A branching model and workflow for GIT
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A branching model and workflow for git

Table of contents


Yet another branching strategy. It was made to be used for release-based software development projects. However, it can be adjusted to fit any type of project.

What are the benefits

Having a well defined workflow has a lot of benefits. This guide aimes to provide you with all of these:

  • It makes it easy to understand projects new to a developer
  • It makes working on a project quick and efficient
  • It scales well and tries to clean itself up
  • It ensures all changes are tracked and nothing is lost on local machines
  • It enforces many best practices for a good git hygine
  • It works great witch scrum projects but is flexible enough to work in any other way
  • It makes code reviews easy
  • It makes setting up new projects easy
  • It provides additional freedom for customization
  • It makes release management easy because all features are sepereated until release.


  • It works under the assumption that the same source code will always produce the same compiled software.
  • This workflow is intended to be used with a centralized git workflow.
           |      |
  +-----+  + REPO +  +-----+
  |        |      |        |
  |        +------+        |
  |            +           |
  |            |           |
  |            |           |
  |            |           |
  |            |           |
  +            +           +
USER A       USER B      USER C

     [Centralized Workflow]


The figure below shows what the branching model looks like. Arrows to the right (+->) indicate where to branch off from. Arrows to the left (<-+) show where to merge back into. The small dots (•) represent tags/releases.

  +              +              +             +            +            +            +
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |<- 1.1.0 ---------------------------------------------+            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  +----- 1.0.1 ->-------------><------------+            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             <------------+            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |         --->
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             +------------>            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  <--------------+              +------------->            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              +-------------->             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |       1.0.0+--------------------------------------->            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  |              |              |             |            |            |            |
  +              +              +             +            +            +            +
hotfix         master      development      story       feature      release        test

                                   [Branching Model]


This branch is used to merge in urgent fixes that cannot wait for the next planned release.

  • branch from master
  • merge to master and development


As usual this is your main branch. Tags/Releases are created in that branch. It can go live anytime and tags here are used for rollbacks if necessary.


This is the main development branch. It contains all finished features. Integration tests can be run here. It is used as a safety net so that you do not need to work or rely on master until you really have to.

  • branch and update from master


If a set of features can be accumulated into something bigger or if you are working on something with other developers this branch is where it goes. This branch represents a user story known from agile software development methodologies. Smaller features and tasks can be branched from the story branch for individual development.

It is also used to have a common base for different smaller parts of that feature that are developed by different developers or departments. If for example you have to implement a front-end communicating with a REST service. Front-end and back-end could create branches from this story and only merge back changes to it when they ready for the other developer to be used. Until then, each developer has its own branch. This ensures independent development, use of git and makes it easy to share code with others.

  • branch from development
  • merge to development
  • gets deleted after the story has been merged to master and released


Feature branches are used to implement new features, tasks or bugfixes. Create branches for small units of code. They live as long as you are working on them. Taken from the example above: this is where the actual implementation of the REST service would be.

  • branch directly from development or a story branch
  • merge back into development or a story branch
  • gets deleted after the feature has been merged to story/master


To prepare for a new relase a new release branch is created (have a look at the naming conventions).

In this branch you have the freedom to choose whatever task, bugfix, story or feature you would like to release. At this point it is independent from your scrum planning. If a story didn't make it in time as was planned, then just do not include it in the branch.

Because the integration of all changes needs to be tested, this branch is very likely to be identical to one of your test branches. But in this branch you can add version numbers or change logs - whatever is related to the release only.

  • branches from development
  • merges into development & master (creating a tag/release)
  • will be deleted after the release has been rolled out


The 'test' branch is a 'read only branch' that can be used to install a set of features onto a testing environment/stage/server. Simply merge any branch you want to test or cherry pick commits into this branch. You can have as many testing branches as you like. These branches can be used for automated integration tests. With every push on one of them, an automated build can deploy this branch to your testing server.

  • branched from any other (depending on what you want to test - could be hotfix branch, development a story or a feature)
  • never merges back into any other branch!
  • delete after the test is finished succesfully

Naming Convention

To identify the different types of branches I just mentioned it is usefull to follow a certain naming convention. Naming conventions for commits are independent from the branching model but I suggest using them. They have proven to be useful in my development experience.


The name of a branch consists of the following delimited by '-':

  • Date
  • types - can be HOTFIX, STORY, FEATURE, BUGFIX or TASK (see commits for more info on those types)
  • #issue
  • name of branch author (makes it easy to identify who should clean up branches after release)
  • short description (use _ for spaces)





The exceptions to the rule are:

  • master
  • development
  • test branches: can be named after your test-servers (e.g.: test-integration-server, test-pre-production-server)
  • release branches: the are named after their release. Just like the corresponding tag (e.g.: v.1.1.2)

Tags and Releases

After all the work is done it is time to release something. Here is what that cycle could look like:

  • feature branches get merged to their story branches
  • story branches get merged to development branch
  • a new release branch is created from development
  • after a successful deployment, the release branch can be merged to master and gets a new tag
  • master branch is merged to development branch
  • development branch is merged to all story or feature branches that did not make it into the last release
  • all released story, feature, bugfix or release branches will be deleted by their authors
  • celebrate, repeat :)


Tags should be used to record certain releases. Not only for archiving purposes but also for rolling back when something goes wrong with deployment. It is reccomended to use annotated tags because the latest commit (default annotation) might not be sufficiently describe the whole release.

git tag v<semver> -m <Annotation>


v1.0.0 'Initial Release of Awesome'


There are 3 major TYPES of commits:

  • FEATURE: the commit introduces something new
  • BUGFIX: the commit fixes something
  • HOTFIX: the commit fixes something for a hotfix release
  • TASK: everything else

To identify them easily within git log commit messages follow this schema:

[<TYPE>] <description> refs <#issue>


[FEATURE] add ajax function refs #1234
[BUGFIX] remove ajax function refs #1234

Imperative tense

All descriptions are written in imperative tense: 'change' not 'changes' or 'changed'. A good way to remember this to think of the words "This commit will ..." and then following this write your description.


This commit will ... "[FEATURE] add ajax function refs #1234"
This commit will ... "[BUGFIX] remove ajax function refs #1234"

Best practices

  • merge regularly
  • commit early and often
  • commit related changes
  • don't commit half done work
  • When merging a feature back into the development branch use --no-ff to keep track of where the commit came from in your log.

Semantic Versioning

Semantic versioning is used for tags and releases.

Also you can find some accumulated info about this on the front-end cheat sheet [PDF].



The MIT License (MIT)

Copyright 2017 Markus Falk