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Version control is an important tool for tracking changes to your codebase, but you don’t always want to track every file.
To avoid clutter and reduce the risk of leaking confidential information, you can use a file called .gitignore. This file specifies which files and directories Git should not index.
Determining which files to include in .gitignore can be challenging, especially if you are new to development. Find out which files you should add to your .gitignore file for a smoother Git workflow.
Creating a .gitignore file
For your .gitignore file to take effect, Git must be initialized in your project.
You can initialize Git by running the following command in your terminal:
This command creates a new Git repository for your project in a hidden “.git” subdirectory that contains all files and directories required for version control of your project.
To run this command, Git must be installed on your system.
Next, create your .gitignore file by running the following command:
Running the above command will create a new .gitignore file in your current directory. You can exclude a file from Git by adding the file name or the file path (if the file is in a different directory than the .ignore.git File).
Git doesn’t need to track every file in your project, and tracking some files can cause unforeseen problems. These are some of the files you should add to your .gitignore file.
1. Configuration files
Configuration files store settings and other parameters that your applications use to define and customize their behavior. These files often store database connection strings, API keys, and other sensitive information that you shouldn’t expose in your Git repository.
If you include configuration files in your repository, anyone with access to them can view their contents. This can include sensitive information that can lead to security breaches and other problems.
To exclude configuration files from your Git repository, add specific filenames or folder names to yours .ignore.git File.
For example, you can add the following line to your .ignore.git file to ignore a .env File.
2. Build artifacts
Build artifacts are the compiled or generated files that are created when you build your project. These files are usually located in a “Goal” or “build” Directory.
Build artifacts can include compiled Java classes, JAR files, WAR files, binaries, distribution packages, reports, log files, and others generated during the build process.
It’s generally a good idea to exclude build artifacts from your Git repository, as they can be very large. They may also be less portable than your source files and only relevant to a specific environment. Adding them to your repository can bloat the size of your repository and slow down cloning and working with it.
To exclude build artifacts from your Git repository, add the “Goal/” or “build/” directory to your .ignore.git File.
3. Integrated development environment files
Integrated Development Environment (IDE) files are configuration files, project metadata, and other files generated by your IDE when you create or open a project. These files are specific to each IDE. Your IDE uses these files to configure project settings.
These files aren’t required to build or run your application, and can often cause problems if committed to a shared Git repository. For example, different people on your team might be using different IDEs or versions, and committing IDE-specific files might cause merge conflicts and make project collaboration difficult.
Since these files are IDE specific, the files must be in your .ignore.git File depends on your IDE. Here are GitHub’s .gitignore recommendations for some popular IDEs. You can search for the IDE of your choice and add the sketched files to yours .ignore.git File.
4. Dependency and Package Files
Dependency and package files are files that contain information about the dependencies and packages used by your application. Various build tools like the Node Package Manager (npm) generate these files.
This directory can get very large, especially if your project has many dependencies or some dependencies have large file sizes. By excluding “node_modules” folder from your Git repository, you can keep it clean and reduce its size.
To add the “node_modules” Add directory to your git repository, add its name to your .gitignore file:
5. Operating System Files
Your operating system and other system tools can generate files during normal use. This can include log files, temporary files, and system configuration files. An example is the thumb.db file on Windows and its macOS equivalent, the .DS_Store File.
It’s generally a good idea to exclude operating system files from your Git repository, as they are specific to your local environment and can differ between different computers and operating systems.
GitHub has recommended .gitignore policies for Windows, macOSAnd Linux.
The Importance of Version Control
Using version control can greatly improve your workflow and reduce errors and conflicts that can arise when working on a code base. With version control, you can easily track code changes, review them, and collaborate seamlessly with team members.
However, you should always exclude specific files such as configuration files, IDE files, and operating system files. This keeps the size of your repository small and ensures that you don’t disclose sensitive information.
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