Advanced git tips

aravindballa profile image Aravind Balla ใƒป3 min read

Git is amazing and you will learn only by using it. Try to learn the commands, you will forget if you don't use them. The same is the case for GUIs (like Tower or Source Tree). You might not have to learn the commands, but you will forget the process.

The solution is very simple. Learn what you need. Google what you don't. Try remembering if you are googling the same thing often. ๐Ÿ˜

After using Git for more than 2 years and teaching it to people, there are few tip that I would like to share.

(I use command-line and not a GUI. I feel more comfortable like this.)


Git allows you to have aliases for commands, which we are long or are frequently-used. There will a ~/.gitconfig file where you can specify them. (If you don't find the file, I think you can create it at HOME path).

These are the aliases I have.

        pl = pull --rebase
        cm = commit -m

The most frequently used, as you can guess is git cm.


That leads us to the other alias that I have, pull โ€”rebase. This is useful mostly when you work on open-source, or with a lot of branches in your projects. So you make a branch, add a new feature, or fix a bug and make a pull request. By the time you do this, you discover that the master was updated and has bunch of commits that are not in your branch.

In this scenario, โ€”rebase allows you to replay your work on top of master, as if you have created the branch now. Dealing with merge conflicts is also easier this way. If there are any, you can fix them, and git merge โ€”continue to continue the rebase of โ€”abort to stop it. I use VS Code to fix the conflicts. Its pretty easy.

Multiple SSH keys

What do you do when you have separate accounts for work and personal stuff? Ideally, you should not. The work ones will be private anyways. So maintain only one Github account. But imagine you have two.

I was like this for an year. And switching the accounts is time consuming and a pain if you do it frequently. SSH keys to the rescue! โœŒ๐Ÿป

You can generate multiple SSH keys with different mail ids(id_rsa and id_rsa_work) and register them with the Github accounts. When you are accessing the Github, you can give custom URLs for the remotes. For example,

git clone git@github.com-me:aravindballa/preact-ssr.git
git clone git@github.com-work:sencha/extjs-reactor.git

(P.S. Yes, I worked for Sencha for short period of time, on the open-source tooling that they released in ExtJS 6.6. I no longer work for them.)

Notice github.com-me and github.com-work. These are Hostnames that we provide in the ssh config.


Host github.com-me
  HostName github.com
  User git
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Host github.com-work
  HostName github.com
  User git
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_work

One thing, that you have to keep in mind, is the Author.

For the work repos, you will need to manually set the user.email to the work email.

git config user.email "aravind@awesome-company.com"

Or else, your commits at work will be by your personal account.

Take care!

Posted on Sep 23 '18 by:

aravindballa profile

Aravind Balla


Never not learning. When not writing code ๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿ’ป, he is climbing a mountain ๐Ÿง—โ€โ™‚๏ธ or writing โœ๏ธ or recording a podcast ๐ŸŽ™ or drinking coffee โ˜•๏ธ


markdown guide

that you can use virtual hostnames and map them in the .ssh/config to real ones was new, thanks for sharing!

one more git alias that I find very handy, to set a local branch up with the origin counterpart branch:

    track = "!git branch --set-upstream-to=origin/`git symbolic-ref --short HEAD`"

Re 'There will a ~/.gitconfig file where you can specify them. (If you don't find the file, I think you can create it at HOME path).'

Unless Iโ€™m parsing what you're saying wrong: $HOME will be the same value as ~ (except that with ~ you can do ~luser and it'll translate to the $HOME variable of the user luser). Or are you saying something else?

But it should also be pointed out that that's a global config file; you can also have it per repo i.e. at .git/config


Re 'Learn what you need. Google what you don't. Try remembering if you are googling the same thing often.'

Just want to point out that masters of memory will refute that. You should just learn to memorise things. It can be done. Of course it might be easier for some to be lazy and that's something that most people indeed are; but if nothing else you could keep your own document in the way you learn or say a cheatsheet. But by memorising things you will make it easier in the long run. Anyway keeping a cheatsheet is not the most efficient way of learning but I guess it works for most people.


Thanks for sharing the tips, Aravind! They are very helpful.

Everyone has their favourite Git commands. Our dev team has prepared a list of top lifesaving commands that help us in many situations, some of them may add up to to your list: codica.com/blog/useful-git-command...

We would love to hear what you think of them :)


Cool! I didn't know git branch --merged but felt the need most of the times.


Thanks, I wasn't aware of any of these tips!