Git: Editing your commits with rebase - part 1/2

The more I work with git, the more I realize how powerful it is. Some time ago, I discovered that there is a way to organize/edit your commits. For what? Some useful cases:

  • the commit message is wrong, or it doesn’t make sense.
  • The order of the commits is not nice regarding GitHub history.
  • There is more than one commit that makes similar changes (or even the same thing).
  • A commit grouped a lot of different code, making sense to divide it into smaller commits.

A quick example

A simple example: let’s imagine that in your project, you did a change and made a commit:

So, you just remembered that you needed to update the README.

So, you went to get a coffee cup, and when you were returning to your desk, you remembered the last CSS adjustment you have to do. So you do it and make a new commit:

A simple log to see the commits would show something like that (the last 3):

If it’s a small or even personal project, we could say that it is okay to let the commits this way. However, if you are working with other people on a big project, it could be weird three commits for the same and small change. There is the interactive rebase: using it; we could change the commits in a branch to help us.

How I do it?

About the code above:

  • -i => interactive mode
  • -3 =>number of commits we want to target.

Running that command, a screen like this below will show (it will open in your default editor like Vim):

Reordering commits

In the example above, we could change the commits’ order.

And… it’s done! If everything is ok, a message like that will appear:

Some conflicts could happen and in this case the rebase command will stop until you resolve the conflicts. After that, you only need to run git rebase --continue to continue or git rebase --abort to quit and abort the process.

Editing messages

Another thing really cool is the possibility to edit the message of the commit. In the previous examples, now we want to change the message of the commit, which updates the README file.

So, we run again the rebase.

And the same screen with the commits list will show for us. Now we change the pick word to reword in the commit, which we want to change the message.

Doing that, a new screen will show for us:

We need to type the new message.

And it’s done! If we run a simple log, we will see the commits list with the message updated:

Forcing the push

As reminded by Cicero Pablo, when we use the interactive rebase, if you already have a repository with a history of commits, you will have to use the push command with the --force flag.

There is more…

You can read the second part of this article that we talk about merge and split commits.

Some points:

  • The names/structure of the files and messages of commits are only, for example.
  • I used the word screen to refer to every return of the terminal after a command.
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