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  • Version Control


ID Status Learning Item Type Related Project Date Completed
1 Complete Learn Git Branching (34/34) Tutorial8/24/2020
2 Up next Git Explained Blog
3 Not Started Using Version Control in VS Code Official Docs
4 Not Started How to Scrub Sensitive Information from Git Blog

Quick Reference


Creating branches:

git branch newBranch
git checkout newBranch

Or, in a single command: git checkout -b newBranch

git merge newBranch will merge newBranch into our current checked out branch.


Rebasing takes a set of commits, “copies” them, and places them somewhere else. This can be used to make a linear sequence of commits. The commit log / history of the repository will be a lot cleaner if only rebasing is allowed.

While bugFix is checked out, if we use git rebase master:

stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 C1 --> [*]%%old bugFix C1 --> master master --> bugFix:rebase

git rebase c2 c3 can also be used to copy commits below a certain target if specified as a second argument:

stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C2 C1 --> C3 C2 --> C3':rebase

HEAD and Relative References

HEAD is the symbolic name for the currently checked out commit. By checking out the hash for a commit instead of the label, we can detach the HEAD from the label.

Referencing commits by their hash isn’t always practical, so we can take advantage of relative commits

^ - Move upwards one commit at a time
^2 - Move upwards one commit at a time, but specifying alternate parents from the immediate parent ~3 - Move upwards a specified number of times (3, in our example)

So saying git checkout master^ is equivalent to “checkout the first parent of master”:

stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 note left of C1 HEAD end note C1 --> master

These navigation commands can be chained together to quickly navigate across the tree:

git checkout HEAD~^2~2

stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C2 C2 --> C6 C0 --> C3 note left of C3: master (end) C3 --> C4 C4 --> C5 C5 --> C6 C6 --> C7 note left of C7: master (start)

The force command -f can be used for force branches to different locations.

git branch -f master HEAD~3:

stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 note left of C1 :master* C1 --> C2 C2 --> C3 C3 --> C4 note left of C4: bugFix

Reversing Changes

git reset will move a branch backwards as if the commit had never been made in the first place. This affects the local repository.

git revert, on the other hand, will reverse a commit but push them remotely. It does so with a new commit forward in-line that undoes all of the referenced commits changes.

Moving Work Around


git cherry-pick <Commit1> <Commit2> <...>

`cherry-pick’ is a very straightforward way of saying that you would like to copy a series of commits below your current location (HEAD).

git cherry-pick c2 c4:

stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C2 C2 --> C3 C3 --> C4 note left of C4 :side C1 --> C5 C5 --> C2' C2' --> C4' note left of C4' :master*

Cherry-pick will take a commit from anywhere in the tree as long as that commit isn’t an ancestor of HEAD.

Interactive Rebase

All interactive rebase means is using the rebase command with the -i option.

If you include this option, git will open up a UI to show you which commits are about to be copied below the target of the rebase. It also shows their commit hashes and messages, which is great for getting a bearing on what’s what. You can do things like reorder, omit, squash, and more!

Locally Stacked Commits

Using cherry-pick and rebase can be a great way to push the final results of a laborious bug tracking and fixing hunt, without including all of the debugging along the way.

Juggling Commits

Let’s say you have some changes (newImage) and another set of changes (caption) that are related, so they are stacked on top of each other in your repository (aka one after another).

The tricky thing is that sometimes you need to make a small modification to an earlier commit. In this case, design wants us to change the dimensions of newImage slightly, even though that commit is way back in our history.

We can overcome this difficulty by doing the following:

  • We will re-order the commits so the one we want to change is on top with git rebase -i
  • We will git commit --amend to make the slight modification
  • Then we will re-order the commits back to how they were previously with git rebase -i
  • Finally, we will move master to this updated part of the tree
stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C2 C2 --> C3 note left of C2 :newImage note right of C3 :`git rebase -i c1` switching c3 and c2 C1 --> C3' C3' --> C2' C3' --> C2'' note left of C2'' :`git commit --amend` C1 --> C2''' note left of C2''' :`git rebase -i c1` switching c2'' and c3' C2''' --> C3'' note right of C3'' :master, caption*

This worked out fine, but has the potential to introduce rebase conflicts. Using cherry-pick can be a more concise form of manipulating location.


Tags are a way of marking commits as something more permanent than a branch. They do not move as commits are added, and you cannot check out a tag and then complete work in the tag, and checking out a tag will create a detached HEAD. It serves as an anchor in the commit tree to designate a particular spot, such as a milestone or version release.

git tag v1 C1:

stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C2 note left of C1 :"v1" note left of C2 :master*

In our example, we added the tag to C1 explicitly, but the tag will be added to HEAD if a destination is omitted.


Because tags serve as such great “anchors” in the codebase, git describe can be used to describe where you are relative to the closest “anchor” (aka tag). Git describe can help you get your bearings after you’ve moved many commits backwards or forwards in history.

Git describe takes the form of:

git describe <ref>

Where <ref> is anything git can resolve into a commit. If you don’t specify a ref, git uses your current location (HEAD).

