When do you use git rebase instead of git merge?

You would use git rebase instead of git merge in certain scenarios to integrate changes from one branch into another. Both git rebase and git merge are Git commands used to combine changes from one branch into another, but they work differently, and the choice between them depends on your specific workflow and the desired outcome.

Use git rebase when:

  1. Maintaining a Clean and Linear History: git rebase is often used when you want to keep a clean, linear commit history by incorporating changes from one branch into another in a straight line. It allows you to apply the changes in the rebased branch as if they were made directly on top of the target branch, resulting in a more straightforward, chronological history.
  2. Local Branches or Feature Branches: If you are working on a feature branch locally and want to incorporate the latest changes from the main development branch (often develop or master) into your feature branch, git rebase is a good option. This helps you keep your feature branch up to date with the latest changes before merging it back into the main branch.
  3. Interactive History Editing: git rebase also allows you to perform interactive history editing, enabling you to squash, edit, or reorder commits before incorporating them into the target branch. This provides more control over how the commit history looks in the end.

Use git merge when:

  1. Preserving Branch History: git merge is often used when you want to preserve the individual branch histories, and you don’t need a strictly linear commit history. Merging creates a new commit that incorporates changes from the source branch, and this commit serves as a merge point between the branches.
  2. Public or Shared Branches: If you are working on a branch that is shared with other developers, using git merge is generally safer and less disruptive to the shared branch’s history. It maintains a clear record of which branches were merged into the main branch and when.
  3. Avoiding Potential Conflicts: In some cases, git merge can automatically handle complex merge scenarios, automatically resolving conflicts between different branches. This can be advantageous when dealing with branches with significant changes that might lead to conflicts during a rebase.

In summary, use git rebase when you want to maintain a clean, linear commit history and have more control over the integration process. Use git merge when preserving individual branch histories is important, or when dealing with public or shared branches where safety and simplicity are a priority. Ultimately, the choice between git rebase and git merge depends on the specific workflow and goals of your Git repository.

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