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Git gitignore

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The .gitignore file specifies what untracked files Git should ignore.
  • .gitignore is a plain text file in which each line contains a pattern for files or directories to ignore.
  • Lines starting with a hash mark (#) are comments and are ignored.
  • Empty lines can be used to improve the readability of the file and to group related lines of patterns.


  • The slash symbol (/) represents a directory separator.
  • The slash at the beginning of a pattern is relative to the directory where the .gitignore resides.
    • If the pattern starts with a slash, it matches files and directories only in the repository root.
    • If the pattern doesn’t start with a slash, it matches files and directories in any directory or subdirectory.
    • If the pattern ends with a slash, it matches only directories.
  • When a directory is ignored, all of its files and subdirectories are also ignored.

  • Pattern example matches:

    • /access.log : access.log
    • access.log : access.log, logs/access.log, var/logs/access.log
    • build/ : build, test/build
  • Examples:

    • Notice the I around the file/folder which means ignored. UT means untracked
    • Folders/files with the same name are also ignored recursively
      • attachments/Pasted image 20220625110602.jpg
    • By giving a slash we are ignoring only folders
      • attachments/Pasted image 20220625110650.jpg
    • By giving a slash at the beginning we are only looking for files in the current directory and not recursively
      • attachments/Pasted image 20220625110922.jpg
    • Files are matches without forward slash
      • attachments/Pasted image 20220625111004.jpg

Wildcard symbols

  • * - The asterisk symbol matches zero or more characters.
    • *.log : error.log, logs/debug.log, build/logs/error.log
    • The wildcard character (*) will match anything except for a slash. That is it won't match directories.
    • Documentation/*.html matches Documentation/git.html but not Documentation/ppc/ppc.html or tools/perf/Documentation/perf.html
  • ** - Two adjacent asterisk symbols match any file or zero or more directories.
    • logs/** : Matches anything inside the logs directory.
  • When followed by a slash (/), it matches only directories.
    • **/build : var/build, pub/build, build
    • foo/**/bar : foo/bar, foo/a/bar, foo/a/b/c/bar

Negating Patterns

  • A pattern that starts with an exclamation mark (!) negates (re-include) any file that is ignored by the previous pattern.
  • error.log or logs/error.log will not be ignored

Multiple .gitignore

  • A local .gitignore file is usually placed in the repository’s root directory.
  • However, you can create multiple .gitignore files in different subdirectories in your repository.
  • The patterns in the .gitignore files are matched relative to the directory where the file resides.
Patterns defined in the files that reside in lower-level directories (sub-directories) have precedence over those in higher-level directories.

Ignoring a Previously Committed Files

  • The files in your working copy can be either tracked or untracked.
To ignore a file that has been previously committed, you’ll need to unstage and remove the file from the index, and then add a rule for the file in .gitignore

git rm --cached filename

  • The --cached option tells git not to delete the file from the working tree but only to remove it from the index.
  • To recursively remove a directory, use the -r option: git rm -r --cached filename
  • If you want to remove the file from both the index and local filesystem, omit the --cached option.
When recursively deleting files, use the -n option that will perform a dry run and show you what files will be deleted

git rm -r -n directory

Debugging .gitignore files

  • Sometimes it can be challenging to determine why a specific file is being ignored, especially when you are are using multiple .gitignore files or complex patterns.
  • This is where the git check-ignore command with the -v option, which tells git to display details about the matching pattern, comes handy.
    • For example, to check why the www/yarn.lock file is ignored you would run: git check-ignore -v www/yarn.lock
  • The output shows the path to the gitignore file, the number of the matching line, and the actual pattern.
    • www/.gitignore:31:/yarn.lock www/yarn.lock
  • The command also accepts more than one filename as arguments, and the file doesn’t have to exist in your working tree.
Displaying all the ignored files

git status --ignored

Committing ignored files

  • Let's say you have an exception you want to make for a file that's usually ignored, but for whatever reason this project in particular needs it.
  • In cases like this you have a few options:
    • Tell Git to not ignore this file by prefixing the file name with a ! in .gitignore, i.e. !.env. This will override any global ignore files or ignore files in parent directories.
    • Use the --force option (or -f flag) when staging your files, i.e. git add .env --force


Last updated: 2022-06-25