Category: Git(Hub) Tip of the Day 2017

How to create a branch in Visual Studio – 088

It seems that I have to write these tips in triplicate: 1. command line, 2. Visual Studio, 3. git visualization tool. But that’s been the only way to prove to myself I’m grasping the concepts.

Command line

A college French professor once gave me the advice to never use contractions in class unless I was prepared to never ask him to slow down. I had just learned the equivalent of “I do not know” vs “I don’t know” (something like that).

Applying that advice to software, I don’t want to start using git shortcuts by combining commands until it is clear what the two commands are independently doing. (Yep, I’ll show the shortcut in a second… )

First, you’ll want to create a branch:

> git branch my-branch

Next, you’ll want to switch to that branch:

> git checkout my-branch

git branch addColor; git checkout addColor

Git Visualization

Okay that’s pretty straight forward, but what’s happening conceptually?

git visualization of creating and switching a branch

We are on master when we created a branch called addColor while on master and then switched to addColor.

The take home message is that addColor has everything that master has because we created the branch addColor while on Master.

Git Command Line Shortcut

Before we jump into the IDE, let’s take a sneak peek at that shortcut.

Note: in case anyone is following along at home, I first switch back to master to delete the addColor and then recreate using the shortcut.

The shortcut is

> git checkout -b addColor

deleting branch and then recreating using the shortcut

This shortcut says to checkout to addColor and if it doesn’t exist, create it.

Visual Studio

When you’re in Team Explorer, you can go to Branches, right click on the branch you want your new branch to be based on, right-click, and select New Local Branch From…

New Local Branch From... command in Team Explorer - Branches

Then give your new branch a name (and verify in the drop down you picked the correct branch) and leave the checkbox checked…

checkout branch option in Team Explorer

If you have the Checkout branch checkbox, you’re telling VS to create the branch and do the checkout so you’re now on the addColor branch instead of master.

If you uncheck it, it is the equivalent of creating the branch on the command line, but staying on master.

To confirm you’ve created and switched to the addColor branch, you’ll see that addColor is now in bold.

branches showing addColor now checked out

And the branch is also shown in the Visual Studio status bar.

addColor from status bar

How to recover from the "oh no! I did a git reset and now my files are gone!" – 087

If you don’t know about git reflog, your life is about to get much, much better. Prepare yourself. Git is about to make just a bit more sense.

Note: I use the git visualization tool at the bottom of this post, in case you want to jump straight to the “How on earth is this possible?! I give up. Git is just magic.”

Using yesterday’s tip, suppose you have a repo with 6 files each with their own commit.

git bash showing 6 commits

Cool. Now let’s say you did a `git reset –hard <commitID for file4>` to reset back to file 4. Note: any flavor of git reset will work for today’s scenario, since we’re not making any changes in our working directory (or so I think).

To recap these past several days:

  • git reset changes history and should be avoided if you’ve already shared those commits with others (e.g. you use it when you haven’t pushed yet.)
  • git revert undoes a commit by creating a new commit with those changes uncommitted (wow, what a sentence. My apologies.)


Notice how the above image confirms the git log only shows the commits up to file 4.

In addition,`ls` and `git ls-files` shows how files 5 and 6 are “gone”!

ls and git ls-files not showing files 5 and 6

will the real Git Log please stand up? please stand up. please stand up.

The command`git reflog` will show you the actual history of your git commands AND THEIR COMMIT IDS!!

output of git reflog

what?! what?! what?!

The lightbulb moment for me was that git was keeping those commits around, and not to mention git is also keeping an actual log of everything going on alongside my repo’s git log.

Let’s get those files back.

You’re going to do another git reset, but this time, you’re going to change history by rolling forward instead of rolling backwards.

so you’ll do `git reset –hard <commit id for file 6>`

git reset --hard commitID showing files 5 and 6 come back

and all our files are back. In fact, if we do a `git log` we’re back to where we were at.

git log showing all commits back

How on earth is this possible?! I give up. Git is just magic.

Let’s learn some magic tricks using the git visualization tool at

alrighty. let’s rinse and repeat the setup

git visualization showing head and master at file 3

notice how the commits for files 4, 5, and 6 are there, but just dotted out (or whatever the official term is).

So we never “deleted” those commits. We just told git to hide them from ourselves, but not from git.

Now for the magic. We can do a reflog here in this tool.

using git reflog and git reset back to file 6 in tool

Notice how HEAD and master pointers just move back to that commit ID. That’s it. These HEAD and masters pointers are just that… pointers.

This is why people say “don’t delete your .git folder and start over.” Your changes aren’t “gone”. They are just playing hide and sneak because you told them to.

Got to  get back. Back to the past. Samurai Jack!!

How to write a Bash or PowerShell script to quickly create test repos – 086

TFW you learn something that saves you a ton of time.

Our GitHub services team has on-demand content for learning Git, including a Git out of Trouble section. On page 2 git-set-up they show you how to create a script to create several files, commit them to your repo, one file at a time.

