What is Git Checkout Remote Branch? How It Works, When to Use It, Examples, Tutorials & More

By: Stackify
  |  Last Updated: March 16, 2023
What is Git Checkout Remote Branch? How It Works, When to Use It, Examples, Tutorials & More

Git is one of the most useful tools for developers and development teams. And Git checkout remote branch makes it easier to collaborate and review. Let’s learn about it today.

As developers, we work with Git often. In fact, at Stackify by Netreo, we have a Git page where you can see quite a few repositories. Like many developers and groups, we migrated our version control to a Git-based system a few years back. So working with Git is a big part of our ongoing work.

It’s pretty important that developers understand how to work with Git, Git repositories (like controlling the size of your reports — an issue we talk about here) and code in Git. One thing you’ll be doing at least periodically is checking out a remote branch, so we put together this brief tutorial to cover the ins and outs of working with remote branches in Git.

Git Checkout Remote Branch Definition

Git checkout remote branch is a way for a programmer to access the work of a colleague or collaborator. Git is a version control software that helps developers track different modifications in their code. It allows multiple developers to work on the same codebase simultaneously. Sometimes, a programmer will need to access a coworker’s independent work, or “branch.” The git checkout remote branch action makes this possible.

Developers often split their independent work into separate remote branches for the purpose of review and collaboration. There is no actual command called “git checkout remote branch.” It’s just a way of referring to the action of checking out a remote branch.

Why Use Git Checkout Remote Branch?

In Git, a branch is a separate line of development. The Git branch command creates new branches.

When a programmer fixes a bug or adds a new feature, he or she creates a new branch to make the changes. The new Git branch ensures changes don’t threaten existing, working code. This keeps their work independent leaving less room for merge conflicts later.

Sometimes programmers need to access a branch that’s not stored locally but don’t want to create a new local branch or version. When you actually want to work on the remote version, you need to use the Git checkout remote branch method.

A person typing

How Does It Work?

Git checkout remote branch lets us switch and work on a remote branch, just like switching to a local one. For the latest versions of Git, you can simply use:

git fetch

This will load all the remote branches locally so now you can simply access any remote branch via it’s name like a local branch using the checkout command as shown:

git checkout branchxyz

In this case, the remote branch is called “branchxyz.”

Examples

Below are a couple of examples of checking out remote branches with Git.

In this one, we’re simply checking out a remote branch called xyz:

git fetch

git checkout xyz

That’s fine as long as we don’t have a local branch that’s also called “xyz.” In that event, we’d confuse Git with the “git checkout xyz” command. We need to specify that we’re referring to the remote branch like this:

git fetch origin

git checkout –track origin/xyz

If we’ve got multiple remotes, we need to use:

Git checkout -b xyz <remote name>/xyz

You can also create a new branch with the following command:

git checkout -b <branch_name> 

This will create a new branch for you locally out of the current branch you ran this command from. Once you push this to remote, other developers can checkout to this remote branch the same way.

Benefits

Git is an incredibly powerful tool for programmers to collaborate on coding projects. Imagine having 10 programmers all working on the same piece of code and then merging those changes without any version tracking system.

With git checkout remote branch, multiple developers can work on a single piece of software, each making their own changes in a protected way, without adding unstable code to working software.

Git checkout remote branch makes it easy to review and collaborate with others in a failsafe way.

Git Checkout Remote Branch Best Practices

Since the Git checkout remote branch methods listed above are a subset of Git, best practices are the same. Here are surefire ways to succeed in working with Git checkout remote branch:

  • Commit often. When we commit often, we keep our commits small and share our work more frequently. That makes it easier to avoid large merge conflicts.
  • Don’t commit to unfinished work. Break your feature’s code into small but working chunks. Once you finish a chunk, test it, then commit it. This work method prevents the potential conflicts created by merging large bodies of code all at once. At the same time, it ensures we don’t commit small snippets of non-working code.
  • Before you commit, test. Don’t commit something until you’ve tested it. Shared code that isn’t tested can create a lot of headaches and lost time for an entire team.
  • Commit related changes. Make your commits small, and confine them to directly related changes. When we fix two separate bugs, they should take the form of two different commits.
  • Write clear commit messages. Include a single-sentence summary of your changes. After that, explain the motivation for the change and how it’s different from the previous version.
  • Use branches. Branches are an excellent tool to avoid confusion and keep different lines of development separate.
  • Agree on your workflow. Your team should agree on a workflow before the project starts. Whether that’s based on topic-branches, git-flow, long-running branches or some other workflow will depend on the project.

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