2. Git Basics
7. Git Tools
10. Git Internals
10.5 Git Internals - The Refspec
Throughout this book, we’ve used simple mappings from remote branches to local references, but they can be more complex. Suppose you were following along with the last couple sections and had created a small local Git repository, and now wanted to add a remote to it:
$ git remote add origin https://github.com/schacon/simplegit-progit
Running the command above adds a section to your repository’s
.git/config file, specifying the name of the remote (
origin), the URL of the remote repository, and the refspec to be used for fetching:
[remote "origin"] url = https://github.com/schacon/simplegit-progit fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/*
The format of the refspec is, first, an optional
+, followed by
<src> is the pattern for references on the remote side and
<dst> is where those references will be tracked locally.
+ tells Git to update the reference even if it isn’t a fast-forward.
In the default case that is automatically written by a
git remote add origin command, Git fetches all the references under
refs/heads/ on the server and writes them to
So, if there is a
master branch on the server, you can access the log of that branch locally via any of the following:
$ git log origin/master $ git log remotes/origin/master $ git log refs/remotes/origin/master
They’re all equivalent, because Git expands each of them to
If you want Git instead to pull down only the
master branch each time, and not every other branch on the remote server, you can change the fetch line to refer to that branch only:
fetch = +refs/heads/master:refs/remotes/origin/master
This is just the default refspec for
git fetch for that remote.
If you want to do a one-time only fetch, you can specify the specific refspec on the command line, too.
To pull the
master branch on the remote down to
origin/mymaster locally, you can run:
$ git fetch origin master:refs/remotes/origin/mymaster
You can also specify multiple refspecs. On the command line, you can pull down several branches like so:
$ git fetch origin master:refs/remotes/origin/mymaster \ topic:refs/remotes/origin/topic From firstname.lastname@example.org:schacon/simplegit ! [rejected] master -> origin/mymaster (non fast forward) * [new branch] topic -> origin/topic
In this case, the
master branch pull was rejected because it wasn’t listed as a fast-forward reference.
You can override that by specifying the
+ in front of the refspec.
You can also specify multiple refspecs for fetching in your configuration file.
If you want to always fetch the
experiment branches from the
origin remote, add two lines:
[remote "origin"] url = https://github.com/schacon/simplegit-progit fetch = +refs/heads/master:refs/remotes/origin/master fetch = +refs/heads/experiment:refs/remotes/origin/experiment
You can’t use partial globs in the pattern, so this would be invalid:
fetch = +refs/heads/qa*:refs/remotes/origin/qa*
However, you can use namespaces (or directories) to accomplish something like that.
If you have a QA team that pushes a series of branches, and you want to get the
master branch and any of the QA team’s branches but nothing else, you can use a config section like this:
[remote "origin"] url = https://github.com/schacon/simplegit-progit fetch = +refs/heads/master:refs/remotes/origin/master fetch = +refs/heads/qa/*:refs/remotes/origin/qa/*
If you have a complex workflow process that has a QA team pushing branches, developers pushing branches, and integration teams pushing and collaborating on remote branches, you can namespace them easily this way.
It’s nice that you can fetch namespaced references that way, but how does the QA team get their branches into a
qa/ namespace in the first place?
You accomplish that by using refspecs to push.
If the QA team wants to push their
master branch to
qa/master on the remote server, they can run
$ git push origin master:refs/heads/qa/master
If they want Git to do that automatically each time they run
git push origin, they can add a
push value to their config file:
[remote "origin"] url = https://github.com/schacon/simplegit-progit fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/* push = refs/heads/master:refs/heads/qa/master
Again, this will cause a
git push origin to push the local
master branch to the remote
qa/master branch by default.
You cannot use the refspec to fetch from one repository and push to another one. For an example to do so, refer to Keep your GitHub public repository up-to-date.
You can also use the refspec to delete references from the remote server by running something like this:
$ git push origin :topic
Because the refspec is
<src>:<dst>, by leaving off the
<src> part, this basically says to make the
topic branch on the remote nothing, which deletes it.
Or you can use the newer syntax (available since Git v1.7.0):
$ git push origin --delete topic