When working on projects for this class, you'll need some way to share code with your partner. Some people simply email code, others use Dropbox. Then there's the problem of combining changes. If you've tried this, you'll know that it is a hassle.

That's where Git comes in. Git is a version control system that has 2 features that are useful for this class:

  1. Code merging: automatically merge changes between multiple collaborators
  2. Revision tracking: keep track of previous changes and revert back to them in case of an accident

When using Git, your code is stored in a repository (repo for short). As you edit code, you will be pushing changes so that collaborators will receive your changes.

This document uses Git's book as reference.

Installing Git

You can download the latest version of Git here.

The Windows version comes with a Git Bash terminal emulator that is similar to Cygwin. It's basically another command line that you'll be using to interact with Git.

Online Hosting

In addition to Git (used from the command line), many people also use an online hosting service. These services provide a centralized overview of your project. Here are two such services:

  • GitHub: a very popular choice — many, if not most, people use GitHub.
  • Bitbucket: allows users to create an unlimited number of private repositories.

GitHub also gives you a small number of private repos, but the number is limited. For this reason, we encourage you to use Bitbucket for this class. Remember, you may only share code with your partner. Sharing, or even showing code to anyone besides your partner and the 61A staff is considered cheating. In the past, we've had incidents of students copying code from the public repos of other students — make sure this doesn't happen to you.

That's not to say you shouldn't use GitHub at all. You can (and should) use GitHub for your own (not class related) projects.

For the remainder of this tutorial, we'll be using Bitbucket as our hosting service. The process is pretty much the same if you use GitHub.

Getting Started

First, create an account on Bitbucket.

You'll be taken to your homepage. There should be a button labeled "Create repository." Every project starts with a repository — this is where you'll be storing your code.

Fill in the information about your project. You can call it whatever you want, and play around with the extra options. Just make sure Access level is set to private, and the Repository type is set to Git. Then, click "Create repository."

Next, you'll see a page that tells you to "Add some code." Since we're starting a new repository, click on "I'm starting from scratch."

At this point, if you've already downloaded the project you're working on from the 61A website (e.g. Hog), you can immediately make the directory containing those files into a repository:

cd /path/to/your/project
git init
git remote add origin <the url displayed on Bitbucket>

If, instead, you created a separate directory for your repository, go ahead and follow the steps described on the website. Then move all your project files into the repo.

The next page tells you to create a README. For the purposes of 61A, you don't really need one, but you can go ahead and create one if you want. Usually, READMEs provide a summary of your project.

Assuming you have your project files in the repo, type the following in your terminal:

git add -A
git commit -m "First commit"
git push origin master

We'll explain what these three lines do later. For now, refresh the Bitbucket page — you'll see the code you committed. To see the actual source code, click on "Source." You've just created your first repo!

Joining a repo

If you started the repo, you can invite your partner to join. Since we're using private repos, you'll need to send your partner an invitation.

  1. From your repo's dashboard (homepage), click on the small cog symbol on the right. This takes you to your repo's settings.
  2. On the left, click on "Access management." You'll see which users have access to the repo
  3. Fill in your partner's information: their Bitbucket username or their email, what permissions they have (either "write" or "admin", unless you only want your partner to "read" what you've done...)
  4. Click "Add". Your partner should receive an email inviting them to join.

Once your partner has joined the repo, they can immediately copy the source code onto their own computer. From the "Overview" page, find a line labeled "HTTPS" on the right side of the page. There should be a URL to the right of the "HTTPS" — copy it, and type this into your terminal

git clone <repo url>

This will create a new directory (so no need to create your own) and populate it with the contents of the repo.

Basic Work Cycle

A usualy work cycle in Git has the following steps:

  1. git pull to get updates
  2. Edit your code
  3. git add your changes
  4. git commit your changes
  5. git push your changes

All of these are done from your command line.

When you edit code in a repository, the changes are not automatically available to your collaborators. All edits will be local to your machine. So how do you publish your changes?


