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5 Steps for Code Changes Only on Git Branch and Merge to Master Once Done

While using git, for most part, you shouldn’t be working directly on the master branch.

Any development work, or hotfixes, or research work that you do, you’ll typically create a new branch, and make changes to your code on that branch.

If you are happy with your code changes on your branch, then you’ll merge it to the master branch.

Or, if you created a branch to quickly test something by making some code change without the intention of keeping your code change, then after your testing, you can simply discard your code changes by deleting the branch that you created for your testing purpose. This way, the code in your master branch is not affected.

This tutorial explains the following steps:

  1. Create a new dev branch
  2. Do your work on local dev branch
  3. Push dev branch from your local to central git repository
  4. Once your work is done, merge dev branch to master
  5. Finally, delete the dev branch from both local and central git repository

 

For the impatient, here is the code snippet for the above steps:

# Clone the git repo:
git clone https://remote-git-repo-url/demoproject

# Create new dev branch, do your work, and commit changes locally
git checkout -b dev
vi index.html
git commit -m "Made the change.." index.html

# Push your changes to remote dev branch
git push --set-upstream origin dev

# Merge dev branch to master
git checkout master
git merge dev

# Finally, delete dev branch both locally and remote
git branch -d dev
git branch -d -r origin/dev

For explanation and example output of the above steps, read the rest of the article.

1. Create New Dev Branch

In the following example, I’ve cloned demoproject from remote git repository to work on it locally.

# git clone https://remote-git-repo-url/demoproject

By default, the current working branch is master branch.

# git status
On branch master
Your branch is up-to-date with 'origin/master'.

nothing to commit, working tree clean

The following commands displays all available branches for this repository (both local and remote).

# git branch -a
* master
  remotes/origin/HEAD -> origin/master
  remotes/origin/master

As you see from the above output, there is no additional local or remote branch except the master branch.

For more details on git branch command, refer to this: 15 Git Branch Command Examples to Create and Manage Branches

So, to do our development work, let us create a new local dev branch as shown below.

# git checkout -b dev
Switched to a new branch 'dev'

In the above:

  • git checkout command will try to checkout the given branch.
  • In our case, we don’t have a branch called “dev”. So, the above command will create a new “dev” branch.
  • Once the empty dev branch is created, it will also switch to the dev branch and make that as our working branch.

Verify that the new branch got created as shown below.

# git branch -a
* dev
  master
  remotes/origin/HEAD -> origin/master
  remotes/origin/master

As you see from the above output, the * is now in front of dev, which indicates the current working branch is dev.

The following git status command indicates that we are currently on the new “dev” branch.

# git status
On branch dev
nothing to commit, working tree clean

2. Work on your local Dev Branch

Now that we have a new “dev” branch, start making your changes here. Any change that you do from now on will be only on the “dev” branch.

In this example, let us make a change to index.html file.

# vim index.html

Commit the change to the dev branch. Since we are already inside the dev branch, any commit that we do will happen only on the dev branch.

# git commit -a -m "Fixed email address"
[dev b0147e6] Fixed email address
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+), 1 deletion(-)

It’s important to understand that when we initially created our branch, it exists only locally on our local laptop. It’s better to push our local “dev” branch to the remote git repository.

This way, you can push all your changes to the remote dev branch, and someone else who is working on the “dev” branch can then checkout the changes. Even if you are the only person who is working on the “dev” branch, it is still a good idea to push your local changes to remote git repo to keep a remote backup of your changes.

When you do a git push at this stage, it will give the following error message, as we don’t have the “dev” branch in the remote git repository.

# git push
fatal: The current branch dev has no upstream branch.

3. Push the dev Branch to Remote Git Repository Upstream

The following git push command will create the remote “dev” branch if it doesn’t exists, and push all your local “dev” branch changes to the remote “dev” branch.

# git push --set-upstream origin dev
Counting objects: 3, done.
Delta compression using up to 4 threads.
Compressing objects: 100% (3/3), done.
Writing objects: 100% (3/3), 307 bytes | 307.00 KiB/s, done.
Total 3 (delta 2), reused 0 (delta 0)
To https://remote-git-repo-url/demoproject
* [new branch]      dev -> dev
Branch dev set up to track remote branch dev from origin.
Now if you do a git branch -a, you'll see both local and remote "dev" branch.
# git branch -a
* dev
 master
 remotes/origin/HEAD -> origin/master
 remotes/origin/dev
 remotes/origin/master

4. Merge Dev Branch to Master Branch

Once you are done with your development work on the “dev” branch, and validated your changes, you may want to merge the changes to the master branch.

For this, first switch your working branch from dev to master as shown below.

# git checkout master
Switched to branch 'master'
Your branch is up-to-date with 'origin/master'.

Once you are in the master branch, execute git merge dev as shown below to merge the “dev” branch with master.

# git merge dev
Updating 03c769c..b0147e6
Fast-forward
 index.txt | 2 +-
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+), 1 deletion(-)

You’ll see the word “Fast-forward” in the above output. All git does in the master branch is to move the HEAD pointer in the master branch to the latest commit from the “dev” branch.

Once the merge is done, make sure to do a git push, to push your changes to the remote repository.

# git push
Total 0 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0)
To https://remote-git-repo-url/demoproject
   03c769c..b0147e6  master -> master

5. Cleanup After Merging to Master

Now that you’e completed your development work, and merged the changes to master branch, you may want to delete your “dev” branch.

To delete the dev branch, execute the following command.

# git branch -d dev
Deleted branch dev (was b0147e6).

The above command deletes the branch only on your local git repository in your laptop.

As you see from the following output, the “dev” branch is still in the remote git repository.

# git branch -a
* master
  remotes/origin/HEAD -> origin/master
  remotes/origin/dev
  remotes/origin/master

The following command will delete the remote “dev” branch.

# git branch -d -r origin/dev
Deleted remote-tracking branch origin/dev (was b0147e6).

After the above clean-up, now we just have only the master branch which includes all the development work that we recently did.

# git branch -a
* master
  remotes/origin/HEAD -> origin/master
  remotes/origin/master

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