Squash Your Commits

Nick Pachulski

July 20, 2015

When I was introduced to the concept of squashing commits, I had a difficult time accepting it. I had been using git as a commit history time machine and I didn’t like the squash workflow because it reduced my time machine’s granularity.

I wasn’t committing enough. My commits were a collection of changes with vague messages, rather than concise changes with descriptive messages. If I had known how to make better commits, the idea of squashing might have seemed less crazy.

As you’re working on a feature or bug, you should be committing pretty frequently. For example, if you’re changing the name of a class’s instance variable, make that its own commit.

Every task you set out to complete should be a composition of similarly small commits. I like to leave those commits un-squashed when I submit pull requests, because I feel it helps reviewers follow the coder’s train of thought.

Once everyone agrees the pull request is up to par, I squash the commits I made, rebase them on top of master, and then merge them to master.

Looking back at the git log, you’ll be glad you squashed. As you’re working through a task, it’s good to have some commit granularity in case you break something and need to hop around. However, once a task is complete, you probably don’t want to look at the log and see a variable name change commit, a file name change commit, and ten others like that.

You’ll probably want to see just one commit, encapsulating the overarching task. With a good commit message, and well-written tests, you shouldn’t need the individual commits anymore. If it turns out that code isn’t needed anymore, you only need to revert one commit.