How to Learn Git
At some point in your journey to becoming a programmer, you will likely have heard the term Git come up. But what is Git, and how does it work?
That’s the question this guide is going to answer.
Git is a crucial tool used by developers around the world to manage their code and collaborate on projects together. In this guide, we’re going to break down the basics of Git, and arm you with the knowledge you need to start working with the Git version control system. By the end of reading this guide, you’ll know the basics of Git and be able to discuss the importance of Git version control.
What Is Git?
Git, designed by Linus Torvalds in 2005, is the most used VCS in the world. Git is a distributed VCS, which means that every developer who has a copy of the code will also store a history of the changes made to the repository. In addition, Git is free and open-source, so the code for Git is public.
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What does this mean? When a developer copies a Git repository—which is used to store code using the Git protocol—they will also copy over a list of changes made and a record of who made those changes. So, there doesn’t need to be a single centralized source that keeps track of the changes made to a repository, unlike tools like Subversion or CVS.
What Is a Version Control System?
Git is a type of version control system used to maintain code.
To gain a firm understanding of why Git is useful, we must first understand the purpose of a version control system. In technology, version control systems are software tools used to track changes to code over time.
Version control systems (VCS) store a list of all the changes made to code in a database, alongside who made those changes and a description of the changes made. In almost every project—large and small—version control plays a role.
For teams, having a strong VCS set up is particularly important. This is the case for a number of reasons. First, version control systems allow the team to keep track of changes over time, so if something goes wrong they will have a record of the changes and events which lead up to the problem the team is encountering.
Second, VCS allow a team to store different versions of their project. So, as soon as a new release is ready, it can be stored in a version control platform alongside a name, a description of the release, and any other relevant metadata (such as the name of the author, and so on).
Even individual developers can make use of version control systems. This is because version control’s primary function is to track code, and even if you are working alone, you will likely still want to keep a record of your code and how it has evolved.
What is Git Used For?
Git is used to track changes made to a codebase. It lets developers see how a codebase has changed over time. Every time a file is commited to a repository, a record is kept of who changed that file, when it was changed, and what changes were made to the file.
The most important features of the Git version control system are:
- File tracking – Every change made to code stored in a version control system is tracked. This includes amendments to files, deletions, edits, file movements, and other pieces of information.
- History tracing – The changes made to a repository should be easily tracked and analyzed. Version control allows developers to see not only what has changed, but when, and who made the relevant change.
- Branching – Branching allows developers to create a copy of a codebase which is independent from the main project. A developer can then make their changes to a branch, and merge it with the main project when their changes are ready.
Both individual developers and professional teams use Git to track code.
Individual developers use Git to keep track of how their code has evolved. Because Git keeps a record of a project’s history, individuals can rely on it if they need to retrieve a past version of their project.
Professional teams often use Git to a greater extent. This is because they generally have larger projects to track. A professional team may have multiple branches on which code is stored. Dozens of developers may contribute to the same Git project.
Git is an essential skill for any software developer. For personal use, you can use Git to track changes to your code. You can also use Git with tools like GitHub or Bitbucket to show your code to the world.
In a professional development environment that uses Git, you can expect to use Git every day. Before you start a career as a developer, you’ll want to know the basics of Git. For instance, you should know how to create a repository, push code, and work with branches.
Git is a command line interface. There are browser tools like GitHub that let you control your code using Git but a lot of your work will be done in the command line nonetheless.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Git?
It will take you a few hours to learn how to use the basic Git commands. These are the commands that let you create a repository, push code to a repository, and retrieve code. Expect to spend at least a month learning more advanced commands.
Git has a shallow learning curve and so you can get started pretty quickly. You don’t need an extensive knowledge of software engineering to use Git. Although, the more experience you have coding, the easier you will find it to pick up the basic principles of Git.
GIt is a skill that even professional software developers improve upon in their day-to-day work. This is because of how many different scenarios you can enter with Git.
Before you go into a professional software job, you’ll want to have at least a month of experience using Git. This is a good amount of time to learn some more advanced commands which may come up in a professional environment.
How to Learn Git: Step-by-Step
Git is a useful skill for any software engineer to have. Most software engineering teams use a version control system to track their code and a large percentage of those teams use Git.
Here are the steps you should follow to learn Git:
- Get familiar with a programming language. You’ll need to have code you can track in a Git repository before you learn Git. You should be familiar with at least one programming language.
- Install Git. Install the Git command line on your computer. You will need the Git command line to really get to know how Git works.
- Learn the basic commands. Take a few hours to learn how to push code to and retrieve code from a repository. Practice cloning a repository and creating one from scratch.
- Sign up to GitHub. While this is not a necessary step to learn Git, GitHub does make it easy to host respositories that use Git. You can use GitHub to share your code with the world or to keep a backup of your local repository.
- Advance your knowledge. Once you’ve learned the basics, you should feel free to advance your knowledge by experimenting. Try tracking your code over different branches. Research features like resetting a repository to a past commit.
Your journey learning Git will never be over. There will always be a new command or skill for you to pick up. This is the case with many programming technologies. But, this is what makes coding so exciting.
The Best Git Courses and Trainings
Luckily for you, there are plenty of courses online that teach how to use the Git version control system. To help you get started, we’ve collated a few of the top courses that cover Git.
Online Git Courses
- Provider: Udemy
- Cost: $20.00
- Audience: Beginner
This course aims to teach participants the basics of Git in one hour. This course comes with ten articles to read, four downloadable resources, and one hour of interactive lectures for you to watch.
