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Blog,  Web Development Essentials

The Importance of Version Control and GIT in Web Development

Greetings to all my fellow, aspiring web developers out there! Today we’re taking a deep dive into the world of version control, with a special spotlight on our friend, GIT. If you’re wondering, “Is this really worth adding to my already packed toolbox and busy days?” Stick around! By the time you finish this article, you’ll see just how game-changing GIT can be, whether you’re collaborating as part of a dev team or flying solo.

Why Version Control is Essential

Imagine this scenario: After numerous iterations on your codebase, you realize the functionality you implemented a few days ago was vastly superior to your recent changes. Perhaps you are building out a new feature and halfway through, an urgent security update needs to be applied to the entire project and deployed — but your unfinished feature code will break the live environment. Maybe you’re collaborating with fellow developers on a shared project, and everyone is updating the same code repository at the same time. Or your team is onboarding an intern or new developer who needs to become familiar with your codebase but you don’t want them to accidentally deploy unapproved changes.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

This is where the magic of version control comes in. Armed with its capabilities, you can:

  • Track Changes: Maintain a comprehensive log of modifications, authors, and reasons behind those changes.
  • Go Back in Time: Should a recent code change introduce bugs, you can swiftly revert to a stable commit.
  • Collaborate Efficiently: Ensure multiple developers contribute simultaneously without jeopardizing or overwriting each other’s work.
  • Peace of Mind: Fear not about experimenting or breaking things; GIT’s rollback capabilities have your back.

GIT: The Quintessential Version Control System

GIT stands out as the preeminent version control system, and it’s not just hype. Renowned for its speed and distributed nature, GIT boasts an active and vibrant community. (Shout-out to platforms like GitHub and GitLab!) This means that GIT is a tried and true system and allows for:

  • Every developer maintains a local clone with the complete developmental timeline, making operations lightning-fast.
  • Streamlined collaboration: Develop features in isolated branches and later merge them with the primary or main branch seamlessly.

(By the way, while “master” was once the go-to term, the industry at large is now embracing “main” for clarity and inclusivity. I will use “main” in this article.)

GIT’s Role in Streamlining Teamwork

With GIT integrated into your daily processes and workflow, team collaboration becomes exponentially more efficient. Here’s a snapshot of what you can do:

  • Cloning Repositories: Fetch a repository from a remote server and begin local development.
  • Branching: Tackle feature development without disrupting the main branch.
  • Merging: After refining a feature, integrate it back into the main branch.
  • Pull Requests: A staple in platforms like GitHub, pull requests allow developers to suggest modifications. The team or team lead can then assess, deliberate, and either merge or decline those changes.

Version Control for the Solo Developer: Why It’s Indispensable

Often, when version control in general or GIT specifically is mentioned, the image that comes to mind is bustling teams dynamically pushing and fetching code. But let’s demystify this: GIT isn’t solely a team tool. Individual developers, like many of us, can also benefit from its capabilities.

Ever wished for an “undo” functionality during those deep coding sessions? That’s where GIT shines. It acts as a reliable time-capsule for your codebase, granting you the liberty to revisit past states seamlessly.

Moreover, even if you’re currently a solo act, who’s to say you won’t have a team in the future? Mastering GIT now ensures you’ve got a rock-solid base, making future collaborations and project expansions scale with less effort.

Installing GIT on Your Machine

With the advantages of version control clear, let’s get GIT set up on your local machine.

For Windows users:

  • Download the official Git for Windows installer.
  • Run the installer. Accept the default settings (or customize if you know what you’re doing).
  • Launch Git Bash (you’ll find this new app on your computer), and you’re ready to roll!

For Mac users:

  • If you have Homebrew, just run brew install git.
  • Otherwise, download GIT from the official source and follow the installation process.

For Linux users:

Using a package manager like apt for Debian/Ubuntu, just run:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install git

For Fedora, use dnf:

sudo dnf install git

20 Essential GIT Commands (and How to Use Them)

Awesome job! You now have GIT installed on your computer. Let’s dive straight in and unpack some essential commands that’ll be your daily bread and butter in upcoming projects.

  1. git init: Initialize a new GIT repo and start tracking an existing directory. Use as:
git init
  1. git clone [url]: Clone (download) a repository from an existing URL.
git clone https://github.com/user/repo.git
  1. git status: Check the status of your changes. It’ll show new, modified, or deleted files not yet committed.
git status
  1. git add [file]: Add changes to your staging area. Replace [file] with your file’s name.
git add index.html

To add all changes, use:

git add .
  1. git commit -m “[Your Message Here]”: Commit your staged content. The message should describe the changes you made.
git commit -m "Updated the header"
  1. git branch: List all local branches in the repository.
git branch
  1. git branch [branch-name]: Create a new branch.
git branch new-feature
  1. git checkout [branch-name]: Switch to a different branch.
git checkout new-feature
  1. git merge [branch-name]: Merge the specified branch’s changes into the current branch.
git merge new-feature
  1. git remote add [alias] [url]: Connect your local repo to a remote server.
git remote add origin https://github.com/user/repo.git
  1. git push [alias] [branch]: Push your committed changes to a remote repository.
git push origin main
  1. git pull: Pull down from a remote repo and merge.
git pull
  1. git log: Show a commit history.
git log
  1. git rm [file]: Remove a file from your working directory and stage the deletion.
git rm file.txt
  1. git diff: Show changes between commits, commit and working tree, etc.
git diff
  1. git stash: Temporarily save changes that you don’t want to commit yet.
git stash
  1. git stash apply: Restore previously stashed changes.
git stash apply
  1. git reset: Reset your index and working directory to the state of your last commit.
git reset
  1. git fetch: Fetch changes from a remote repository.
git fetch
  1. git tag: Show existing tags, or create a new one. (Learn more about Git tags.)
git tag v1.0.0

In Conclusion

Kudos to you! 🎉 You’ve taken the first steps to building a strong foundation with version control and, especially, GIT. As with any skill, consistency is key. Keep integrating GIT into your daily processes and workflow, and soon it’ll be an integral tool in your dev toolkit. Until next time, let your code shine! ✨

Additional Learning Resources

Free resources

GitHub Skills
URL: https://skills.github.com 

Atlassian GIT Tutorials
URL: https://www.atlassian.com/git/tutorials 

Pro Git (book)
By: Scott Chacon and Ben Straub
URL: https://git-scm.com/book/en/v2 

Git Immersion
URL: https://gitimmersion.com/ 

Git Tutorial: Get Started with Version Control
Blog by Tania Rascia
URL: https://www.taniarascia.com/getting-started-with-git/ 

Paid resources

URL: https://www.pluralsight.com/ 

LinkedIn Learning: “Git” courses
URL: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/topics/git?u=0 

LinkedIn Learning Courses:


Featured image: Photo by Clément Hélardot on Unsplash.

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