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I'm Jason, a web applications developer in the San Francisco Bay area.

Splitting a Branch with Git

There are times that a task you are working on results in an extremely huge amount of changes. Although you may have been careful, and tested each modification out well, there is always a possibility that something will cause an issue in production. If your branch contains modifications that can be released in separately, without interdependencies, it’s a good idea to split the feature branch into separate releases.

First you’ll want to interactively rebase your branch, squash all commits into a single commit, and then amend the remaining commit so that it’s the most recent.

git checkout my_feature_branch

git fetch

git rebase -i origin/master

git commit --amend --reset-author

You can confirm that your last commit which contains all the changes you’ve provided in your feature branch is the last one using ‘git log’.

Next, create a new branch from your rebased feature branch using a name that describes the first portion of modifications you’re wanting to split off from your finished feature branch.

git checkout -b new_comments_and_docs

Then reset your branch to the commit that comes before your squashed commit. This is practically the state of the last commit in the master branch that you rebased from.

git reset HEAD^

If you run ‘git status’ now, you’ll see the list of unstaged/modified files, and untracked/new files that contain your work from this branch. It’s a good idea to take this list of files and separate them into groups for the split branches you plan on creating, using ‘git diff’ on the modified files to review the changes you made. This will help you avoid mistakenly forgetting to include certain files during the process.

Once you’re ready, simply use ‘git add’ on the files that contain the changes you wish to keep in the current split from your feature branch.

After you’ve added the files/modifications you wish to keep in this branch, and committed them, run the following commands to clear remaining modifications and untracked files.

git checkout *

git clean -f

You now have a split version of your feature branch. Checkout your feature branch and perform the steps above for the other changes you wish to split into separate branches.