Git for the lazy

From Spherical
Jump to: navigation, search

Git is a distributed version control system. No, you don't need to know what that means to use this guide. Think of it as a time machine: Subversion or CVS without the cruft.

If you make a lot of changes, but decided you made a mistake, this will save your butt.

This guide is for people who want to jump to any point in time with their project/game/whatever, and want something to use for themselves.

Install git


For Windows, you have two options:


Download and install msysGit to use Git in Windows's cmd.exe console.


  1. Download Cygwin.
  2. Put setup.exe in a folder of its own in your documents.
  3. Launch setup.exe.
  4. While installing Cygwin, pick these packages:
    • git from the DEVEL category
    • nano (if you're wimpy) or vim (if you know it), both in the EDITORS category

You'll now have a shortcut to launch Cygwin, which brings up something like the Linux terminal.

Linux, Mac OS X

Install the git package using your preferred method (package manager or from source).

Introduce yourself to git

Fire up your Cygwin/Linux terminal, and type:

git config --global "Joey Joejoe"
git config --global ""

You only need to do this once.

Start your project

Start your project using the Sphere editor, or from a ZIP file, or just by making the directory and adding files yourself.

Now cd to your project directory:

cd myproject/

Tell git to start giving a damn about your project:

git init

... and your files in it:

git add .

Wrap it up:

git commit

Now type in a "commit message": a reminder to yourself of what you've just done, like:

Initial commit.

Save it and quit (type Ctrl+o Ctrl+x if you're in nano, :x if you're in vim) and you're done!

Work in bits

When dealing with git, it's best to work in small bits. Rule of thumb: if you can't summarise it in a sentence, you've gone too long without committing.

This section is your typical work cycle:

  1. Work on your project.
  2. Check which files you've changed:
    git status
  3. Check what the actual changes were:
    git diff
  4. Add any files/folders mentioned in step 2 (or new ones):
    git add file1 newfile2 newfolder3
  5. Commit your work:
    git commit
  6. Enter and save your commit message. If you want to back out, just quit the editor.

Repeat as much as you like. Just remember to always end with a commit.

Admire your work

To see what you've done so far, type:

git log

To just see the last few commits you've made:

git log -n3

Replace 3 with whatever you feel like.

For a complete overview, type:

git log --stat --summary

Browse at your leisure.

View changes

To view changes you haven't committed yet:

git diff

If you want changes between versions of your project, first you'll need to know the commit ID for the changes:

git log --pretty=oneline
6c93a1960072710c6677682a7816ba9e48b7528f Remove persist.clearScriptCache() function.
c6e7f6e685edbb414c676df259aab989b617b018 Make git ignore logs directory.
8fefbce334d30466e3bb8f24d11202a8f535301c Initial commit.

The 40 characters at the front of each line is the commit ID. You'll also see them when you git commit. You can use it to show differences between commits.

To view the changes between the 1st and 2nd commits, type:

git diff 8fef..c6e7

Note how you didn't have to type the whole thing, just the first few unique characters are enough.

To view the last changes you made:

git diff HEAD^..HEAD

How to fix mistakes

Haven't committed yet, but don't want to save the changes? You can throw them away:

git reset --hard

You can also do it for individual files, but it's a bit different:

git checkout myfile.txt

Messed up the commit message? This will let you re-enter it:

git commit --amend

Forgot something in your last commit? That's easy to fix.

git reset --soft HEAD^

Add that stuff you forgot:

git add forgot.txt these.txt

Then write over the last commit:

git commit

Don't make a habit of overwriting/changing history if it's a public repo you're working with, though.

For the not so lazy

Just some extra reading here. Skip it if you're lazy.

