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General Assembly Logo

Git Basics


  • Initialize a git repository in order to track changes.
  • Create a new branch to isolate your changes.
  • Place new or changed files into the staging area to prepare them for a commit.
  • Remove files from the staging area before a commit.
  • Commit new and changed files to a git repository.


  • SEI Fundamentals

Why Git

Version control! As developers our code is our livelihood so it's important that we safely store our work... frequently. Not only that, we also want to track our changes as we make them. If we make a feature that ends up breaking the rest of our app we want to be able to go back to a point when our app was last working.

Code Along: Making a Local Repository

Let's initialize a local repository.

  1. In your training directory, NOT the directory you just cloned, create a subdirectory called <your-name>s-game-of-gits. So if your name is Kyrie, it should be called kyries-game-of-gits.

  2. Inside of the <your-name>s-game-of-gits directory create a file called

  3. Open the file with Atom and copy in the following lines:

House Stark of Winterfell is led by the just Eddard "Ned" Stark, Lord of
Winterfell, Warden of the North, Hand of the King, Protector of the Realm,
Regent.  He is surely honorable and will lead a long and prosperous life.
  1. Save the file.

  2. Inside of the <your-name>s-game-of-gits directory type git status. Did anything happen?

  3. Again, inside the <your-name>s-game-of-gits directory type git init.

  4. Type git status again. Did anything happen this time?

Code Along: Staging and Commiting

Using git add <name-of-file> we are going to add our story to the staging area.

There are 3 states that your file can reside in modified, staged, and committed. These states map to the different sections of a Git project.

  • Modified means that you have changed the file but have not committed it to your git repository yet.
  • Staged means that you have marked a modified file in its current version to go into your next commit snapshot.
  • Committed means that the data is safely stored in your local git repository.

Git Basics

Git Sections

When we add a file we are moving it from the working directory to the staging area.

Now that our file is staged let's commit our file by typing git commit, Atom should open. You may have seen git commit -m <commit message> used to commit with an inline commit message. In most cases, we prefer to use git commit, which allows us to write a longer and more meaningful commit message.

When you use -m to create an inline commit you are only able to leave a small amount of information with your commit. This can potentially lead to poor understandably of your commit due to the short nature of inline commits, and the lack of a body description to it.

Lab: Crafting A Commit

Skim the following blog post and carefully think about what a good commit message would be. Take some time to come up with your own. Be ready to share your commit with the rest of the class.

Now that we've made our first commit, let's see what happens when we type git log... We see our previous commit! This typically shows all of our previous commits, but since we just have one, that's all we see. Feel free to play around with options for git log, like --oneline, --name-status, and --relative-date for example. For all options click here.

Staging: And He Lived Happily After

Together, let's continue our story.

In our, we'll tell the rest of Ned Stark's story. Paste this in below our current description and save:

Ned Stark went to King's landing where he made lots of friends and lived
happily ever after...  He definitely didn't get axe murdered.

Now using what we learned earlier stage this change. To figure out the status of your files you can type git status in the terminal at any time.

Remember: Staging isn't committing

Unstaging: Maybe We Jumped the Gun

It turns out Ned actually did get axe murdered. So we probably want to unstage our file.

Unstage the file with git reset <filename>

Delete the last thing we wrote in

Removing: Deleting Staged Files

Let's practice removing files after they have been staged.

Using The Bash rm Command

  1. Inside of <your-name>s-game-of-gits create a file called

  2. Open the file with Atom and copy in the following lines:

This is a story... of a man named Neddy... and three very badass really
awesome girls
  1. Save the file.

  2. git add

  3. rm

  4. git status

What do you see? The addition of is still staged as a new file type change, however, there is an unstaged deleted type change. You have to run an additional command to unstage the new file change.

  1. git reset --

Using The git rm Command

  1. Inside of <your-name>s-game-of-gits create a file called

  2. Open the file with Atom and copy in the following lines:

This is a story... of a man named Neddy... and three very badass really
awesome girls
  1. Save the file.

  2. git add

  3. git rm -f

  4. git status

What's the difference between git rm and rm? What is actually happening with the git rm command?

Branching: Multiple Stories, One Main Plot

Looking back, we know that Ned's story doesn't have a happy ending but let's dream big. We're going to create a dream-story branch and write what we would have wanted to happen.

Similar to having one main story and various sub-plots--a branch lets us effectively duplicate and section off the code we have written thus far, make alterations to it, and if we would like at some point we can join it back to the main branch (typically called master).

Create a branch called dream-story by typing git branch dream-story. You can see all your current branches at any time by typing git branch.

Now that we've created our branch--in order to use it we have to switch to it. We can do this with the command git checkout <branch-name>.

Lab: Branching Your Dreams

  1. Switch to your dream-story branch and write a brief description of what you would have wanted to happen to Ned.

  2. Save the file, Stage and commit your changes.

  3. Switch back to your master branch. (Notice anything?) Add what really happened to Ned.

  4. Stage and commit your changes.

(Be ready to talk about any issues you many have encountered or strange things you may have noticed).

Git Workflow Checklist

  • git status to confirm clean working directory
  • confirm branch is correct
  • make changes to file
  • git add 'file'
  • git status (to confirm modified files have been staged)
  • git commit
  • git push origin <branchname>

Git Best Practices

  • ADD files explicitly. If you have multiple files, use full paths to refer to each. Example: git add foo/ baz/qux.js
  • AVOID git add . unless you have just initialized a new repo and need to stage all the files
  • USE git commit instead of git commit -m "an example commit message"
  • ALWAYS use git status before any other command
  • NO commit is too small
  • NO commit message is too long
  • NEVER nest repositories

Additional Resources


  1. All content is licensed under a CC­BY­NC­SA 4.0 license.
  2. All software code is licensed under GNU GPLv3. For commercial use or alternative licensing, please contact