Git Tip: Cherrypicking out of a bind!

Roberto Guerra

 4 min read

There are times I forget to create a new branch when I'm working on a new feature and only notice the mistake when push my first commit, but just today one of my co-workers (Jonathan) showed me some neat git tricks that helped me correct my mistake. In this article I'll show how to use cherrypicking to get out of a bind.

The Setup

For the purposes of this blog post, we'll set up a contrived example by creating a git repo and adding an empty file and making this our initial commit. Running git log should now only display 1 commit:


We create a branch and add a header to our Readme and commit:


Our git log should now have the following commits:


We can pretend that this is a complete feature and that we pushed this to origin and opened a PR.

The Mistake

Frequently after I do this, I start working on a new feature branch and assume I created a new branch from master. But I normally only realize that I'm still on the old branch after I make my first commit (and push to origin). Lets simulate this mistake by adding another paragraph header to the readme and commiting it in branch-1. Now our logs should look similar to this:


The Fix

When this happens I normally want to place the latest commit in a new branch and continue working from there, while also deleting the latest commit from the original branch. We can accomplish this by using git's cherry-pick.

  1. Copy the hash of the commit we want to remove. In this example it is c1086ef12918f774075f1d269f70b205e2730ee2.

  2. Checkout master (git checkout master).

  3. Create a new branch (git checkout -b branch-2).

  4. Cherry pick the commit (git cherry-pick c1086ef12918f774075f1d269f70b205e2730ee2).

  5. We may decide to push this branch to master (git push -u origin HEAD).

  6. Checkout the old branch (git checkout -b branch-1).

  7. Remove the latest commit (git reset --hard HEAD~1). At this point if we print our git logs, it should only contain the first two commits we made:

  1. Force push to origin so it is also removed there (git push -f).

Git provides tools for manipulating commits and branches that allow us to fix most of our blunders. reset and cherry-pick have proven to be useful commands that often help me correct my mistakes.