codewords.recurse.com: Git from the inside out

codewords.recurse.com: Git from the inside out

Mary Rose Cook

This essay explains how Git works. It assumes you understand Git well enough to use it to version control your projects.

The essay focuses on the graph structure that underpins Git and the way the properties of this graph dictate Git’s behavior. Looking at fundamentals, you build your mental model on the truth rather than on hypotheses constructed from evidence gathered while experimenting with the API. This truer model gives you a better understanding of what Git has done, what it is doing, and what it will do.

The text is structured as a series of Git commands run on a single project. At intervals, there are observations about the graph data structure that Git is built on. These observations illustrate a property of the graph and the behavior that this property produces.

After reading, if you wish to go even deeper into Git, you can look at the heavily annotated source code of my implementation of Git in JavaScript.

Summary

Git is built on a graph. Almost every Git command manipulates this graph. To understand Git deeply, focus on the properties of this graph, not workflows or commands.

To learn more about Git, investigate the .git directory. It’s not scary. Look inside. Change the content of files and see what happens. Create a commit by hand. Try and see how badly you can mess up a repo. Then repair it.

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