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Cover image for 🙏 Please Add .gitattributes To Your Git Repository

🙏 Please Add .gitattributes To Your Git Repository

deadlybyte profile image Carl Saunders Updated on ・3 min read

What Is .gitattributes?

The .gitattributes file allows you to specify the files and paths attributes that should be used by git when performing git actions, such as git commit, etc.

In other words git automatically saves the file according to the attributes specified, every time a file is created or saved.

One of these attributes is the eol (end of line) and is used to configure the line endings for a file. This article will now dive deeper into how to configure the line endings, so every developer uses the same value when using different machines / OSes across the repository.

Why .gitattributes (Developers At War ⚔️)?

Not all developers are the same, just because you develop on a Windows machine using Visual Studio Code, don't expect the next pull request to have been implemented using the same dev environment (MacOS machine using Sublime Text 2).

As mentioned above the developers are using different OSes (Windows and MacOS) the default for the line ending will differ. On the Windows machine the default for the line ending is a Carriage Return Line Feed (CRLF), whereas on Linux/MacOS it's a Line Feed (LF).

To the naked eye the content will look the same, so why should we bother???

Well, if you have prettier enabled and the endOfLine property is set to lf.

{
  "endOfLine": "lf"
}

On the Windows machine the developer will encounter linting issues from prettier, like those below.

Code File With Prettier Linting Errors - .gitattributes

Code File With Prettier Linting Errors

This is where .gitattributes comes to the rescue and saves the day 🦸!

New Repository (Repo)

To add the .gitattributes to the repo first you need to create a file called .gitattributes into the root folder for the repo.

Below is an example of the contents for the .gitattributes file.

*.js    eol=lf
*.jsx   eol=lf
*.json  eol=lf

Commit this file to the repo and push your changes to the server.

git add .
git commit -m "Added .gitattributes to repo"
git push

Now when anyone gets the code from the repo the default correct line ending will be used automatically via git, when creating and modifying the files.

Add to Existing Git Repository (Repo)

Follow the steps mentioned in the New Repository (Repo) steps to create the .gitattributes file. Once the file has been pushed to the git server then make sure that your local repo is clean and has nothing to commit. Use git status to determine whether your repo is clean.

git status

Note: If you still have files to push or commit, please make sure that these actions are performed or the files are stashed before you perform the next commands.

GitAttributes Reset

git rm --cached -r .
git reset --hard

The above commands will now update the files for the repo using the newly defined line ending as specified in the .gitattributes.

Any changes or new changes will automatically use the line endings specified for that file type.

Next step is to inform any team mate or collaborator, to run the GitAttributes Reset commands.

Now prettier won't complain about CR and all developers can now live in peace! ☮️

Code File With No Linting Errors - .gitattributes

Code File With No Prettier Linting Errors

Discussion

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tiguchi profile image
Thomas Iguchi

There's also an option that makes everyone happy: Let the git installation on a user's machine decide which line ending to use when a repository is checked out:

* text=auto
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

That way it really doesn't matter and Windows users can still open their files using Notepad if they wish (I'm not judging 😄).

AFAIK line endings are committed to the repository "normalized" as LF, but the checked out version depends on the OS default for line endings.

The setting can be also fine tuned with additional overrides in case there are specific file types that need their line endings preserved (e.g. shell scripts or Windows batch files)

See also: help.github.com/en/github/using-gi... and git-scm.com/docs/gitattributes

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Ah, the glory days of Unux and Linix.

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aleksandrhovhannisyan profile image
Aleksandr Hovhannisyan

I admit to still typing notepad into Run/cmd/PS on occasion, but I swear it's only for notes I plan to throw away quickly lol

Literally me, lol!

Windows + R, type notepad, and then dump my thoughts in there from time to time (usually my TODOs for the day). It's good to have such a minimal editor on hand, without all those UI distractions.

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armw4 profile image
Antwan R. Wimberly

Str♎️ Facts!!

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ashu12318 profile image
Ashutosh Singh Parmar

True... notepad is best for temporary things..

