Sequences of Commits

Commit early and commit often. Microcommits with good commit messages are easy to review and as a consequence, will receive better code reviews. When it’s time to integrate a pull-request, sometimes squashing commits is recommended to do in order to streamline the git history.

GitHub has a nifty feature allowing users with write access to squash commits and edit the final squashed commit message. To use that feature, Click the “Squash and merge” button.

If you don’t have write access but want to group commits into one, the answer is to manually squash using the rebase command offered by git.

Assuming you’re working on a feature branch my-feature and upstream is a git remote pointing to the official project repository:

(my-feature) > git fetch upstream
(my-feature) > git rebase -i upstream/master

Assuming my-feature introduced three new commits, git rebase -i upstream/master will open your default text editor and show a view similar to:

pick a9c8a1d First commit in my-feature
pick 01b2fd8 Second commit in my-feature
pick b7a3dj8 Third commit in my-feature

# Rebase f4ea0c4..291b676 onto f4ea0c4 (2 commands)
# Commands:
#  p, pick = use commit
#  r, reword = use commit, but edit the commit message
#  e, edit = use commit, but stop for amending
#  s, squash = use commit, but meld into previous commit
#  f, fixup = like "squash", but discard this commit's log message
#  x, exec = run command (the rest of the line) using shell
# These lines can be re-ordered; they are executed from top to bottom.
# If you remove a line here THAT COMMIT WILL BE LOST.
# However, if you remove everything, the rebase will be aborted.
# Note that empty commits are commented out

Note: Lines starting with # are comments

Replace the pick command with one of the commands shown under the commands section. To combine commits, replace pick with s or f.

Example: Leave the first commit untouched but combine the third commit with the second

pick a9c8a1d First commit in my-feature
pick 01b2fd8 Second commit in my-feature
f b7a3dj8 Third commit in my-feature

That’s all. Save the file to make history great again. I typically use git log to make sure nothing went astray.

f1b7av8 Second commit in my-feature
a9c8a1d First commit in my-feature

Note: The second commit no longer has the same SHA-1 hash. That’s because we rewrote history.

important: Squashing multiple commits from multiple authors will have each author’s attributions lost (except for the author of the last commit). If you find yourself in this scenario, commits, in my opinion, should not be squashed. If you’re dealing with open source projects, squashing might discourage external contributors from continuing to contribute.

Pushing changes

When you push your changes to a remote server after rewriting history, Git will prevent you from pushing if the remote has changes you’re missing. This is done to prevent data loss.

(my-feature) git push origin my-feature
 ! [rejected]        my-feature -> my-feature (non-fast-forward)
error: failed to push some refs to ''
hint: Updates were rejected because the tip of your current branch is behind
hint: its remote counterpart. Integrate the remote changes (e.g.
hint: 'git pull ...') before pushing again.
hint: See the 'Note about fast-forwards' in 'git push --help' for details.

To successfully push the change, you need to force push to replace the remote history with your local history. Note that if you are the only one working on the branch you are force pushing, this is not a big deal. If you are not the only one, then as a rule of thumb, avoid force pushing.

(my-feature) git push origin my-feature --force