# Version control

When carrying out research it can be beneficial to be able to:

• examine the entire history of the project.
• rewind and retrieve a file from the past.
• combine changes from two different parallel pieces of work.

The potential for human error when doing these things can be handled by software. The particular tool we will use is git.

## Setting up git

Before we get started there are a couple of things we need to do to set up git. Recall that git keeps track of the entire history of a project, this does not only mean keeping track of what was done but also who did it (this is particularly important in collaborative work).

We start by telling git who we are. Open your command line and type:

git config --global user.name "Your Name"

git config --global user.email "Your Email"


Note this is not data that is being collected by any cloud service or similar. It just stays with your project.

Windows

Note that all these commands work on the anaconda prompt but if you want to use tab completion you can use the git bash command line specifically for git.

## Initialising a git repository

Let us start by creating a new directory: rsd-checklist.

Inside that let us create a main.tex document which we will use to create a checklist of things learned on this course.

\documentclass{article}

\title{Research software development checklist}

\begin{document}
\maketitle
\end{document}


Now let us tell git to start keeping an eye on this repository. In the command line:

git init


You should then see a message saying that you have successfully initialised a git repository.

## Staging and committing changes

Let us see what is the status of our repository:

git status


We should see something like:

On branch master

Initial commit

Untracked files:
(use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed)

main.tex

nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)


There are various pieces of useful information here, first of all main.tex is not currently a tracked file.

We are now going to track that file:

git add main.tex


If we run git status again we see:

On branch master

Initial commit

Changes to be committed:
(use "git rm --cached <file>..." to unstage)

new file:   main.tex



So the changes we have made to main.tex (ie starting the file) are ready to be "committed".

git commit


When doing this, a text editor should open up prompting you to write what is called a commit message. Your machine will probably have one of the following command line editors set up as a default:

For the purposes of using git these are more than sufficient, all you need to know how to do is:

• Write (in Nano: just type, in Vim: press i and type);
• Save (in Nano: Ctrl + O, in Vim: press esc, then :, then w + Enter);
• Quit (in Nano: Ctrl + X, in Vim: press esc, then :, then q + Enter).

Note it is possible to set up a different default editor but instructions for this can be machine specific.

We are now ready to type our first commit message:

Write blank checklist

This file is currently empty but will include the various aspects of sustainable
software development learnt on the 2 day rsd workshop.


Once you have written that, save and exit from your editor. git should confirm that you have successfully made your first commit.

[master (root-commit) 3c1e5ad] write blank checklist
1 file changed, 7 insertions(+)
create mode 100644 main.tex


Now if we run git status, we see a message saying that everything in our repository is tracked and up to date:

On branch master
nothing to commit, working directory clean


Note A commit message is made up of 2 main components:

<Title of the commit>

<Description of what was done>

• The title should be a description in the form of "if this commit is applied <title of the commit> will happen". The convention is for this to be rather short and to the point.
• The description can be as long as needed and should be a helpful explanation of what is happening.

A commit is a snapshot that git makes of your project, you should use this at meaningful steps of the progress of a project.

## Tracking changes to files

Let us add our name to the checklist document:

\documentclass{article}

\title{Research software development checklist}
\author{Grace Hopper}

\begin{document}
\maketitle
\end{document}


Save your file and then run git status. We now see that git is aware of a change to our file:

On branch master
Changes not staged for commit:
(use "git add <file>..." to update what will be committed)
(use "git checkout -- <file>..." to discard changes in working directory)

modified:   main.tex

no changes added to commit (use "git add" and/or "git commit -a")


To "stage" the file for a commit we use git add again:

git add main.tex


Now let us commit:

git commit


With the following commit message:

add author name


In this particular case there is not much more needed than the title.

Finally, we can check the status: git status to confirm that everything has been done correctly.

## Ignoring files

Let us compile our LaTeX document:

pdflatex main.tex


Now if we check the status of our repository:

git status


We see that all the LaTeX auxiliary files are listed along with the pdf:

On branch master
Untracked files:
(use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed)

main.aux
main.log
main.pdf

nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)


To tell git to ignore these files (we only need the tex file) we will add them to a blank file entitled .gitignore. Open your editor and type

main.aux
main.log
main.pdf


Save that file as .gitignore and then run git status again. We see now that git is ignoring those 3 files but is aware of the .gitignore file. Let us add and commit that file:

git add .gigignore
git commit


Use add .gitignore as the commit message.

At a later stage we can always modify this .gitignore file (perhaps we might choose to tell git to track the pdf):

## Exploring and using history

We have done a good job of keep track of the history of our project but let us see how that can be useful.

