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Working With Git(Hub)

This overview is meant to define some commonly used git and GitHub concepts as well as document how Neon code is managed.



  • Repository - A directory with changes tracked by git
  • Refs - Human-readable names given to a particular commit
  • Commit - A unit of code changes as determined by the code author
  • Branch - A version of code, built off of some specified ref
  • HEAD A reference to the current branch
  • Remote - A reference to a remote code repository
  • Push - Copy new commits from a local ref to a remote ref. These refs usually have the same names on the local and remote, but not necessarily
  • Force Push - Copy the commit history from the local ref to the remote ref. Note that this can result in losing commits that exist on the remote but not the local branch. You usually do this after rebasing changes or dropping commits.
  • Tag - A ref that is tied to a static commit and is not mutable; the tag will always reference the same commit


  • Fork - A copy of a repository at a particular point in time/commit history
  • Pull Request - A request to include commits from some head branch into a base branch
  • Release - Basically a git tag but specific to GH with some additional UI/Notifications
  • Upstream - The parent repository of a fork
  • Organization (Org) - An entity that has repositories (like a user) and that is managed by several users with various permissions

Common Workflows

Pull Requests

Pull Requests have three options for resolution (exluding closing the PR):

  • Create a merge commit - Creates a new commit to the base branch AND applies all commits from the head branch to the base branch
  • Squash and merge - A shortcut to rewriting Git history. Takes multiple commits and translates all changes into a single commit on the base branch
  • Rebase and merge - Rebase all commits from the head to the base

Squash and Merge

This is generally desired for merging feature/bugfix branches into a shared development branch. This means 1 commit == 1 logical change and makes commit history more readable.

Create a Merge Commit

This is generally used when merging changes from a development branch into a master or release branch. This preserves the commit history and adds commits that indicate when/where the release branch was updated. In most cases, a commit to the release branch corresponds to a tag and release that will reference the merge commit.

Rebase and merge

This could be useful if contributing to a feature branch. This would maintain commit history without generating an extra merge commit.


When working on a branch, it is often necessary to rebase your changes on other changes merged into the base while you are working on a feature. Rebasing is the process of taking the commits from your branch and applying them after the commits on the base branch. If there are conflicts, you will have to resolve them, which modifies the commits on your branch. After resolving conflicts, you should Force Push your branch to the remote.

Cherry Pick

When working with a fork, it is often helpful to cherry-pick changes from the upstream. There are a couple common situations where cherry-picking is useful:

  • Projects forked from an open source repository where the fork is diverged from the original repository
  • Branches that include both fixes and features may be split into 2 branches with 2 PR’s. The “FIX” PR could cherry-pick the relevant commits from the “FEAT” PR and the “FEAT” PR would later be rebased after the “FIX” PR is merged


Sometimes a commit is accidentally added or was added for testing and the changes were not successful. In these instances, dropping the commit is generally easier and cleaner than creating an additional commit to roll back the changes. It may also be useful to drop commits that were cherry-picked to a different fork as described above.


GitHub quick reference

Official Git documentation