Welcome to the Git version control system! Here we will briefly introduce you to Git usage based on your current Subversion knowledge. You will need the latest Git installed; There is also a potentially useful tutorial in the Git documentation.
| git clone url
| svn checkout url|
How to Read Me
This page shows Git commands in a bold, fixed-width font:
git help. Non-git commands are just fixed width:
svn help. Within a command, text you need to add
yourself is in italics:
git help command. In
tables, Git commands are shown on the left with a blue background, SVN
commands on the right with grey. If you are in a hurry, just skimming
over the tables should give you a good idea about the basics.
Before running any command the first time, it's recommended that you
at least quickly skim through its manual page. Many of the commands
have very useful and interesting features (that we won't list here)
and sometimes there are some extra notes you might want to know.
There's a quick usage help available for the Git commands if you pass
Things You Should Know
There are a couple of important concepts it is good to know when starting with Git. If you are in a hurry though, you can skip this section and only get back to it when you get seriously confused; it should be possible to pick up with just using your intuition.
- Repositories. With Subversion, for each project there is a
single repository at some detached central place where all the history
is and which you checkout and commit into. Git works differently,
each copy of the project tree (we call that the working copy)
carries its own repository around (in the
.gitsubdirectory in the project tree root). So you can have local and remote branches. You can also have a so-called bare repository which is not attached to a working copy; that is useful especially when you want to publish your repository. We will get to that.
- URL. In Subversion the URL identifies the location of
the repository and the path inside the repository, so you organize the
layout of the repository and its meaning. Normally you would have
tags/directories. In Git the URL is just the location of the repository, and it always contains branches and tags. One of the branches is the default (normally named
- Revisions. Subversion identifies revisions with ids of
decimal numbers growing monotonically which are typically small
(although they can get quickly to hundreds of thousands for large
projects). That is impractical in distributed systems like Git. Git
identifies revisions with SHA1 ids, which are long 160-bit numbers
written in hexadecimal. It may look scary at first, but in practice
it is not a big hurdle - you can refer to the latest revision by
HEAD, its parent as
HEAD^and its parent as
HEAD^^ = HEAD~2(you can go on adding carrets), cut'n'paste helps a lot and you can write only the few leading digits of a revision - as long as it is unique, Git will guess the rest. (You can do even more advanced stuff with revision specifiers, see the git-rev-parse manpage for details.)
- Commits. Each commit has an author and a committer
field, which record who and when created the change and who
committed it (Git is designed to work well with patches coming by
mail - in that case, the author and the committer will be
different). Git will try to guess your realname and email, but
especially with email it is likely to get it wrong. You can check it
git config -land set them with:
git config --global user.name "Your Name Comes Here" git config --global user.email email@example.com
- Commands. The Git commands are in the form
git command. You can interchangeably use the
git-commandform as well.
- Colors. Git can produce colorful output with some commands;
since some people hate colors way more than the rest likes them, by
default the colors are turned off. If you would like to have colors in
git config --global color.diff auto git config --global color.status auto git config --global color.branch auto
- Visualize. You may find it convenient to watch your
repository using the
gitkrepository as you go.
For the first introduction, let's make your project tracked by Git and
see how we get around to do daily development in it. Let's
cd to the directory with your project and initialize a
brand new Git repository with it:
| git init
git add .
| svnadmin create repo|
svn import file://repo
git init will initialize the repository,
git add . will add all the files under the current
git commit will create the initial
import, given that repositories are coupled with working copies.
Now your tree is officially tracked by Git. You can explore the
.git subdirectory a bit if you want, or don't if
you don't care. Do some random changes to your tree now - poke into
few files or such. Let's check what we've done:
|git diff||svn diff | less|
That's it. This is one of the more powerful commands. To get a diff with an specific revision and path do:
|git diff rev path||svn diff -rrev path|
Git embeds special information in the diffs about adds, removals and mode changes:
|git apply||patch -p0|
That will apply the patch while telling Git about and performing those "meta-changes".
