Git is one of the most popular VCS (Version Control System) that exists today. It’s a free distributed version control system that sees use in tracking different source code changes during software development. Git is required to be installed on a local system, and this is where it’s maintained. Git works as an organizing tool for developers helping the orchestrate the work among them. Git isalso used to track changes in all sorts of files.
Git is also extremely useful for small software teams that are trying to maintain and track their development processes. Due to the popularity of Git, help is readily accessible, but some must-know practices elevate your workflow further.
So, what are the must-know git best practices?
Formalization of Git Conventions for a team
When utilizing Git, everyone in a team should follow common procedures. Like using standard conventions for naming branches, coding, and tagging. Different organizations have their own specialized best practices that suit them the best. Fortunately for the general public, many recommendations are available on the internet free of charge.
One of the crucial steps to take is to choose a suitable convention earlier into the process and make the team follow it. Different members of a team will have different levels of expertise towards Git. That is why you should organize and maintain a specific set of instructions and rules to perform the basic Git operations that accommodate your project’s conventions.
Staying Up to Date
Make sure in the master repository you have the most updated version of your project before working on new compartments like add-ons or features. When you are merging branches, conflicts may emerge if everything isn’t updater on a regular basis. Compatibility has to be ensured and smaller patches have to be made from time to time. Use a development cycle such as this:
First testing, then Committing.
Before you commit a change to a repository that is used by other members, test it. One of the policies that you should follow is the “test but verify policy,” even if you are the only developer on a project. Being confident is one thing, but your changes might not always bring the exact result you were hoping for. This is why testing the changes first will increase other’s trust and confidence in your work. The price of testing will always be less than the price of introducing a new problem or bug that affects everyone in your team.
Dividing the process into different repositories
Everything you put in a Git repository will be available to anyone who has access to it. Due to practical reasons, you may have many repositories. Making your project and different portions of it easily accessible for your team may sometime require a bigger repository count. Say that most of your projects involve things like security clearances, third parties’ and contractors’ NDA, then compartmentalization is an excellent way to go about it.
You want to get a Git Repository for starters, and you will have to define if you want to have and maintain a single super-repository or separate ones for your projects. It will largely depend on how your team works, how they are organized, and how different tasks are assigned. The various features, compartments, libraries, and classes your project uses will have to be considered. To save a lot of reworks and headaches later, define the repository in advance. Git-slave and Git-modules are utilities you can use to manage your structure. Consider having repositories for these specific use-cases:
- A super-repository for your projects that is accessible to the whole team.
- Repositories for commonly shared files among multiple different projects. It allows for easy re-use of codes where necessary in the future.
- Repositories for logical terms. These can be contractors, internal and third-party.
- Repositories for logical segments of projects. According to feature or product.
- Repositories for logical binary files.
- And some other repositories that might be needed.
Making the Repositories Easy to Understand
You can commit small changes often instead of bigger changes that withhold many of the members’ workflow. Frequent small changes allow members to verify modifications and assess then promptly.
Keep the commit message understandable and descriptive while adding a commit. Start it with a summary and separate it with a blank line from the main body. This eliminates the guessing game when trying to assess the last changes that were done. Do not commit generated files. If you must, then use a .gitignore file. Ignored files are files that are not necessary for the repository like passwords and config files.
If and when you need to work on one branch and suddenly feel the need to make changes in a different branch, you can utilize what is called a “git stash.” What it does is, save incomplete changes in a separate stack that you can choose to retrieve later. Stash also allows you to save ideas for later. What stash essentially does for a developer team is save uncompleted change-projects as no one should commit incomplete changes or updates.
Squashing and Merging
To keep the track record clean, in this case, the commit history clean, you can choose to squash and merge commits into a single unit when pull requests are merged. Having fewer commits in the history section makes it easier to track issues as each pull request can have multiple commits. Having fewer commits allows for easier problem tracking if a problem so happens to occur in the future.
Each team or company has their own practices that they consider best for Git. The methods can be numerous, but they follow some commonalities that we have listed above. While different teams have different standards and different ways of achieving the end result, some practices are universally accepted to be excellent practices. When you are new to Git, it might take a while before you gain a good sense of control over it. Eventually, you will understand them better, implement them more effectively, and course-correct/modify them to your team’s specific requirements.