Update log
  • 2022-08-20: Add how to remove remote tracking branches that does not exist anymore

This post summarizes some commonly used Git commands related to branch operations.

Create a new branch (locally and remotely)

Create a branch locally

We can use the following command to create a new branch

git branch <new_branch>

At this time, we are still in original branch. To switch to new branch, use the following command:

git checkout <new_branch>

The two steps can be combined with the following command:

git checkout -b <new_branch>

Create a branch remotely

To create a remote branch, use the following command:

git push -u origin <local_branch>

The -u option sets a upstream branch of the same name for tracking, i.e., now our local branch corresponds to a remote branch of the same name.


Create a git branch from a specific commit

Sometimes, we may need to fix a flaw in a specific commit, but current work has not been finished. We may create a new branch from that commit, and after that, merge that branch to current branch.

This is how we do this using git:

git branch fix_bug <commit_id>
git checkout fix_bug

<commit_id> is the hash of that commit as shown in the git log output.

The above command can also be simplified using -b for checkout:

git checkout -b fix_bug <commit_id>

After fixing the issue in branch fix_bug, we can then merge the change into the original branch, say, master branch:

git checkout master
git merge fix_bug


Show branches

  • show all branches (local and remote): git branch -a
  • show all local branches: git branch -l
  • show all remote branches: git branch -r

Delete a branch

  • Delete a local branch: git branch -d <branch_name>.
    Note that we can not delete a local branch when we are on it! We need first to checkout to another branch.
  • Delete a remote branch: git push <remote_name> -d <remote_branch>

If you are using GitHub and delete a remote tracking branch via the GitHub GUI interface, when you run git branch -a locally, they are still shown. To remove the remote tracking branches locally, we can do git remote prune origin.


Rename a branch locally and remotely

Suppose we want to rename the branch foo in local and remote repo to name bar, first we need to rename the local branch:

git branch -m foo bar
git branch --unset-upstream foo

Then we push the bar branch to the remote:

# create a remote branch of the same name and track it.
git push -u origin bar

If the original remote branch foo is the default branch, we need to set other branch as the default. Otherwise, we can not delete remote branch foo. In GitHub, go to Settings --> Branches and change the default branch. After making sure that foo is not the default remote branch, run the following command to delete it from remote:

# suppose that origin is the remote name
git push origin -d foo


Create a local branch from a remote branch?

I have a remote branch and I would like to create a local branch based on it. First, we need to fetch the remote changes:

git fetch

Then we can create a local branch from the remote branch:

git checkout -b local_branch_name remote_name/remote_branch

If we do not want to change the remote name, we can also also -t:

git checkout -t <name of remote>/<remote branch name>

It will create a local branch of the same name.


Find remote tracking branch for local branch

If we want to find the remote branch that a local branch is tracking, we can use the following command:

git branch -vv

We can also use the git remote command to show remote tracking branch:

git remote show <remote name>