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Twit: training wheels for Git

Build Status

Twit is an accessible version-control system based on the widely popular Git program.

Installation

To install, simply run:

gem install twit

(On some systems, this may require sudo.)

Usage

Version control allows you to keep track of changes to a project over time.

Example: roll back with rewind

Bob is working on an essay for English class. He creates a folder called myessay and wants to track his changes.

First, he needs to turn that folder into a version-controlled repository. This is done with the init command:

cd myessay
twit init

Then, Bob writes an initial draft of his essay in myessay/essay.txt. He can then take a snapshot of his first draft using:

twit save

Each time he makes some edits to the paper, he runs twit save again.

One day, he decides to restructure the essay entirely. He makes several saves with his big changes, deleting large amounts of text.

The next day he realizes that his restructuring effort was a huge mistake and wants to recover the way his essay used to be. With version control, you can roll back to any previous save point you've marked with save.

Bob uses rewind to go back three saves ago:

twit rewind 3

Note: using version control and frequent saves has a few benefits over simply making a bunch of copies of your folder. One such benefit is space -- Twit (and its backend Git) only saves changes to your repository rather than copying the entire thing. If you have a project with big files, this can save a lot of hard disk space. Also, just typing twit save is faster than copying, pasting, and renaming your new folder with some sort of label so you can find it later. This encourages you to make more checkpoints, which gives you more points to roll back to.

Example: using branches for a computer science class

Branches are like bookmarks at different save points. They allow you to quickly switch between different versions of your repository.

In his computer science class, Bob has a three-part computer lab assignment. In the first part, he must write a program, and in the second and third parts, he must modify the program he wrote in two different ways.

Bob creates a folder called cslab and initializes it as a repository.

cd cslab
twit init

He completes the first part of the assignment. He now uses saveas to create a new branch containing his completed part one code.

twit saveas part1

He then works on part two. Once that's working, he can create another branch:

twit saveas part2

Now, he has a problem -- the code he wrote for part two is making it really hard to finish part three! That's okay -- it's easy to switch back to the part one branch.

twit open part1

Now the repository is reverted back to the way it was in part one. (The part two code is still saved in the part2 branch -- it's just stored elsewhere for now.)

From the part one code, Bob can finish the thirt part and run

twit saveas part3

Now there are three branches: part1, part2, and part3. Any of them can be accessed with twit open, so Bob can easily show the professor his work.

Motivation (written for programmers)

Twit is a wrapper for Git that abstracts concepts that many newcomers find tedious or confusing (at the cost of significant flexibility).

When explaining version control to newcomers, the benefits are often unclear amid the complicated rules and syntax of a powerful tool like Git. Twit aims to provide an easy and functional demonstration of the usefulness of a branching version control system.

For example, you can say that "version control allows you to save snapshots of your project history." However, in order to do this, you need to understand Git's two-step stage-then-commit workflow, with all its corner cases regarding new/deleted/moved files. git commit -a ignores new files, git add . won't stage file deletions, etc -- even git add --all has to be run from the root of the working tree.

Instead, Twit exposes a simple command to create a new commit with a snapshot of the repository:

twit save

This stages all changes (including new files and deletions) and creates a commit, prompting the user for a commit message if needed.

To create a new branch (and save any changes to the new branch as well):

twit saveas my_new_branch

If the user forgets to supply the branch argument and just uses twit saveas, the CLI will nicely prompt them for a new branch name.

This quick-and-easy approach allows a new user to get started using version control right away, without having to learn Git's minutiae.

However, this simple program is not meant to replace Git for the power user. The interface was designed to be user-friendly at the cost of flexibility.

Git has a staging area for a reason -- atomic commits are important. Using twit save will almost certainly result in commits with batches of changes mangled together. That's okay. Twit isn't for professionals -- it's Git for your mother to write a book, or for non-coders to add documentation to an open source project. Best of all, the repository is still Git underneath, so people can transition easily.

If you are a programmer, you should probably just buckle down and learn git. Instead, Twit serves as an introduction to version control for users that would probably never learn Git, like writers or students.

Command Reference

init -- create a new repository

twit init

Initialize a new git repository in the current directory.

Similar to: git init

save -- commit all new changes to the current branch

twit save [DESCRIBE_CHANGES]

Take a snapshot of all files in the directory.

Any changes on the working tree will be committed to the current branch.

Similar to: git add --all && git commit -m <DESCRIBE_CHANGES>

saveas -- commit all new changes to a new branch

twit saveas [NEW_BRANCH] [DESCRIBE_CHANGES]

Similar to: git checkout -b <NEW_BRANCH> then twit save

open -- open another branch

twit open [BRANCH]

Similar to: git checkout <branch>

Note: you can't use twit open to checkout a lone commit in detached HEAD mode.

rewind -- permanently rewind a branch

twit rewind [AMOUNT]

Permanently move a branch back AMOUNT saves.

Similar to: git reset --hard HEAD~<amount>

discard -- permanently delete unsaved changes

twit discard

Permanently delete any unsaved changes to the current branch. Be careful!

Similar to: git reset --hard

list -- show all branches

twit list

Similar to: git branch

API

All command-line functions are available for use as a Ruby library as well.

require 'twit'

# Create a new repository
repo = Twit.init

# Make some changes to the directory
File.open('foo', 'w') { |f| f.write('bar\n') }

# Take a snapshot
Twit.save "Add some foo"

# Create a new branch
Twit.saveas "feature-branch"

Development

Setup

Clone the repository.

Install dependencies with:

bundle install --binstubs

Testing

Run the tests with:

bin/rspec

Documentation

Generate the docs with

bin/yard

They will appear in the ./doc folder.