How to demystify Git commands using Visualizing Git – 081

A  couple of githubbers (aka those who work at github) put together an interactive visualization of git commands (as an open source project). For whatever reason, being able to play with this particular visualization tool allowed git things to click big-time, which you’ll see more in tomorrow’s tip.

visualizing a git merge no fast forward

A couple of commands to know that are only for the visualization tool itself and nothing to do with Git:

  • “undo” – undoes your last command to the tool. not a git command.
  • “clear” – gets you back to a clear Free Explore state – see the dropdown

Note that the tool doesn’t have a concept of

  • staging or a working directory – so no getting to practice the differences between `git reset –hard` or `git reset –mixed` or `git reset –soft`
  • interactive rebase

But like I said before, just being able to visualize what on earth is happening has been a huge lightbulb moment.

They are taking pull requests, so if you know of a good example, why not put together an example demo script for their examples folder?

How to find when a line was last changed in Visual Studio – 080

Previously, I mentioned how to use Blame on to find the commit that changed a specific line. Today we’re going to rinse and repeat this scenario within Visual Studio.

I told think anyone ever realized how scared I was of the world (if not plain neurotic) as a small child. I remember once in first grade (6 years old) being asked by the teacher for the answer to a multiple choice question. I thought it was ‘D’ but the answer was ‘C’. When the teacher said no that was wrong, I broke down sobbing from fear and embarrassment. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me for getting it wrong. I thought perhaps I’d get into serious trouble when I got home or lose my recess or something. Unfortunately, the teacher completely misread why I was crying (she thought I was acting out for attention) and scolded me, etc., which was my first foray into the self-fulfilling prophecy*.

I share this story because the first time I saw “Blame” on GitHub, I felt the same emotion as I did as a little kid. Why would I ever want to put myself into a position of having people call me out publicly via my code and blame me? But as I said in my previous post, Blame doesn’t mean “to imply blame” but rather “look up the commit that changed this line of code.”

I was happy to see this command referred to as Annotate in Visual Studio 2015, but a bit saddened to see now called Blame (Annotate) in Visual Studio 2017. I get it. I get it. When in Rome… but I often muse what would be the equivalent of commercial airline pilots who have to reskill like we do in the software industry. Would they start lowering the landing gear prior to take off? Would they refer to Air Traffic Controller as Air Traffic View or Air Traffic Model? (see what I did there? #PointsMe!)

In today’s scenario, I want to know two things:

  1. When was a specific line of code changed? as in, which commit changed a given line of code?
  2. What changed in that line?

1.  open the file that contains the line in question (either via Double-Click in Solution Explorer or File – Open – File provided you are connected to the repo in Team Explorer)

2. anywhere in the file, right-click and select Source Control – Blame (Annotate)

Source Control - Blame (Annotate) in context menu for file

The Blame / Annotate window will appear on the left hand side. This window shows for each line what was the last commit that modified it.

Annotated window shown for a given file

In the above example, lines 1-2 were last modified by commit ID 44af5057 (most likely my initial commit). But line 3, the one I’m interested in, was last modified in commit fd80ad89.

As any long time Visual Studio user will do… let’s click the fd80ad89 and see what happens!

Commit details for the last commit that modified line 3

Seeing the Commit Details appear in Team Explorer answers the part one of my scenario – the when. Now it is time to figure out the what – what was changed in the line…

TE - Commit Details - Changes - main.js - Compare with Previous

By clicking on the Compare with Previous… command in the context menu for the main.js file listed in the Changes list for that commit, you’ll see the file diff view appear.

"Tray" shown added to list of const

And now we  have “the what” for what has changed in the file. The “Tray” const was added to the list, giving it a type of Electron.Tray, so I could put the app in the Taskbar tray (or Mac tray thingy at top of screen).

