This lesson will explain the importance of good commit messages, how to write them, when to commit, and why having a history of good commits is so important!
This section contains a general overview of topics that you will learn in this lesson.
- How to write a meaningful commit message
- Why meaningful commit messages are important
- When to commit
Yes! Let me give you a quick list of reasons why:
When you are applying for jobs, employers will look through your projects on GitHub and they will look through your commit history. Having good commits as a novice developer will help you stand out.
Having a good commit message history will allow you (or other developers working on your code) to quickly see what changes were made and why. This is useful if a bug is found in the code that needs to be fixed!
Having a good commit message history will also be helpful if you come back to a project you were working on after stepping away from it for a while. You likely won’t remember your thought process and changes made when initially writing out the code.
When it comes to writing commits, it is crucial to know how to write them effectively. Here’s an example of a bad commit message:
fix a bug
Even though it describes what you did, the message is too vague, which leaves the other developers on your team confused. A good commit message will explain the why behind your changes. In other words, a commit message describes what problem your changes solve and how it solves them.
Effective commits consist of two separate parts: a subject, and a body:
A brief summary of the change you made to the project. Note: GitHub has a 72-character limit so we recommend keeping your commits’ subject to within this amount.
This is the change I made to the codebase.
A concise yet clear description of what you did.
Describe the problem your commit solves and how.
Now that we learned the secret to creating a good commit message, let’s try and fix the commit message from earlier:
Add missing link and alt text to the company's logo Screen readers won't read the images to users with disabilities without this information
Ahh, that’s better! :) Now, developers can gain a better understanding of this commit message because it does the following:
- Provides a subject that specifies your code’s action (e.g., “Add missing link and alt text to the company’s logo”)
- Contains a body that provides a concise yet clear description of why the commit needed to be made (e.g., “Screen readers won’t read the images to users with disabilities without this information”)
- Separates the subject from the body with a new/blank line. This is a best practice we highly recommend following. It makes commit messages easier for other developers to read.
A good way to view a commit is like a “snapshot” of your code at the moment that it was made. That version of your code up to that point will be saved for you to revert back to or look back at.
When writing code, it’s considered best practice to commit every time you have a meaningful change in the code. This will create a timeline of your progress and show that your finished code didn’t appear out of nowhere.
In other words, make a commit if you get a piece of code you are working on to function like you want it to, fix a typo, or fix a bug. As you gain experience, you will develop a better feel for what should be committed!
There will come a time when you are working on a project and you FINALLY get something just right (this would be a good time to commit), and then maybe 30 seconds to a few days later it breaks. You have no idea what you changed, everything looks to be the same and you don’t remember editing that line, but alas, it isn’t working how you want it anymore. You’d be able to go back through your commit history and either revert your code back to the last commit you made when you first got that part working or go back and see what your code looked like at that point in time.
- This article, How to Write a Git Commit Message, covers all the main bases on how to write good commit messages. The whole article is great and informative but the meat of the article is “The seven rules of a great commit message.”
- Using VSCode as your text editor (you should have set this up in the Git Basics section) will allow you to easily make multi-line commit messages, easily see the character length of each line, and will allow you to use VSCode spell check extensions to make sure your spelling is correct
- Use an active voice: “Fix card generator”
- Avoid using vague commit messages such as “saved” or “updated”
- Commit early and often!
This section contains questions for you to check your understanding of this lesson on your own. If you’re having trouble answering a question, click it and review the material it links to.
This section contains helpful links to related content. It isn’t required, so consider it supplemental.
- One way to formulate high-information commit messages is to follow a template. Conventional commits is one of many commit message templates that you can explore.
- Explore this amazing tutorial video on Conventional Commits ➔ Full Video Link. The video showcases best commit message practices, including Yarn (a package manager) and creating releases. While the Yarn and creating releases information might not be immediately necessary for Foundations, you don’t need to worry about it for now. So, feel free to explore and enhance your commit messages and development workflow.