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charlesroper profile image
Charles Roper

Install Notepad2-mod, choose to replace Notepad when you install it, and you'll get all the lightweight joy of old Notepad with just enough extra sprinkles (like lf support and syntax highlighting) to make it practical.

xhmikosr.github.io/notepad2-mod/

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armw4 profile image
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vtvh profile image
Hải

I'm a heavy Windows desktop user. But live primarily in wsl terminal nowadays.

Btw, that Regex would match Unux😝

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deadlybyte profile image
Carl Saunders Author

Thanks for this additional information. Please NO, not Notepad!!! 😀

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rtpharry profile image
Matthew Harris

Haha I moved to macOS at the start of the year and I miss notepad. :P

TextEdit can be configured close but it's not the same.

I also never realised how much I used WIN+R as a quick scratchpad when I found myself distracted by another task but still had something live in my clipboard.

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pclundaahl profile image
Patrick Charles-Lundaahl

Try sublime text!

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ytjohn profile image
YourTech John

Check out Quiver for macOS. Create notes within notebooks, and each note can have cells of markdown, code blocks, or sequence diagrams.

happenapps.com/#quiver

For other platforms, check out Joplin. It's not as nice as quiver, but shares some of the same ideas.

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tiguchi profile image
Thomas Iguchi

I miss that app so much... I switched to Linux from Mac OS a while ago, and that one was one of my most favorite productivity apps.

My crude workaround at the moment is Typora. It's not bad, but not nearly as polished as Quiver.

I will check out Joplin soon. Thanks for the tip!

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xevion profile image
Xevion

Currently using Joplin. It is amazing, and a quick look at Quiver yields a very similar look. I don't know of any implementation that allows "sharing" notebooks like I saw in a screenshot of Quiver, but otherwise, Notebooks with sub-notebook organization, Markdown is possible. Also, there seem to be a lot more methods for accessing Joplin on different platforms, with Windows/MacOS/Linux/Android/iOS/Terminal implementations with DropBox and other file storage services. Highly recommended.
Also, Joplin is FREE. Major bonus.

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mistval profile image
Randall

As a (mainly) Windows user I always disable autocrlf and standardize on LF because:

  1. If I'm building Docker images (and I often am), I don't want to be copying CR LF files into the Docker images. Some Linux utilities will choke on them.

  2. If my program reads, say, XML files, I don't want the (multiline) strings going through my code to differ depending on my OS, this has bit me before too.

  3. If I calculate a hash on a file I want it to be the same on any OS.

  4. While I have had problems with CR LF files on Linux, I have never had problems with LF files on Windows (I don't use Notepad).

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bam92 profile image
Abel Lifaefi Mbula

I use editorconfig, I'm OK with it.

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jcoelho profile image
José Coelho

I think that for the use case you presented the git core.autocrlf config option is more appropriate.
With this option each developer can work with their native eol character.

However what I like about your option is that you can commit the gitattribute file and force the change for every developers

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andreidascalu profile image
Andrei Dascalu

You're not really forcing it if you need to ask everyone to flush their cache / reset gitattributes.
If you need cooperation, it's better to just ask developers to set their autocrlf setting properly.
Prettier issue aside, it's better to preempt accidental commits of eol changes anyway.

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deadlybyte profile image
Carl Saunders Author

Thanks for the tip.

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jessekphillips profile image
Jesse Phillips

Git should force all committed files to use lf stop entertaining the idea windows choice has any merit.

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tiguchi profile image
Thomas Iguchi

Those line ending characters used to be control characters for teletypewriters (TTY). CR (carriage return) would tell the device to move the carriage (or print head or whatever) back to the beginning of the current line. Another LF (line feed) control character was necessary for moving the paper to the next line. It was not really a Windows choice or invention. Windows got it from MS-DOS to stay backwards-compatible and MS-DOS got it from CP/M, an OS from the 1970ies, and overall this is how TTYs worked. They needed CR and LF for doing the right thing.

The makers of Unix on the other hand decided that LF would be enough to tell a device driver to send the correct control sequence for moving to the beginning of the next line.

So in the olden days CRLF was a safer choice to control a teletypewriter.

