Tracking changes with a local repository
OverviewTeaching: 35 min
Exercises: 0 minQuestions
How do I get started with Git?Objectives
Know how to set up a new Git repository.
Understand how to start tracking files.
Be able to commit changes to your repository.
Version control is centered round the notion of a repository which holds your directories and files. We’ll start by looking at a local repository. The local repository is set up in a directory in your local file system (local machine). For this we will use the command line interface.
Why are we using the command line?
There are lots of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for using Git: both stand-alone and integrated into text editors (e.g. VSCode). We are deliberately not using a GUI for this course because:
- you will have a better understanding of how the git commands work
- you will be able to use Git on any computer (e.g. remotely accessing HPC systems, which generally only have Linux command line access)
- you will be able to use any GUI, rather than just the one you have learned
Setting up Git
If you’re using the course JupyterHub, git should already be installed. If you need to install git locally, instructions are under setup.
Tell Git who we are
Git records information not only about the changes to files, but also about who made those changes. In collborating, this information is often critical (e.g., you probably want to know who rewrote your ‘Conclusions’ section!). So, we need to tell Git about who we are:
$ git config --global user.name "Your Name" # Put quotation marks around your name $ git config --global user.email firstname.lastname@example.org
Note that you need to enclose your name in quotation marks!
Set a default editor
When working with Git we will often need to provide some short but useful information. In order to enter this information, we need an editor. We’ll now tell Git which editor we want to be the default (i.e. the one that Git will bring by default whenever it wants us to provide some information).
You can choose any editor available on your system. For the purpose of this session we’ll assume you’re on the course JupyterHub and use vim:
$ git config --global core.editor vim
To set up alternative editors, follow the same notation e.g.
git config --global core.editor notepad,
git config --global core.editor vi,
git config --global core.editor xemacs.
Mac users can use TextEdit:
git config --global core.editor 'open -W -n'.
Git’s global configuration
We can now preview (and edit, if necessary) Git’s global configuration (such as
our name and the default editor which we just set up). If we look in our home
directory, we’ll see a
$ cat ~/.gitconfig [user] name = Your Name email = email@example.com [core] editor = vim
These global configuration settings will apply to any new Git repository
you create on the course JupyterHub.
If you are executing this tutorial locally, these settings would similarly persist over time;
--global commands above are only required once per computer.
Create a new repository with Git
We will be working with a simple example in this tutorial. It will be a paper that we will first start writing as a single author and then work on it further with one of our colleagues.
First, let’s create a directory within your home directory:
$ cd # Switch to your home directory. $ pwd # Print working directory (output should be /home/jovyan) $ mkdir git-papers $ cd git-papers
Now, we need to set up this directory up to be a Git repository (or “initiate the repository”):
$ git init
Initialized empty Git repository in /home/user/git-papers/.git/
The directory “git-papers” is now our working directory.
If we look in this directory, we’ll find a
$ ls .git
branches config description HEAD hooks info objects refs
.git directory contains Git’s configuration files. Be careful not to
accidentally delete this directory!
Tracking files with a git repository
Now, we’ll create a file. Let’s say we’re going to write a journal paper, so we will start by adding the author names and a title, then save the file.
$ vim journal.md # Add author names and paper title
Accessing files from the command line
In this lesson we create and modify text files using a command line interface (e.g. terminal, Git Bash etc), mainly for convenience. JupyterHub also contains a native text editor that we can use to edit these files. That is because these are normal files which are also accessible from the file browser on any operating system (e.g. Windows explorer), and by other programs.
git status allows us to find out about the current status
of files in the repository. So we can run,
$ git status
On branch master Initial commit Untracked files: (use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed) journal.md nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)
Information about what Git knows about the directory is displayed. We are on
master branch, which is the default branch in a Git repository
(one way to think of branches is like parallel versions of the project.
Don’t worry – we’ll talk more about branches later).
For now, the important bit of information is that our file is listed as Untracked which means it is in our working directory but Git is not tracking it - that is, any changes made to this file will not be recorded by Git.
Add files to a Git repository
To tell Git about the file, we will use the
git add command:
$ git add journal.md $ git status
On branch master Initial commit Changes to be committed: (use "git rm --cached <file>..." to unstage) new file: journal.md
Now our file is listed underneath where it says Changes to be committed.
git add is used for two purposes. Firstly, to tell Git that a given file
should be tracked. Secondly, to put the file into the Git staging area
which is also known as the index or the cache.
The staging area can be viewed as a “loading dock”, a place to hold files we have added, or changed, until we are ready to tell Git to record those changes in the repository.
In order to tell Git to record our change, our new file, into the repository, we need to commit it:
$ git commit # Type a commit message: "Add title and authors" # Save the commit message and close your text editor (vim, notepad etc.)
Our default editor will now pop up. Why? Well, Git can automatically figure out that directories and files are committed, and by whom (thanks to the information we provided before) and even, what changes were made, but it cannot figure out why. So we need to provide this in a commit message.
If we save our commit message and exit the editor, Git will now commit our file.
[master (root-commit) 21cfbde] 1 file changed, 2 insertions(+) Add title and authors create mode 100644 journal.md
This output shows the number of files changed and the number of lines inserted or deleted across all those files. Here, we have changed (by adding) 1 file and inserted 2 lines.
Now, if we look at its status,
$ git status
On branch master nothing to commit, working directory clean
our file is now in the repository.
The output from the
git status command means that we have a clean directory
i.e. no tracked but modified files.
Now we will work a bit further on our journal.md file by writing the introduction section.
$ vim journal.md # Write introduction section
If we now run,
$ git status
we see changes not staged for commit section and our file is marked as modified:
On branch master Changes not staged for commit: (use "git add <file>..." to update what will be committed) (use "git checkout -- <file>..." to discard changes in working directory) modified: journal.md no changes added to commit (use "git add" and/or "git commit -a")
This means that a file Git knows about has been modified by us but has not yet been committed. So we can add it to the staging area and then commit the changes:
$ git add journal.md $ git commit # "Write introduction"
Note that in this case we used
git add to put journal.md to the staging
area. Git already knows this file should be tracked but doesn’t know if we want
to commit the changes we made to the file in the repository and hence we have
to add the file to the staging area.
It can sometimes be quicker to provide our commit messages at the command-line
git commit -m "Write introduction section".
Let’s add a directory common and a file references.txt for references we may want to reuse:
$ mkdir common $ vim common/references.txt # Add a reference
We will also add a citation in our introduction section (in journal.md).
$ vim journal.md # Use reference in introduction
Now we need to record our work in the repository so we need to make a commit. First we tell Git to track the references. We can actually tell Git to track everything in the given sub-directory:
$ git add common # Track everything currently in the 'common' directory $ git status # Verify that common/references.txt is now tracked
All files that are in common are now tracked. We would also have to add
journal.md in the staging area. But there is a shortcut. We can use
commit -a. This option means “commit all files that are tracked and
that have been modified”.
$ git commit -am "Reference J Bloggs and add references file" # Add and commit all tracked files
and Git will add, then commit, both the directory and the file.
In order to add all tracked files to the staging area, use
git commit -a
(which may be very useful if you edit e.g. 10 files and now you want to commit all of them).
git initinitializes a new repository
git statusshows the status of a repository
Files can be stored in a project’s
working directory(which users see), the
staging area(where the next commit is being built up) and the
local repository(where commits are permanently recorded)
git addputs files in the staging area
git commitsaves the staged content as a new commit in the local repository
Always write a log message when committing changes