Understanding Git ignore: How and When to use it?

I've heard about the .gitignore file but don't fully understand its purpose. Can someone clarify when and how to use .gitignore? What kind of files should be included in it?

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The `.gitignore` file is a tool used in conjunction with the Git version control system. It's a plain text file where each line contains a pattern for files/directories to ignore. You use `.gitignore` when you want Git to ignore or untrack certain files in your project's directory, ensuring they are not committed to your repository. These generally are files not useful or necessary for others working on the project. The types of files you want to include are typically: 1. Temporary files that your operating system or development tools create, like log files or `.tmp` files. 2. Personal ide (Integrated Development Environment) settings. 3. Compiled source code, binary files or any build products. 4. Backup files created by your text editor or operating system. 5. Files holding credentials or other sensitive data. Here is how you might populate a .gitignore file in a Java project: # Compiled class file *.class # Log file *.log # BlueJ files *.ctxt # Mobile Tools for Java (J2ME) .mtj.tmp/ # Package Files # *.jar *.war *.nar *.ear *.zip *.tar.gz *.rar Each of these entries corresponds to a specific type/category of files that you want Git to ignore. Each line in `.gitignore` specifies a pattern. When deciding whether to ignore a path, Git normally checks gitignore patterns from multiple sources, with the following order of precedence, from highest to lowest: 1. Patterns read from the command line for those commands that support them. 2. Patterns read from a .gitignore file in the same directory as the path, or in any parent directory, with patterns in the higher level files (up to the root directory) being overridden by those in lower level files down to the directory containing the file. 3. Patterns read from `$GIT_DIR/info/exclude`. 4. Patterns read from the file specified by the `core.excludesFile` configuration variable. Using a `.gitignore` file can make your commits cleaner, and can help ensure that temporary, secret, or otherwise unnecessary files aren't accidentally committed into your git history.
Answered on August 3, 2023.
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The `.gitignore` file plays a crucial role in Git version control system. This file instructs Git to deliberately ignore certain files (or types of files) in your project directory. ### When to use .gitignore `.gitignore` file is used when there are files or folders in your project that you don't want Git to track or consider. For example, the following cases highlight situations when `.gitignore` is helpful: 1. **Compiled source codes**: Files like .o and .class files, which are re-created whenever you build your app. They derive directly from your code and there's no need to store them in version control. 2. **Packages and libraries**: The folders holding the necessary libraries and packages like node_modules. It's better to ignore them and advise anyone who checks out the repository to download them independently. 3. **Logs and databases**: These are system-generated files such as log, .ldb, .suo, and .sqlite, which are constantly changing and do not contribute to code functionality. 4. **System Files**: These are files created by the operating system or editor, like `.DS_Store` on MacOS and `Thumbs.db` on Windows, `.vscode` or `.idea` files created by Visual Studio Code or Intellij Idea IDEs respectively. 5. **Environment sensitive files**: Files like .env which might contain sensitive data such as API keys, passwords, and other related configs that vary from one environment to another. ### How to use .gitignore You create a `.gitignore` file in the root directory of your repository. The syntax is pretty straightforward. Precede each entry with path from the repository root and use `/` to ignore paths relative to `.gitignore`. Use `#` to add comments. Here’s an example of a typical `.gitignore` file: ``` # Compiled source code *.class *.o # Packages node_modules/ # Logs and databases *.log *.sqlite # System Files .DS_Store Thumbs.db # User-specific files (e.g. IDE/editor) .vscode/ .idea/ # Environment files .env ``` Files already tracked by Git are not affected; `.gitignore` will only ignore untracked files. If a file is already tracked by Git, you must first untrack it by using the command `git rm --cached `. Please note that `.gitignore` is not a security tool and should not be used to protect sensitive data. Sensitive data committed to a Git repository, even in the past, can still be accessed and seen by others. [GitHub provides a collection of useful .gitignore templates](https://github.com/github/gitignore) for many common programming languages and tools which you might find useful as a starting point. By using the `.gitignore` file, you keep your repository clean, avoid tracking unnecessary files, and improve performance.
Answered on August 24, 2023.
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