AFAIK CRLF is still the full control sequence that is internally used by modern consoles and terminal emulators for moving the text cursor on the screen to the beginning of the next line. Hitting the Enter key produces just the CR control character. The terminal software automatically adds an LF to it

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jessekphillips profile image
Jesse Phillips

I realize this, and until recently both were needed for notepad to show new lines.

My point is we don't feed this to tty and when we do it is already worked out because recourse is no constrained.

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deadlybyte profile image
Carl Saunders Author

Yep, fully agree. I'm a Windows user and always set the eof to lf no matter what.

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circleofconfusion profile image
Shane Knudsen

Aside from issues with prettier, we get the occasional problem where changing the eol character(s) causes a file to show up in source control as if it's been changed.

Much worse, I used to write a bunch of BASH scripts meant to be run on both Linux and Windows machines (under Cygwin). Every so often, somebody would edit the file on a Windows machine, commit it, and then the script would fail to run on the Linux machines because of the line endings. Me and dos2unix got to be good friends.

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vtvh profile image
Hải

I love dos2unix too, occasionally do clippaste | dos2unix for Windows clipboard to work correctly in Wsl.

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deadlybyte profile image
Carl Saunders Author

Yeah, I had this same problem with Linux scripts at my old work place too.

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hisgodlyseed profile image
Lee Hyeon-Soo

.gitattributes in GitHub

.gitattributes is also used to get Github to calculate language statistics and display the correct primary language for a repo.

Check out github.com/github/linguist#using-g...

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thepeoplesbourgeois profile image
Josh

Seems to me like the linter could worry less about something that's no fault of any developer on the team, and more about ...

🤔

Actually, why do we have tools that make our codebases more opinionated about formatting than the languages themselves are? Do we not trust that we – or our coworkers – are grown adults, with a basic grasp of readable source? How did linters come to rule the world?

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jastuccio

How did linters come to rule the world?

Our "grown adult co-workers" used to go to war over things like tabs vs spaces, semicolons in JS, and a lot of other stuff. Prettier came along and made an easy to use tool that said "THESE ARE THE RULES. Now be quiet and get back to actual work" I don't think it was even configurable when it came out (or at least severely limited as to what could be customized)

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thepeoplesbourgeois profile image
Josh

😐

What a stupid thing to go to war over in the first place. They've heard of "writing style" and "aesthetic", right?

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darrylmelander profile image
Darryl

There were a lot of justifiable reasons these wars happened, and some of them are still valid. Imagine a text editor that interprets a tab as "move to the next column that's a multiple of 8" with no way to configure it to do otherwise. Mix tabs and spaces together and what was nicely lined up for you is completely unreadable to me. Or how about 1 tab = 12 spaces, on an 80 character wide screen? Yeah, that was a thing. These examples aren't an issue any more, but other things are, like code editors that automatically reformat things. If you don't standardize or otherwise keep things in check, you can never tell what actually changed from one commit to the next.

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thepeoplesbourgeois profile image
Josh

Or how about 1 tab = 12 spaces, on an 80 character wide screen? Yeah, that was a thing.

My inkling is that the developer who had that rule was either not using a lot of tabs, using a screen a few more than 80 characters wide, or had some other environmental rationale for why they had adopted what seems, to you and I, an exorbitant amount of spacing for our specific environments. If they were working in a new environment where such spacing was no longer reasonable, or if there was a better standard of spacing in their own environment, I maintain that you (or the colleague who pointed it out to you) found yourself at the crux of a teaching opportunity as opposed to the heart of a war-invoking, crucial difference in the ways different people see the world we share.

I continue to draw countless lessons from the time I spent working at Pivotal, where the Tracker team established the code-formatting rule:

If a pair commits code that's legitimately unreadable, it is a call to reassess our hiring policies, writ large. If it is unfamiliar, but still readable, it is an opportunity to ask and learn why the pair determined the feature necessitated this style for the code. In this case, whether we take the opportunity to learn its motivations or not, if it resolves the ticket and doesn't break integration tests, leave it alone until you have actual work you need to do in that part of the codebase.

(EDIT: My words seem to have reverberated through the collective subconscious [no they didn't] and land in the latest update to Visual Studio Code. In spite of everything else, at least people can say I'm prett yified.)