*Sometimes I wonder if I’m the reincarnation of Rod Serling (technically, he died before I was born) or a zen master looking for a challenge. But then again, I’ve always hated smoking, so I’m not the former. And during the Visual Studio 2017 Launch Event when they were showing my Happy Birthday Visual Studio video, I was at home yelling at the Yoga DVD Instructor over the “share  your breath with the community” breathing stuff, so it can’t be the later either.

How to open a GitHub repo that does not contain a solution in Visual Studio 2017 – 079

In recent years, I started dabbling in ruby, node.js, electron, etc. As time passed, I (somehow) forgot the notion of a “solution” file. I know that sounds exaggerated or cra-cra coming from me, but hold on. I’ll explain. To open an electron application (e.g. your moment of GitHub Zen app) in a non-VS editor like Atom, you’d simply `cd` into the root folder of where you cloned your repo and type in `atom .` The dot in the `atom .` means open all the files listed here.

View solution-less repo in Atom

And there in atom, you’ll see a similar experience to Solution Explorer, but instead of a solution file at the top, you see the root folder.

atom with an electron app opened

View solution-less repo in Visual Studio 2015

Now let’s say you connect to the your-moment-of-GitHub-zen repo via Team Explorer in Visual Studio 2015. But oh-no! Your solution explorer will be empty. After spending a year using Atom, it’s really odd feeling when none of your files appear available in your editor. (See! I told ya’ll I could justify forgetting about a solution file!)

Solution Explorer just looks at you

You might hope that Team Explorer will have some sort of solution available… (boom! did you see what I did there with that play on words re having a solution for not having a solution? thank you! I’m here all week…)

No solutions available

The workaround is to manually File – Open – File your files and use Team Explorer to manage your changes (or command line – I guess you can’t have too many options).

View solution-less repo in Visual Studio 2017

Hello Visual Studio 2017! What do we have here??

Show Folder View

Let’s see what this Show Folder View button does…


And there we go! You can now open a project in Visual Studio without requiring a solution. I’ve spent all of 2 minutes playing with this new feature, so I’ll have to learn where to go from here!

How to use the arrows in the View History graphs in Visual Studio – 078

There was a saying back in Mountaineering Search and Rescue* in Seattle about why you should *never* pack cotton-based clothes in your cold-weather gear. It went like, “No matter how far down you pack cotton in your bag, water will find it.”  I feel the same about Visual Studio. “If there is a clickable pixel somewhere in Visual Studio, no matter how small or obscure you place it, I will find it.”

As I was prep’ing yesterday’s tip, I noticed that the View History graph showed these arrows pointing in various directions. TBH I had to ask someone to explain what the arrows meant.

Graph with arrows pointing down

If you click on this downward-facing arrow, a connector line will appear!

graph connecting line shown going offscreen

The connector line will go all the way down off screen until it reaches its commit.

connecting line reaching its commit

The idea behind these arrows is to show you that they connect to a commit that’s not currently visible on the screen.

BTW, the arrows can also point upwards as well, reaching back up to its counterpart in the graph.

arrows pointing in either direction

*So yeah, about search and rescue, well over 10 years ago, genius here wanted to volunteer to learn more about hiking and volunteer my time and whatever skills to helping out, since I love the outdoors so much. Only one small problem… I hate the cold! And I had never camped in the cold before, and at that time anything below 70 was considered cold to my NOLA standards. Anyways, it was 27 degrees one particular weekend of training. I made it the first night, but was never able to get to sleep. The second night I dropped out so my partner (who was kicking butt and taking names) could find other same skill-level people so she could pass. But yeah I still laugh at the thought of me thinking I could go find people lost in the woods when I get lost driving down the street!

How to use `git log –first-parent` to only view commits that happened on a given branch – 077

First Parent Only via Visual Studio – View History

By default the View History option in Visual Studio (from Changes – Action – View History or from the Status bar  – <branch name> – View History) shows all commits, regardless whether the commit occurred in a separate branch or on the current branch. Let’s assume master is the current branch for simplicity. I’m using Open Live Writer as an example.