The output of the command looks like:


Where <tag> is the closest ancestor tag in history, <numCommits> is how many commits away that tag is, and <hash> is the hash of the commit being described.

stateDiagram-v2 [*] --> C0 C0 --> C1 note left of C0 :"v1" C1 --> C2 note right of C2 :master C1 --> C3 note left of C3 :"v2" C3 --> C4 note left of C4 :side*
  • git describe master => v1_2_gC2, 2 commits from v1, hash C2
  • git describe side => v2_1_gC4, 1 commits from v2, hash C4
  • git describe c1 => v1_1_gC1, 1 commits from v1, hash C1
  • git describe v2 => v2, v2 is v2 - describe is relative to anchors!


Remote branches have a required naming convention of <remote name>/<branch name>, for example, origin/master.

git clone is used to create a local copy of a remote repository.

git fetch will fetch data from a remote repository. It does this with two main steps:

  • Download the commits present in the remote but missing from local
  • Update where our remote branches point (i.e origin/master)

git fetch will NOT change anything about your local state.

git pull is essentially a macro for fetch-ing and merge-ing remote changes in a single command.

These two sets of commands accomplish the exact same result:

  • git fetch; git merge origin/master
  • git fetch with local master checked out
stateDiagram-v2 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C2 C1 --> C3 C2 --> C4 C3 --> C4 note right of C3 :origin/master note right of C4 :master* rC0 --> rC1 rC1 --> rC2 rC2 --> rC3 note right of rC3 :remote master

git push, on the other hand, will upload local changes to the remote repository.

This works great, until the Git history diverges. In this case, it is ambiguous how the files should be incorporated. This can be resolved a few different ways.

  • By fetching and rebasing: git fetch; git rebase origin/master; git push
  • Or, by using a pull with a rebase command: git pull --rebase; git push
stateDiagram-v2 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C3 C1 --> C2 C2 --> C3' note right of C3' :master*, origin/master rC0 --> rC1 rC1 --> rC2 rC2 --> rC3' note right of rC3' :remote master
  • By fetching and merging: git fetch; git merge origin/master; git push
  • Or, by using a normal pull: git pull; git push
stateDiagram-v2 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C3 C1 --> C2 C2 --> C4 C3 --> C4 note right of C4 :master*, origin/master rC0 --> rC1 rC1 --> rC2 rC1 --> rC3 rC2 --> rC4 rC3 --> rC4 note right of rC4 :remote master

Rebase vs. Merge

** Rebasing **


  • Makes your commit tree look very clean since everything is in a straight line


  • Modifies the apparent history of the commit tree

** Merging **


  • Preserves all tree history


  • Can be very busy

It all comes down to individual and team preference!

Tracking Remote Branches

When a repository is cloned, native connections are created between identical local and remote branches. However, you can also manually create links between local and remote branches!

git checkout -b foo origin/master will create a new local branch foo that tracks to the remote master.

Similarly, you can use git branch -u origin/master foo to have the local branch foo track the remote master. If foo is already checked out, you can omit it from the original command.

Advanced Push, Fetch, and Pull

Advanced Push

git push <remote> <place>

git push origin master

Go to the branch named “master” in my repository, grab all the commits, and then go to the branch “master” on the remote named “origin”. Place whatever commits are missing on that branch and then tell me when you’re done.

You can also optionally change the destination: git push origin <source(local)>:<destination(remote)>

This is called a “colon refspec,” which is a word for a location that git can resolve, like foo or HEAD~1.

git push origin foo^:master

stateDiagram-v2 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C2 C2 --> C3 note right of C1 :master, origin/master note right of C3 :foo rC0 --> rC1 note right of rC1 :remote master

This command takes 1 commit above foo (C2) and pushes it to remote and attaching it to the remote master, like this:

stateDiagram-v2 C0 --> C1 C1 --> C2:origin/master tracking remote C2 --> C3 note right of C1 :master (unchanged) note right of C2 :origin/master note right of C3 :foo (unchanged) rC0 --> rC1 rC1 --> rC2: pushing `foo^` (C2) note right of rC2 :remote master

You can also specify a new remote branch name as the destination value and the new remote branch will be created.

<source> is not tightly controlled, and can be used in some specific ways. git push origin :foo, for example, will delete the remote foo branch.

Advanced Fetch

fetch works very similar to push, just in reverse! Unlike push, however, the changes are fetched to your local copy of the remote branch by default and NOT your local branch. This is to help prevent losing work. That being said, you can use the <source(remote)>:<destination(local)> syntax to force a fetch to a local branch if desired.

You also can’t fetch commits onto a branch that is checked out.

Just like push, fetch will create branches if a specified destination does not already exist.

Also similar to push, an empty <source> can be used to create a new local branch. git fetch origin :bar will create the local bar branch. Seems more complicated than it needs to be, but hey.

Advanced Pull

As a reminder, git pull is really just shorthand for git fetch; git merge, even with all of the extra syntax.

git pull origin bar~1:bugFix is equivalent to git fetch origin bar~1:bugFix; git merge bugFix