Git: version control and collaboration

Main questions:
How to store editing history? How to share your work with your colleagues?
git: add, commit, push, pull
What you are supposed to do?
Learn the essential use of git version control
You need basic UNIX terminal skills
1-2 hours

Introduction to git

Software: git

git is a version control software. It saves the editing history of a directory: what new files were added, changes to existing files or what files have been moved. With git, many persons can edit the same collection of files at the same time and share their work.

At Aalto University, git is used for controlling the version history of the A+ course materials and publishing changes to the A+ production server . Git is also useful on your own computer: if you delete some file in your course folder by mistake, or break the code and don’t know how to repair it, you can revert back to an earlier version of your codebase.

There are many git tutorials for beginners. Try out these:

If you haven’t used git before, do a first-time git setup:

When you edit course material, the most needed git commands are:

  • git add, git mv
  • git commit
  • git status
  • git pull, git push

Recommendation: “git lol” custom command

One can configure additional commands for git. Copy and paste the following command to the terminal to add the new command “git lol”. It shows a nice, semi-graphical tree view of your git history, as in the picture below.

git config --global --add "log --graph --decorate --pretty=oneline --abbrev-commit --all"

Aalto Gitlab

Aalto University has a service for storing and sharing git repositories (directories with history in git). In the following, you will be guided on how to use it.

First, log in to Aalto Gitlab at .

Adding an SSH key

If you have not used Aalto Gitlab before, you need to add an SSH key. This is a cryptographic key which enables the data exchange between your computer and the Aalto Gitlab computer safely. It is required for making the commands git pull and git push work.

Click on your profile picture circle on the top-right corner of the page and choose “settings”. Next, on the left sidebar, click on the “SSH option”. Then, click on the link “generate one” and follow the instructions.


Recommendations for git workflow

If you know that several persons are editing the same course as you, begin your working day with git pull. Make many of small commits: edit a couple of files where the changes are related to each other, like adding a new chapter, picture or exercise. Do git push many times a day. This way it is easy to record what files were changed in each editing step. Essentially, git push backs up your work to Aalto Gitlab so if your laptop or workstation breaks or is stolen, you will only lose a work of a few hours.

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