Many developers working on Windows stay away from Git. There are many reasons for this but from my observations and discussions I’ve had, the most common can be summarized by this tweet by my friend Paul Stovell:
I’m not getting into holy wars, and I’m not trying to convince anyone that Git is better than any other VCS. Instead I’ll walk you through the tooling I use to interact with Git on Windows, with Visual Studio.
First thing you should be getting is Git Extensions.
With that, similar to TortoiseX family of tools you get nice context menu that gives you access to most common operations quickly, via GUI, and with no need to memorize command line options if you want to avoid it. You can also launch Git command line in the selected folder and then all power of git is at your disposal.
If you’re a .NET developer, you’ll want to work from within Visual Studio. I’m sure you’ll be happy to learn that Git Extensions has a really nice Visual Studio integration as well.
You get two things – a menu with all the options that Explorer context menu gives you and more, including ability to edit .gitignore file (also the tool will generate a new .gitignore file for you with Visual Studio specific rules!) and to launch a Git bash. Also you get a Git toolbar with most commonly used commands: Commit, browse, push, pull, stash and access to settings.
The way I usually work with it, is I use Git bash for most operations. There’s one exception to that rule though – committing.
I think Git Extensions’s Commit window is the best of all VCS I’ve worked with. It clearly separates files you want to commit (in your Index) and files you leave out for now. It clearly shows you status of each file (new, deleted, modified) with distinctive, large icons, also it shows you an on-the-fly diff of what changed in any given file, and it’s blazing fast. Mostly the readability benefits are why I stick to the UI for this operation.
Visual Studio Git Source Control Provider
In addition to Git Extensions I use another tool called Git Source Control Provider which plugs into standard Visual Studio VCS provider mechanism to give me some additional functionality (you can get the tool via Visual Studio extension manager).
There are a few useful capabilities provided by this tool that I tend to rely on quite often (there are more than that as you can read on the tool’s page):
- Overlay icons showing you status of each file in Solution Explorer.
- It shows you name of the current branch in the Solution Explorer bar at the top (see “(master)” on the screenshot below), and you will work a lot with branches in Git.
- It gives some additional options in the context menu.
This (plus command line) makes the job very, very simple and quick, and that’s what I stick to on my machine.
There’s one more thing that makes working with Git a pleasure (especially if you’re working on a team that’s not completely co-located).
Yes, perhaps those tools lack some eye candy that other tools have but frankly – I don’t care, and neither should you. They are more than enough to let you quickly do whatever you need to do with your code and don’t stand in your way. And that’s what a good VCS and tooling around it should be – something you don’t really have to think about and you can rely on to keep track of what is happening with your code with confidence. And that’s precisely what Git is – so if you’ve been held back, go ahead, install those tools and give Git a shot – you won’t look back.