Git’s branching functionality lets you create new branches of a project to test ideas, isolate new features, or experiment without impacting the main project.
Table of Contents
- View Branches
- Checkout a Branch
- Create a New Branch
- Rename a Branch
- Delete a Branch
- Compare Branches
- Help with Git Branch
- More Information
To view the branches in a Git repository, run the command:
To view both remote-tracking branches and local branches, run the command:
git branch -a
There will be an asterisk (*) next to the branch that you’re currently on.
There are a number of different options you can include with
git branch to see different information. For more details about the branches, you can use the
--verbose) option. The list of branches will include the SHA-1 value and commit subject line for the
HEAD of each branch next to its name.
You can use the
--all) option to show the local branches as well as any remote branches for a repository. If you only want to see the remote branches, use the
Checkout a Branch
To checkout an existing branch, run the command:
git checkout BRANCH-NAME
Generally, Git won’t let you checkout another branch unless your working directory is clean, because you would lose any working directory changes that aren’t committed. You have three options to handle your changes:
- trash them (see Git checkout for details) or
- commit them (see Git commit for details) or
- stash them (see Git stash for details).
Create a New Branch
To create a new branch, run the command:
git branch NEW-BRANCH-NAME
Note that this command only creates the new branch. You’ll need to run
git checkout NEW-BRANCH-NAME to switch to it.
There’s a shortcut to create and checkout a new branch at once. You can pass the
-b option (for branch) with
git checkout. The following commands do the same thing:
# Two-step method git branch NEW-BRANCH-NAME git checkout NEW-BRANCH-NAME # Shortcut git checkout -b NEW-BRANCH-NAME
When you create a new branch, it will include all commits from the parent branch. The parent branch is the branch you’re on when you create the new branch.
Rename a Branch
To rename a branch, run the command:
git branch -m OLD-BRANCH-NAME NEW-BRANCH-NAME # Alternative git branch --move OLD-BRANCH-NAME NEW-BRANCH-NAME
Delete a Branch
Git won’t let you delete a branch that you’re currently on. You first need to checkout a different branch, then run the command:
git branch -d BRANCH-TO-DELETE # Alternative: git branch --delete BRANCH-TO-DELETE
The branch that you switch to makes a difference. Git will throw an error if the changes in the branch you’re trying to delete are not fully merged into the current branch. You can override this and force Git to delete the branch with the
-D option (note the capital letter) or using the
--force option with
git branch -D BRANCH-TO-DELETE # Alternatives git branch -d --force BRANCH-TO-DELETE git branch --delete --force BRANCH-TO-DELETE
You can compare branches with the
git diff command:
git diff FIRST-BRANCH..SECOND-BRANCH
You’ll see colored output for the changes between branches. For all lines that have changed, the
SECOND-BRANCH version will be a green line starting with a ”+”, and the
FIRST-BRANCH version will be a red line starting with a ”-“. If you don’t want Git to display two lines for each change, you can use the
--color-words option. Instead, Git will show one line with deleted text in red, and added text in green.
If you want to see a list of all the branches that are completely merged into your current branch (in other words, your current branch includes all the changes of the other branches that are listed), run the command
git branch --merged.
Help with Git Branch
If you forget how to use an option, or want to explore other functionality around the
git branch command, you can run any of these commands:
git help branch git branch --help man git-branch