GIT Concepts & Commands Explained

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What Is Git?

It is a open source, high-quality distributed version control system suitable for tracking modifications in source code in software development. It was originally created as an open-source system for coordinating tasks among programmers, but today it is widely used to track changes in any set of files. The key objectives of Git are as follows:

  • Speed and efficiency
  • Data integrity
  • Support for distributed and non-linear workflows

What Is GitHub?

It is a web-based Git repository. This hosting service has cloud-based storage. GitHub offers all distributed version control and source code management functionality of Git while adding its own features. It makes it easier to collaborate using Git.

GitHub is a collaboration and version control platform for storing and managing code. Using this tool, you can collaborate with others on projects from anywhere.

I have been using Git & Github for couple of years by now for my personal projects as well as corporate ones.

This cheat sheet features the most important and commonly used Git commands for easy references.


Configuring user information used across all local repositories.

git config --global "[firstname lastname]"

set a name that is identifiable for credit when review version history

git config --global "[valid-email]"

set an email address that will be associated with each history marker

git config --global color.ui auto

set automatic command line coloring for Git for easy reviewing


Configuring user information, initializing and cloning repositories

git init

initialize an existing directory as a Git repository

git clone [url]

retrieve an entire repository from a hosted location via URL


Working with snapshots and the Git staging area.

git status

show modified files in working directory, staged for your next commit

git add [file]

add a file as it looks now to your next commit (stage) [copy the entire relative path as displayed after running git status]

git reset [file]

unstage a file while retaining the changes in working directory

git diff

diff of what is changed but not staged

git diff --cached

diff of what is staged but not yet commited

git diff --name-only --cached

If you want to see only the file names, then run the same command with the name-only option

git commit -m "[descriptive message]"

commit your staged content as a new commit snapshot


Isolating work in branches, changing context, and integrating changes

git branch

list your all branches. A * will appear next to the currently active branch

git branch [branch-name]

create a new branch at the current commit

git checkout -b [branch-name]

switch to another branch and check it out into your working directory

git switch [branch-name]

switch to another branch without any checkouts

git merge [branch]

merge the specified branch’s history into the current one


Examining logs, diffs and object information

git log

show the commit history for the currently active branch

git log --graph --format=format:'%C(bold blue)%h%C(reset) - %C(bold green)(%ar)%C(reset) %C(white)%an%C(reset)%C(bold yellow)%d%C(reset) %C(dim white)- %s%C(reset)' --all

Using --graph and --format we can quickly get a summary view of git commits in our project having more visibility

git log [branchB]..[branchA]

show the commits on branchA that are not on branchB

git log --follow [file]

show the commits that changed file, even across renames

git diff [branchB]…[branchA]

show the diff of what is in branchA that is not in branchB

git show [SHA]

show any object in Git in human-readable format


Versioning file removes and path changes

git rm [file]

delete the file from project and stage the removal for commit

git mv [existing-path] [new-path]

change an existing file path and stage the move

git log --stat -M

show all commit logs with indication of any paths that moved

git clean

Removes untracked files from the working directory.


Retrieving updates from another repository and updating local repos

git remote add [alias] [url]

add a git URL as an alias

git fetch [alias]

fetch down all the branches from that Git remote

git merge [alias]/[branch]

merge a remote branch into your current branch to bring it up to date

git push [alias] [branch]

Transmit local branch commits to the remote repository branch

git pull

fetch and merge any commits from the tracking remote branch


Rewriting branches, updating commits and clearing history

git rebase [branch]

apply any commits of current branch ahead of specified one

git reset --hard [commit]

clear staging area, rewrite working tree from specified commit


Temporarily store modified, tracked files in order to change branches

git stash

Save modified and staged changes

git stash list

list stack-order of stashed file changes

git stash pop

write working from top of stash stack

git stash drop

discard the changes from top of stash stack

IGNORING PATTERNS using .gitignore

Preventing unintentional staging or committing of files

logs/ *.notes pattern*/

Save a file with desired patterns as .gitignore with either direct string matches or wildcard globs

git config --global core.excludesfile [file]

system wide ignore pattern for all local repositories

Few important concepts explained…

git merge vs git rebase

When there are changes on the main or master branch that you want to incorporate into your local branch, you can either merge the changes in or rebase your branch from a different point.

merge takes the changes from one branch and merges them into another branch in one merge commit.

git merge origin/main your-local-branch

rebase adjusts the point at which a local branch actually branched off from base branch (i.e. moves the branch to a new starting point from the base branch).

git rebase origin/main your-local-branch

Remember, you’ll use rebase when there are changes in an upstream branch (like main or master) that you want to include in your local branch. You’ll use merge when there are changes in a local branch that you want to put back into main or master.

hint: its remote counterpart. Integrate the remote changes (e.g.
hint: 'git pull ...') before pushing again.
hint: See the 'Note about fast-forwards' in 'git push --help' for details.


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