Git Commands Tutorial

Anton Ioffe - November 1st 2023 - 9 minutes read

In the ever-changing world of modern web development, mastering Git is no longer just an option—it's a necessity. In this comprehensive guide, we will unravel the mysteries of Git, exploring everything from the fundamental basics to advanced techniques that streamline your workflow. Whether working alone or in a team, learning to navigate repositories, commits, branches, and merges effectively is elemental to your success. Expect practical, real-world code examples, step-by-step tutorials, and insider tips that will not only enhance your understanding but also help you avoid common pitfalls. Embark on a journey with us to discover how to leverage Git commands to maximize your productivity and ensure seamless collaboration in your projects. Ready to level up your Git skills? Dive in, and learn the secrets of Git that no senior developer can afford to ignore.

Git and GitHub: Understanding the Fundamentals

Git is a highly powerful and widely used distributed version control system developed by Linus Torvalds in 2005 for Linux kernel development. It effectively tracks changes in source code, allowing for effortless branching, merging, and versioning. Git uses a decentralized model where each developer has a copy of the repository, thereby allowing instant work on different parts of the project. It carefully manages changes in the project, enabling developers to clone, stage, commit, pull, and push updates efficiently. This intricate tracking of changes helps in maintaining a detailed log of project history and assists in troubleshooting and rolling back to previous versions, if needed.

On the other hand, GitHub is a version control repository hosting service that provides an interface for the management of Git repositories. Apart from hosting services, GitHub offers numerous additional features like access control, task management, bug tracking, and feature requests which enormously aid in project management and collaboration. It provides an environment where multiple developers can work on a project without stepping on each other's toes. This hugely popular platform has made distributed version control and collaboration on software projects incredibly efficient and manageable.

At its core, the workflow in Git revolves around a few fundamental elements: the working directory, the staging area, and the git directory. Git enables developers to manage their project with repositories, a database for tracking changes in your project files. A commit in Git is a snapshot of changes that you want to save in your project history. It's a way of safely saving changes to your project files in the repository. Branches, on the other hand, are used to create another line of development. Working in branches allows the experiment to continue without disturbing the main line of development, typically designated as the 'master' branch.

Another vital concept to consider is pull requests. In the context of GitHub workflow, a pull request is a mechanism for a developer to notify team members that changes to the code have been pushed to a GitHub repository. Through pull requests, you can discuss and review the changes with collaborators and add follow-up commits before the changes are merged into the repository. Therefore, a pull request is not only a way to submit changes but also a fantastic medium of communication among the development team about the code.

Essential Git Commands Explained

Git eases the task of managing different aspects of your projects through numerous commands. However, remembering all of them could be a daunting task. Therefore, understanding a few essential commands can go a long way in efficiently operating Git. To keep things simple and practical, we would discuss five crucial Git commands: git init, git add, git commit, git pull, and git push.

Starting with git init, this command is used to create a new Git repository in your project. Consider it as setting up the workspace for your project where all changes will be tracked. Here is how you use it:

$ mkdir myProject
$ cd myProject
$ git init

The first command creates a new directory, myProject, the second navigates into it, and the third initializes it as a Git repository. A common mistake is to forget to navigate into the directory before initializing.

The next command, git add, is used to stage changes of files, preparing them for a commit. Essentially, it tells Git that you would like to include updates to a particular file in the next commit. Here is how to stage changes:

$ git add filename

Remember, if you've made changes to multiple files and you want to stage all of them, use the . parameter: git add .. A common mistake is using git add *, which doesn't add new (untracked) files.

The git commit command packs up all changes staged via git add into a neat package that's easy to transport. It takes a snapshot of the changes and saves it to your project's history along with a message describing the commit:

$ git commit -m 'Initial commit'

A common mistake is to commit without a message. Good commit messages can save a lot of time when you're trying to understand what each commit does.

Once your local changes are committed, you may want to merge any changes that were made by others in the remote repository. This is where git pull comes in. This command fetches the latest changes from the remote repo and merges them into your current branch. Here's how to use it:

$ git pull origin master

This pulls changes from the 'master' branch of the 'origin' remote repository.

Next, the git push command sends the commits made on your local branch to a remote repository:

$ git push origin master

This will push your code to the 'master' branch of the 'origin' remote repository. It's essential to pull any changes made remotely before you push your local changes (git pull). The most common mistake is trying to push without first synchronizing your remote and local repositories.

Remember, with Git, practice makes perfect. The more you use these commands, the more comfortable they will become.

Working Locally with Git: Step-by-step Guide

To commence with Git on your local machine, the first task is setting up a new repository. Do this by opening a terminal and moving to the directory where you aim to store your project. The change directory command, cd, is your tool for this job. If you've a 'projects' directory on your desktop, your command may resemble this:

$ cd desktop/projects

To initiate a new Git repository here, run the ensuing commands:

$ mkdir myRepo
$ cd myRepo
$ git init

These commands spawn a new directory (mkdir), traverse into it (cd), and initialize it as an empty Git repository (git init). They might be common and straightforward, but their execution is tremendously significant. They lay the building blocks for a proficient local Git workflow and endorse optimal organization of projects.

