Git branching, merging & rebasing (Spoon-Knife repo example)

This post will go over some examples for branching, merging and rebasing using GitHub’s Spoon-Knife repository.

Fork & Clone repository

  1. Fork the Spoon-Knife repository from GitHub
  2. Clone repository to local computer:
    git clone
    Confirm that we are on the master branch:
    git branch
  3. Create a new file called name.txt with first name in it:
    vi name.txt

    Len Isac
  4. Add and commit the name.txt file to Git:
    git add name.txt
    git commit -m "added name.txt file with first name"
  5. Confirm that you have 1 new commit on the master branch:
    git log

    commit d87e3b4dc4a9497d68fcbbfe3247409225d4a959
    Author: Len Isac Seneca <>
    Date:   Sat Feb 4 10:48:55 2017 -0500
        added name.txt file with first name
  6. Since we would like to do this work on a new branch instead, we’ll create a new “name” branch, and merge it back into master later:
    git checkout -b name
    Confirm we are on newly created “name” branch:
    git branch
    Check to see that the master and name branch both point to the same commit:
    git show name
    git show master

    Since we created the “name” branch from inside the “master” branch, git will create the new branch pointing to master’s commit (“added name.txt file…”).
  7. Move the master branch back one commit:
    git checkout -B master HEAD~1
  8. Check that both branches are pointing to different commits now:
    git show name
    git show master


  1. Create third branch named “fav-food” from the master branch.
    git checkout -b fav-food
  2. Create food.txt file with a list of favourite foods
    vi food.txt

    Beef curry
  3. Add and commit
    git add food.txt
    git commit -m "added food.txt - list of favourite foods"
  4. Create fourth branch named “name-and-food” from the name branch commit. Since we are inside the fav-food branch but want it to point to the “name” branch’s commit, we need specify it in the second parameter:
    git checkout -b name-and-food name
    Confirm new merge commit “Merge branch ‘fav-food’ into name-and-food”
    git log --max-count=1
    git ls

    We can also see now both the food.txt and name.txt files exist in this branch.

Merge conflicts

To demonstrate merge conflicts, 3 branches that contain the same “animals.txt” file will be created.

  1. Create “animals” test branch from master:
    git checkout -b animals master
  2. Now we’ll create an “animals.txt” file with 3 farm animals.
    vi animals.txt

  3. Add & commit:
    git add animals.txt
    git commit -m "added animals.txt"
  4. Create a second “water-animals” branch pointing to the animals branch commit:
    git checkout -b water-animals
  5. Edit the “animals.txt” file and add 3 water animals:
  6. vi animals.txt

  7. Add & commit:
    git add animals.txt
    git commit -m "added three water animals to animals.txt
  8. Create a third branch named “jungle-animals pointing to the animals branch commit:
    git checkout -b jungle-animals animals

  9. Edit the “animals.txt” file and add 3 jungle animals:
  10. vi animals.txt

  11. Add & commit:
    git add animals.txt
    git commit -m "added three jungle animals to animals.txt
  12. Switch to animals branch and merge water-animals into it:
    git checkout animals
    git merge water-animals

    animals.txt now contains the three water animals added in the water-animals branch.

    Updating b11d23a..3fce797
     animals.txt | 3 +++
     1 file changed, 3 insertions(+)

    Since the branch was ahead by 1 commit, git performs a fast-forward, which aligns the current branch with the branch being merged. git log shows its commit message, not the merge commit message this time.

  13. Now we’ll try merging the “jungle-animals” branch into animals
  14. git merge jungle-animals

    Auto-merging animals.txt
    CONFLICT (content): Merge conflict in animals.txt
    Automatic merge failed; fix conflicts and then commit the result.

    git status shows us that we have unmerged paths and need to fix conflicts, then run “commit”.

