Gitignore is an essential tool for any developer working with Git. It is a file that Git uses to determine which files and directories to ignore, before you commit and push. Essentially, it saves you from uploading unnecessary files to the repository.
Gitignore prevents unwanted files, such as local configuration files, compiled source code, built JARs, and more from being tracked by Git. Not only does this keep your repository clean, it can also speed up operations such as pull and push. Furthermore, it can save you from accidentally committing secrets, like database passwords or API keys.
The Specification of .gitignore
The .gitignore file operates with a certain syntax. Each line of the file specifies a pattern. When determining whether to ignore a path, Git normally checks gitignore patterns from multiple sources, with the following order of precedence, from highest to lowest.
*.log node_modules/ coverage/
- Lines starting with a # are considered comments and are ignored.
- Blank lines are ignored.
- Patterns followed by a slash (/) will only match directories, not files or symbolic links.
Creating a .gitignore file
Creating a .gitignore file in your Git directory is as easy as it seems.
Now, you can open it in any text editor and start adding directories and files you want Git to ignore. Here are some common rules you may want to add in a Node.js project.
node_modules/ npm-debug.log .DS_Store /*.env dist/
Ignoring more than just files with .gitignore
.gitignore file can ignore more than just binary files and directories – it can ignore changes to a file altogether. This is particularly useful in scenarios where you have files that should be a part of the repository but changes to them should not be tracked. This could include configuration files that have environment-specific details.
Pulling it all together, the .gitignore file is instrumental in managing your repositories, allowing you to exclude unnecessary files, secure sensitive information, and keep your codebase clean and efficient. It’s not just about ignoring – it’s about managing what is essential and what isn’t to your code.