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Git Tutorials

Git: List Remote Branches

James Gallagher - December 29, 2020


You can list the remote branches associated with a repository using the git branch -r, the git branch -a command or the git remote show command. To see local branches, use the git branch command.

The git branch command lets you see a list of all the branches stored in your local version of a repository. To see the remote branches associated with your repository, you need to append the -r flag to the end of the git branch command.

In this guide, we discuss how to use the git branch -r command to show remote branches. We also discuss how to use the git remote show command to show branches on the remote version of your repo.

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Git: List Remote Branches

There are three ways to list the remote branches associated with a Git repository:

  • git branch -a: See both local and remote branches
  • git branch -r: See only remote branches
  • git remote show: See remote branches and associated metadata

The most common commands are git branch -a and git branch -r because they only list the branches. git remote show provides more detailed information about each branch which is not always necessary.

Git: List All Remote Branches Using git branch

We have a Git repository called ck-git. We’re unsure whether the branch we want to create, dev2.2-fix, exists in our repository.

The git branch -r Flag

To check for this branch, we can use the git branch command :

git branch

This command returns a list of all the local repository branches:

* master
dev

The asterisk (*) denotes the branch we are currently viewing. We can see that the branch that we want to create (“dev2.2-fix”) does not exist.

Before we create the branch, we want to check if the branch exists on our remote. We can do this by adding the -r flag to the git branch command:

git branch -r

This command retrieves the branches on the remote version of our repository:

  origin/HEAD -> origin/master
  origin/dev2.2-fix
  origin/master

We can see that our remote repository has a branch called dev2.2-fix already. We now know that the branch exists on our remote repository but not our local one.

This means we need to fetch an existing branch to our local machine, so we can get to work on writing our code. We don’t need to create a new branch.

We can fetch the existing branch from our remote repository using the Git fetch command :

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git fetch origin dev2.2-fix

This will let us retrieve the dev2.2-fix branch from our origin repository. “origin” is the name of the main remote repo to which we push our code. We can see that once we run this command a new branch is created:

From https://github.com/career-karma-tutorials/ck-git
 * branch        	dev2.2-fix    	-> FETCH_HEAD

The git branch -a Flag

The -a flag associated with the git branch command returns all the local and remote branches associated with a repository.

Consider the following command:

git branch -a

Our command returns:

* master
  remotes/origin/activity-feed
  remotes/origin/master

We can see that there are branches that did not appear when we run git branch -r. This is because git branch -r only returns remote branches. git branch -a returns remote tracking branches and local branches.

Remote branches are denoted by the “remotes” label.

Git: List All Remote Branches Using git remote show

The git remote show displays detailed information about the branches associated with a remote repository. This command takes one argument: the name of the remote whose branches you want to view.

The git branch -r command is sufficient if you want a brief overview of all the branches stored on a remote. If you want more detailed information, the git remote show command may be more useful. This command returns:

Let’s run the git remote show command on our “origin” remote, which is the name of the main remote associated with our project. We can expect to see the origin master branch, the main branch on our remote, and any other branches we have.

For most users, this command will provide more information than they need. But, it exists if you ever need to use it.

Let’s retrieve a list of all the branches on our remote repository using the git remote show command:

git remote show origin

This command displays all the remotes associated with “origin”. This is the main remote attached to our repo. Let’s take a look at what the command displays:

* remote origin
  Fetch URL: https://github.com/career-karma-tutorials/ck-git
  Push  URL: https://github.com/career-karma-tutorials/ck-git
  HEAD branch: master
  Remote branches:
	dev2.2-fix	tracked
	master tracked
  Local branch configured for 'git pull':
	master merges with remote master
  Local ref configured for 'git push':
	master pushes to master (local out of date)

We can see that there are two branches on our remote repository that we are tracking. These branches are called master and dev2.2-fix.

We have not configured a pull or push operation with our dev2.2-fix branch. This is because we haven’t pulled code from or pushed code to that branch yet.

Conclusion

The git remote -r command lets you see a list of all the branches on a particular remote. If you need more information about the remotes associated with a repository, you can use the git remote show command.

Now you have the knowledge you need to use Git list branches on remote commands. To learn more about working with Git, read our How to Learn Git guide .

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James Gallagher

About the author: James Gallagher is a self-taught programmer and the technical content manager at Career Karma. He has experience in range of programming languages and extensive expertise in Python, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. James has written hundreds of programming tutorials, and he frequently contributes to publications like Codecademy, Treehouse, Repl.it, Afrotech, and others. He also serves as a researcher at Career Karma, publishing comprehensive reports on the bootcamp market.

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