The best you can get from Wikipedia goes something along these lines: Git is a Distributed Version Control System (DVCS) for tracking changes to files. But what does that mean? Git is an open-source VCS, which is not file-based unlike other systems; rather, it stores information as snapshots. Being a VCS, it helps coders revert to their previous code when they hit a roadblock in the newer version, without affecting the original source code. On the other hand, what makes it different from other VCS is the way it sees data, which is more like a series of snapshots. It basically clicks a picture of how all your files look like at a moment and saves the changes made to them over time.
Features of Git
Works on a distributed system: A distributed system is one that allows collaborators to access the central repository using a VCS, even from the remotest corner of the world. As Git maintains a snapshot every time a user pulls a file, the risk of data loss due to system failure or lack of Internet connection is mitigated. Users are allowed to work on the same bit of work simultaneously without getting interfered by others.
Compatible with all operating systems: Git is compatible with almost all operating systems that are available today. Even the repositories created by other version control systems can be accessed by the Git repository.
Allows for non-linear development: As users from remote parts of the world can access the Git repository and work on it and update the project at any time they want, Git allows for development in a non-linear fashion. Git supports such kind of development by providing its branching and merging features and uses specific tools for navigating through them. The projects are viewed in a tree form.
Branches like a tree: While the users are working on their projects, branches parallel to the main project file are created so that the original code is not affected. There is no restriction upon the number of branches created.
Light as a cotton ball: One might think that making multiple copies of data from a central repository to a local one will eventually lead the system to crash due to overload. But, Git has got it covered. It compresses the data in such a way that it takes up minimal space, and whenever you need to retrieve data, the reverse technique is used. This helps save a lot of memory.
Fast as a flash: Unlike other version control systems, Git is written in a language known to be the closest to the machine language, that is, C. Hence, it processes information much faster.
Reliable: There will never be an issue of data loss as long as copies of data in central repositories are available in the local repository of a collaborator.
Most of the version control systems have a two-tier architecture. However, Git has a layer more, making it a three-tier architecture. But, why are there three layers for Git? Let’s find out.
The three layers are:
- Working directory: This is created when a Git project is initialized onto your local machine and allows for editing the source code copied.
- Staging area: Post the edits, the code is staged in the staging area by applying the command ‘git add’. This displays a preview for the next stage. In case further modifications are made in the working directory, the snapshots for these two layers will be different. However, these can be synced by again using the ‘git add’ command.
- Local repository: If no further edits are required to be done, then you can go ahead and apply the ‘git commit’ command. This replicates the latest snapshots in all the three stages making them in sync with each other.
How to use Git?
Much of Git’s popularity is attributed to its user-friendly nature. You can check out these simple concepts to perform certain basic operations and get acquainted with Git basics.
- Commit: This is an object that takes the current state of the repository.
- Pull: This operation copies the changes made on a project to the local repository from the remote one.
- Push: This operation copies the changes made on a project to the remote repository from the local one.
Disadvantages of Git
Even though Git seems like the perfect solution for various problems related to the software development life cycle (SDLC), it has its shortcomings.
- Its steep learning curve itself is a disadvantage, which is due to the non-intuitive nature of its commands. You need a much deeper understanding of the internals of Git to avoid inconsistencies while execution.
- Binary files are not its forte. Whenever files containing non-text content are updated or used frequently, Git gets dragged and slowed down.
- It does create a conducive environment for a large number of developers distributed over a large geographical area but, at the same time, creates a lot of conflict and confusion while merging of codes. To solve this problem, developers can establish an open communication channel before merging their bits of changes with the project.
Git is being used by large companies to achieve their benchmark goals. As products are developed all around the world, it is increasingly becoming the platform of integration. The introduction of Git has contributed to the building of a large community by following the mantra of developing ecosystems around systems. With a long way ahead for more technological advancements, Git has definitely found its place at the top.