Visualizing branch topology in Git – Dev

The best answers to the question “Visualizing branch topology in Git” in the category Dev.

QUESTION:

I’m playing with Git in isolation on my own machine, and I find it difficult to maintain a mental model of all my branches and commits. I know I can do a git log to see the commit history from where I am, but is there a way to see the entire branch topography, something like these ASCII maps that seem to be used everywhere for explaining branches?

      .-A---M---N---O---P
     /     /   /   /   /
    I     B   C   D   E
     \   /   /   /   /
      `-------------'

It just feels like someone coming along and trying to pick up my repository would have difficulty working out exactly what was going on.

I guess I’m influenced by AccuRev’s stream browser…

ANSWER:

I usually use

git log --graph --full-history --all --pretty=format:"%h%x09%d%x20%s"

With colors (if your shell is Bash):

git log --graph --full-history --all --color \
        --pretty=format:"%x1b[31m%h%x09%x1b[32m%d%x1b[0m%x20%s"

This will print text-based representation like this:

* 040cc7c       (HEAD, master) Manual is NOT built by default
* a29ceb7       Removed offensive binary file that was compiled on my machine and was hence incompatible with other machines.
| * 901c7dd     (cvc3) cvc3 now configured before building
| * d9e8b5e     More sane Yices SMT solver caller
| | * 5b98a10   (nullvars) All uninitialized variables get zero inits
| "https://stackoverflow.com/" * 1cad874     CFLAGS for cvc3 to work successfully
| *   1579581   Merge branch 'llvm-inv' into cvc3
| |\
| | * a9a246b   nostaticalias option
| | * 73b91cc   Comment about aliases.
| | * 001b20a   Prints number of iteration and node.
| "https://stackoverflow.com/"/|
| * 39d2638     Included header files to cvc3 sources
| * 266023b     Added cvc3 to blast infrastructure.
| * ac9eb10     Initial sources of cvc3-1.5
|/
* d642f88       Option -aliasstat, by default stats are suppressed

(You could just use git log --format=oneline, but it will tie commit messages to numbers, which looks less pretty IMHO).

To make a shortcut for this command, you may want to edit your ~/.gitconfig file:

[alias]
  gr = log --graph --full-history --all --color --pretty=tformat:"%x1b[31m%h%x09%x1b[32m%d%x1b[0m%x20%s%x20%x1b[33m(%an)%x1b[0m"

However, as Sodel the Vociferous notes in the comments, such long formatting command is hard to memorize. Usually, it’s not a problem as you may put it into the ~/.gitconfig file. However, if you sometimes have to log in to a remote machine where you can’t modify the config file, you could use a more simple but faster to type version:

git log --graph --oneline

ANSWER:

Use git log --graph or gitk. (Both also accept --all, which will show all the branches instead of just the current one.)

For branch names and a compact view, try:

git log --graph --decorate --oneline

ANSWER:

To any of these recipes (based on git log or gitk), you can add --simplify-by-decoration to collapse the uninteresting linear parts of the history. This makes much more of the topology visible at once. I can now understand large histories that would be incomprehensible without this option!

I felt the need to post this because it doesn’t seem to be as well-known as it should be. It doesn’t appear in most of the Stack Overflow questions about visualizing history, and it took me quite a bit of searching to find–even after I knew I wanted it! I finally found it in this Debian bug report. The first mention on Stack Overflow seems to be this answer by Antoine Pelisse.

ANSWER:

I have 3 aliases (and 4 alias-aliases for quick usage) that I normally throw in my ~/.gitconfig file:

[alias]
    lg = lg1
    lg1 = lg1-specific --all
    lg2 = lg2-specific --all
    lg3 = lg3-specific --all

    lg1-specific = log --graph --abbrev-commit --decorate --format=format:'%C(bold blue)%h%C(reset) - %C(bold green)(%ar)%C(reset) %C(white)%s%C(reset) %C(dim white)- %an%C(reset)%C(auto)%d%C(reset)'
    lg2-specific = log --graph --abbrev-commit --decorate --format=format:'%C(bold blue)%h%C(reset) - %C(bold cyan)%aD%C(reset) %C(bold green)(%ar)%C(reset)%C(auto)%d%C(reset)%n''          %C(white)%s%C(reset) %C(dim white)- %an%C(reset)'
    lg3-specific = log --graph --abbrev-commit --decorate --format=format:'%C(bold blue)%h%C(reset) - %C(bold cyan)%aD%C(reset) %C(bold green)(%ar)%C(reset) %C(bold cyan)(committed: %cD)%C(reset) %C(auto)%d%C(reset)%n''          %C(white)%s%C(reset)%n''          %C(dim white)- %an <%ae> %C(reset) %C(dim white)(committer: %cn <%ce>)%C(reset)'

git lg/git lg1 looks like this:

git lg1

git lg2 looks like this:

git lg2

and git lg3 looks like this:

git lg3

It should be noted that this isn’t meant as a end-all-be-all solution— it’s a template for you to change, add to and fix up to your liking. If you want to use these, my recommendation is to:

  1. Add them to your .gitconfig,
  2. Customize to your liking (different color choices, different line arrangements for the 2- and 3-line versions, etc.),
  3. And then save a copy to a Gist or other code snippet tool so you can copy & paste it into .gitconfigs in the future (or alternatively version control your dotfiles, of course).

Note: Answer copied from and improved upon the answer at stackoverflow.com/questions/1057564/pretty-git-branch-graphs since it’s far more appropriate here than it was there.  Left the copy on the other question for historical reasons— it’s closed now, and the answer’s referenced by a bunch of other answers.