Git --distributed-is-the-new-centralized
Chapters ▾ 2nd Edition

7.10 Git Tools - Debugging with Git

Debugging with Git

Git also provides a couple of tools to help you debug issues in your projects. Because Git is designed to work with nearly any type of project, these tools are pretty generic, but they can often help you hunt for a bug or culprit when things go wrong.

File Annotation

If you track down a bug in your code and want to know when it was introduced and why, file annotation is often your best tool. It shows you what commit was the last to modify each line of any file. So, if you see that a method in your code is buggy, you can annotate the file with git blame to see when each line of the method was last edited and by whom. This example uses the -L option to limit the output to lines 12 through 22:

$ git blame -L 12,22 simplegit.rb
^4832fe2 (Scott Chacon  2008-03-15 10:31:28 -0700 12)  def show(tree = 'master')
^4832fe2 (Scott Chacon  2008-03-15 10:31:28 -0700 13)   command("git show #{tree}")
^4832fe2 (Scott Chacon  2008-03-15 10:31:28 -0700 14)  end
^4832fe2 (Scott Chacon  2008-03-15 10:31:28 -0700 15)
9f6560e4 (Scott Chacon  2008-03-17 21:52:20 -0700 16)  def log(tree = 'master')
79eaf55d (Scott Chacon  2008-04-06 10:15:08 -0700 17)   command("git log #{tree}")
9f6560e4 (Scott Chacon  2008-03-17 21:52:20 -0700 18)  end
9f6560e4 (Scott Chacon  2008-03-17 21:52:20 -0700 19)
42cf2861 (Magnus Chacon 2008-04-13 10:45:01 -0700 20)  def blame(path)
42cf2861 (Magnus Chacon 2008-04-13 10:45:01 -0700 21)   command("git blame #{path}")
42cf2861 (Magnus Chacon 2008-04-13 10:45:01 -0700 22)  end

Notice that the first field is the partial SHA-1 of the commit that last modified that line. The next two fields are values extracted from that commit–the author name and the authored date of that commit – so you can easily see who modified that line and when. After that come the line number and the content of the file. Also note the ^4832fe2 commit lines, which designate that those lines were in this file’s original commit. That commit is when this file was first added to this project, and those lines have been unchanged since. This is a tad confusing, because now you’ve seen at least three different ways that Git uses the ^ to modify a commit SHA, but that is what it means here.

Another cool thing about Git is that it doesn’t track file renames explicitly. It records the snapshots and then tries to figure out what was renamed implicitly, after the fact. One of the interesting features of this is that you can ask it to figure out all sorts of code movement as well. If you pass -C to git blame, Git analyzes the file you’re annotating and tries to figure out where snippets of code within it originally came from if they were copied from elsewhere. For example, say you are refactoring a file named GITServerHandler.m into multiple files, one of which is GITPackUpload.m. By blaming GITPackUpload.m with the -C option, you can see where sections of the code originally came from:

$ git blame -C -L 141,153 GITPackUpload.m
f344f58d GITServerHandler.m (Scott 2009-01-04 141)
f344f58d GITServerHandler.m (Scott 2009-01-04 142) - (void) gatherObjectShasFromC
f344f58d GITServerHandler.m (Scott 2009-01-04 143) {
70befddd GITServerHandler.m (Scott 2009-03-22 144)         //NSLog(@"GATHER COMMI
ad11ac80 GITPackUpload.m    (Scott 2009-03-24 145)
ad11ac80 GITPackUpload.m    (Scott 2009-03-24 146)         NSString *parentSha;
ad11ac80 GITPackUpload.m    (Scott 2009-03-24 147)         GITCommit *commit = [g
ad11ac80 GITPackUpload.m    (Scott 2009-03-24 148)
ad11ac80 GITPackUpload.m    (Scott 2009-03-24 149)         //NSLog(@"GATHER COMMI
ad11ac80 GITPackUpload.m    (Scott 2009-03-24 150)
56ef2caf GITServerHandler.m (Scott 2009-01-05 151)         if(commit) {
56ef2caf GITServerHandler.m (Scott 2009-01-05 152)                 [refDict setOb
56ef2caf GITServerHandler.m (Scott 2009-01-05 153)

This is really useful. Normally, you get as the original commit the commit where you copied the code over, because that is the first time you touched those lines in this file. Git tells you the original commit where you wrote those lines, even if it was in another file.