There is a more concise representation of changes available:
|git status||svn status|
This will show the concise changes summary as well as list any files that you haven't either ignored or told Git about. In addition, it will also show at the top which branch you are in.
While we are at the status command, over time plenty of "untracked
files" will get in there, denoting files not tracked by Git. Run
git clean if you want to get rid of them, add them
.gitignore file (like
svn:ignore) if you want to keep them around untracked, or
keep reading if you want to add them.
To restore a file from the last revision:
|git checkout path||svn revert path|
You can restore everything or just specified files.
So, just like in SVN, you need to tell Git when you add, move or remove any files:
| git add file
git rm file
git mv file
| svn add file|
svn rm file
svn mv file
You can also recursively add/remove whole directories and so on; Git's cool!
So, it's about time we commit our changes. Big surprise about the command:
|git commit -a||svn commit|
to commit all the changes or, as with Subversion, you can limit the
commit only to specified files and so on. A few words on the commit
message: it is customary to have a short commit summary as the
first line of the message, because various tools listing commits
frequently show only the first line of the message. You can specify
the commit message using the
-m parameter as you
are used, but you can pass several
-m arguments and
they will create separate paragraphs in the commit message:
If you don't pass any
-m parameter or pass the
-e parameter, your favorite
will get run and you can compose your commit message there, just as
with Subversion. In addition, the list of files to be committed is
And as a bonus, if you pass it the
-v parameter it
will show the whole patch being committed in the editor so that you
can do a quick last-time review.
By the way, if you screwed up committing, there's not much you can do
with Subversion, except using some enigmatic
subcommands. Git does it better - you can amend your latest commit
(re-edit the metadata as well as update the tree) using
git commit --amend, or toss your latest commit away
git reset HEAD^, this will not
change the working tree.
Now that we have committed some stuff, you might want to review your history:
| git log
git blame file
| svn log | less|
svn blame file
The log command works quite similar in SVN and Git; again,
git log is quite powerful, please look through its
options to see some of the stuff it can do.
blame command is more powerful as it can detect
the movement of lines, even with file copies and renames. But you
probably want to do something different! Usually, when you used
svn blame, you were looking for the origin of some piece
of code - Git's so-called pickaxe is a much more comfortable tool
for that job (
git log -Sstring shows the
commits which add or remove text matching string).
You can see the contents of a file, the listing of a directory or a commit with:
git show rev:path/to/file
svn cat url
Tagging and branching
Subversion marks certain checkpoints in history through copies, the copy is usually placed in a directory named tags. Git tags are much more powerful. The Git tag can have an arbitrary description attached (the first line is special as in the commit case), some people actually store the whole release announcements in the tag descriptions. The identity of the person who tagged is stored (again following the same rules as identity of the committer). You can tag other objects than commits (but that is conceptually rather low-level operation). And the tag can be cryptographically signed to verify the identity (by Git's nature of working, that signature also confirms the validity of the associated revision, its history and tree). So, let's do it:
|git tag -a name|| svn copy http://example.com/svn/trunk \|
To list tags and to show the tag message:
| git tag -l
git show tag
| svn list http://example.com/svn/tags/|
svn log --limit 1 \
Like Subversion, Git can do branches (surprise surprise!). In Subversion, you basically copy your project to a subdirectory. In Git, you tell it, well, to create a branch.
| git branch branch
git checkout branch
| svn copy http://example.com/svn/trunk \|
svn switch \
The first command creates a branch, the second command switches your
tree to a certain branch. You can pass an extra argument to
branch to base your new branch on a different revision than the
You can list your branches conveniently using the aforementioned
git-branch command without arguments the listing of
branches. The current one is denoted by an "*".
|git branch||svn list http://example.com/svn/branches/|
To move your tree to some older revision, use:
| git checkout rev
git checkout prevbranch
| svn update -r rev|
or you could create a temporary branch. In Git you can make commits on top of the older revision and use it as another branch.