It might sound crazy to most of the people here, I know, but in short, the way we stopped having endless arguments about code formatting, was to stop having endless arguments about code formatting.

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teknorah profile image
Norah Shannon

For those using .editorconfig INSTEAD of .gitattributes, please keep in mind that not all editors support .editorconfig :)

Source: stackoverflow.com/a/47868908/1118446

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patrykbernasiewicz profile image
Patryk Bernasiewicz

We don't use linters at work, so we don't have problems with cross-platform line-ending issues.

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AngularNodeJS 🚀

This is pretty good advice. I have been using a combination of editorconfig files with pre-commit hooks to run linting and formatting which enforces 'eol'.

Your solution is more elegant. Reading the github reference on this, it might be better to do it this way, using auto.

# Set the default behavior, in case people don't have core.autocrlf set.
* text=auto

*.js    text
*.jsx   text
*.json  text

This way, whatever OS you are no, git will decide the correct 'eol' to apply for you.

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bpedroza profile image
Bryan

Good article! Another cool thing you can do with the .gitattributes file is keep your tests out of other people's projects (or even keep your .gitattributes file out of their projects) by using the export-ignore option.

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Xandor Schiefer

Another great use-case for .gitattributes is to mark certain text files as binary. I do this with lock files and other machine-generated files which should be committed to the repo.

This way, when looking through diffs in the history, the staging area, or even on hosted Git platforms, these files no longer add to the noise.

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Bhaskar

Alternatively we can use editorconfig. editorconfig.org/

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Cherny

I tried this but it comes with the exception for medium/large companies where devs just don't care too much about that and use any editor they want without built-in or plugin support for editorconfig

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vfonic profile image
Viktor

What's the difference between CR LF, LF and CR? As far as I know all three do the same these days.
To sum it up:

  1. You don't see the character
  2. The output is the same (file size negligently bigger in case of CRLF)
  3. No added value of using one over the other.

I think this should be ignored in prettier.

Focus on something that actually has a visible effect, don't try to fix something for the sake of OCD satisfaction.

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andrewlane profile image
Andrew Lane

Should your

git rm --cached -r

command be this instead?

git rm --cached -r .
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deadlybyte profile image
Carl Saunders Author

Yep, good spot. I'll change it now.

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bernardng profile image
bernard ng

Hi, it's a really nice article, can I translate it into French?

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deadlybyte profile image
Carl Saunders Author

Thanks, sure happy for it to be translated into any language.

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vothis profile image
Mohammad

Why there is --cached in git rm as it makes no difference in the final result?
Am I missing some thing?

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udoyen profile image
george udosen

The git command 'git rm --cached -r' does nothing but show me usage options! So which file(s) are we removing from the cache

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Carl Saunders Author

I've fixed the git command, as it should of been.

git rm --cached -r .
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Lane Wagner

I think gitattributes should be used as a patch fix, not a planned solution... Like, your linting/styling decisions for a repo should be enforced at the file level, not at the commit level usually

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muqito_9 profile image
Christoffer Lans

Hello

There is also this question on stackoverflow:
stackoverflow.com/questions/150901...

But good thing you're bringing this to attention!

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armw4 profile image
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tukno profile image
David Oliveira

I use editor config to define eol

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eekayonline profile image
Edwin Klesman

Never knew that... Now I do!

Thanks for this post!

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grimlink profile image
Sean van Zuidam

For commen formatting rules we use the .editorconfig

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Manav Misra

Dun and dun. 👏🏽

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Harlin Seritt

Thanks for the post, db. Good to know.

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Lajos Koszti

Why don't you just configure that editor|IDE?

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justplayerde profile image
Justin K.

this may take longer than creating a single file with maybe 1 line :)

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ashu12318 profile image
Ashutosh Singh Parmar

@Carl where can we find a comprehensive lists of these attributes usable inside .gitattributes?

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hasii2011 profile image
Humberto A Sanchez II

Yet another way to avoid petty developer flame wars. Thanks for this.

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keramiozsoy profile image
kerami

Thanks for this post! :)