  15. Fix merge conflicts
  16. vi animals.txt

    <<<<<<< HEAD
    >>>>>>> jungle-animals

    HEAD (animals) and jungle-animals both use the same lines but have different contents. We have to choose which one we want or if we want both, then remove the conflict markers. If I simply remove the conflict markers, I can keep the contents from both branches making it six lines instead of three.

  17. Add the fixed file and commit the merge
  18. git add animals.txt
    git commit

    Merge branch 'jungle-animals' into animals
    # It looks like you may be committing a merge.
    # If this is not correct, please remove the file
    #   .git/MERGE_HEAD
    # and try again.
    # Please enter the commit message for your changes. Lines starting
    # with '#' will be ignored, and an empty message aborts the commit.
    # On branch animals
    # All conflicts fixed but you are still merging.
    # Changes to be committed:
    #   modified:   animals.txt

    We can remove the “Conflicts: …” lines and commented lines, then save & exit.

    Merge branch 'jungle-animals' into animals

Rebasing, Squashing

Rebasing is a great tool to clean up your commits before being pushed to a remote repository. Although it can be done after pushing, it is not recommended unless you know for sure your commits have not been or not being used by any other developers.

We can combine a series of commits into one. This is called “squashing”.

git rebase -i master

pick b11d23a added animals.txt
pick 3fce797 added three water animals to animals.txt
pick 75e509d added three jungle animals to animals.txt
  • I want to combine all three commits into one, so I can squash the two later ones into the first b11d23a:
    pick b11d23a added animals.txt
    squash 3fce797 added three water animals to animals.txt
    squash 75e509d added three jungle animals to animals.txt

    Save and exit (Shift + ZZ)
    We see this error message:

    error: could not apply 75e509d... added three jungle animals to animals.txt
    When you have resolved this problem, run "git rebase --continue".
    If you prefer to skip this patch, run "git rebase --skip" instead.
    To check out the original branch and stop rebasing, run "git rebase --abort".
    Could not apply 75e509dbf9a48559f6ac5d6335554c240c72c45a... added three jungle animals to animals.txt

    Git replays each commit one-by-one on top of master and runs into the same conflict we had earlier. So we can fix the conflicts again by removing the conflict markers, then run:
    git add animals.txt

  • We are still running git rebase – since we have fixed the conflict we can continue with:
    git rebase --continue

     # This is a combination of 3 commits.
     # The first commit's message is:
     added animals.txt - three farm animals
     # This is the 2nd commit message:
     added three water animals to animals.txt
     # This is the 3rd commit message:
     added three jungle animals to animals.txt
     # Please enter the commit message for your changes. Lines starting
     # with '#' will be ignored, and an empty message aborts the commit.
     # rebase in progress; onto d0dd1f6
     # You are currently rebasing branch 'animals' on 'd0dd1f6'.
     # Changes to be committed:
     #   new file:   animals.txt
  • We’ll leave the commit message as is with all three commit messages.

  • Save changes Shift + ZZ.
  • detached HEAD d3f629e] added animals.txt
     1 file changed, 9 insertions(+)
     create mode 100644 animals.txt
    Successfully rebased and updated refs/heads/animals.
  • Display rebase commit message
  • git log

    commit d3f629e2a2cad4bd61ced309dd15a06737d7ab4d
    Author: Len Isac Seneca <>
    Date:   Sat Feb 4 13:39:29 2017 -0500
        added animals.txt
        added three water animals to animals.txt
        added three jungle animals to animals.txt

    Three last commits were successfully squashed into one commit.


    Contributing to open source project – npm mysql packages.json

    I chose the npm mysql package to contribute to. In this post, I will go over the steps I took for contributing a minor fix to an open source project, using a Linux terminal, Vi editor and Git.

    Review Process

    Looking at the package.json file, I noticed that the repository field URL did not contain an absolute URL path.  So I ran the file through the package-json-validator:


    The validator also recommends to include the “keywords” and “bugs” fields.  I read over the official npm documentation to see how to properly write these fields in package.json.


