Fixing common mistakes with Git
5 min read
One of the prime advantages of a version control system is to be able to code fearlessly and be able to recover from mistakes.
However, this is not Git 101. More often than not, developers find themselves stuck when they make a bad commit or merge. Let's look at a few useful tricks to recover easily from some common problems.
Note: I will not use advanced examples and focus on steps which will be easy to understand for developers of all levels.
Let's warm up with an easy one:
Changing the last commit message
You made typos in last commit message or you want to improve commit message to make it more descriptive. One common(and wrong) practice is to use a temporary commit message like "Initial commit" and when you are done with the actual development piece, you do not want your commit history to look bad.
git commit --amend
By default --amend applies all your staged changes to the previous commits and opens an editor where you can edit the commit message. Change your message -> Save and close the file -> changes are captured by git and commit amendment is executed. You will see an output as below which shows the new state of your commit.
[main 1a7b82d] Adding jsons Date: Sat Jun 19 11:16:19 2021 +0530 3 files changed, 242 insertions(+) create mode 100644 package-lock.json create mode 100644 package.json create mode 100644 resume.json
Better way - Change message using the command line itself and not using the editor
git commit --amend -m "Adding jsons"
Adding files to last commit
You forgot to commit a file. Normally another commit can solve the issue. However, its better to commit those files together. If somebody looks at a commit, they should understand the purpose achieved by it and should not have to look for a subsequent commit for things to make sense. Let's fix this:
- Stage the missed file
git add .gitignore
- Ask git to make staged changes to the last commit.
Again, the --amend directive is used
Will again open the editor but now you will also see the new file added to your commit.
git commit --amend
Alternatively, If you do not want to change the message, you should use
--amend --no-edit. It will not open an editor as it does not expect the commit message to change. It will instantly apply changes and output the last commit.
git commit --amend --no-edit [main 65f3784] Adding jsons Date: Sat Jun 19 11:16:19 2021 +0530 5 files changed, 246 insertions(+) create mode 100644 .gitignore create mode 100644 package-lock.json create mode 100644 package.json create mode 100644 resume.json create mode 100644 test.txt
Shift-Deleted a file
You deleted a file from your device which was part of your repo. In this case, git can recover lost files from history. Suppose I delete the file test.txt. All I need to do is..
git checkout -- test.txt
This will bring back the last committed version of test.txt from your repo.
Important: Only last committed version of the file is returned - any local changes you made before deletion are lost and any un-versioned files are not recovered.
Now the syntax is a bit weird as -- is used without an option. But this is just a workaround so that git can distinguish between branch names and files names (for branches, you would use
git checkout branch-name).
Note: There are other scenarios where we can recover files using
reset commands but I will cover them separately. I don't consider those to be basic scenarios.
Committed in a wrong branch
It's very common in a fast paced development environment to forget switching to a new branch. If you commit your changes in a wrong branch, it is pretty easy to resolve this:
- Create the new branch from your current state.
This creates a new branch which will already have the commit in it.
git branch new-correct-branch
- Reset the wrong-branch to the previous correct commit.
This does two things:
git reset --hard HEAD~
- Moves the HEAD of your branch to the latest-1 commit.
- Cleans your current wrong-branch of all changes done after latest-1 commit.
Note: Be careful not to lose any local changes when using
--hard. If there are more changes after the wrong commit, make sure you stash them first.
- Switch to the new-correct-branch
The new branch already has the required commit. You can continue your development into it and push changes.
git checkout new-correct-branch
Removing a pushed commit
Suppose you delivered a small piece of code but it failed in QA testing or introduced a regression. Now you were asked to urgently remove your code from the release branch so as to not affect the release.
Let's see how you can work on it:
- Switch to the branch where the correction is required
- Find the commit to revert. Use
git logor a UI like Github Desktop or browser. Find the commit id. For e.g.
git logreturns us the below commits:
Let's say C is the target commit. Save the hash of C. Lets say 1df455v631fca.
A -> B -> C -> D -> E
- Revert the commit
This removes the changes done by C from the current branch.
git revert 1df455v631fca -m "Reverting commit"
Important - This does not remove your commit from history. It only adds another commit that reverts the changes. To visualize this, new history would look like:
A -> B -> C -> D -> E -> -C
Hope these steps are helpful in improving your daily git usage. I will get back with some deeper topics on Git. If you want to understand some more use cases of these commands, do check out this Atlassian tutorial
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