Selecting the Right Git Merging Strategy: Merge Commit, Squash and Merge, or Rebase and Merge

📆 · ⏳ 3 min read · ·

Introduction

Welcome to the world of Git merging strategies – a landscape filled with choices that often spark heated debates among developers.

Let’s first try to understand the underlying concepts of merge commit, squash and merge, and rebase and merge strategies which will help you see beyond the controversies and make informed decisions tailored to your project’s needs.

Understanding the Strategies

Merge Commit

Think of merge commit as a digital historian. It retains the history of individual commits, bringing them together with a symbolic merge commit.

This approach showcases the evolution of your codebase clearly but can lead to a cluttered history with numerous merge commits.

So all your “typo fixed”, “this better work”, “oops, forgot to add a semicolon” commits will be there for everyone to see.

Squash and Merge

Imagine squash and merge as a minimalistic curator. It condenses multiple commits into a single, polished entity, leaving your commit history sleek and concise.

While it tidies up the history, it might risk losing the detailed context of each individual change.

For example, if you have a pull request with 10 commits, squash and merge will squash all 10 commits into one. This means that you’ll only see one commit in your history, and you won’t be able to see the individual commits that were squashed.

Rebase and Merge

Rebase and merge acts like a harmonizer, blending your branch’s commits with the latest changes in the destination branch.

This produces a linear, smooth-flowing history. Yet, it can sometimes be challenging to maintain if other developers are simultaneously working on the same branch.

For example, if you have a pull request with 10 commits, rebase and merge will rebase your branch on top of the destination branch and then merge it. This means that you’ll see all 10 commits in your history, but they’ll be in a linear order and applied on top of the destination branch.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Each strategy offers unique advantages and trade-offs:

Merge Commit: It preserves a detailed chronological history but might generate a complex commit history.

Squash and Merge: It presents an elegant, coherent history but might obscure the specifics of individual contributions.

Rebase and Merge: It fosters a linear, clean narrative but can require careful handling to avoid conflicts.

So what to choose?

Choosing the right strategy depends on factors like team dynamics, project type, the nature of the pull request, and many more.

Complex features might benefit from a merge commit, while a bug fix could suit squash and merge.

Rebase and merge might be your preference when aiming for a clean, straightforward history if you are comfortable with rebasing strategies.

Embracing Balance

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Acknowledge that different strategies serve different needs. Be adaptable – let your project’s nature and your team’s comfort guide your choice.

Ultimately, it’s about producing quality code and keeping track of changes in a way that aligns with your team’s workflow.

What’s my preference?

My current organization prefers to use the Merge and Commit strategy. We have a lot of developers working on the same codebase, and we want to make sure that we can easily see what changes were made and when.

And for my personal projects where I am either working alone or with handful of people, I prefer to use the Rebase and Merge or Squash and Merge strategy. I like to keep my commit history clean, easy to read and track.

Conclusion

Merging strategies are tools in your developer’s toolbox, each serving a purpose. The key is to understand their nuances, recognize the context of your project, and maintain open discussions within your team.

By adopting a flexible approach, you’ll navigate the merging maze with confidence and produce software that’s not only efficient but also harmonious.

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