Git Commands I Currently Use

August 17, 2019 · 5 min read

I started using Git about 3 years ago. While I don’t always remember all the commands on the top of my head, I thought to create a list to keep track of the ones I currently use with a small blurb of what each one does.

Some of the commands have multiple flag options to use, if I don’t mention them here, it’s because I don’t use it myself.

Table of Contents


Install Git from this page.

You cannot immediately use Git until the project is initialized for it.

There are 2 ways I go about this:


git init

For a project you only have locally on your computer and not in GitHub.

Initialize the project as a Git repository (repo). The command will automatically create the master branch.

$ mkdir sample-repo

$ cd sample-repo/

$ git init

Or pull down a new repo from GitHub.

git clone <url>

Download a repo from GitHub onto your computer. The project will already be a Git repository.

Make sure HTTPS is selected, and click the copy to clipboard button.

Where to find HTTPS in GitHub

Add the url after git clone.

$ git clone

Creating Branches

It’s important to not work in your base branch (usually this is master). Make sure to be constantly working in separate branches for different features.

git checkout <branch-name>

Changes the branch you are currently working in to the one you specify. This will only work if the branch you want to switch to already exists.

To create a new branch and check it out:

git checkout –b <new-branch-name>

~/git-example (master)
$ git checkout -b new-feature
Switched to a new branch 'new-feature'

~/git-example (new-feature)
$ git checkout master
Switched to branch 'master'

git branch

Displays a list of the branches in your repo. The branch with an asterisk is the one you are currently working in.

~/git-example (master)
$ git branch
* master

Committing File Changes

git status

Displays a list of files marked in red or green to show whether the file is unstaged or staged, respectively.

~/git-example (new-feature)
$ touch sample.txt

~/git-example (new-feature)
$ git status
On branch new-feature
Untracked files:
  (use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed)


nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)

git add

Stage edited files.

~/git-example (new-feature)
$ git add .

~/git-example (new-feature)
$ git status
On branch new-feature
Changes to be committed:
  (use "git reset HEAD <file>..." to unstage)

        new file:   sample.txt

git commit

Commit your changes. Can only be done once you’ve staged any file(s).

  • -m Add a short description to describe the changes you've made.
~/git-example (new-feature)
$ git commit -m "add new file"
[new-feature bbf2f75] add new file
 1 file changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
 create mode 100644 sample.txt

git log

List the most recent commit messages.

~/git-example (new-feature)
$ git log
commit bbf2f75624e2b29f8a8e11186f4ad5833f7776ee
Author: Dana Ottaviani
Date:   Wed Aug 14 09:41:57 2019 -0400

    add new file

commit a005981daa9cd2a1645f8a78fd0fcc12c6e461c5
Author: Dana Ottaviani
Date:   Wed Aug 14 08:51:52 2019 -0400


Set Up Remote Tracking

Remote tracking can be used for connecting your repo to the remote one in GitHub, or for updating a forked repo (copy of another user’s repo).

git remote

Lists all the repos being tracked.

~/git-example (master)
$ git remote
  • -v Shows the url associated with each repo that you are tracking. Some common ones you’ll see are origin and upstream.

origin – Your repo connected to GitHub.

upstream – If your repo is forked, this label will coincide to the original repo. This is useful for making sure your forked copy stays updated with the original.

~/git-example (master)
$ git remote -v
origin (fetch)
origin (push)

git remote add <tracking-name> <url>

Add a new repo to track. The example shows how to set up origin as the local project’s repo in GitHub. The url is the same used for cloning the project.

~/git-example (master)
$ git remote add origin

Updating Repo

As you work on your projects, you need to make sure it's constantly backed up in GitHub. Make sure to merge often into your base branch (master) when it's safe to.

git push <tracking-name> <branch-name>

Pushes your local branch to the location specified.

~/git-example (new-feature)
$ git push origin new-feature

Now the branch new-feature is available in GitHub.

The new branch seen in GitHub

  • --force Overwrites any history currently on the branch in origin with the history of the branch you have locally. This flag would be useful when you have forked a repo from an organization whose branch is more commits ahead than yours and you need to update your copy.

git fetch <tracking-name>

Downloads the files from the specified repo.

I created a new file in the repo in GitHub in its master branch, which meant it was 1 commit ahead of my local master branch. Notice the new file is not merged in, just retrieved.

~/git-example (master)
$ git fetch origin
remote: Enumerating objects: 4, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (4/4), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (2/2), done.
remote: Total 3 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 0
Unpacking objects: 100% (3/3), done.
   67edef5..9e4ff06  master     -> origin/master

~/git-example (master)
$ git status
On branch master
Your branch is behind 'origin/master' by 1 commit, and can be fast-forwarded.
  (use "git pull" to update your local branch)
nothing to commit, working directory clean

git pull <tracking-name>

Downloads the files from the specified repo and merges them into your local branch.

~/git-example (master)
$ git pull origin
Updating 67edef5..9e4ff06
 app.js | 1 +
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+)
 create mode 100644 app.js

Aside from using the command line, I do use a Git client called GitKraken for its visual representation of my ongoing work. I still have a lot of Git knowledge to retain, but I found these to be the most commonly used commands in both my personal work and when working with colleagues.

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