In this course, you’ll start by learning about the Git workflow. You’ll then learn how to set up a Git repository, merge files, remove files, and ignore files. Later in the course, you’ll cover Git remotes.
- Provider: Udacity
- Cost: Free
- Audience: Beginner
Version Control with Git is a basic introduction to the Git command line. This course takes approximately four weeks to complete andn features interactive quizzes and lectures taught by experts.
In this course, you’ll go from creating your own Git repostiory all the way to organizing your commits with tags and branches. You’ll also learn how to undo changes to a Git repository.
- Provider: Codecademy
- Cost: Pro membership ($16 / month)
- Audience: Beginner
This course will help you build a basic understanding of Git. You’ll start by learning how Git works and why it is used. You’ll then learn about how to undo changes and manage code over different branches.
In the last module of this course, yuo’ll learn how Git is used in collaborative environments. This module covers remote repositories, pulling code, and pushing code.
Online Git Books
Pro Git is a detailed tutorial on how to use Git. You’ll start by learning the basics of Git. Then, you’ll cover topics like branching, using Git on a server, and working in distributed workflows.
This book is excellent for all audiences, from beginners to experts. If you are new to Git, you should start at the beginning of this book and work your way through tutorials. When you’ve learned the basics, you can use this book as a reference guide to help you along the way.
Version Control with Git will help you get started with Git. You’ll first learn about common scenarios in which Git is used. This book then covers, in depth, the basic commands that you need to know to use Git.
Later in the book, you’ll learn about topics like merges, conflicts, and diffs. This knowledge will set you in good stead as you start to use Git for more advanced use cases.
Having a reference guide to Git is useful because there are so many different commands that you can use. This book was written to stay with you as you advance your knowledge of Git.
In this book, you’ll find handy primers on topics such as merging branches, cloning repositories, and examining changes to a repository.
Online Git Resources
In this handbook, you’ll cover the basics of how to use the Git command line. You’ll start by learning about the role of version control systems in a software project. You’ll then pick up a few basic commands.
This handbook is a great introduction to Git for anyone with no prior knowledge of version control. You’ll even learn how to apply your Git skills to the GitHub platform.
This cheat sheet is a great place to go if you forget a command that you want to use. You’ll find a list of dozens of commands covering everything from inspecting a repository to ignoring files.
This cheat sheet provides a one-line explanation alongside each command as well as detailed headings. This makes it easy to navigate the sheet to find the command for which you are looking.
Career Karma has written extensive tutorials on how to use many Git commands. In our library, you’ll find tutorials covering git merge, git checkout, git init, and other commands.
Should You Study Git?
There are a number of reasons why developers use the Git VCS over other platforms. Although every team has their own version control needs, Git covers most of the key features that developers need in their VCS to maintain their code.
Let’s discuss a few of the reasons why a developer or development team may choose to use Git over others.
Git Is Powerful and Secure
The Git VCS was designed with performance in mind. This means that committing, merging, and tracking changes can be done efficiently, effectively, and using a syntax that is easy for new developers to pick up. Git focuses on the contents of files, which allows the VCS to offer a number of performance benefits to its users.
In addition, security is a core pillar of Git. All the objects stored in a Git repository are secured using a hashing algorithm called SHA1, and Git uses a number of approaches to make sure that the code in a repository is kept secure and cannot be manipulated.
Git Is Widely Used
Because of how widespread Git is today, it is often the first version control system new developers discover. In addition, because so many people know about Git, there is a wide range of resources out there that can help new developers learn how to use the VCS. This, combined with the performance benefits of Git, makes it a good skill for any developer to have.
Git Is Collaborative
The Git VCS is a collaborative piece of technology. Using tools like Git, developers can collaborate on projects at any time across time zones, while still being able to efficiently store and access their code.
In addition, Git includes collaborative features like branching which allow multiple developers to work on different parts of a project without disrupting one another until they have finished making a change to the code.
These are only three of the many reasons why so many developers prefer to use Git over another VCS.
Git Jargon to Know
When you start to hear more about Git, there are a few jargon terms that you’ll hear. The three most common are repositories, commits, and pushing. Let’s break each of these down so you know what developers are talking about when these words are used:
- A repository is the word used by Git instead of project. A repository, also known as a repo, stores all the files and folders for a project alongside a record of how those files and folders have evolved over time. Using Git, you can view the current state and the history of a repository.
- A commit is a saved change made to a repository. Whenever you make a change to your code, you should commit it to the Git repository. This adds a record of the change you have made to the changelog of your repository, to which you can refer back in the future.
- Pushing refers to uploading code from a local repository (stored on your computer) to a remote repository that is stored on another machine.
As we discussed earlier, one crucial component of the Git VCS is that it is distributed. When you store code in a Git repository, you can use the repository as a centrally-located place in which your code is stored. Then, other developers can copy the code from your repository and push changes to it over time.
When you’re working with Git, the term remote is used to describe a central repository of code. This is a project that many different people can access. Then, once you have a remote repository set up, you can push your code to the repository and allow others to do the same.
If you are working on a project alone, you don’t need to have a remote repository as you can just use Git on your own computer to track the changes made to your code over time.
Git is a version control system used by millions of developers around the world to store and keep track of their code.
Git offers a number of features such as history tracing and file tracking, which make it easy to see how a project has evolved over time. In addition, because Git is distributed, the technology can be easily used by teams to collaborate together on large projects.
This guide discussed the basics of the Git version control system, why developers use Git and explored a few of the jargon terms you may hear when you first start learning about Git. Now you’re ready to start your journey to learning Git.
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