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 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.
There are a number of different version control systems out there, but most version control systems share the following features:
- 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
copyof 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.
Now that we know the basics of VCS, we can go on to discuss Git and its fundamentals.
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.
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.
Why Use 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.
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.
Are you interested in learning about how to use Git? You have come to the right place. Career Karma has produced a set of tutorials designed to help beginners start their journey to learning Git. Here are the tutorials we have written on the basic Git commands:
- Git Init: The git init command is used to create and initialize a new Git repository.
- Git Add: The git add command is the first command used in the process of saving changes in Git. git add adds a file to the staging area of a repository.
- Git Clone: The git clone command allows you to create a local copy of code stored in a remote repository.
- Git Push: The git push command is used to
pushthe changes made to a codebase on your local machine to a remote repository.
- Git Commit: The git commit command is used to save a record of the changes you have made to a codebase, alongside who made those changes, when they were made, and a description of the changes you have made.
- Git Tag: The git tag command is used to manage tags. Tags are a feature that make it easy to create different versions of your software over time.
- Git Checkout: The git checkout command allows you to view a different branch in a repository, which you can then change.
- Git Diff: The git diff command allows you to compare two files, branches, or commits.
- Git Stash: The git stash command allows you to temporarily save changes to a file while you make a change elsewhere in a codebase.
- Git Pull: The git pull command is used to retrieve the latest copy of a remote codebase and save it to your local machine.
- Git Branch: The git branch command is used to manage branches in a Git repository. Branches are independent versions of the code stored in a repo which allow developers to make multiple changes to a codebase without affecting the main copy of the code.
As we write more tutorials, we’ll update this list so that it’s easy for you to access the resources you need to learn Git.
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 tutorial 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 that you’ve learned the basics of Git, you are ready to start learning about how to use the Git VCS. You can do so by following the tutorials we discussed earlier in this article.