Handy Git Commands

Git is a version control system that tracks changes in a set of files, which is used by developers to coordinate work done for various projects. Here are some useful git commands that can help with your workflow:

General Commands

  • git status to see what changes have been made locally
  • git add . to commit all locally edited files in the repo
  • git add <file> to add a file to the next commit
  • git rm <file> to delete a file in the next commit
  • git mv <file> to rename a file in the next commit
  • git add -p is useful if you’ve done too much work for one commit, ? is a useful command to print all
  • git cat-file -p <sha> prints the contents of blobs (sha refers to the SHA or hash that git assigns to each commit)
  • cat .git/HEAD to see what HEAD is pointing to


Stashing your work is useful if you’re moving between branches when you’re in the middle of work. It’s a safe, non-destructive way to save your work.

  • git stash to save uncommitted work
  • git stash list to view the current stashes that are available
  • git stash apply applies the last stash
  • git stash apply stash@{0} to apply a specific stash (in place of the 0 you can add the number associated with the stash from your git stash list that you’d like to apply)
  • git stash --include-untracked to keep untracked files in your stash
  • git stash save "WIP: working on recent bug fix" in place of the text in the quotes here, you can add a name for easy references when viewing the list of your stashes and figuring out which stash to apply on your current branch
  • git checkout <stash name> -- <filename> grabs a single file form a stash
  • git stash show stash@{2} to show the files changed

Keeping Your Stash Clean

  • git stash drop to remove the last stash
  • git stash clear to remove all stashes


  • git log to view an overview of the most recent git commits
  • git log --since="yesterday" to view commits from a specific time period. You can also pass arguments like git log --since="2 weeks ago"
  • git log --name-status --follow -- <file> to log files that have been moved or renamed
  • git log --diff-filter=R --find-renames to find files that have been renamed
  • git show <commit> to show commit and its contents
  • git show <commit> --stat show files changed in commit
  • git show <commit>:<file> look at a file from another commit

Fixing Mistakes

  • git checkout -- <file-path> overwrites the working area file with the staging area version from the last commit (this operation overwrites without warning so use with caution)
  • git clean will clear your working area by deleting untracked files (this operation cannot be undone). Use the --dry-run flag to see what will get removed
  • git reset moves the HEAD pointer, modifies files for commits (can change history)
  • git revert <commit> is the safe reset (creates a new commit that introduces the opposite changes from the specified commit, the original commit stays in the repo)
  • git reset --hard HEAD use this command if your staging area has gotten really messed up and you want to blow away all of your local work
  • git commit --amend if you need to amend your latest commit
  • RERERE (Reuse Recorded Resolution) is a tool that remembers a previously used solution for a merge conflict. Set git config rerere.enabled true within a project to have access to this tool. You can also set it globally with git config --global rerere.enabled true


Rebasing your feature branch with main will help keep your development work up-to-date with the latest changes that have been committed to the repo. This will help make merge conflicts more manageable whenever it’s time to merge in your feature work.

  • git rebase main makes history of current branch cleaner and makes managing merge conflicts easier
  • git rebase -i <commit to fix> addressing specific commits

Working with GitHub

  • git clone <project reference to clone a GitHub repo locally
  • git pull performs a git fetch && git merge to ensure the latest version of a branch has been updated on your machine
  • git push origin <name-of-branch> to push any changes to the remote repo
  • git pull --rebase will fetch, update your local branch to a copy of the upstream branch, then replay any commits you made via rebase (this doesn’t work well on branches with local merge commits, it works best when branching off master and working on a feature)

Local Destructive Operations

When performing a destructive operation, make sure you properly stash your work so you don’t accidentally delete any of your work in progress. Use git stash --include-untracked to include working area changes in your stash.

  • git checkout --<file> if file is presnt in staging, it will be overwritten
  • git reset --hard overwrite changes that are staged and in working area
  • rebase, amend, and reset can rewrite history (if your code is hosted or shared, never run git push -f which forces a push of your changes)

Configuring Your Editor

To customize which editor git opens when you run a commit with no -m flag, a merge, or rebase, run the following command:

git config --global core.editor <your_editor>

In the place of <your_editor>, add the command associated with your editor of choice:

  • atom: atom --wait
  • emacs: emacs
  • sublime: subl -n -w
  • vi: vi or vim
  • vscode: code --wait

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