First, let us confirm our repository is in the expected state with git status:

On branch master
nothing to commit, working directory clean


Now, let us look at our history:

git log


This displays the full log of the project:

commit b116460039bb9ed1f79a980a7a71b5b75f0618b4
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 11:40:47 2017 +0000

commit 84c678c01ef099aeedc46c922feb38557cffd5c7
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 11:34:43 2017 +0000

Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 10:59:04 2017 +0000

write blank checklist

This file is currently empty but will include the various aspects of
sustainable
software development learnt on the 2 day rsd workshop.


We see that there are 3 commits there, each with a seemingly random set of numbers and characters. This set of characters is called a "hash":

The first commit with title write blank checklist has hash: 3c1e5adc13069023d25a76570f092135d0eeb68c. Note that on your machines this hash will be different, in fact every hash is mathematically guaranteed to be unique, thus it is uniquely assigned to the changes made.

One of the things that this hash allows us to do is to go back in time. Let us go back to the main.tex file before we added the author name. We do this with the checkout command and make use of the hash (simply copy it or type the first few characters). In the case of the example here, using the hash:

git checkout 3c1e5adc13069023d25 main.tex


If we now run git status we see that the file has changed:

On branch master
Changes to be committed:
(use "git reset HEAD <file>..." to unstage)

modified:   main.tex



(Open main.tex and see that the author name is no longer there.) We could at this stage make more changes to main.tex and commit them as before.

Or in this particular case we might want to return the file to the state it was. We can use HEAD which is shorthand for the hash corresponding to the last commit:

git checkout HEAD main.tex


If you run git status you will see that everything is back to how it was with the author name.

## Creating branches

At the start of this chapter we discussed the ability to work in parallel thanks to git. This is done using something called "branches".

When typing git status we have seen that one piece of information regularly given was On branch master. This is telling us which branch of "history" we are currently on. To view all branches:

git branch


This shows:

* master


So currently there is only one branch. Let us create a new branch called add-list-of-topics:

git branch add-list-of-topics


When we now type git branch we see that 2 branches exist but the active branch is indicated by *:

  add-list-of-topics
* master


Let us now move to this new branch:

git checkout add-list-of-topics


Run git branch and then git status to see how this has worked.

Let us now create a tex folder and in that folder let us write a list-of-topics.tex document:

\begin{itemize}
\item Using the command line to be able to control my machine. \checkmark
\item Use basic Python. \checkmark
\item Write modular code. \checkmark
\item Write documented code. \checkmark
\item Write automatde tested. \checkmark
\item Write modular LaTeX. \checkmark
\item Include outputs of software directly in LaTeX. \checkmark
\item Understanding of git.
\item Use github to collaboratively work on projects.
\end{itemize}


Let us add and commit this file:

git add tex/list-of-topics.tex
git commit


Let us now return to the master branch, we will come back to this list shortly.

git checkout master


Let us create a new branch called change-page-width. We'll use this branch to modify the page width:

git branch change-page-width
git checkout change-page-width


Let us modify main.tex to include the following in the preamble:

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage[margin=1.5cm, includefoot, footskip=30pt]{geometry}

\title{Research software development checklist}

\begin{document}
\maketitle
\end{document}


If you compile the document you should see it occupies the page better (there's not much text yet to be able to compare but you get the idea).

Stage and commit this change and take a look at the log:

commit f252f5a6fcb79fb19c0bc8e7262a265da560b800
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 12:16:45 2017 +0000

change page width

commit b116460039bb9ed1f79a980a7a71b5b75f0618b4
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 11:40:47 2017 +0000

commit 84c678c01ef099aeedc46c922feb38557cffd5c7
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 11:34:43 2017 +0000

Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 10:59:04 2017 +0000

write blank checklist

This file is currently empty but will include the various aspects of
sustainable
software development learnt on the 2 day rsd workshop.



We see that the commit made on the add-list-of-topics branch does not appear here. This is the behaviour of git log it only shows the history of the current branch.

Let us return to the master branch and see how to combine the work that has been done on each of these branches:

git checkout master


## Merging branches

Getting the work from one branch on to another branch is called "merging". Let us merge the change-page-width branch in to the master branch (which is our current branch).

Note before doing a merge it is always a good idea to check git status to ensure everything is in the state we required (e.g. that we are on the correct branch etc...).

git merge change-page-width


We should see something like:

Updating b116460..f252f5a
Fast-forward
main.tex | 2 ++
1 file changed, 2 insertions(+)


Recall, if you forget the name of branches you can always run git branch to see all the branches.

