to 90 percent of your use.

Getting Started

To use Git you will have to setup a repository. You can take an existing directory to make a Git repository, or create an empty directory.

To make your current directory a Git repository we simply run init.

git init

To make a new directory that is a Git repository we just specify a directory.

git init newrepo

From here on out we'll assume that you are in the root of the Git repository unless otherwise noted.

Adding New Files

So we have a repository, but nothing in it. You can add files with the add command.

git add filename

To add everything in your directory try git add ..

Committing a Version

Now that we've added these files, we want them to actually be stored in the Git repository. We do this by committing them to the repository.

git commit -m "Adding files"

If you leave off the -m you will be put into an editor to write the message yourself.

Editing Files

When you've made changes to some files, you can run git status to see what will happen on commit. You'll notice a list of modified files, and a message:

no changes added to commit (use "git add" and/or "git commit -a")

So running git commit will do nothing unless you explicitly add files to the commit with git add. If you're looking for the commit command to automatically commit local modifications we use the -a flag.

git commit -a -m "Changed some files"

Or if you'd like to have only certain files, but still not run git add we pass specific files.

git commit -m "change some files" file1 file2

Do note that -a will not cause new files to be committed, only modified.

Publishing Your Repository

To put your repository on a server we'll start by making a "bare" repository, and upload it to a server.

cd /tmp
git clone --bare ~/your/repo/path project.git
scp -r project.git ssh://

Now if we have a couple of commits and want to push it up to that location:

git push ssh://

If you dislike typing the URI each time we can take advantage that a cloned project remembers where it came from.

cd ..
git clone ssh:// project

Now git push will push to the URI it was cloned from. You can do this manually by editing .git/config in your repository.

Get Upstream Changes

If you're already setup for push as above:

git pull

Will bring changes down and merge them in. To pull from a non-default location just specify the URI.

git pull

More Than Five Minutes


You'll have noticed that Git thinks in "commits." These are uniquely identified by a hash. You can see the history and the hashes with git log. Each commit involves modifications, new files, and files being removed. add will put a file in a commit. git reset HEAD will remove everything from the planned commit, but not change files.


If you want to remove a file from the repository, removing it from future commits we use rm.

git rm file

Branching and Merging

Branches are done locally and are fast. To create a new branch we use the branch command.

git branch test

the branch command does not move us into the branch, just create one. So we use the checkout command to change branches.

git checkout test

The first branch, or main branch, is called "master."

git checkout master

While in your branch you can commit changes that will not be reflected in the master branch. When you're done, or want to push changes to master, switch back to master and use merge.

git checkout master
git merge test

And if you're done with the branch you can delete with the branch command and pass the -d flag.

git branch -d test

Traveling Through Time

You can quickly very previous states of the repository using the checkout command again.

git checkout HASH

Uncommited changes will travel with you. Return to the preset with git checkout master as with normal branches. If you commit while in the past a branch is automatically created and your changes will have to be merged forward.

Sweeping Changes Under the Rug for Later

When moving between branches your local changes move with you. Sometimes you want to switch branches but not commit or take those changes with you. The Git command stash lets you put changes into a safe store.

git stash

You can retreive by passing an arguement of apply or pop.

git stash apply

The difference between apply and pop is simple. apply will take a stash state and apply it, but preserve that state in the stash. pop will take the stash state, apply it, and remove it from the stash. git stash clear empties the contents of the stash.

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