Usually, you will be working with other people (e.g. your project partner). To receive updates that they have made, you need to pull:

git pull origin master

origin is the nickname of your repository (so that you don't have to type in the full name every time). master is the main branch of your repository. These names were configured when you first created the repository — if you want, you can change them.

We'll explain in more detail what branching means later. For now, this will be enough to get your partner's updates. All their changes will have merged with your code, so you're ready to start making some edits of your own!


Adding a file tells git that you want to include that file in the next commit. After modifying a file, you can add it by typing this:

git add filename

You can add more than one file at a time. Git also supports wildcard expansion, so the following are valid

git add
git add file*.py          # adds all files that start with 'file'
                          # and end in '.py'

If you want to add all modified files at once, you can use the -A flag:

git add -A

Git also supports some UNIX-like commands:

git mv filename dest      # records the movement of a file
git rm filename           # records the removal of a file

You can check which files are waiting to be added and which files have been added with this command:

git status

After adding modified files, you are ready to commit those changes.


Committing changes tells git to create a new stage in the revision history. Think of it as a checkpoint — if you need to revert to a previous stage, you'll reset it to one of the previous commits.

To commit changes (you'll need to have added changes first), type

git commit -m "Your message here"

Git requires commits to contain a brief message. The message should describe the changes you've made. Make sure the message is concise.

After committing, your changes are still local to your machine. To make the changes available to collaborators, you need to push your changes.


To make your changes available to collaborators, you should push your changes:

git push origin master

Git will prompt you for your Bitbucket credentials. After it's done, you can go to the website and view your changes!

Note: The origin and master represent the same things as in git push.


There might be some files that you don't want to push to the remote repo. For example, we wouldn't want to clutter our project repo with the HTML and CSS files. We can create a file in the repo called .gitignore the contains the following lines


These three lines tell git to ignore all HTML, CSS, and .pyc files (.pyc files are generated in the __pycache__ directory).

You can commit and push .gitignore so that your collaborators also won't push those files.

Merge Conflicts

You will occasionally face a merge conflict when doing git pull. This occurs if you and your partner modify the same line(s) in a file; Git won't know which modification should be the final one.

When this happens, Git will notify you of the problem:

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

In the example above, there is a merge conflict in the file We'll work with this scenario for this example.

Note: non-conflicting changes will have been successfully pulled, so you don't need to git pull again.

Open up (the conflicted file). After scrolling through the file, you should see one or more blocks of code delimited in this fashion:

<<<<<<< HEAD
Changes you made
Changes your partner made
>>>>>>> ...

The ... will either be a long hexidecimal number that represents a commit ID, or the name of a branch.

Next, edit the conflicted code, using your own judgement (obviouslly you'll want to get rid of the <<<<<<< and other delimiters).

Finally, git add the conflicted file and commit it. That's it! If you want to push the merge resolution, go ahead.

Revision Selection

Sometimes, you might want to revert to a previous stage in your project (e.g. if you made a fatal error that broke your project, or perhaps you just want to take a quick look at a certain stage of the projct). Git provides a way to revert back to a certain commit.

Commit logs

First, the following command shows you your local commit history:

git log

It will display a summary of each commit in the following format:

commit <ID>
Merge: 26bdca5 d4670c0
Author: ...
Date:   ...

    <commit message>

Remember those commit messages? Those will be how you identify which backup is the one you want, so make sure you write good messages!

The output of git log is displayed in a pager like less or more, depending on your computer. This allows you to scroll through the log.

You can also generate a condensed version of the log by using the following flag:

git log --pretty=format:'%h %s'

In this case, the string %h %s specifies the format to be the commit ID, then a space, followed by the commit message. You can customize the format.

Once you've found the commit you are looking for, remember its ID (technically, it's called a hash) — this is the long hexidecimal number found in the line

commit ...

It's okay to remember only the first few digits of the ID, as long as you remember at least 4 digits (7 digits is a good rule of thumb) and those digits are unambigious (can't refer to more than one commit). For example, the following ID


can be shortened to just d615a5e.

