Skip to content

How to perform some common git actions

This page tells you how to perform some common git actions.

The following actions may frequently be required while working with git. Simple cases are provided here for convenience but the git documentation or knowledgeable co-workers should be consulted in complex situations.

If you're worried about losing changes while performing any of the following then you can make a backup of a branch beforehand.

If you are on the branch to be backed up then use, for example, to create my-backup branch:

git branch my-backup

Or, to copy another branch, for example, my-feature branch to my-backup:

git branch -c my-feature my-backup

In both cases, you'll remain on your current branch.

Forgot something for last commit?

You've discovered that you have a file or files that should have been added to the last commit you made. Simply stage the forgotten file(s) then recommit using the --amend argument.

git add path/
git commit --amend

You'll also have opportunity to change the commit message, if so desired.

Undo last commit

You didn't mean to make that last commit and want to undo the commit but keep the changes you made.

git reset --soft HEAD~1

Note: HEAD~1 (equivalent to HEAD~) references 1 commit before current HEAD. By specify another number you can undo more than one commit.

Alternatively, if you really want to undo the last commit forgetting any changes made, as if it never happened, then switch the --soft for --hard. Warning: files and/or changes to files will be lost.

git reset --hard HEAD~1

Edit previous commit message

You've a typo or another mistake in the message of a previous (not necessarily the latest) commit?

Firstly, you will need to work out using git log how many commits you need to go back and use that number as part a HEAD~n reference.

For example, three commits back:

git rebase -i HEAD~3

This will show a list of the previous commits, each tagged with pick.

pick f4b35d1 Initial Implementation
pick 130564e Created READEM (typo)
pick f4a5a0f Added RESTful API

# Rebase 64fa23f..f4a5a0f onto 64fa23f
# Commands:
# p, pick <commit> = use commit
# r, reword <commit> = use commit, but edit the commit message

For the commit(s) that you want to change the message for, change the pick to reword (or just r) and save. You will then be prompted to change the commit message(s).

Combining commits in to one

You've got some commits that you want to combine together, typically to fix up later changes into the relevant earlier commit.

As above, use git log to work out how many commits to reference with HEAD~n then issue the rebase command. For example:

git rebase -i HEAD~4

Firstly, if the fix up commit is not immediately following the commit it is to be combined with then reorder the commits.

The following step can be done at the same time as reordering but it is often easier to finish this rebase, check the ordering and then rebase again to do the actual combining. There is a potential for merge conflicts during the rebase, see "Merge conflicts during rebase" below.

Now change the pick before the fix up commit to either fixup (or f) to have it combine with the previous commit and discard the fix up commit's message, or squash (or s) to be prompted for a revised commit message for the resulting combined commit.

Use git log to check that all went well. If you previously pushed to a remote repository then you'll need to git push --force to upload these changes.

Merge conflicts during rebase

Sometimes during a rebase (especially if reordering commits) you may get merge conflicts. You will need to resolve these conflicts, stage the conflicting files and then continue the rebase.

edit path/
git add path/
git rebase --continue

But don't worry! If you get in a mess you can always reset to the state before the rebase by aborting it.

git rebase --abort

Merge Request has merge conflicts with master

You've finished your changes on your branch and created a merge request (MR) but the master branch has changed since you originally created your branch, and Gitlab is reporting that merge conflicts need resolving before your MR can be merged.

You could git merge origin/master in to your branch but this would lead to an extra merge commit being added to the history. An arguably cleaner way is to rebase your branch on to the current master.

For example, rebase feature branch my-new-feature on to master:

git fetch
git checkout my-new-feature
git rebase master
git push --force

There is a potential for merge conflicts during the rebase, see "Merge conflicts during rebase" above.

Next steps