Some branches in git (such as your origin/master branch) will usually track the remote branch that they are related to. But what if you want to create a relationship between local and remote branches? Or stop them from tracking? Here’s some pointers
What is a tracking branch?
This is a branch which knows which remote branch it is related to, and making this link allows us to take advantage of some neat git tricks. In particular:
- You can
git pullwithout specifying remote or branch and it will use its tracking sister branch by default
git statuscommand will include information about how far behind your tracking branch you are – useful to remind you that you haven’t pushed your changes yet! It looks like this:
$ git status # On branch branch1 # Your branch is ahead of 'origin/branch1' by 1 commit. # (use "git push" to publish your local commits) # nothing to commit, working directory clean
Which branches are tracking what?
Let’s start with getting a handle on what branches are currently tracking other branches, using
git branch -vv
$ git branch -vv branch1 c98bacf [origin/branch1] A random change of 24459 to ideas2.txt experiment 09a0eb9 A random change of 16603 to list2.txt * master 09a0eb9 [origin/master] A random change of 16603 to list2.txt
This shows three branches, two of them are tracking branches on another remote. It’s common for the branches to have the same names on the various remotes but it’s only a convention; you can actually call them anything you like (but beware of getting confused!)
Remove a current tracking relationship
This bit is simple, but rarely documented:
git branch --unset-upstream
Link a branch to an upstream branch
If you’re pushing a branch (even if it exists in both places) to a remote location and you want to create the link:
$ git push -u origin feature Counting objects: 9, done. Delta compression using up to 4 threads. Compressing objects: 100% (5/5), done. Writing objects: 100% (9/9), 746 bytes | 0 bytes/s, done. Total 9 (delta 2), reused 0 (delta 0) To /home/lorna/.../scripts/origin.git * [new branch] feature -> feature Branch feature set up to track remote branch feature from origin.
If you’re creating a local version of an existing remote branch:
$ git fetch origin remote: Counting objects: 9, done. remote: Compressing objects: 100% (5/5), done. remote: Total 9 (delta 2), reused 0 (delta 0) Unpacking objects: 100% (9/9), done. From /home/lorna/.../scripts/origin * [new branch] feature -> origin/feature
$ git checkout feature Branch feature set up to track remote branch feature from origin. Switched to a new branch 'feature'
Which branches get pushed/pulled?
This is an area of confusion because the defaults changed between versions of git. Take a look at your config (use
git config --list) and find a setting called
push.default. The usual default is
simple which will only push/pull the branch to/from the branch you’re currently on and the one it tracks. You can optionally set this to be
matching (this was once the default) which will then push/pull all changes between all branches and their remote tracking sisters. Sometimes this second option is cumbersome if you have a branch that is not the one you’re working on get into a state where it won’t merge!
Tracking branches are a timesaver once you have them set up correctly, so I hope that this collection of notes helps you to do just that :) Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment!