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a way to keep track of changes you make to files. a very commonly-used version control system

why use git?

it solves the problem of having "draft1.txt", "draft2.txt", etc.

limitations of copying files and numbering them:

  • when you forget what was in which version, no easy way to see what was in which file.
  • no easy way to compare between versions.
  • no easy way to go back to a previous version.
  • clogs up the folder


git repositories ("repos") are used to keep track of the files associated with one project.

to keep things orderly, within your programming directory, make a new directory for each project you start.

in each of your project directories, start a git repo to keep track of your work. do this with git init

sample workflow

  • mkdir for your new project
  • create some files in there, get started, etc.
  • git init
  • git status (should be empty)
  • git add doge.png wow.html
  • git status (now git is watching these files for changes!)
  • git commit -am "first commit" (now you've saved a snapshot of the directory. note: it will only commit changes in the files you're watching.)
  • git status (should be clean)

good practices

make a commit for each bit of progress you make.

commit messages help track progress - make nice ones! it sucks to break something and then have a hard time finding the last working version!

don't do git add . or git add * - you will add files that you didn't mean to add!

finding past versions

git log

each commit has a unique identifier called a hash. it'll look something like this: a5815fb05810bc0ebf53faaa4aba370055bf70d5

for a more compact log, do git log --oneline.

git show 8d9c7f45ca1f1af59061fa64608666abef6cafd6 shows what changed

to see what one file looked like at a particular commit, do:

git show 8d9c7f45ca1f1af59061fa64608666abef6cafd6:file.js

discard uncommitted changes

git stash

gets rid of whatever uncommitted changes you have and returns you to the state of your most recent commit.

going back to a previous commit

git checkout -b branchname hashnumber

checkout a previous commit to a new branch.

working with branches

make a new branch & switch to it

  • git branch dev make a new branch named "dev"
  • git checkout dev switch to branch "dev"

git branch see what branch you're on and what branches are available.

git branch -D dev delete branch "dev"

when making a new branch, default behavior copies from your current commit on your current branch.

a common use of branches: a "master" branch with a working version of the project and a "dev" branch with active development. when "dev" is ready for "production", it gets merged into "master."

local vs remote

we have been working on our "local" machine.

but it's common to also have a copy on a "remote" machine or service (like

the rest of this presentation will mostly use "github", but please note that this is just one example of a "remote".


website that hosts git repos.

github repos live on you can have a million projects in local git repos and zero activity on github.

starting a new github repo

we will now put our local repo on

  • go to
  • on github: click the "new repository" button NOTE: do not make a README.
  • on github: once your new repo is ready, the site will show its git url. it will look like:
  • in terminal: git remote add origin
  • in terminal: git push origin master

now, when you go to your repo on github, it should have the contents of your last commit.

some github tips

  • what remote repo is my local repo associated with? git remote -v

  • different branches can live on your remote: git push origin dev

collaborating on existing github projects (w/push access)

here's a workflow for existing github projects that you have push access to and where it will be fine if you push directly to them.

  • on github, find the git url to clone the repo.
  • in terminal: git clone xyz.git
  • check that everything has copied with ls
  • make whatever changes you want
  • git status
  • git commit -am "adding xyz" (commit locally)
  • git push origin master (push your changes back up to github)

collaborating on existing github projects (no push access)

you may want to work with existing projects that you don't have push access for.

to do this, we will "fork" the existing project.

  • on github, fork the repo you want to work with. (this will make a copy under your own github account, but not on your local machine).
  • on github, go to your own fork of the repo and find the git url to clone the repo.
  • in terminal: git clone xyz.git pulls your forked copy to your local machine
  • check that everything has copied with ls

collaborating on existing github projects (no push access) part 2

  • make changes
  • git status
  • git commit -am "adding xyz" (commit locally)
  • git push origin master (push your changes back up to your fork on github)
  • to ask that your changes get merged back into the main branch, go to the shared repo (not your fork) on github and click "make a pull request"

good practices when working on collaborative github repos

each time you return to working on your local copy of a shared github repo, do git pull origin master to make sure that you have the most up-to-date version of the shared repo.

your pull request may not get merged. this is why it's a good idea to fork and work on your own branch of an existing project.

further learning

excellent, short videos that take you through the basics of using git:

this workshop and many others are at:


Your homework is to do the git-it workshop on nodeschool:

and to start keeping track of at least one project with git.