Managing the Files you Push with .gitignore

Author: Sean Barbour

Git, the cornerstone of modern version control, offers developers unparalleled flexibility in managing project changes. Yet, sometimes, the need arises to sideline certain files or folders from this meticulous tracking. Whether it’s to dodge configuration files, ignore logs, or bypass temporary files, mastering the art of exclusion in Git can streamline your workflow significantly. Let’s dive into the simple yet effective methods to keep specific files or folders out of your commits.

The Art of Ignoring: Single Files with .gitignore

The .gitignore file is your first line of defense against cluttering your repository with unnecessary files. Hereโ€™s how to leverage it:

Step 1: Crafting or Modifying .gitignore

Embark on this journey at the heart of your Git repository. Here, either birth a new .gitignore file into existence or tweak an existing one.

Step 2: Specify Your Unwanted File

It’s time to blacklist your file. Add its name directly to .gitignore. For instance, to ignore example.txt, simply append:


This line acts as a shield, keeping example.txt out of your commits.

Step 3: Cement the Changes

With .gitignore updated, anchor your changes into your repositoryโ€™s history:

git add .gitignore
git commit -m "Refine .gitignore to sideline example.txt"
git push origin master

Your repository is now primed to overlook changes to example.txt.

Folder Forgiveness: Excluding Entire Directories

To extend this exclusion to a whole folder, the process mirrors that for a single file, with a slight twist in specification.

Step 4: .gitignore Revisited

As before, navigate to your repository’s core and either modify or create the .gitignore file.

Step 5: Directory Dismissal

Direct your .gitignore to ignore an entire folder by listing it as follows:


This line ensures that example_folder and its contents become invisible to your commits.

Step 6: Solidify Your Intentions

Lock in your preferences with a commit:

git add .gitignore
git commit -m "Enhance .gitignore to overlook example_folder/"
git push origin master

The repository will now consistently ignore example_folder.

An Important Caveat: Dealing with Past Commitments

Altering .gitignore does not affect files or folders already tracked in Git’s history. To retroactively untrack a previously committed item, execute:

git rm --cached example.txt  # For untracking a file
git rm --cached -r example_folder/  # For untracking a folder

And follow up with a commitment to this change:

git commit -m "Cease tracking of example.txt or example_folder/"
git push origin master

By embracing these steps, you wield the power to tailor your project’s tracking to perfection, ensuring your Git repository remains clean, efficient, and relevant. This is not just about ignoring files; it’s about optimizing your version control to reflect the true essence of your project’s needs.

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