    "repository" :
      { "type" : "git",
        "url" : ""

    Keywords: An array of strings to help developers find the package using ‘npm search’.


      "url" : "",
      "email" : ""

    I can adjust the fields now to match these formats.

    Adding my changes

    • Fork repository from
    • Clone project to my local workspace: git clone
    • I used Vim editor to edit the package.json file: vi packages.json
    • Adjust repository URL to:
      "repository": {
        "type": "git",
        "url": ""
    • Add change to git staging: git add package.json
    • I thought it might be a good idea to keep this change separate from the “keywords + bugs” fields change for the sake of having separate commit messages for each, so I committed this change first: git commit -m "replaced repository url with valid repository url and type"

    • Then back to editing package.json in vi to add the “keywords” and “bugs” fields:
    "keywords": [
    "bugs": "",

    Since I only included the issues URL in the bugs field, I followed the suggestion in npm of having it as only a single string instead of an object.

    • Add change: git add package.json
    • Commit change: git commit -m "added keywords + bugs url"
    • View changes in commits before pushing to repo: git show

    After running git show, I noticed the indentation was off (4 spaces instead of 2) on the “sql” keyword line.  I had already set my tabwidth setting to 2, but found out that this setting does not insert spaces in replacement of a tab character. To do this you have to set the shiftwidth and set expandtab. So I added these two lines to my ~/.vimrc file (as root user, or in Fedora /etc/vimrc):

    :set shiftwidth=2
    :set expandtab

    I switched back to my regular user and opened the package.json file again in vi.  If I press enter now from the “mysql” line, vi now automatically inserts 2 spaces at the beginning of the line.  To double check this, after hitting enter you can backspace and notice the cursor now moves back one space instead of the tabwidth’s set number of spaces.

    An alternate quick fix for this of course would be to use a regular expression substitution in vi on lines 13 to 23:

    :13,23s/\t/  /g

    This will replace all tab characters with two spaces from lines 13 to 23.

    Continuing with my changes… now I save these changes and exit vi CTRL + ZZ

    • See if changes are correct: git diff package.json
    • Spaces look good now, so I can add my changes: git add package.json
    • Commit changes to git: git commit -m "fixed vi indent to 2 spaces for sql keyword"

    Now looking at the last three commits I made, I figured since the latest commit was only a minor fix to the previous, I wanted to have the two as only one commit.

    git log --max-count 3


    You can do this with a “git rebase”:

    git rebase --interactive HEAD~2

    This opens the git rebase file:


    Here I want to pick the “added keywords + bugs url” as the main commit, and squash the “fixed vi indent…” commit into the main commit.


    Now I can hit Shift + ZZ to save my changes and exit git rebase.

    Git now displays the combination of commit messages:


    Since I want to only use the “added keywords + bugs url” commit message, I can delete the 2nd commit message.


    Hit Shift + ZZ again to save the changes and exit.

    Now the “fixed vi indent…” commit has been squashed with the “added keywords + bugs url” commit as one commit.


    Now I can push to the remote repository:
    git push

    One thing to note, as mentioned in github regarding git rebase, if the commits you squashed locally were previously already pushed to your remote repository, you would have to run:

    git push origin branch-name --force

    Although you have to be careful when choosing to do a rebase on already pushed commits and make sure they have not been reviewed or used in any way.  Use –force only only for very recent commits.

    Creating Pull Request

    Create the pull request by clicking the ‘Create pull request’ button in GitHub, then write a description of the changes you’ve made and create the new pull request.


    Pull Request Review

    One of the collaborators were quick to respond within 3 minutes of the pull request.  It was noted that npm automatically populates these fields now so adjusting the packages.json file is not necessary.  The new npm also no longer uses the keywords array in the search and the validator URL is also valid as a shortcut URL for git.

    So I ended up creating a new issue for the validator-tool and the maintainer confirmed that the validator is slightly outdated and said they would be looking into updating it when they had the chance.