I’m using Git Bash, so here’s the Bash script

for d in {1..6};
 do touch file$;
 git add file$;
 git commit -m "adding file $d";

First, you’ll want to do `git init` otherwise, you’ll get yelled at by your shell for not being in a git repository.

Just copy and paste that into your shell (terminal or whatever),

script pasted into a Git Bash command prompt

Press Enter,

 git messages shown as script is run

and enjoy your Git out of Trouble explorations!

git status showing a commit for each file

How to revert changes in Visual Studio – 085

Yesterday’s tip talked about how to use `git revert` from the command line. Today’s tip describes the functional equivalent in Visual Studio.

TBH I clicked the wrong command in VS initially when I started writing this post. I clicked “reset ” then the “–hard” option, which should have been a hint. Revert doesn’t have the soft, mixed, or hard options. But, I was able to fix my git history (by going to the command line) to write this tip without deleting my .git folder and starting over, which is a first for me. So perhaps all this work writing out these tips is working!

Let’s say you have a console application that shows a blue background. And you’re like “no.”

console app with blue background

You want to remove this commit altogether. If you’ve been committing in small, atomic chunks of code, you should be able to revert this background color change. But don’t take my word for it. I wouldn’t know because I’m still trying to train myself to do small commits.

Going to the history shows where this change was introduced, i.e. “added ChangeColors()”. You can revert this commit by right-click and selecting “Revert.”

History - Revert on selected commit

Click Yes on the confirmation prompt.

If you refresh History, you’ll see the new commit.

Revert "added ChangeColors()"

You can double-click to open that commit’s details. If you edit the commit message, the Amend Message option will become available.

reverted commits details

Double-clicking on the Program.cs file listed under Changes for the Commit Details pane shows what’s been removed or “reverted” from the codebase.

Changes for Program.cs showing the ChangeColors method removed

And to verify we are back to our familiar console application background, let’s run the project.

default black background for console app

How to use git revert to undo a previous commit – 084

“undo”, “reset”, “revert” – ah English! Perhaps the author of The Giver used Git in the past, since one of their rules was “use precision of language.”

What do we mean by “undo a previous commit?” Let’s say we had 3 commits A, B, and C. And we realize ‘B’ was a mistake. Perhaps we changed a color to red, and it should go back to white. But we don’t want to pretend that ‘B’ never happened. That would mean modifying Git history, and Git really hates changing history if you have the repo shared with others.

So yeah, you could rewrite the code to manually undo the changes introduced in ‘B’, or you could let Git do that for you by running `git revert <commitID>`

git revert <commitID>

As you see in the above graph, using this git visualization tool, a new commit is made with the changes introduced from ‘A’ removed. The take home message is that a new commit is made, instead of “commit A” vanishing.

I like this Stack Overflow answer:

If I found B I committed before is wrong, and I want to “undo” its change, git-revert-ing B will cause:

A <- B <- C <- B'
               ^ HEAD

for which B' is reversing the change done in B

Now to the command line to see this in action!

Say you’ve added three files: A.txt, B.txt, and C.txt for commits A, B, and C, respectively. (One day, I’m going to blog about a list of files being out of order, “dis-respectively “)

We want to “undo” the changes introduced in B.

git log showing commits A, B, C


If you are following along at home, let’s pause for a second and make sure your core.editor is configured to use your preferred text editor.

The read between the lines: you’ll want to know how to exit whatever editor comes up.

git config --global core.editor showing notepad

Right now I’m using notepad to give me a fighting chance instead of the vi editor, aka the destoryer of CS careers. YMMV, so check out this GitHub help article on setting up an preferred text editor. Hint: it’s `git config –global core.editor notepad` if you want to use notepad across all your repos.

Okay with that taken care of, let’s do the revert. We want to “undo” the B.txt commit, so let’s party w `git revert <commit id for B>` and suddenly a wild notepad appears!


Since I’m cool with the default commit message “Revert ‘B’ for this demo (remember, git revert creates a new commit so it has to get a commit message from you), simply close notepad (File – Exit or ‘x’).

Now if you do your git log –oneline, you’ll notice the new commit. If you do a `ls` or `dir` and the git-equivalent to see what files git is tracking `git ls-files`, you’ll see that B.txt is no where to be found.

git log, ls, and git ls-files not showing B.txt

Once again to recap what we did. We could have simply deleted the file B.txt and committed those changes. But for a more complex scenario where you need to remove a feature that consists of more than a single file or line change, you should consider using `git revert`.

How to use the VS status bar buttons as a shortcut to Team Explorer panes – 083

Something new in Visual Studio 2015 and still there in Visual Studio 2017 is the ability to click buttons(!!!) in the status bar O_O.

You can switch branches without having to touch the Team Explorer pane.

branches button shown in status bar w list of branches to checkout

You can jump to the Connect pane, which will save you time when you’re debating “is it the Home icon or the green Plug icon?”

repo button in status bar showing Connect pane

Yeah, I guess I need to get around to deleting deletemetoday one of these days…

You can jump to the Changes pane, regardless whether you have uncommitted changes (or staged changes as shown in my screenshot – yeah SDET skills die hard).

