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Git Staging

Staging is the process of organizing and preparing our project files for a commit. It is the intermediate step between modifying our files and storing them permanently in the repository. In this tutorial, we will be looking at the Staging Area and try to understand its role.

What is the Staging Area?

  • The staging area is an intermediate step between making changes to files and capturing the snapshots of these updates. It is sometimes also known as Git Index.
  • We reach the staging area when we have completed making changes to our files and are ready to commit these changes permanently.
  • Files in the working directory are not tracked by Git. Git will only start tracking changes of those files which are added to the staging area. Whenever we try to commit, only the snapshots of those files are captured which were added to the staging area and are stored permanently in the repository.

Staging area Illustration

Why is the Staging Area needed?

  • Staging helps in keeping the commits atomic which makes it easier to understand the project.
  • We can modify multiple files in the working directory but only add some of them to the staging area and then commit thus making it easier to roll back just a part of the project that involves those files instead of reverting the entire project to a previous version.
  • In this way, staging gives developers more control over how they want to achieve version control.

How to add files to the Staging Area?

We can reach the staging area from the working directory by using the git add command. We can also add just a single file or multiple files or even the entire working directory to the staging area using the git add command. But this command is a bit redundant because whenever we alter a file we need to add that file to the staging area again even if it was already added previously. But this redundancy also makes sure that at any time we only have those files in the staging area that were not modified again making the entire process more robust. We can also remove files from the staging area by using the git reset command.

Let us take a look at how to use these commands:

  • To add a single file to the staging area:
$ git add <file-name>
  • To add multiple files to the staging area using a single command:
$ git add <file1> <file2> <file3>
  • To add all the files present in the working directory to the staging area:
$ git add .

Let's try to understand staging in Git with the help of a practical example.

  1. First, navigate to a directory and initialize it as a Git repository.Initializing a git repository
  2. Let's add two text files to this repository.Adding files to our repo
  3. We can see the state of our Git repository using the git status command. When we use the git status command, we see that both the files are currently not being tracked by Git. Both of them are currently in the working directory and Git has not started tracking these files as we have not used the git add command yet.checking the status of our repo
  4. Let's add the first file to the staging area. Do not bother about the warning message that is displayed.adding first file to the staging area
  5. Now the first file is in the staging area but the second file is still in the working directory. When we use the git status command, we see that the first file is being tracked but the second file is still untracked.checking the status of our repo again
  6. Let's commit these changes.committing the changes
  7. Now modify the first file and run the git status command again. We see that the second file is still not being tracked and even the first file is currently not staged. This happens because we modified the first file and now it needs to be staged again if we want to commit that change. Now if we add the second file to the staging area and commit the changes, the changes in the first file will not be reflected in that commit.updating first file and checking the status of our repo

Summary:

In this tutorial we learned about the Staging Area in Git and what is it used for. We learned how to improve our project by using the staging area to make atomic commits and make our project versions simpler and easy to understand. We also learned how to use the git add command to add files to the staging area and saw a practical example of how to use this command. I hope the tutorial was helpful and you learned something new. In the next tutorial, we will see how to commit and store files in the repository using the git commit command.