Start using Git on the command line

While GitLab has a powerful user interface, if you want to use Git itself, you will have to do so from the command line. If you want to start using Git and GitLab together, make sure that you have created and/or signed into an account on GitLab.

Open a shell

Depending on your operating system, you will need to use a shell of your preference. Here are some suggestions:

Check if Git has already been installed

Git is usually preinstalled on Mac and Linux, so run the following command:

git --version

You should receive a message that tells you which Git version you have on your computer. If you don’t receive a "Git version" message, it means that you need to download Git.

After you are finished installing Git, open a new shell and type git --version again to verify that it was correctly installed.

Add your Git username and set your email

It is important to configure your Git username and email address, since every Git commit will use this information to identify you as the author.

In your shell, type the following command to add your username:

git config --global "YOUR_USERNAME"

Then verify that you have the correct username:

git config --global

To set your email address, type the following command:

git config --global ""

To verify that you entered your email correctly, type:

git config --global

You'll need to do this only once, since you are using the --global option. It tells Git to always use this information for anything you do on that system. If you want to override this with a different username or email address for specific projects, you can run the command without the --global option when you’re in that project.

Check your information

To view the information that you entered, along with other global options, type:

git config --global --list

Basic Git commands

Start using Git via the command line with the most basic commands as described below.

Initialize a local directory for Git version control

If you have an existing local directory that you want to initialize for version control, use the init command to instruct Git to begin tracking the directory:

git init

This creates a .git directory that contains the Git configuration files.

Once the directory has been initialized, you can add a remote repository and send changes to You will also need to create a new project in GitLab for your Git repository.

Clone a repository

To start working locally on an existing remote repository, clone it with the command git clone <repository path>. By cloning a repository, you'll download a copy of its files to your local computer, automatically preserving the Git connection with the remote repository.

You can either clone it via HTTPS or SSH. If you chose to clone it via HTTPS, you'll have to enter your credentials every time you pull and push. With SSH, you enter your credentials only once.

You can find both paths (HTTPS and SSH) by navigating to your project's landing page and clicking Clone. GitLab will prompt you with both paths, from which you can copy and paste in your command line.

As an example, consider this repository path:

  • HTTPS:
  • SSH:

To get started, open a terminal window in the directory you wish to clone the repository files into, and run one of the following commands.

Clone via HTTPS:

git clone

Clone via SSH:

git clone

Both commands will download a copy of the files in a folder named after the project's name. You can then navigate to the directory and start working on it locally.

Switch to the master branch

You are always in a branch when working with Git. The main branch is the master branch, but you can use the same command to switch to a different branch by changing master to the branch name.

git checkout master

Download the latest changes in the project

To work on an up-to-date copy of the project (it is important to do this every time you start working on a project), you pull to get all the changes made by users since the last time you cloned or pulled the project. Use master for the <name-of-branch> to get the main branch code, or the branch name of the branch you are currently working in.

git pull REMOTE <name-of-branch>

When you first clone a repository, REMOTE is typically origin. This is where the repository was cloned from, and it indicates the SSH or HTTPS URL of the repository on the remote server. <name-of-branch> is usually master, but it may be any existing branch.

View your remote repositories

To view your remote repositories, type:

git remote -v

Add a remote repository

To add a link to a remote repository:

git remote add <source-name> <repository-path>

You'll use this source name every time you push changes to, so use something easy to remember and type.

Create a branch

To create a new branch, to work from without affecting the master branch, type the following (spaces won't be recognized in the branch name, so you will need to use a hyphen or underscore):

git checkout -b <name-of-branch>>

Work on an existing branch

To switch to an existing branch, so you can work on it:

git checkout <name-of-branch>

View the changes you've made

It's important to be aware of what's happening and the status of your changes. When you add, change, or delete files/folders, Git knows about it. To check the status of your changes:

git status

View differences

To view the differences between your local, unstaged changes and the repository versions that you cloned or pulled, type:

git diff

Add and commit local changes

You'll see any local changes in red when you type git status. These changes may be new, modified, or deleted files/folders. Use git add to first stage (prepare) a local file/folder for committing. Then use git commit to commit (save) the staged files:

git add <file-name OR folder-name>

Add all changes to commit

To add and commit (save) all local changes quickly:

git add .

NOTE: Note: The . character typically means all in Git.

Send changes to

To push all local commits (saved changes) to the remote repository:

git push <remote> <name-of-branch>

For example, to push your local commits to the master branch of the origin remote:

git push origin master

Delete all changes in the branch

To delete all local changes in the branch that have not been added to the staging area, and leave unstaged files/folders, type:

git checkout .

Note that this removes changes to files, not the files themselves.

Unstage all changes that have been added to the staging area

To undo the most recently added, but not committed, changes to files/folders:

git reset .

Undo most recent commit

To undo the most recent commit, type:

git reset HEAD~1

This leaves the changed files and folders unstaged in your local repository.

CAUTION: Warning: A Git commit should not usually be reverse, particularly if you already pushed it to the remote repository. Although you can undo a commit, the best option is to avoid the situation altogether by working carefully.

Merge a branch with master branch

When you are ready to make all the changes in a branch a permanent addition to the master branch, you merge the two together:

git checkout <name-of-branch>
git merge master