fork-ing, merge-ing and branch-ing in git

David L. Miller (University of Rhode Island)

St Andrews R user group talk

20 December 2012


why git?


let’s start with a fresh git repo

$ mkdir ex
$ cd ex
$ git init
$ touch README
$ git add README
$ git commit -a -m "frivolous commit"

why branches?

branch example (1)

Let’s make a file called row.max.R:

# find the maximum in each row of a matrix -- slowly
row.max <- function(x){

  result <- c()

  for(i in 1:nrow(x)){
    this.max <- max(x[i,])
    result <- c(result, this.max)

branch example (2)

This does what you expect

> source("row.max.R")
> row.max(matrix(1:9,3,3))
[1] 7 8 9

Yay! It works!

$ git add row.max.R
$ git commit -a -m "Brian Ripley would be proud"

branch example (3)

branch example (4)

First make a new branch and switch to it:

$ git branch apply
$ git checkout apply
Switched to branch 'apply'

You can check which branch we’re on using:

$ git branch
* apply

branch example (5)

Change the code:

# find the maximum in each row of a matrix
row.max <- function(x){

Try it:

> source("row.max.R")
> row.max(matrix(1:9,3,3))
[1] 7 8 9


branch example (5)

Now, we can commit our changes to this branch

$ git commit -a -m "now we use apply(), this is much better"

we can switch back and forth between the branches and check where we are:

$ git checkout master
$ git branch
* master
$ git checkout apply
$ git branch
* apply

branching - when is it useful?

(aside) I started this, but I hate it

nuke everything that’s not committed

$ git reset --hard HEAD

(this works anytime, but be careful!)

I have lots of branches – what’s next?

merging – very easy

say we prefer apply, how do we make that our new master?

$ git checkout apply
$ git merge --strategy=ours master
$ git checkout master
$ git merge apply

merging – easy

if changes are disjoint we fast-forward

$ git commit -a -m "some changes"
$ git checkout master
$ git merge apply

merging – hard

what if there were non-trivial changes?

attempt merge as before, BUT get this error:

CONFLICT (content): Merge conflict in yourfile.R
Automatic merge failed; fix conflicts and then commit the result.

find conflicting files with git status

then, in file:

 <<<<<<< HEAD:mergetest
 some code here
 this is different code but in the same place...
 >>>>>>> 4e2b407f501b68f8588aa645acafffa0224b9b78:mergetest

delete what you don’t want then git commit -a

deleting branches

To remove a local branch from your machine:

git branch -d the_local_branch

remember: all changes are local

push your new branch back to github

$ git push origin apply

remove a remote branch:

git push origin :the_remote_branch


checkout the commit you want

$ git checkout e680ce8393934b0294268263074a0d4bd12ccf03

time travel!

SHA-1 is king

github is a good GUI for finding hashes


git stash for quick storage

stash example

$ git stash save "work in progress"
# work on something else
$ git commit -a -m "fixed!"
$ git stash pop
# back to where we were