This button won’t automatically commit your changes, but only takes you to the pane.

pen or pencil icon button for Changes pane

And last but not least, you can jump to the Sync pane. Again, it doesn’t perform any commands other than just navigating to the pane.

up arrow button for Sync pane

Looks like you can click the Line, Column, and Character status bar “buttons” and new UI appears for Visual Studio 2017!! (provided you have a file opened).

Must focus on Git and GitHub tips
Must focus on Git and GitHub tips
Must focus on Git and GitHub tips
Must focus on Git and GitHub tips
Must focus on Git and GitHub tips
Must focus on Git and GitHub tips
Must focus on Git and GitHub tips
Must focus on Git and GitHub tips

Okay, it looks like if you double-click on any of those status bar buttons, you’ll get a new Go To Line dialog, which seems to be part of a global search window…

new Go to Line window in VIsual Studio 2017

but it doesn’t seem to let you specify columns or character positions.

Yeah, old habits die hard, even when trying to focus.

How to fix the "oh no! I’ve accidentally committed on master instead of a branch" – 082

If you haven’t seen yet, stop reading this blog series and go check out that site, then come back here. I’m going to play out this scenario using the Visualizing-Git tool from yesterday.

I need to print this out this accidental-commit-master section and have it laminated on my desk. How many years have I gone to work, fired up Visual Studio, and started typing? And now all of a sudden I have to create a new branch first? I feel like this is the pilot equivalent of having to lower the landing gear before taking off. Nah, I don’t regret my career/life choices at all!

As my above drama illustrates, you’ve been coding along on a new feature and then you realize, “oh no! I’m still on master!” What I’ve done for years is Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, diff my changes, delete either the last commits and/or working directory, and then create the branch and move over my changes. At least I’m being honest.

We’ll follow these steps from via command line. But don’t stress if it doesn’t make sense. Once we rinse and repeat from Visualizing Git, it will make much more sense!

Part 1 – Command Line to the rescue!

Let’s say you’ve been working, working, working on your code, and suddenly you realize all these files you’ve added have been to master instead of a new feature branch!

 git log w 6 files added to master

First, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and don’t delete anything 🙂

Next, create a branch (git branch branch-name), but don’t check it out, so no `git checkout -b branch-name` shortcut!

git checkout feature-work

Now do `git reset –hard <commit ID to roll back to>`, e.g. I want files 1-6 added to my feature-work branch, so I’ll use the commit ID for the readme.

Note: since you are using the –hard, in the future, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t want to keep anything in your staging or working directory.

git reset --hard commitID

What?? Is our work gone?? There’s no commit logs for files 1-6. and doing a `ls -la` or `dir` or a `git ls-files` only shows the readme!

It might not seem like it but our work is still there. To quote my inner matrix, “the answer are coming.”

Now finish this by checking out the branch…

checking out the branch brings back the commits

WTF? Don’t give up. The answers are coming. I promise. (This is a conversation I would have had with myself from a week ago.)

Part 2 – Visualizing Git to the rescue’s rescue

Okay how on Earth did that work? Let’s rinse and repeat using the Visualizing Git tool.

First I’ll commit a readme and then 6 files.

inital setup visualization

now we’ll create that branch, but don’t check it out!

created a new branch

Remember that a branch is a pointer. Reminds me of a high school teacher who said “A logarithm is an exponent” over and over and over again in hopes we wouldn’t panic when we had to deal with logarithms in the future.  

But now we can see that the branch points to where master (another branch) is pointing. This is my ah-ha moment! In my mental model I’ve been visualizing a branch as a collection of commits from some starting point to some ending point, but here I can clearly see it is just pointing to the last commit I created it at.

Now let’s break down`git resert –hard commitID`

  • git reset means that it is moving where the current branch is pointing at (aka the tip) back to some previous commit.
  • — hard means Git will reset both staging and working directory to the changes you’re resetting to, so make sure `git status` is clean
  • some instructions show HEAD~. HEAD is a pointer as shown in the illustration. HEAD~ means move back one commit (HEAD~1 does the same as HEAD~). But since we want to remove all the files from master and not just file 6, we’d either have to do commitID or HEAD~6. CommitID is just easier to follow in this example.

When you type in `git resert –hard <commitID-for-readme>` you’ll see the following:

git reset --hard <commitID-for-readme>

Now things are making A LOT more sense. The feature-work pointer still points to all of our work since we’re only moving the tip of the master branch back.

and for the grand finally, you can now switch to that branch.

git checkout branch

And just to finish this all off since we’ve come this far after all, you can either do a merge (which will automatically do a fast-forward because no conflicts) or if you want to show that this work was always on a branch, you could do 1. `git checkout master` and 2. `git merge –no-ff feature-work`but we’ll talk about this in future tips.

non-fast forward merge of feature-work branch