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Version Control with Git by Jon Loeliger

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reset, revert, and checkout

The three Git commands reset, revert, and checkout can be somewhat confusing, since all appear to perform similar operations. Another reason these three commands can be confusing is that other version control systems have different meanings for the words reset, revert, and checkout.

However, there are some good guidelines and rules for when each command should and should not be used.

If you want to change to a different branch, use git checkout. Your current branch and HEAD ref change to match the tip of the given branch.

The git reset command does not change your branch. However, if you supply the name of a branch, it will change the state of your current working directory to look like the tip of the named branch. In other words, git reset is intended to reset the current branch’s HEAD reference.

Because git reset --hard is designed to recover to a known state, it is also capable of clearing out failed or stale merge efforts, whereas git checkout will not. Thus, if there were a pending merge commit and you attempted to recover using git checkout instead of git reset --hard, your next commit would erroneously be a merge commit!

The confusion with git checkout is due to its additional ability to extract a file from the object store and put it into your working directory, possibly replacing a version in your working directory in the process. Sometimes the version of that file is one corresponding to the current HEAD version, and sometimes it is an earlier version. ...

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