GIT cheatsheet

Excellent and thorough documentation on how to use GIT can be found online on the official GIT documentation or by searching on Google. We summarize here only a set of commands that may be useful.

Interesting online resources

Set the push default behavior to push only the current branch

The default push behavior may not be what you expect: if a branch you are not working on changes, you may not be able to push your own branch, because git tries to check them all. To avoid this, use:

git config push.default upstream

to set the default push.default behaviour to push the current branch to its upstream branch. Note the actual string to set depends on the version of git; newer versions allow to use:

git config push.default simple

which is better; see also discussion on this stackoverflow page.

View commits that would be pushed

If you want to see which commits would be sent to the remote repository upon a git push command, you can use (e.g. if you want to compare with the origin/develop remote branch):

git log origin/develop..HEAD

to see the logs of the commits, or:

git diff origin/develop..HEAD

to see also the differences among the current HEAD and the version on origin/develop.

Switch to another branch

You can switch to another branch with:

git checkout newbranchname

and you can see the list of checked-out branches, and the one you are in, with:

git branch

(or git branch -a to see also the list of remote branches).

Associate a local and remote branch

To tell GIT to always push a local branch (checked-out) to a remote branch called remotebranchname, check out the correct local branch and then do:

git push --set-upstream origin remotebranchname

From now on, you will just need to run git push. This will create a new entry in .git/config similar to:

[branch "localbranchname"]
  remote = origin
  merge = refs/heads/remotebranchname

Branch renaming

To rename a branch locally, from oldname to newname:

git checkout oldname
git branch -m oldname newname

If you want also to rename it remotely, you have to create a new branch and then delete the old one. One way to do it, is first editing ~/.git/config so that the branch points to the new remote name, changing refs/heads/oldname to refs/heads/newname in the correct section:

[branch "newname"]
  remote = origin
  merge = refs/heads/newname

Then, do a:

git push origin newname

to create the new branch, and finally delete the old one with:

git push origin :oldname

(notice the : symbol). Note that if you are working e.g. on GitHub, there may be a filter to disallow the deletion of branches (check in the repository settings, and then under “Branch management”). Moreover, the “Main branch” (set in the repository settings, under “Repository details”) cannot be deleted.

Create a new (lightweight) tag

If you want to create a new tag, e.g. for a new version, and you have checked out the commit that you want to tag, simply run:

git tag TAGNAME

(e.g., git tag v0.2.0). Afterwards, remember to push the tag to the remote repository (otherwise it will remain only local):

git push --tags

Create a new branch from a given tag

This will create a new newbranchname branch starting from tag v0.2.0:

git checkout -b newbranchname v0.2.0

Then, if you want to push the branch remotely and have git remember the association:

git push --set-upstream origin remotebranchname

(for the meaning of –set-upsteam see the section Associate a local and remote branch above).

Disallow a branch deletion, or committing to a branch, on GitHub

You can find these settings in the repository settings of the web interface, and then under “Branches”.


if you commit to a branch (locally) and then discover that you cannot push (e.g. you mistakenly committed to the master branch), you can remove your last commit using:

git reset --hard HEAD~1

(this removes one commit only, and you should have no local modifications; if you do it, be sure to avoid losing your modifications!)

Merge from a different repository

It is possible to do a pull request of a forked repository from the GitHub web interface. However, if one just wants to keep in sync, e.g., the main AiiDA repository with a fork you are working into without creating a pull request (e.g., for daily merge of your fork’s develop into the main repo’s develop), you can:

  • commit and pull all your changes in your fork

  • from the GitHub web interface, sync your fork with the main repository, if needed

  • go in a local cloned version of the main repository

  • [only the first time] add a remote pointing to the new repository, with the name you prefer (here: myfork):

    git remote add myfork
  • checkout to the correct branch you want to merge into (git checkout develop)

  • do a git pull (just in case)

  • Fetch the correct branch of the other repository (e.g., the develop branch):

    git fetch myfork develop

    (this will fetch that branch into a temporary location called FETCH_HEAD).

  • Merge the modifications:

    git merge FETCH_HEAD
  • Fix any merge conflicts (if any) and commit.

  • Finally, push the merged result into the main repository:

    git push

    (or, if you did not use the default remote with --set-upstream, specify the correct remote branch, e.g. git push origin develop).


If you want to fetch and transfer also tags, use instead:

git fetch -t myfork develop
git merge FETCH_HEAD
git push --tags

to get the tags from myfork and then push them in the current repository.