git – fight with pull merges

Hi folks!

I am a big hater of pull merges, i.e. commit with messages like Merge branch ‘mybranch’ of http://my-url:repo into mybranch

It normally appears after git pull in scenario when you made some commits in your local branch, and someone else made some commits in his version of local branch then he pushed it into remote repo.

git pull is just a shortcut for the following two commands

git fetch origin mybranch
git merge origin/mybranch

Second command gives the name pull merges to this process.

So what’s wrong with that? Why I hate it?

The answer is simple – it complicates the git history making it non-linear without a real need.

In my ideal world branches are linear as much as possible and only necessary no-ff merges appear between different branches.

But these bloody pull merges make everything worse

bloody pull merges

I will guide you with some solutions

Step 1. pull –rebase

Yay, pull –rebase command does the thing, instead of merge it performs a rebase. I don’t want to go deeper into details, I assume you all know what rebase is.
But briefly saying, it takes your commits you made locally and reapplies them on top of the commits from the remote repo, so it preserves linearity of the branch.

Step 2. Make pull –rebase a default behavior

I don’t need default pull behavior, so I want to have –rebase flag all the time.

There is a solution for that

git config branch.mybranch.rebase true

Voila! Now if I just type pull on mybranch it will perform pull –rebase

This procedure should be done for all desired existing branches manually.

What about newly created branches? What if I want this setting to be set for them automatically?


git config branch.autosetuprebase always

In case if we suddenly want to have a default pull we can use

git pull --no-rebase

Step 3. Fix problem with merges

Unfortunately, pull –rebase have a shortcomming. It destroys merges.

if you do

git merge someotherbranch
git pull --rebase

You will see that your merge disappeared. Well, not fully disappeared, commits from someotherbranch are in place, but they are look like cherry-picked ones, and link between merged branches disappeared.

In such cases I used to follow two approaches.

If merge was easy to do, not many conflicts, and I know what I am doing, I could start merge again

git fetch
git reset --hard origin/mybranch
git merge someotherbranch

In case if merge was difficult, or some other reason, I had to use this hateful pull –no-rebase

But! Recently I’ve discovered another right way to do that.

Instead of pull –rebase I do

git fetch
git rebase origin/mybranch --preserve-merges

and it reapplies your merges

you can use -p flag instead

Git Extensions has corresponding checkbox as well.


Step 4. Merge conflicts

Well, –preserve-merges has another shortcoming. When it reapplies merges you have to solve the same merge conflicts over and over.

It can be annoying to do this. You want to fix a conflict once, and then keep the resolution even during rebases.

The solution for this is rerere. It stands for Reuse recorded resolution of conflicted merges

It is doing exactly what we needed. We just need to enable it once. Then as soon as we fixed a merge conflict, it records what the conflict was and how did you fix it. Then when it sees the same conflict, I takes your resolution and uses it. It is extremely handy.

Don’t waste your time. Go and enable it right now!

git config rerere.enabled true

It is very useful not only in a context of the rebases.

Ok now, we are done.

Hope I made your life easier 🙂

Stay tuned!


About mnaoumov

Senior .NET Developer in Readify
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to git – fight with pull merges

  1. Why is rerere turned off by default?

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