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15 Git Commands You May Not Know

zaiste profile image Zaiste Originally published at zaiste.net ・3 min read

Using Git may be intimidating at times. There are so many commands and details to learn. The documentation, however, while being immense, is still greatly accessible. Once you overcome the initial feeling of being overwhelmed, the things will start to fall into place.

Here is a list of 15 Git commands that you may not know yet, but hopefully they will help you out on a journey to master this tool.

1. Modify The Most Recent Commit

git commit --amend

—-amend allows to append staged changes (e.g. to add a forgotten file) to the previous commit. Adding —-no-edit on top of that will amend the last commit without changing its commit message. If there are no changes, -—amend will allow you to reword the last commit message.

For more: git help commit

2. Interactively Add Selected Parts of Files

git add -p

-p (or —patch) allows to interactively select parts of each tracked file to commit. This way each commit contains only related changes.

For more: git help add

3. Interactively Stash Selected Parts of Files

git stash -p

Similar to git-add , you can use --patch option to interactively select parts of each tracked file to stash.

For more: git help stash

4. Stash with untracked

git stash -u

By default, when stashing, the untracked files are not included. In order to change that bevahiour and include those files as well you need to use -u parameter. There is also -a (—all) which stashes both untracked and ignored files altogether, which is probably something you usually won’t need.

5. Interactively Revert Selected Parts of Files

git checkout -p

--patch can be also used to selectively discard parts of each tracked file. I aliased this command as git discard

For more: git help checkout

6. Switch to Previous Branch

git checkout -

This command allows you to quickly switch to the previously checked out branch. On a general note - is an alias for the previous branch. It can be used with other commands as well. I aliased checkout to co so, it becomes just git co -

7. Revert All Local Changes

git checkout .

If you are sure that all of your local changes can be discarded, you can use . to do it at once. It is, however, a good practice to always use checkout --patch.

8. Show changes

git diff --staged

This command shows all staged changes (those added to the index) in contrast to just git diff which only shows changes in the working directory (without those in the index).

For more: git help diff

9. Rename Branches Locally

git branch -m old-name new-name

If you want to rename the currently checked out branch, you can shorten this command to the following form:

git branch -m new-name

For more: git help branch

10. Rename Branches Remotely

In order to rename a branch remotely, once you renamed your branch locally, you need to first remove that branch remotely and then push the renamed branch again.

git push origin :old-name
git push origin new-name

11. Open All Files with Conflicts at Once

Rebasing may lead to conflicts, the following command will open all files which need your help to resolve these conflicts.

git diff --name-only --diff-filter=U | uniq  | xargs $EDITOR

12. What changed?

git whatchanged —-since=‘2 weeks ago’

This command will show a log with changes introduced by each commit from the last two weeks.

13. Remove file from last commit

Let's say you committed a file by mistake. You can quickly remove that file from the last commit by combining rm and commit --amend commands:

git rm —-cached <file-to-remove>
git commit —-amend

14. Find Branches

git branch --contains <commit>

This command will show all branches that contain a particular commit.

15. Optimize the repository locally

git gc --prune=now --aggressive

For more: git help gc


Although I like CLI a lot, I highly recommend checking Magit to further step up your Git game. It is one of best pieces of software I used.

There is, also, a fantastic overview of recommended Git workflows available via help command. Be sure to read it thoroughly!

git help workflows

Posted on by:

zaiste profile



Software Engineer. I teach programming on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ohzaiste


Editor guide

Great article, didn't know about some of these, especially 9, 11 and 12.

Adding to 15, another cleanup argument I find very useful is

git remote prune origin

to cleanup deleted branches on origin


A companion command to 14 that I use all the time is:

git tag --contains <commit>

It's great for figuring out what versions are affected by a bug once you know the commit, or what version you need to use to have a particular feature/change.

Bonus command is:

git branch --merged master

This one is handy to find old branches that can be safely cleaned up.

Another bonus is:

git describe

Which is an easy way to figure out what the next version should be, or to create a human readable identifier for a commit when packaging a build or writing in a deployment log


Great additions!


Great article! Sometimes we forget how powerful git really is.

Another command I really like and most people don't use is git bisect.
It's a great way to find a buggy commit.


This is one of those commands you don’t use very often but is priceless when you do need it.


I learned git cherrypick a few weeks ago and found that really useful - we needed a couple of commits from one branch to be brought into a new branch of fixes.


Very glad you wrote these important tips down. I was not aware of all of them but number 6 and 7 are shortcuts I often use.

Be aware that if you use too much shorthand git command you get the reputation as git wizard which leads to the hard to deal with problems. :-D

Very well written, thank you Zaiste.


Thanks Claudio for kind words. I'm happy you liked this article!


checkout - caught me unaware last time i used my rebase-all script, as it also works with merge and rebase (and actually anywhere you need to pass a commitish to a Git command). This script of mine walks all local branches and rebases them onto the branch i specify on the command line (or origin/master if i don’t). Also, if i pass -n as the first parameter, it doesnʼt do a git fetch before traversing my branches. Now few days ago i invoked it as git rebase-all -.