You can run the following command to double-check that the ID refers to the correct commit:

git show d615a5e    # replace the ID with your own

Remember what the commit ID is, because we will be using it soon.


The following command will undo committed changes:

git revert <commit ID>

Changes that were made during <commit ID> will be "discarded." There are two important aspects of revert:

  • revert does not reset your project to its state at <commit ID>. Instead, it simply undoes changes introduced by <commit ID>. It will appear as if you never made that commit, but all commits you made after it will still be reflected in your project.
  • revert creates a new commit — it does not delete an old commit. Git finds out what changes have to be made in order to undo the specified commit, and makes a new commit reflecting these changes.

If you want to undo changes made by a range of commits, you can do

git revert <ID 1>..<ID 2>

For example, if you want to undo all commits after a certain point, you can do

git revert d615a5e..HEAD

An explanation can be found here.

Note: the two properties above make revert a safe and useful way to selectively undo a change:

  • If you just want to get rid of a small bug that was introduced at a certain point (but still leave all following changes intact), you can do so with revert
  • Because revert doesn't delete old commits, you can always go back (undo the undo).


If you just want to revert a single file, you can use the checkout command:

git checkout <commit ID> <file>

For example, if we want to restore to what it was during the commit d615a5e, we would do

git checkout d615a5e

This will overwrite our current file with its former state, and we can go ahead and edit it like normal.

If it turns out we didn't want to revert after all, we can get back our most recent version (assuming we haven't committed yet):

git checkout HEAD

HEAD represents the most recent commit.


Branching offers a way to work on different parts of your project without interfering with the changes of other people. For example, if you are revising your solution to Q5 of the Hog project, you might not want to change the original solution just yet (in case your new one breaks!). This is where branching comes in.

The Git website has a good tutorial for branching.

Branching usually follows a couple of steps:

  1. Create the branch
  2. Edit code on that branch
  3. Merge branches

Before we go into details, let's introduce the branch command:

git branch

Without any additional arguments, git branch displays all the branches in your repo, as well as which one you're currently in. The output will look something like this:

* master

This tells you there is only one branch so far, and the * means you are in the master branch.

Creating a branch

Continuing with the Hog Q5 scenario, let's create a branch:

git checkout -b q5

This creates a local branch called q5 and immediately switches to it. This is a shortcut for

git branch q5
git checkout q5

As a sanity check, type in git branch. You should see that you now have two branches, and that you are in the q5 branch:

* q5

You can now edit your code, and the changes will not affect the main master branch. You can still do add and commit. The commit will only affect the current branch.

Note: you have not created a remote branch yet — i.e. no one else can see the new branch you created. It is only local to your own machine.

Switching between branches

You might need to switch back to the master branch to work on something else. To do this, type

git checkout <name of branch>

This will switch you to the specified branch. For example, if you want to switch back to the master branch, type

git checkout master

Make sure that, when you are git pulling from a remote server (such as Bitbucket), you should be in the correct local branch.

Merging branches

After implementing and testing our new solution for Q5, we can incorporate it into our main project. To do this, we merge (make sure you've committed all changes on the q5 branch):

git checkout master
git merge q5

Now, the master branch and the q5 branch point to the same commit stage — in other words, the master branch contains all the changes you made on the q5 branch!

You can check which branches have been matched to your current branch:

git branch --merged     # lists merged branches
git branch --no-merged  # lists unmerged branches

You may want to continue working on the q5 branch (maybe you want to try out another solution), so you might want to keep it around. If you want to delete the branch, however, you can type

git checkout master
git branch -d q5

Pushing and Pulling branches

Up until now, all the branches we've created are local to our own computer. To share a branch with your collaborators, you need to push it:

git checkout q5       # make sure you're in the right local branch
git push origin q5

To retrieve a branch that you don't have yet (let's call it q10), you can do

git checkout -b q10   # create a local q10 branch
git pull origin q10

In general, make sure you are in the correct local branch before you pull from the server.

To delete a remote branch, type

git push origin :q10  # deletes the Bitbucket q10 branch

For more information, see this link.