Partial file staging with git

After typing git status you can see files in three states:

  • added to the index
  • not added to the index
  • not tracked at all

It's likely to have the same file added and not added to the index. How is that possible?

Let me introduce partial file staging. What does it do? It allows you to add only specific changes to the index. For example, you want to add only new code without format changes in the whole file.

I'm a big fan of this approach because it allows you to create small semantic commits. There is one catch that always makes me search the docs, though. Git will try to split all the changes for you. You will see each change and decide if you want to stage it or not. But what happens when git is wrong or the change is too big, and it can't split it further?

Of course, you can edit the so-called hunk manually. And this is the place where I always fail.

Let's take a look at an example. After typing git add -p, we see this. change.png

I want to add only one endpoint. This change is too big, so I press e and edit hunk manually. edited-hunk.png

This picture always looks scary to me. There is some manual under the code, but I never understood it. What to do to keep just one of the changes? Just delete the parts that you don't need! edited-hunk.png

Now we can save it and close the editor. The current status looks like this: status-after-edit.png

I have two changes, and only one ready to be committed. I can verify it with git diff --cached diff-cached.png

Perfect! And where is the other change? You should see it after git diff. diff.png

I'm ready to create two distinct commits.
git commit -m 'Added default endpoint'
And after adding the second change to the index.
git add .; git commit -m 'Ping endpoint'
The final stage looks like this: git-log.png

Partial file staging is a powerful feature. At first glance, it can look cumbersome and not very intuitive. I use it daily, and after a few tries, it became my second nature.

Comments (4)

Marek Całus's photo

I also use Partial file staging, but only in the VSCode git gui :P I right-click on the code hunk and press "stage/unstage selected ranges"


Show +1 replies
Marek Całus's photo

Kuba Ciechowski Sure I can:

In the terms of using CLI vs GUI - I believe that everyone should know the basics of git CLI to be able to comfortably use it anywhere (for example your buddy's computer) and know basic concepts and language. After that, gui plugins like the one in the vs code just makes my job faster. I like to select files to commit and write a message in the gui, but push, list branches and checkout from the CLI - that's the fastest way for me. I also feel more comfortable with advanced things like interactive rebase and reflog in the CLI because i don't have to be afraid that the GUI will screw up something behind my back.

Kuba Ciechowski's photo

Marek Całus This looks nice! I am not able to do that in Rider. Have to dig deeper into GUI