My following workday wasnʼt funny. Context: i usually have 40ish local branches.


Here's my small contribution: If you added a commit and already pushed it or merged it into another branch and you need to reverse those changes, you can always go:

git reverse {hash}

It will create a new commit with the changes reversed. Also, the new commit will have a reference to the reversed commit (i.e Github will tell you "this reverses {hash}")


Which version of git has "git reverse"? I can't find it mentioned in git-scm.com/docs


Probably meant git revert


git commit --amend is great, I use it all the time if I've forgotten something that needed to be in my staged commit. Or if I just want to alter my commit message and give it more detail.

However, if your memory is terrible like mine and you've forgotten that the commit you're now amending has already been pushed? Good luck, you'll conflict yourself. Git really shouldn't let you amend a commit that's been pushed already...


as alternative to 11. you can also use

git mergetool [-t <tool>]

when rebase fails with merge conflicts

The default merge tool to use is configurable in .gitconfig, mine is vimdiff :-)
For vimdiff it opens 4-pane view with two conflicting versions (REMOTE and LOCAL), their common ancestor (BASE) and the actual current file with merge conflicts. After resolving the conflict and exiting it will open the next file with conflicts, one by one.

Out of the box Git knows how to work with more diff/merge tools - emerge, gvimdiff, kdiff3, meld, vimdiff, and tortoisemerge, but you can configure other ones explicitly yourself.

And there's also a similar but simpler git difftool which is just a visual frontend to git diff



In my workflow it is routine to delete branches on Github Pull Requests when they're merged. This leaves the local repo with local branches that have since lost its tracking branch. To clear this I have the following alias under .gitconfig

prune-branches = !git remote prune origin && git branch -vv | grep ': gone]' | awk '{print $1}' | xargs git branch -D

So whenever a bunch of my PR's have been merged I just run git prune-branches and it prunes the remote branch references but also deletes the corresponding local ones.


My small contribution

1.Count the number of commits on a branch
git rev-list --count master

2.Count number of branches in a git repository
git branch | wc -l

3.Delete remote branch cache in your local repository
git fetch -p

4.Delete remote tag cache in your local repository
git fetch -p -P

5.Delete a git alias
git config --global --unset alias.XXX

6.List git aliases
git config --list | grep alias


Fantastic article ... some of my favorite commands that I use a lot:

detailed overview of local/tracking branches:

git branch -avv

git fetch with "cleanup":

git fetch origin --prune

"git stash pop force":

git stash show -p | git apply -3 && git stash drop

git clone using your ssh key via the "git" protocol (particularly useful for private repos):

git clone git@github.com:somecompany/someprivaterepo

and this dev.to article is my go-to reference when I'm confused about 'rebase':



you're telling about Magit, there's also the Vimagit plugin for the one true editor!

I cannot live without it. Before using that, I was already using GitXR on OSX, before it became discontinued. I also tried git-cola on linux.


I didn't know about a lot of these commands! Thanks a lot. It's always good to improve our git abilities. (:


Not to be weird, but you should read the official docs on all technologies you use, you'll be surprise how much time you will save on the long run. Git, the IDEs, programming languages and especially libs/frameworks have good documented functionalities, eg: git-scm.com/docs


Absolutely! It's also good to take baby steps, especially where there is a lot to learn.


Thank you Zaiste, you save my day. I've learned a lot with your all post.


I'm happy you found it useful!


Nice! Can I translate this post to Chinese? The translation will be published at nextfe.com (sponsored by LeanCloud, a BaaS provider) and related Chinese social network accounts. The translated text will backlink to this original post.


Oh, I didn't know about the --patch to stash and checkout, that's nice. I usually use git add -i when I want to fiddle, since you can then see what's going on a little easier.


Thanks for this, didn’t know about the contains command 🙂!

My personal favourite is nr. 6:

git checkout -

Very useful 👍🏻.


My collection of git alias github.com/Mte90/dotfiles/blob/mas...

I have also a command that download my fork and add automatically the upstream using the GitHub API

I use also hub.github.com/


Nothing about git cherry-pick ? Still a nice post, could be useful !


Very informative for new Git users like me, thx


Thank you! Take your time learning Git. And don't get discouraged!


Excellent article, thank you


Thanks for the kind words!


Oh nice! Didn't know about git co -, and renaming branch! Thanks!


Thanks for this interesting article.


I'm glad you liked it!


That's a good cheatsheet


Awesome article, for someone like me that keeps on forgetting the commands, this will come in handy! I'm always finding myself in some sort of trouble when using Git! I just don't know why! Ha!


You think Code processing spreed of Git of Magit faster?


Hi, Zaiste

Can I translate your article into English and share it with Chinese developers?