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Bash tips: Easier git branch deleting and checking out

I aspire to be a true lazy programmer.

Every repetitive action I try to automate. Every task that doesn’t translate to automation I try to shrink, saving as many keystrokes as possible. Such it is with deleting git branches.

Easier deleting

If you use pull requests in your daily coding life, you’ll know about having to clean up unneeded branches after finishing your task and merging the PR. I created a function to make this easier:

function git_branch_delete_like () {
  # get all local branches
  git for-each-ref --format='%(refname:strip=2)' refs/heads/* | \ 
  # filter for the matching pattern  
  grep $1 | \
  # delete all matching branches
  xargs git branch -D 

The delete like also solves the problem of "Damn I can’t remember the name of my branch, but it was something like fix-terrible-bug". Just do git_branch_delete_like bug. Of course, by putting this in your ~/.bashrc you have autocompletion so you don’t need to type the whole function name out, however I still find it a bit to flow-disrupting to do git_b<TAB>, so I aliased it to gbd.

alias gbd="git_branch_delete_like"

And my branch deleting laziness is complete.

$ gbd bug
Deleted branch fix-super-terrible-bug (was 6dd0640).

Easier checking out

Following on from this, here’s a way to checkout a branch matching against a pattern, for when you can’t remember the actual name of a branch.

I’ve also added a little extra functionality to try and checkout a remote branch if there is no matching branch locally.

function git_checkout_like() {
  MATCHING_LOCAL_BRANCH=$(git for-each-ref --format='%(refname:strip=2)' refs/heads/* | grep $1)
    git checkout $MATCHING_LOCAL_BRANCH
    # try and find a matching remote branch
    git for-each-ref --format='%(refname:strip=3)' refs/remotes/** | \
    grep $1 | \
    xargs git checkout

As before, I’ve aliased this to something short:

alias gcl=git_checkout_like

Now I can checkout with ease!

$ git branch
* master
$ gcl other
Switched to branch 'my-other-feature'
$ git branch -r
  origin/HEAD -> origin/master
$ gcl coworkers
Branch coworkers-feature-that-he-wants-you-to-check set up to track remote branch coworkers-feature-that-he-wants-you-to-check from origin.
Switched to a new branch 'coworkers-feature-that-he-wants-you-to-check'


If there is more than one branch that matches your pattern you’ll get an error. I did think about just checking out the first available branch that matches the pattern, but as it might not be the branch you were after I decided to leave it out.

Stay lazy.

About the author

Liam is a developer with experience building cloud-based .NET applications on Azure, but is also interested in functional languages such as Haskell. After moving to London 2 years ago he became involved in the London Software Craftsmanship Community and particularly loves the hands-on sessions.

Liam is keen to adopt the benefits of functional programming styles in his use of OOP focused languages, such as C#, and share this knowledge with others.

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