Mastering the Basics of Git: Understanding Git Commit

Git is one of the most widely used version control systems in the world. It allows developers to work on projects collaboratively and keeps track of all the changes made in the codebase, thus providing a mechanism for versioning, collaboration, and backup.

One of the essential commands in Git is git commit , which is used to save your changes to the local repository. Understanding git commit is crucial for effective version control and collaborative development. In this blog post, we will delve into the specifics of the git commit command and its various options.

The Role of Git Commit

link to this section

The git commit command captures a snapshot of the project's currently staged changes. Compared to many other version control systems, Git's commit process is best thought of as a stream of snapshots - not a diff between past and present versions. When you execute git commit , Git checksums all file contents that have been staged with git add , stores them as unique version objects, and creates a commit object that has the metadata and a pointer to the root project tree so it can recreate that snapshot when needed.

How to Use Git Commit

link to this section

Firstly, let's cover the basic usage of the git commit command:

git commit -m "Your detailed commit message" 

This command will commit the staged snapshot and will include a log message from the user describing the changes. The -m option is used to pass the commit message as part of the command.

If you do not use the -m option and just type git commit , Git will open the system’s default text editor and prompt you for a commit message.

Exploring More Options

link to this section

Beyond the basics, several other options can be used with git commit :

  • git commit -a : This command combines git add and git commit into one command. It automatically stages all modified and deleted files before the commit. However, it does not include untracked files (new files).

  • git commit --amend : This command is used to modify the most recent commit. It replaces the tip of the current branch by creating a new commit. The new commit has the same parents and author as the current one (the HEAD commit).

  • git commit --dry-run : This command will do everything that a commit does but without actually making the commit, giving you a chance to review the staged snapshot before committing.

  • git commit -p : This command allows you to choose chunks of the changes you made to commit.

  • git commit -S : This command allows you to sign your commit with GPG, verifying that the changes come from a trusted source.

The Importance of Commit Messages

link to this section

Commit messages are crucial as they provide a log of the historical changes to the project. The commit messages should be clear, concise and should describe what changes have been made and why. A well-crafted commit message allows other developers and even your future self to understand why a particular change was made.

Reverting a Commit

link to this section

Sometimes you might find that a commit you made earlier was incorrect or has caused an issue in your project. You can use git revert to create a new commit that undoes the changes made in a specific commit. This doesn't delete any commits from the history, which makes it a safe operation for commits that have already been pushed to a shared repository.

git revert <commit-id> 

Replace <commit-id> with the id of the commit you want to revert. You can find the commit id by using git log .

Using .gitignore

link to this section

Certain files in a project don't need to be tracked by Git. These often include compiled code, packages, logs, or personal IDE settings. You can use a .gitignore file in your project root to specify files or directories that Git should ignore.

# .gitignore *.log node_modules/ .idea/ 

In this example, Git will ignore all .log files, as well as the node_modules and .idea directories.

Committing Best Practices

link to this section
  • Small, Focused Commits: Try to keep your changes small and focused within each commit. This makes it easier to understand the purpose of each commit, allows for simpler code reviews, and makes it easier to find and fix bugs or revert changes if necessary.

  • Logical Division of Changes: Changes that are logically related should be included in the same commit. For example, if a code change is related to fixing a specific bug, then the test case verifying the fix should be in the same commit.

  • Avoid Unnecessary Commits: Avoid making temporary commits that you know you will change or amend later. You can use Git's staging area to prepare a perfect commit.

  • Test Before You Commit: Always run tests before you commit to ensure you are not committing broken code. Tools like git stash can help you save changes that aren't ready to be committed yet.


link to this section

The git commit command is an integral part of the Git version control system. It allows you to track changes to your project and collaborate more effectively with others. By understanding how to use git commit and its various options, you'll be well on your way to mastering version control with Git. Happy coding!