Git - Rebase Or Merge ?


When we need to join two or more branched together, we have two git commands can choice — Merge or Rebase.

The Merge Option

In the past, I always using merge to join my branches:

         A ------> B ------> C      (Feature Branch)
/ \
F -> G ---> H -----> I ----> J (Master Branch)

When Commit D merge to Commit J , occasionally occur some conflicts, if it is your own project, you can just fix the conflicts and commit again.

But if it is someone’s repos and you want to create a pull request, than your pull request will be rejected because the conflicts.

In this case, I need to do the following steps:

  1. Merge Commit I into Feature-> Commit X
  2. Fix the conflicts -> Commit Z
  3. Create a pull request again. (Now the conflicts has fixed)
         A ---> B ---> C --> X - > Z         (Feature Branch)
/ / \
F -> G -----> H -------> I ------> J (Master Branch)

As you see, the log graph will be more complicated, and if the Master branch is very active, this can pollute Feature branch’s history quite a bit.

Did I really want to merge Master branch into Feature ?

No! I just want to avoid the conflicts in my pull request. The merge from Master to Feature is unnecessary. So, here has another option — Rebase.

The Rebase Option

Rebase can change the node that you branch out, you can compare the following graph with previous:

  1. Rebase Master in Feature branch.
  2. If has conflict, fix it then use command rebase --continue.
  3. Create a pull request.
                   A ---> B ---> C         (Feature Branch)
/ \
F -> G -> H -> I --------------> J (Master Branch)

Now we avoid the unnecessary merge and get a more cleaner log graph.

Notice: Because Rebase command will change the node you branch out, if the information of the branch out node is important, maybe you should not use Rebase to join your branches.


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