Using git repository

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This document explains how to download the source, make changes, and submit those changes back to the list.

Git is explained in much more detail in many places, but one of the recommended sites is the Git community book. The site includes easy explanations and helpful video tutorials.

Read the Contribution policy if you are contributing to this wiki or book.

For instructions on building the book, read Building using Publican.


Git briefing

Git is a source code management (SCM) system that is extremely fast and efficient, and also incredibly flexible. There is a small learning curve, but most people master the basics very quickly.

Git has three main content areas you need to know about:

  • The index, which is stored in a special .git folder -- hidden because you normally don't need to interact with it yourself
  • The stage, which contains things that are due to be committed
  • The working tree, which are the files and folders you actually edit and work with

When you work with git, you edit things in the working tree in a conventional manner. Then you add some or all of these changes to the stage. This prepares them for a commit, a recordin of changes to the last state of the project. Once you make a commit, the changes are recorded in the index, and can later be pushed (synchronized) with another git repository, such as the shared repository on the network that your project contributors share.

Unlike older SCMs, git allows you to make commits locally which you can later synchronize with the online repository, so that you can do useful work even if you're not on a network. In the majority of cases, this synchronization is easy even if the shared repository on the network has had changes made while you were working offline. This makes git ideal for collaborative projects.

Cloning the repository

First, you clone the shared repository, which gives you a complete copy of the repository. With this repository, you can work independently whenever you need to.[1]

git clone git://

This procedure creates a tosw folder in your current directory and stores the content inside it.

Making a change

Edit files as necessary, using your favorite editor of choice.

NOTE: Take care to observe any project ground rules regarding formatting <<<LINK?>>>, so that you do not make frivolous changes. For example, reformatting a whole file so that all the initial spaces turn into tabs (or vice versa) would cause a long set of line-by-line changes that obscure your meaningful changes.

When is the right time to stage changes?

A set of changes should be a single topic. Here are some good examples of changes after which you'd want to stage changes:

  • Added a section of text to better explain a specific concept
  • Changed a misspelling that only happens in one place
  • Added a new chapter

Don't mix up a bunch of unrelated changes at once, and don't wait too long before you stage your changes. Staging and committing are very quick processes that won't get in the way of your work. If you wait too long and pile up a bunch of unrelated changes, it will be harder to sort them out, especially if you've made unrelated changes to the same file.[2]

Staging the change


  • What the stage does
  • git add
  • Being careful not to lose staged changes

Committing the change

Your commit message explains the change you made for the benefit of others working on the project. In general, a commit should be self-contained and where possible self-explanatory. Don't mix up a bunch of unrelated changes in a single commit.

Email or push?

Emailing your patches

One of the main ways of contributing to source is to use a patch, which is a file that shows just the differences between to text files, so the changes from a second file can be made to the first file. A patch can be sent to a mailing list for code/content review and acceptance. You can learn more about patches from the chapter [ Fixing the Code].

Using git format-patch creates a patch of your changes based on the last changes in the master branch. The command git send-email formats and emails the patch to a mailing list. Read more about using git format-patch and git send-email:

You can submit a patch to the mailing list at any time without any special permission or authorization.

Pushing your changes

We're interested in giving you commit access to the repository and we'd like to know a bit more about you. When you are ready to start committing to the main git source repository, send an email to the [ mailing list]. Tell us who you are, what you want to do in the project, and ask any questions you might have.


  • pushing to an existing branch
  • pushing a new branch

  1. A clone of a git repository is truly complete. There is nothing special about the shared location, other than that the project members agree to use it as the central repository to which they will synchronize all their changes. If the server where that repository resides explodes, very little will be lost as long as someone, somewhere, has a recent clone.
  2. Actually, git has functions for dealing with this too, since it happens so often. But teaching you all about those functions is beyond the scope of this page -- check out the Git community book for more information.
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