Let us also merge our add-list-of-topics branch:

git merge add-list-of-topics


When doing merges sometimes git will open the editor asking for you to confirm the merge commit message. This is because there are various algorithms git uses to be able to merge and some require making a snapshot.

If this happens during a merge, do not feel that you have to modify the commit message (unless you want to!).

Merge made by the 'recursive' strategy.
tex/list-of-topics.tex | 11 +++++++++++
1 file changed, 11 insertions(+)
create mode 100644 tex/list-of-topics.tex


Your directory should now look like this:

|---rsd-checklist
|--- main.tex
|--- main.aux
|--- main.log
|--- main.pdf
|--- tex/
|--- list-of-topics.tex


We will make one final modification to main.tex to include the list-of-topics.tex file:

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage[margin=1.5cm, includefoot, footskip=30pt]{geometry}
\usepackage{amssymb}  % for the checkmark

\title{Research software development checklist}
\author{Grace Hopper}

\begin{document}
\maketitle

\input{tex/list-of-topics.tex}
\end{document}


Before we commit this final change let us take a look at one final command:

git diff


This displays the difference between the current state of our repository and the last commit:

diff --git a/main.tex b/main.tex
index bc59d80..4f26c4f 100644
--- a/main.tex
+++ b/main.tex
@@ -1,10 +1,13 @@
\documentclass{article}

\usepackage[margin=1.5cm, includefoot, footskip=30pt]{geometry}
+\usepackage{amssymb}  % for the checkmark

\title{Research software development checklist}
\author{Grace Hopper}

\begin{document}
\maketitle
+
+\input{tex/list-of-topics.tex}
\end{document}
(END)



We have added \usepackage{amssymb} % for the checkmark and \input{tex/list-of-topics.tex}.

Now let us stage and then commit this and look at the log:

commit c1689ea9c56603882e19a6ccf90625190db29ec7
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 12:31:34 2017 +0000

include list of topics in main doc

commit 2e94caa07c10beb47e767f7800bf9852b9931783
Merge: f252f5a b71bdc8
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 12:23:42 2017 +0000

commit f252f5a6fcb79fb19c0bc8e7262a265da560b800
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 12:16:45 2017 +0000

change page width

commit b71bdc809c48e01fd34d60476d09baae34402b63
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 12:07:52 2017 +0000

write list of topics

Include checkmark for things we have currently covered.

commit b116460039bb9ed1f79a980a7a71b5b75f0618b4
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 11:40:47 2017 +0000

commit 84c678c01ef099aeedc46c922feb38557cffd5c7
Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 11:34:43 2017 +0000

Author: Vince Knight <[email protected]>
Date:   Sat Dec 9 10:59:04 2017 +0000

write blank checklist

This file is currently empty but will include the various aspects of
sustainable
software development learnt on the 2 day rsd workshop.



We can see the entire history of what we have written and could potentially go back to any stage. Furthermore, our directory is tidy without the need for various confusin suffixes at the end of each file.

Note Branching is "cheap" in terms of the amount of space it takes up. Thus it's always a good idea to branch when working on a project if you want to try out something.

Note It is possible to create something called a "merge conflict". This occurs when mergeing changes that git is unable to merge automatically. For example changing the same line in a file. In this case, git will ask for you to modify the file and commit it to complete the merge.

## Summary

Here are the commands we have seen in this chapter:

• git init: Create a git repository
• git add <file>: Start tracking <file> and/or stage the changes to <file> ready to be committed.
• git status: See the current status of your git repository.
• git commit: Create a snapshot of the current changes.
• git checkout <hash> <file>: Set <file> to be in the same state as it was in the commit corresponding to <hash>. Note that HEAD is shorthand for the last commit.
• git branch: List all branches.
• git branch <branch-name>: Create a new branch called <branch-name>.
• git checkout <branch-name>: Move to <branch-name>.
• git merge <branch-name>: Merge <branch-name> in to the current branch.
• git diff: Show the differences between the current state of the repository and the last commit.

# Tip

• git keeps track of things on a line by line basis. Thus changing any given character in any given line corresponds to changing the whole line. In the interest of keeping commits meaningful (thus helpful) it is useful to regularly line return in LaTeX documents otherwise changing various words in a paragraph can correspond to the same overall change.
• There are a number of excellent helpful tools for interfacing with git`. It is recommended to start by learning these basic commands directly so that you understand what is going on in the background before making use of the helpful tools.