Three Magical Git Aliases

Git is an enormously powerful tool, but certainly not the most beginner-friendly. The basic commands are straightforward enough, but until you wrap your head around its internal model, it’s easy to wind up in a jumble of merge commits or worse. Here are three aliases I use as part of my daily workflow that help me avoid many of the common pitfalls.

GPP (git pull --rebase && git push)

I can’t push without pulling, and I can’t pull without rebasing. I’m not sure this is still a point of debate, but if so, let me make my side known: I hate hate hate merge commits. And of course, what does Git tell you after an unsuccessful push?

Merge the remote changes (e.g. 'git pull') before pushing again.

This will create a merge commit, regardless of whether there are any conflicts between your changes and the remote. There are ways to prevent these merge commits at the configuration level, but they aren’t foolproof. This alias is.

GMF (git merge --ff-only)

I can’t create merge commits. Similar to the last, this alias prevents me from ever creating merge commits. I do my work in a topic branch, and when the time comes to merge it back to the mainline development branch, I check that branch out and pull down the latest changes. At this point, if I were to type git merge [branchname], I’d create a merge commit.

Using this alias, though, the merge fails and I receive a warning that this is not a fast-forward merge. I then check out my topic branch, rebase master, and then run the merge successfully.

GAP (git add --patch)

I can’t commit a code change without looking at it first. Running this command rather than git add . or using a commit flag lets me view individual changes and decide whether or not I want to stage them. This forces me to give everything I’m committing a final check and ensure there isn’t any undesirable code. It also allows me to break a set of changes up into multiple commits, even if those changes are in the same file.

What git add --patch doesn’t do is stage new files, so you’ll have to add those by hand once you’re done patching.

Hope you find one or more of these aliases helpful. These and more! available in my dotfiles.

David is Viget's managing development director. From our Durham, NC, office, he builds high-quality, forward-thinking software for PUMA, the World Wildlife Fund,, and many others.

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