Mike Rogers on a Snowmobile

Getting started with Git

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Git is a really powerful piece of version control software. Here is a short crash course on how to get started  on it, I presented at the University of Portsmouth in April 2012.

What is version control?

Version control allows you to keep changes to files organised.

What makes Git so great?

  • Git is really fast, mostly because it keeps a database on your local machine.
  • Git is great for collaborative changes to files, so it's great for teams.
  • Distributed. Git uses remotes, so I can push to a main repo or I can push to my mates a repo.
  • Adds a .git folder in the root of the git folder as a database, so unlike SVN it will not add a .git folder to each folder in your tree.
  • You can commit parts of a file to staging you have worked on for better peer review.
  • Git doesn't delete anything, so it's almost impossible to lose stuff you've worked on.

Setting up Git (& SSH Keys)

GitHub have written a really good tutorial on setting up Git on your OS. For the most part, just you need to run through the installer using the default options.

Cloning a Repo

Cloning a repo will copy it's files & history to your machine. Most git repos will provide you with a URL like 'git@github.com:MikeRogers0/siteng.in—SiteEngines-Site.git'. The 'foldername' is the directory you wish to clone to.

git clone URL foldername

Reviewing & Staging Changes

Once you have some some edits, you can stage them (Add them into version control with a brief message about what you have done).

# Add all the new files in the repo into the next commit.
git add .

git commit -m 'Message Here'


git commit -a -m 'Message here'


Branches are really powerful, they allow you to work on features independent from other peoples work. So for example, you could have someone adding a new feature to a site while the CSS is being edited in another branch & you will not overwrite each others work. When your happy that the feature is done you can than merge is back into your master brach & deploy it.

Review the branches available

git branch

Change branch

git checkout branchname

Make a new branch

git checkout -b branchname


Git is really good at looking at changes in different versions of a file & merging them together as to not cause errors.

git checkout master; git merge branchname;

Pushing Changes

Pushing a branch updates a remote repo.

git push

Pulling changes

Pulling changes will fetch what others have pushed to a repo & merge them into your local git repo.

git pull


git fetch; git merge origin/branchname

Useful videos

This was written by Mike Rogers, a freelance Ruby on Rails developer based in London.

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If you want to discuss this post, feel free to tweet me (@MikeRogers0) or drop me an email. Any code samples unless stated otherwise are licensed under the The MIT License (MIT). Spotted a mistake? Send me a pull request :)