Git supports merging between branches much better than Subversion - the history of both branches is preserved over the merges and repeated merges of the same branches are supported out-of-the-box. Make sure you are on one of the to-be-merged branches and merge the other one now:
|git merge branch||
(assuming the branch was created in revision 20 and you are inside a working copy of trunk)
If changes were made on only one of the branches since the last merge,
they are simply replayed on your other branch (so-called
fast-forward merge). If changes were made on both branches, they
are merged intelligently (so-called three-way merge): if any
git merge will report them and let
you resolve them, updating the rest of the tree already to the result
state; you can
git commit when you resolve the conflicts.
If no changes conflicted, a commit is made automatically with a
convenient log message (or you can do
git merge --no-commit branch to review the
merge result and then do the commit yourself).
Aside from merging, sometimes you want to just pick one commit from a different branch. To apply the changes in revision rev and commit them to the current branch use:
|git cherry-pick rev||svn merge -c rev url|
So far, we have neglected that Git is a distributed version control system. It is time for us to set the record straight - let's grab some stuff from remote sites.
If you are working on someone else's project, you usually want to clone its repository instead of starting your own. We've already mentioned that at the top of this document:
|git clone url||svn checkout url|
Now you have the default branch (normally
but in addition you got all the remote branches and tags. In
clone's default setup, the default
local branch tracks the
origin remote, which
represents the default branch in the remote repository.
Remote branch, you ask? Well, so far we have worked only with local branches. Remote branches are a mirror image of branches in remote repositories and you don't ever switch to them directly or write to them. Let me repeat - you never mess with remote branches. If you want to switch to a remote branch, you need to create a corresponding local branch which will "track" the remote branch:
|git checkout --track -b branch origin/branch||svn switch url|
You can add more remote branches to a cloned repository, as well as
just an initialized one, using
git remote add remote_url. The command
git remote lists all the remotes repositories and
git remote show remote shows the branches in a
Now, how do you get any new changes from a remote repository? You
git fetch. At this point they are in
your repository and you can examine them using
git log HEAD..origin to see just
the changes you don't have in your branch), diff them, and obviously,
merge them - just do
git merge origin. Note that if
you don't specify a branch to fetch, it will conveniently default to
the tracking remote.
Since you frequently just fetch + merge the tracking remote branch, there is a command to automate that:
|git pull||svn update|
Sharing the Work
Your local repository can be used by others to pull changes, but
normally you would have a private repository and a public repository.
The public repository is where everybody pulls and you... do the
opposite? Push your changes? Yes! We do
git push remote which will push all the local
branches with a corresponding remote branch - note that this works
generally only over SSH (or HTTP but with special webserver setup).
It is highly recommended to setup an SSH key and an SSH agent
mechanism so that you don't have to type in a password all the time.
One important thing is that you should push only to remote branches that are not currently checked out on the other side (for the same reasons you never switch to a remote branch locally)! Otherwise the working copy at the remote branch will get out of date and confusion will ensue. The best way to avoid that is to push only to remote repositories with no working copy at all - so called bare repositories which are commonly used for public access or developers' meeting point - just for exchange of history where a checked out copy would be a waste of space anyway. You can create such a repository. See Setting up a public repository for details.
Git can work with the same workflow as Subversion, with a group of
developers using a single repository for exchange of their work. The
only change is that their changes aren't submitted automatically but
they have to push (however, you can setup a post-commit hook that will
push for you every time you commit; that loses the flexibility to fix
up a screwed commit, though). The developers must have either an
entry in htaccess (for HTTP DAV) or a UNIX account (for SSH). You can
restrict their shell account only to Git pushing/fetching by using the
git-shell login shell.
You can also exchange patches by mail. Git has very good support for
patches incoming by mail. You can apply them by feeding mailboxes
with patch mails to
git am. If you want to
send patches use
git format-patch and possibly
git send-email. To maintain a set of patches it is
best to use the StGIT tool (see the
StGIT Crash Course).
If you have any questions or problems which are not obvious from the documentation, please contact us at the Git mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you enjoy using Git!