git: when ignorance is a bliss

Posted by Tobiasz Kedzierski on 04.06.2024

Focus on what matters: decluterring git status

The saying "ignorance is bliss" might hold some truth in everyday life, but in the world of git version control, a cluttered terminal output can be a major headache. A tidy git status command output is heplful for smooth and efficient development.

This post explores some helpful commands that will empower you to manage untracked files and selectively track changes within your git repositories.

Focusing on tracked files

By default, the git status command displays both tracked files (those already added to the Git index) and untracked files (those not yet added). However, there might be times when you only care about changes to existing tracked files. For instance, I've encountered projects where the list of untracked files can take up the entire terminal screen! In such situations, where you primarily focus on existing files and desire a clutter-free overview, the following commands come in handy:

git status --untracked-files=no
git status -uno

These commands display the status of your tracked files but conveniently hide untracked files from the output.

If you frequently prefer a clean git status output, you can configure git to hide untracked files by default:

  • git config --global status.showUntrackedFiles no: this sets the preference globally for all your git repositories.
  • git config --local status.showUntrackedFiles no: this sets the preference for the current repository only, allowing for project-specific configurations.

Marking files for skipping changes

There might be times when you have files in your working directory that you don't want git to track for changes. This command helps with that:

git update-index --assume-unchanged <filename>

This command instructs git to assume that the specified files (e.g., docker-compose.yml, Dockerfile) are unchanged, even if their content is modified. This can be useful for configuration files that might be adjusted only for your local environment or files managed by external tools.

Knowing which files are marked as assumed-unchanged can be helpful. Use this command to list them:

git ls-files -v | grep '^h'
  • git ls-files -v: This command lists all files managed by git, including their status codes.
  • grep '^h': This filters the output to show only lines starting with the letter h, which indicates assumed-unchanged files.

If you decide to track changes in a previously assumed-unchanged file, you can reverse the effect using:

git update-index --no-assume-unchanged <filename>

To efficiently remove all files from assume-unchanged status, you can combine these commands into a single pipeline:

git ls-files -v | grep '^h' | awk '{print $2}' | xargs git update-index --no-assume-unchanged
# or if you don't like xargs
git update-index --no-assume-unchanged $(git ls-files -v | grep '^h' | awk '{ORS=" "} {print $2}')

Commands list:

# add
git update-index --assume-unchanged docker-compose.yml Dockerfile

# list
git ls-files -v | grep '^h'

# remove
git update-index --no-assume-unchanged docker-compose.yml Dockerfile

# bulk remove
git ls-files -v | grep '^h' | awk '{print $2}' | xargs git update-index --no-assume-unchanged
# or
git update-index --no-assume-unchanged $(git ls-files -v | grep '^h' | awk '{ORS=" "} {print $2}')


By mastering these commands, you can effectively hide clutter in your git status output and selectively exclude specific files from version control. This keeps your git status focused on the changes that truly matter, promoting a clean and efficient workflow.

tags: git, programming