Shout out to who has a great write-up on when you’d use –first-parent.

Right now on Twitter, developers are sharing how much they have to look up things. “Hi, my name is Sara. When I look at the Git history graph, I see a praying mantis.”

local history for master branch showing crazy graph

If you only want to see the changes that occurred on master (or whatever branch you are currently viewing the history for), you can click the Show First Parent Only button.

Show First Parent Only

Now you’ll only see commits that occurred directly on the branch itself (and not on another branch that got merged into the current branch).

Local History now a flat graph

Command Line git log –first-parent

Rinse and repeat for command line.

From yesterday’s tip, if you run git log –graph –pretty=oneline –graph –abbrev-commit

git log --graph --pretty=oneline --graph --abbrev-commit

You’ll see all of the commits from different branches.

Now add the –first-parent option at the end: git log –graph –pretty=oneline –graph –abbrev-commit –first-parent

git log --graph --pretty=oneline --graph --abbrev-commit --first-parent

Thanks again to for the great description! As I said above, I just see a praying mantis. 🙂

How to view a git log graph from the command line that looks like Visual Studio View History – 076

It feels like there are 100 different ways to do a git log. Here’s one possible way… I’m using the OpenLiveWriter repo to demo since it has lots of branching going on.

P.S. The way to exit these log commands is to press ‘q’ when the colon appears, if you are following along at home.

let’s start with git log –graph.

git log --graph command line

But it’s too wordy to show the graph.

Let’s try git log –graph –pretty=oneline

git log --graph --pretty=oneline

Better, but the long commit IDs are throwing everything off.

Let’s try git log –graph –pretty=oneline –graph –abbrev-commit

git log --graph --pretty=oneline --graph --abbrev-commit

And that’s about as close as I can get to a graph that looks like the graph in Visual Studio.

If you know of a better way, please share with the group! 🙂

How to open files in a repo that doesn’t contain a solution in Visual Studio 2015 – 075

tl;dr if you have a repo that doesn’t have a solution, don’t worry. You can still use File – Open – File to open files associated with the repo and Team Explorer will still track those files the same as if a solution were open.

P.S. I’m writing these tips for VS 2015. I’ll need to update for Visual Studio 2017.

For all my adult life (minus 2 years), the Solution file was your go-to starting point in Visual Studio. Even if you create a new text file via File – New – File, Visual Studio creates a new Solution nevertheless.

a solution still appears

It’s almost like Visual Studio has a Solution that’s in search of a problem.

bear w meme text "thank you thank you i'm here all week"

Can’t believe I’ve never thought of that one before… Anyways…

Repos that do not contain a Solution

If you open a repo that doesn’t have a solution in it, you’ll see the following:

no solution found

You can still go to File – Open – File and open files that are associated with that repo. In fact, File – Open – File will open to that repo’s folder.

Opening a different Solution when Team Explorer is connected

A solution will always take precedence over a repo opened in Team Explorer.

For example, in the previous screenshot, I have a repo named “amend” that’s open, but this repo doesn’t a Solution. If I open a different solution that does not contain a repo, you’ll see that Team Explorer goes offline.

Team Explorer Offline

I guess this is Team Explorer’s way of saying, “Hey Look, I don’t want you to get confused which solution is tied to which repo.”

Switching to a different Repo with a Solution Open

Now having said that, let’s suppose I’m connected to a repo that has a solution, let’s say some ConsoleApplication54 project (you know you have them!) and you have the ConsoleApplication54 solution opened.

If you switch repos (via Team Explorer – Manage Connections) to any other repo, regardless whether it has a solution file opened, you’ll be in an odd state. On one hand you’ll have a solution opened, but Team Explorer will be tracking changes for an entirely different repo. This is the state you couldn’t get in to in the previous section.

It’s almost like a Game of Thrones battle (or so I’m told – haven’t seen or read yet) being played out inside the IDE: solutions vs repos.