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git-symbolic-ref(1) Manual Page
git-symbolic-ref - Read and modify symbolic refs
git symbolic-ref [-q] [-m <reason>] <name> [<ref>]
Given one argument, reads which branch head the given symbolic ref refers to and outputs its path, relative to the .git/ directory. Typically you would give HEAD as the <name> argument to see which branch your working tree is on.
Given two arguments, creates or updates a symbolic ref <name> to point at the given branch <ref>.
A symbolic ref is a regular file that stores a string that begins with ref: refs/. For example, your .git/HEAD is a regular file whose contents is ref: refs/heads/master.
Do not issue an error message if the <name> is not a symbolic ref but a detached HEAD; instead exit with non-zero status silently.
Update the reflog for <name> with <reason>. This is valid only when creating or updating a symbolic ref.
In the past, .git/HEAD was a symbolic link pointing at refs/heads/master. When we wanted to switch to another branch, we did ln -sf refs/heads/newbranch .git/HEAD, and when we wanted to find out which branch we are on, we did readlink .git/HEAD. But symbolic links are not entirely portable, so they are now deprecated and symbolic refs (as described above) are used by default.
git symbolic-ref will exit with status 0 if the contents of the symbolic ref were printed correctly, with status 1 if the requested name is not a symbolic ref, or 128 if another error occurs.
Part of the git(1) suite