Following this, it is time to begin adding files to your repository, the stage where your coding kicks off. Imagine creating your first file 'index.js', after concocting some code in 'index.js', you elect to stage the changes. Employing the command git add, the modifications are added into the staging area, making them primed for the subsequent commit. Pay attention to this command:

$ git add index.js

This command's simplicity amplifies readability, refining your overall coding journey.

Thirdly, comes the creation of commits in Git. A commit in Git signifies a bundle of changes in your project. It's akin to a game's checkpoint that you can revert to if things go haywire. To form a commit, implement the git commit command, complemented with the -m flag trailed by your message within quotes. The command appears like so:

$ git commit -m 'first commit'

Committing regularly and including meaningful commit messages boost your code's readability and facilitate easy tracing of changes. This simplifies troubleshooting and alleviates complexity in code management.

Lastly, branching and merging in Git breathe into discussion. In Git, branches empower you to work on new features or repair bugs in isolation, dodging any likely disturbance to the primary project resting in the 'master' or 'main' branch. To craft a branch, ping: git branch [branch-name]. Merging fuses the modifications in your current branch with another branch. To merge, employ: git merge [branch-name]. Bear in mind that although branching may seem intimidating at first glance, it amplifies the modularity and reusability of your code, simplifying its management in larger teams. One persisting thought, how do you usually operate with Git locally to assure optimal execution of these commands?

Collaborating with Git and GitHub

Participating in a software development project involves collaborating with other developers. This level of coordination is made easier with the use of Git and GitHub. When multiple developers are involved, each developer gets their own local copy of the repository to work on, allowing them to make changes without interfering with the codes of others. To get a copy of the remote repository, you'll use the git clone command.

git clone 

The above command helps pull in the entire project into your local machine. It includes all the codebases, the history of changes, branches, and commits.

Once you have a copy of the project, you can make changes to the code. After making changes, you want to let others know about the modifications you’ve made. For this, you'll push your changes to the remote repository. However, before pushing changes, ensure you’re on the correct branch, if not, you can switch using git checkout branch-name.

git checkout -b new-branch-name

Here, -b is used to create a new branch if it doesn't already exist. To push your changes to the remote repository use the git push origin branch-name command.

git push origin new-branch-name

Remember, before pushing, you must pull changes made by others to avoid conflicts. Use git pull origin branch-name to fetch and merge changes from the remote repository.

git pull origin main 

Working on a collaborative project also means incorporating changes made by others. Sometimes, these changes could conflict with yours. Git has a built-in mechanism to highlight these conflicts. During a merge or pull operation, if git encounters a conflict, it will pause and allow you to resolve it. You can do this by manually editing the conflicted files, decide on what changes to keep, and then adding the resolved files using git add . . After that, you can continue the operation using git commit -m 'merge conflict resolved' followed by git push origin branch-name .

Remember, always sync your local repository with the remote repository before you start your work and before pushing your changes to avoid conflicts.

Advanced Git Techniques for More Efficient Workflow

Exploring the project history is one of the more advanced techniques made possible through Git commands. This involves using the git log command, which provides a detailed history of the repositories, showing the committed changes in reverse chronological order. For a more refined search, one might consider the git bisect command that automates the process by binary-searching a large commit history to find the bad commit that introduced a bug. It's a very efficient tool for navigating projects with vast histories.

The git tag command is another underutilized technique for marking significant points in history or versions. It's invaluable for creating a stable release or milestone in a project. Furthermore, the tagging system in Git supports two types of tags, lightweight, and annotated. Annotations carry more information such as the tagger's name, email, tagging date, and a message, whereas lightweight tags are just pointers to specific commits.

Working with large repositories can be a daunting task due to complex project histories. The git gc command is valuable as it helps clean up any unnecessary files and optimize the local repository. It handles garbage collection, compresses file revisions to disk, and reorders revisions to optimize disk space. You can automate this task using the git gc --auto command to take care of the repository's health.

Lastly, there are a few best practices to optimize Git productivity which often overlooked. One such practice is writing good commit messages. A good message offers context about the change, making it easier to understand the project history. Another practice involves customizing Git environment to personalized workflows and preferences using the git config command. This could be changing default behaviors, personalizing user information, or creating shortcuts for long commands aka Git Aliases. Adapting to these advanced Git practices can certainly take the productivity of developers to the next level. Now, consider how you can harness these powerful Git commands to manage more complex scenarios smoothly.


In this comprehensive guide to Git commands in modern web development, the article explores the fundamentals of Git and GitHub, essential Git commands, working locally with Git in a step-by-step guide, collaborating with Git and GitHub, and advanced Git techniques for a more efficient workflow. Key takeaways include understanding the importance of mastering Git in modern web development, learning essential Git commands such as git init, git add, git commit, git pull, and git push, and utilizing advanced techniques like exploring project history with git log and optimizing the local repository with git gc. A challenging technical task for the reader is to explore the git bisect command to automate the process of finding the bad commit that introduced a bug in a large commit history.