Writing good commit messages

The author of Pro Git (an excellent online book) gives this advice for commit messages:

Getting in the habit of creating quality commit messages makes using and collaborating with Git a lot easier. As a general rule, your messages should start with a single line that's no more than about 50 characters and that describes the changeset concisely, followed by a blank line, followed by a more detailed explanation. The Git project requires that the more detailed explanation include your motivation for the change and contrast its implementation with previous behavior — this is a good guideline to follow. It's also a good idea to use the imperative present tense in these messages. In other words, use commands. Instead of "I added tests for" or "Adding tests for," use "Add tests for." Here is a template originally written by Tim Pope at

Short (50 chars or less) summary of changes

More detailed explanatory text, if necessary.  Wrap it to about 72
characters or so.  In some contexts, the first line is treated as the
subject of an email and the rest of the text as the body.  The blank
line separating the summary from the body is critical (unless you omit
the body entirely); tools like rebase can get confused if you run the
two together.

Further paragraphs come after blank lines.

 - Bullet points are okay, too

 - Typically a hyphen or asterisk is used for the bullet, preceded by a
   single space, with blank lines in between, but conventions vary here

If all your commit messages look like this, things will be a lot easier for you and the developers you work with. The Git project has well-formatted commit messages — I encourage you to run git log --no-merges there to see what a nicely formatted project-commit history looks like.

Ignoring files

When you check your project status, sometimes you'll get something like this:

git status
# On branch master
# Untracked files:
#   (use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed)
#       bleh.txt
#       module.c~
nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)

If you don't want git to track these files, you can add entries to .gitignore:

nano .gitignore

And add the files you want ignored:


The first line ignores bleh.txt the second line ignores all files and directories ending with a tilde (~), i.e. backup files.

You can check if you got it right:

git status
# On branch master
# Changed but not updated:
#   (use "git add <file>..." to update what will be committed)
#       modified:   .gitignore
no changes added to commit (use "git add" and/or "git commit -a")

Don't forget to commit your changes to .gitignore!

git add .gitignore
git commit

With something like this for your commit message:

Make git ignore bleh.txt and backup files.

Use .gitignore to keep your messages clean, and stop git from bugging you about stuff you don't care about. It's a good idea to ignore things like executable binaries, object files, etc. Pretty much anything that can be regenerated from source.

Branching and merging

A branch is a separate line of development. If you're going to make a bunch of changes related to a single feature, it might be a good idea to make a "topic branch": a branch related to a topic/feature.

To make a new branch:

git branch feature_x

To view the current branches:

git branch
* master

The asterisk (*) shows your current branch. master is the default branch, like the trunk in CVS or Subversion.

To switch to your new branch, just type:

git checkout feature_x

If you check the branches again, you'll see the switch:

git branch
* feature_x

Now go through the usual edit/commit cycle. Your changes will go onto the new branch.

When you want to put your branch changes back onto master, first switch to master:

git checkout master

Then merge the branch changes:

git merge feature_x

This will combine the changes of the master and feature_x branches. If you didn't change the master branch, git will just "fast-forward" the feature_x changes so master is up to date. Otherwise, the changes from master and feature_x will be combined.

You can see the commit in your project's log:

git log -n1

If you're happy with the result, and don't need the branch any more, you can delete it:

git branch -d feature_x

Now when you see the branches, you'll only see the master branch:

git branch
* master

You can make as many branches as you need at once.


If you hit a new version of your project, it may be a good idea to mark it with a tag. Tags can be used to easily refer to older commits.

To tag the current version of your project as "v1.4.2", for example:

git tag v1.4.2

You can use these tags in places where those 40-character IDs appear.

What now?

git can help with working with other people too. Of course, then you do have to learn about distributed version control. Until then, just enjoy this page.

But if you want to learn:

Main git selling points (ripped off the main site):

  • Distributed development, i.e. working with other people.
  • Strong support for non-linear development, i.e. working with other people at the same time!
  • Efficient handling of large projects, i.e. fast!
  • Cryptographic authentication of history, for the paranoid.
  • Scriptable toolkit design; you can script pretty much any git task.

If something doesn't seem right or is confusing, contact me at my blog. --tunginobi 07:42, 5 August 2009 (IST)