It’s incredibly easy to forget to stage all your files for a given commit. Whether its an untracked file that you only realise should be tracked few commits down the road, or if you’re divving up changed files to stage and commit them logically and in doing so leave a file out accidentally, its something that is bound to happen sooner or later.

 In my team we’ve decided that we’re going to strive for more granular commits to make our repository version history more meaningful, as a result the above has been happening to me a lot more often than usual! 

In the past I would just create a new commit and include the file with some sort of apologetic comment, but thinking of the bigger picture it makes sense to maintain a brighter, cleaner repo where contributors can theoretically checkout any revision and for it to be exactly what it says on the tin (ie. the commit message and description).

Adding an unstaged file to a previous commit

So you’ve run git status and found out that you have an unstaged file that should be added to a previous commit.

C:\Code\GitTrackingExample>git status
# On branch master
# Untracked files:
#   (use "git add ..." to include in what will be committed)
#       bootstrap.less
nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)

Running git log or using your Git client of choice should give you a list of commits

C:\Code\GitTrackingExample>git log
WARNING: terminal is not fully functional
commit 75667aea53252063388914fcf9f07e1bd52cd654
Author: Stephen James 
Date:   Thu Sep 12 13:05:57 2013 +0100

    modified page header

commit af2eb46ec051d2f4b7f8e4eb82ce59a7905f4290
Author: Stephen James 
Date:   Thu Sep 12 13:03:47 2013 +0100

    adding style to the site

commit e9877d1469716b3fc3afe282742300f9f24b18bf
Author: Stephen James 
Date:   Thu Sep 12 13:01:40 2013 +0100

    created site

This particular change is related to "adding style to the site", (commit af2eb46) so to stage the untracked file and add it to that commit I'll do the following :

  1. Stage the file
    git add bootstrap.less

  2. Commit it to the desired revision (commit af2eb46)

    C:\Code\GitTrackingExample>git commit --amend -C af2eb46
    [master 226b94c] adding style to site
     2 files changed, 1 insertion(+)
     create mode 100644 bootstrap.less

  3. When you're happy that everything is well staged and cleanly committed, push to the upstream repo
    git push
And thats a really simple easy way to do it.  Of course if you want to test each revision and the staged changes (which is always a good idea before pushing upstream) you'd want to checkout to that revision first and run your tests.

Amend and it's parameters

--amend will add the staged files to the commit with the specified hash, but optionally will allow you to modify the commit message.  

If you want to pop in a completely new message, 

git commit --amend -m "new commit message" <revision hash>
or if you want to leave it untouched, use 
git commit --amend -C <revision hash>

(as we did in the example above)

or if you want to edit this on the fly in your terminal/console with vi, just leave out the -C argument and it’ll bring that up for direct editing.

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Stephen James

JavaScript and Front-End Developer


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