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My Git branching model

2022-03-12 // I proofread this article and updated the figures.

We all probably know this successful Git branching model, which looks like a very interesting model for teams that want to use Git. That being said, this model is a bit too complex for common needs in my opinion. In this article, I introduce my lightweight model.

I use two main branches:

  • main : the code in a production-ready state;
  • develop : the integration branch.

Figure 1: Commits over time on two branches: “develop” and “main” (based on Vincent Driessen’s similar illustration)

I also use feature branches. A feature branch contains a work in progress. Keep in mind that a feature branch should reflect a feature in your backlog. I use a convention for these branches, I always prefix them with feat-.

$ git branch
feat-my-feature
* main

A feature branch has two constraints:

  • the code must be based on the develop branch;
  • the code must be merged in the develop branch.

Figure 2: A feature branch next based on the “develop” branch (based on Vincent Driessen’s similar illustration)

To create a feature branch, I use the following command:

$ git checkout -b feat-my-feature develop

To merge a feature branch into develop, I use the following set of commands:

# Go back to the develop branch
$ git checkout develop

# Get last commits
$ git pull --ff-only origin develop

# Switch to the feature branch
$ git checkout feat-my-feature

# Time to rebase
$ git rebase develop

# Then, switch to the develop branch in order to merge the feature branch
$ git checkout develop

$ git merge --no-ff feat-my-feature

# Push
$ git push origin develop

# Finally, delete your branch
$ git branch -d feat-my-feature

I always merge a feature branch into develop using --no-ff to keep a clean log:

Figure 3: The difference between git merge and git merge --no-ff (based on Vincent Driessen’s similar illustration)

The --no--ff option allows to keep track of a feature branch name which is quite useful. The following git log output shows you a feature branch merged with this option:

commit 481771556824c4ae2e6da73ef14d6ce757fb5870
Merge: 6abdd70 8cfe5a7
Author: William Durand <email address>
Date:   Tue Jan 17 11:31:56 2012 +0100

Merge branch 'feat-my-feature' into develop

commit 8cfe5a7da159663cc09a850bee49a59ce046c67e
Author: William Durand <email address>
Date:   Tue Jan 17 11:31:19 2012 +0100

Added a new feature

commit 6abdd707aace50ee5aad72a3c6fcff2f36cdea7f
Author: William Durand <email address>
Date:   Sun May 15 14:07:19 2011 +0200

Initial commit

Without the --no-ff option, you’ll get the following output:

commit 0d5805d52e55e4941ce23585a4cd559e5e643207
Author: William Durand <email address>
Date:   Tue Jan 17 11:35:43 2012 +0100

Added yet another feature

commit 6abdd707aace50ee5aad72a3c6fcff2f36cdea7f
Author: William Durand <email address>
Date:   Sun May 15 14:07:19 2011 +0200

Initial commit

In a team, you will probably have more than one feature branch, and you could have a dependency between two branches (this should be avoided). In this case, I use another branch in which I merge two or more feature branches.

$ git checkout -b feat-my-feature-with-another-feature develop

Then, I can merge the two feature branches, and solve possible conflicts:

$ git merge feat-my-feature

$ git merge feat-another-feature

I don’t use any other branches. The last part of the model is to merge develop into main. To avoid conflicts, there should be only one person who owns this responsibility: the release manager.

I experimented this model with different teams in terms of number of people and skills, and I never had more needs. I know some people use release branches but it can be handled in another way.

Feel free to fork and edit this post if you find a typo, thank you so much! This post is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.

Credits

Vincent Driessen for his Git model and illustrations.

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