Git worktrees are great for code reviews - Phelipe Teles

Git worktrees are great for code reviews

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At first, I didn’t understand how to use git worktrees, but now I find myself using it more and more for code reviews.

Here’s what my workflow looks like when I have to review some code:

  • cd into a previously created worktree with cd ../code-review or create a new one with git worktree add ../code-review.
  • Run git fetch.
  • Check out the branch to review with git checkout <branch>.
  • Install dependencies with npm install
  • Run the app with npm run start to help me review the code.

When I’m done reviewing, I can just cd into the folder I was previously working on.

This saves me from polluting my git stash or messing up my node_modules and .env (in case I needed to modify them to run the reviewee’s code).

What is a worktree?

A worktree enables you to check out more than one branch at a time per repository.

Each worktree has its own working tree, meaning you can have completely different files and directories per worktree — untracked files like .env and node_modules may be different.

In practice, a worktree is just like another directory. After you create it with git worktree add, you can cd into it and start working.

We could check out more than one branch by cloning the repository in a different folder, but that’s slower — creating worktrees is instant — and inconvenient — in a worktree you have access to your local branches and stash, no need to push to a remote repository first.

Creating a worktree

The command to add worktree is git worktree add.

$ git worktree add ../code-review

Actually, this will create a new branch called code-review and automatically switch to it.

(master) $ git worktree add ../code-review(master) $ cd ../code-review(code-review) $

You can choose to check out an existing branch instead by passing its name as the second argument:

(master) $ git worktree add ../bugfix JIRA-311(master) $ cd ../bugfix(JIRA-311) $

As I said, I don’t typically create a lot of worktrees, I just have one sitting there, and reuse it whenever I have to do some code review.

Independent working trees

Independent working trees per worktree is a big part of why it’s useful for code reviews.

But even on solo projects, like my blog, this can come in handy — e.g. when migrating a test suite from Cypress to Playwright, a different worktree would save me the trouble of having to run npm install to install correct dependencies every time I switched branches.

By doing the migration to Playwright in a worktree, my work on that branch wouldn’t interfere with the main worktree with the Cypress-based test suite.

Removing worktrees

To remove a worktree:

$ git worktree remove code-review

This will only succeed if the worktree is clean — which means “no untracked files and no modification in tracked files”.