2. Git Basics
7. Git Tools
10. Git Internals
3.3 Git Branching - Branch Management
Now that you’ve created, merged, and deleted some branches, let’s look at some branch-management tools that will come in handy when you begin using branches all the time.
git branch command does more than just create and delete branches.
If you run it with no arguments, you get a simple listing of your current branches:
$ git branch iss53 * master testing
* character that prefixes the
master branch: it indicates the branch that you currently have checked out (i.e., the branch that
HEAD points to).
This means that if you commit at this point, the
master branch will be moved forward with your new work.
To see the last commit on each branch, you can run
git branch -v:
--no-merged options can filter this list to branches that you have or have not yet merged into the branch you’re currently on.
To see which branches are already merged into the branch you’re on, you can run
git branch --merged:
$ git branch --merged iss53 * master
Because you already merged in
iss53 earlier, you see it in your list.
Branches on this list without the
* in front of them are generally fine to delete with
git branch -d; you’ve already incorporated their work into another branch, so you’re not going to lose anything.
To see all the branches that contain work you haven’t yet merged in, you can run
git branch --no-merged:
$ git branch --no-merged testing
This shows your other branch.
Because it contains work that isn’t merged in yet, trying to delete it with
git branch -d will fail:
$ git branch -d testing error: The branch 'testing' is not fully merged. If you are sure you want to delete it, run 'git branch -D testing'.
If you really do want to delete the branch and lose that work, you can force it with
-D, as the helpful message points out.
The options described above,
You can always provide an additional argument to ask about the merge state with respect to some other branch without checking that other branch out first, as in, what is not merged into the
Changing a branch name
Do not rename branches that are still in use by other collaborators. Do not rename a branch like master/main/mainline without having read the section Changing the master branch name.
Suppose you have a branch that is called
bad-branch-name and you want to change it to
corrected-branch-name, while keeping all history.
You also want to change the branch name on the remote (GitHub, GitLab, other server).
How do you do this?
Rename the branch locally with the
git branch --move command:
$ git branch --move bad-branch-name corrected-branch-name
This replaces your
corrected-branch-name, but this change is only local for now.
To let others see the corrected branch on the remote, push it:
$ git push --set-upstream origin corrected-branch-name
Now we’ll take a brief look at where we are now:
$ git branch --all * corrected-branch-name main remotes/origin/bad-branch-name remotes/origin/corrected-branch-name remotes/origin/main
Notice that you’re on the branch
corrected-branch-name and it’s available on the remote.
However, the branch with the bad name is also still present there but you can delete it by executing the following command:
$ git push origin --delete bad-branch-name
Now the bad branch name is fully replaced with the corrected branch name.
Changing the master branch name
Changing the name of a branch like master/main/mainline/default will break the integrations, services, helper utilities and build/release scripts that your repository uses. Before you do this, make sure you consult with your collaborators. Also, make sure you do a thorough search through your repo and update any references to the old branch name in your code and scripts.
Rename your local
master branch into
main with the following command:
$ git branch --move master main
There’s no local
master branch anymore, because it’s renamed to the
To let others see the new
main branch, you need to push it to the remote.
This makes the renamed branch available on the remote.
$ git push --set-upstream origin main
Now we end up with the following state:
$ git branch --all * main remotes/origin/HEAD -> origin/master remotes/origin/main remotes/origin/master
master branch is gone, as it’s replaced with the
main branch is present on the remote.
However, the old
master branch is still present on the remote.
Other collaborators will continue to use the
master branch as the base of their work, until you make some further changes.
Now you have a few more tasks in front of you to complete the transition:
Any projects that depend on this one will need to update their code and/or configuration.
Update any test-runner configuration files.
Adjust build and release scripts.
Redirect settings on your repo host for things like the repo’s default branch, merge rules, and other things that match branch names.
Update references to the old branch in documentation.
Close or merge any pull requests that target the old branch.
After you’ve done all these tasks, and are certain the
main branch performs just as the
master branch, you can delete the
$ git push origin --delete master