Branching means that you take a detour from the main stream of development and do work without changing the main stream. It allows one or many people to work in parallel without overwriting each other’s work. It allows a someone working solo to work incrementally on an experimental idea, without jeopardizing the state of the main product.
Branching in Git is very lightweight, which means creating a branch and switching between branches is nearly instantaneous. This means Git encourages workflows which create small branches for exploration or new features, often merging them back together quickly.
22.1 Create a new branch
You can create a new branch with
git branch, then checkout the branch with
To distinguish it from the main stream of development, presumably on
main, we’ll call this a “feature branch”.
git branch issue-5 git checkout issue-5
You can also use the shortcut
git checkout -b issue-5 to create and checkout the branch all at once.
Once you have switched to a branch, you can commit to it as usual.
22.2 Switching branches
git checkout to switch between branches.
But what do you do if you are working on a branch and need to switch, but the work on the current branch is not complete? One option is the Git stash, but generally a better option is to safeguard the current state with a temporary commit. Here I use “WIP” as the commit message to indicate work in progress.
git commit --all -m "WIP" git checkout main
Then when you come back to the branch and continue your work, you
need to undo the temporary commit by resetting your state.
Specifically, we want a mixed reset.
This is “working directory safe”, i.e. it does not affect the state of any files.
But it does peel off the temporary WIP commit.
Below, the reference
HEAD^ says to roll the commit state back to the parent of the current commit (
git checkout issue-5 git reset HEAD^
If this is difficult to remember, or to roll the commit state back to a different previous state, the reference can also be given as the SHA of a specific commit, which you can see via
This is where I think a graphical Git client can be invaluable, as you can generally right click on the target commit, then select the desired type of reset (e.g., soft, mixed, or hard).
This is exactly the type of intermediate-to-advanced Git usage that often feels more approachable in a graphical client.
22.3 Merging a branch
Once you have done your work and committed it to the feature branch, you can switch back to
main and merge the feature branch.
git checkout main git merge issue-5
22.4 Dealing with conflicts
Most of the time, the merge will go smoothly. However if both the branches you are merging changed the same part of the same file you will get a merge conflict.
git merge issue-5 # Auto-merging index.html # CONFLICT (content): Merge conflict in index.html # Automatic merge failed; fix conflicts and then commit the result.
The first thing to do is NOT PANIC. Merge conflicts are not the end of the world and most are relatively small and straightforward to resolve.
The first step to solving a merge conflict is determining which files are in
conflict, which you can do with
git status # On branch main # You have unmerged paths. # (fix conflicts and run "git commit") # # Unmerged paths: # (use "git add <file>..." to mark resolution) # # both modified: index.html # # no changes added to commit (use "git add" and/or "git commit -a")
So this shows only
index.html is unmerged and needs to be resolved.
We can then open the file to see what lines are in conflict.
<<<<<<< HEAD:index.html <div id="footer">contact : firstname.lastname@example.org</div> =======<div id="footer"> please contact us at email@example.com</div> >>>>>>> issue-5:index.html
In this conflict, the lines between
<<<<<< HEAD:index.html and
the content from the branch you are currently on.
The lines between
>>>>>>> issue-5:index.html are from the feature branch we are merging.
To resolve the conflict, edit this section until it reflects the state you want in the merged result.
Pick one version or the other or create a hybrid.
Also remove the conflict markers
<div id="footer"> please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org</div>
git add index.html and
git commit to finalize the merge.
22.4.1 Bailing out
If, during the merge, you get confused about the state of things or make a
git merge --abort to abort the merge and go back to the state
prior to running
Then you can try to complete the merge again.
Git Basic Branching and Merging: