An article written by my awesome sibling Hugo, to help a friend of them learning the basics of Git. Huge thanks to them for this useful post!
Git is a version control system. Practically speaking, it’s a rather tiny program that maintains an history of the changes from your project such as additions, deletions, editions…
Git is a beast. It’s one of those things that look scary as fuck from the ground up, so much that very few people master completely. But it doesn’t have to be dramatically hard to grasp.
Lately, I taught the core concept of Git to a friend and thought it might be interesting to publish online for other people to read. Here is the draft that came up of our discussion.
Creating a repository
init command initialises a “git repository” in the current folder. It
creates a (hidden)
.git folder with a lot of sub-folders you don’t have to
Git does not necessarily need an online repository (GitHub, Bitbucket…). You can have a local git project that is not backed up anywhere. But if you ever want to back it up, you’ll need a “remote” repository. A remote is basically a copy of your project on a server (e.g. GitHub).
remote command has sub-commands to manipulate remotes. This is not
something you’ll use frequently thought. But the very first time you want to
backup your work on GitHub, you’ll need to use it. More specifically, you’ll
need to use the
add sub-command to bind a remote repository to the current
The word “origin” here serves as a name for the remote and is the default name whenever you “clone” a project from GitHub. We’ll stick to the convention and name it “origin”.
Doing a commit
Let’s make a change in our project. We’ll do it from the command line for the sake of simplicity but it can also be made manually.
Let’s create a file called “README.md” containing the string “Hello world”.
It’s time to do our first commit. A commit is a bundle of (one or more) changes (additions, deletions and editions) bound to a certain point in time. A series of commits is a git history. This is core principe.
Writing into the history is a 2 steps process: first, we add files to some
sort of “staging area” then we tell git to register all the changes to these
staged files into a commit. The step is made with the command
Here, we add the
README.md file to the “staging area” in preparation of a
It is possible to have a look at the current state of things with the command
status. This will display which files have been changed, and which of them
have been added to the staging area.
Now that we have our file in the staging area, we can properly commit it with
commit command. We associate a message with the
-m option, describing
the changes we did or why we did them.
Now if we have a look at the current status of things again, it will be empty because there is no pending modifications.
Would we want to inspect the recent history of the project, we would use the
log command which lists latest commits.
• Add README.md file (e63214c)
└─ Your Name <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Pushing things online
Now that we have made our first contribution to the project history, we want to back it up to our remote GitHub repository. Not only will other people be able to see that change (in case of a public repo) but we’ll also be able to take over on any other machine.
To push our changes to the remote repository (configured earlier with the
remote command) we use the
push command, followed by the name of the
origin) and then the name of the branch we push to (
A git repository can be drawn across several “branches”. Branches are deviations of the git history at a certain point in time. They can later be merged together.
You can display all the existing branches of your project with the
By passing a name to the
branch command, we can create a new branch. We then
can move onto it with the
checkout command. A shortcut for these 2 commands is
checkout -b <branch_name>.
Let’s have a look at our branches now that we have several of them:
Let’s add some new content in the README.md file, and commit our changes.
We can look at the logs to make sure everything went well. As you can see, the
my-new-branch also contains the commit from
master. This is because it has
been created from this commit in the master branch, therefore it contains the
whole history happening before it.
Provided we are happy with our changes, we might decide to incorporate that
master (our main branch). To do so, we can “merge” the new branch
into the main one. First, we jump on the
master branch, then we use the
merge command to integrate the commits from
my-new-branch that are not
That’s pretty much it. Of course, it gets more complex when going back in time to update the history, rebasing commits, or resolving conflicts, but you don’t have to know about any of that just now.
This is all you need to start playing with git. I hope you do!