How I use Git - Extracting Info

2012-06-03 · 6 min read

In the 2nd post of the series I'll show how I extract information from a Git repository. There are three layers I will operate on:

  1. highlighting output to draw the attention on a particular piece of information on the screen
  2. formatting a log message
  3. searching through commit messages or through the codebase

For the purpose of this article I will use two Git repositories:

  1. a small personal project which has some changes in both the working directory and the staged files,
  2. Noir framework repository from GitHub

git status

Let’s start by putting some colours on git status. We have to modify ~/.gitconfig and add the following part:

[color "status"]
  added = blue
  changed = yellow
  untracked = white ul
λ git status

Now, git status will get some nice coloring, like on the screen below:

git status

Let’s remove unnecessary information from git status by adding the --short option. I use it pretty often so I have binded it to git s for convenience.

λ git status --short

As shown below there is only the essential status information

git status short

git diff

Another area of improvement concerns git diff command. As before let’s add some colours to the output by modifing ~/.gitconig.

[color "diff"]
  meta = white bold
  frag = magenta ul
  old = red bold
  new = green bold

Now git diff will render an output similiar to the one below

git diff

There is a useful option called --stat which provides a summary for each file from git diff. It can be used for staged files as well.

λ git diff --stat
λ git diff --cached --stat

git diff

git log

git log shows the commit logs.

λ git log

git log

There is a lot of information here and it takes of lot space. In the following paragraphs I'll propose some neat alternatives.

Log with Diff Stat

We can include diff stats in the log output using --stat option.

λ git log --stat

git log stat

Log with Patch

We can also associate diff content with each commit in the log output using -p option. There is also -2 which limits the output to only the last two entries

λ git log -p
λ git log -p -2

git log p

Log Format: Graph

We can apply various formats to git log output. For example, we could display a ASCII graph on the left thanks to --graph option.

λ git log --graph --date=short

git graph

Log Format: Short

Let's create a more concise git log output using the following format.

λ git log --pretty=format:'[%h] %an %cr: %s'

I have binded it to git los alias.

git short

Log Format: Changes

Let's add to the previous output a list of files changed for each commit. It could be done this way:

λ git log --pretty=format:'[%h] %an %cr: %s' --name-status

I have binded it to git changes alias.

git changes

Log Format: Summary

We can go even further and adjust the previous output with a git diff stats that visually show how a file or files associated with each commit changed

λ git log --pretty=format:'[%h] %an %ar: %s' --stat

I have binded it to git summary alias.

git summary

Log Format: Changelog

We can also generate a simple change log (aliased to git changelog) by using:

λ git log --pretty=format:' * %s'

As before I have git changelog alias for that format in my ~/.gitconfig.

git changelog

Log Format: Full Graph

Or a neat graph which is binded to git lof in my personal config.

λ git log --graph --pretty=format:'[%h] -%d %an %cr: %s' --abbrev-commit --date=relative

git lof

Log Filtering

git log output can be filtered in various ways.

Time Range

Time range can be specified using --since or --before options:

λ git log --since=2.weeks

By Author OR By Commit Message

To easily find commits authored by a specific person, I use git log with --author option. If I wanted to search through commit message instead, there is --grep option. It can be easily combined with other options, like --since for example.

λ git log --author=Zaiste!
λ git log --grep=Merge --since=1.week

By Author AND By Commit Message

In order to find commits authored by a specific person that contain certain words in the commit message, I could use one of the following commands.

λ git log --author=Zaiste! --grep=Merge --since=1.month
λ git log --all-match --grep=Merge --author=Zaiste!

It differs from what says git help as the first of these commands is supposed to look for an author OR a message, but it does AND instead; as a result --all-match is not needed.

Code Filtering

At this point, we already know how to look through commit messages, find commits authored by a specific person, etc. Let's learn how to search in the source code.

The simplest command looks like this:

λ git grep <regexp>

It searches for a specifc regex expression in the working tree. There is a useful option, called --function-context which gives a « context » for the search. Let's compare:

without --function-context

git grep

with --function-context

git grep context

For a more clear git grep output with filename heading & line numbers, I use three additional options: --break, --heading and --line-number.

To search in the current head, use the following command:

λ git grep <regex> HEAD

To search only through .md files, in the working directory, try this:

λ git grep 'map' -- '*.md'

These options can be easily combinated. For example, to search in the HEAD of branch called feature and only through .clj, use following:

λ git grep -e 'map' next HEAD -- '*.clj'

We can also search all revisions for a specified regexp, like so:

λ git grep <regexp> $(git rev-list --all)

Or, we can limit the search to all revisions between rev1 and rev2, like so:

λ git grep <regexp> $(git rev-list <rev1>..<rev2>)

We can combine several regexp expressions. For example, to search working tree for lines lines matching both init AND defn:

λ git grep -e init --and -e defn

git grep and

Or, to search working tree for lines that match at least one of these two regex expressions:

λ git grep -e init -e defn

git grep and

Finally, the following command will give the names of the files that have both defn and init somewhere in them:

λ git grep -l --all-match -e defn -e init


In this article, I only scratched the surface. There is much more options for git diff, git status, git log and git grep commands. You can get more details on each of these commands via git help <command>.

In the next post I'll show how git can be integrated with our favorite text editor: Vim. Stay tuned!