Version control is an important tool for tracking changes to your codebase, but you don’t always want to track every file.

To avoid clutter and reduce the risk of distributing sensitive information, you can use a file called .gitignore. This file specifies which files and directories Git should not index.

Determining which files to include in .gitignore can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to development. Find out which files you need to add to your .gitignore for a smooth Git workflow.

Creating the .gitignore file

For your .gitignore file to have any effect, you must have Git initialized in your project.

You can start Git by running the command below in your terminal:

 git init

This command creates a new Git repository for your project, in a hidden “.git” subdirectory that contains all the files and directories your project needs for version control.

Next, create your .gitignore file by running the command below:

 touch .gitignore

Running the above command creates a new file “.gitignore” in your current directory. You can exclude a file from Git by adding the file name or file path (if the file is in a different directory than the . .gitignore file).

Git doesn’t need to track every file in your project, and tracking only a few files can cause unexpected problems. These are some of the files you should add to your .gitignore.

1. Configuration files

Configuration files store settings and other parameters that your applications use to define and customize their behavior. These files often store database connection strings, API keys, and other sensitive information that you shouldn’t expose in your Git repository.

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If you include configuration files in your repository, anyone who can access it can see their contents. It may contain sensitive information, which can lead to security breaches and other problems.

To exclude configuration files from your Git repository, add specific file names or folder names to your file. .gitignore file.

For example, you can add the following line to your .gitignore File to ignore a env file.


2. Build artifacts

Build artifacts are compiled or generated files that are produced when you build your project. These files usually reside in the A “goal” or “construction” Directory.

Build artifacts can include compiled Java classes, JAR files, WAR files, binary files, distribution packages, reports, log files, and others generated during the build process.

It’s generally a good practice to exclude build artifacts from your Git repository because they can be quite large. They may also be less portable than your source files, relevant only in a particular environment. Including them in your repository can bloat the size of your repository and make it slow to clone and work.

To exclude build artifacts from your Git repository, add “target/” or “build/” The directory is yours .gitignore file.

For example:



3. Integrated Development Environment Files

Integrated development environment (IDE) files are configuration files, project metadata, and other files generated by your IDE when you create or open a project. These files are specific to each IDE. Your IDE uses these files to configure project settings.

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These files are unnecessary for building or running your application and can often cause problems if committed to a shared Git repository. For example, different people on your team may use different IDEs or versions, and having IDE-specific files can cause merge conflicts and make it difficult to collaborate on a project.

Since these files are IDE-specific, the files to include in your .gitignore The file will depend on your IDE. are here GitHub’s .gitignore recommendations For some popular IDEs. You can search for the IDE of your choice and add the outlined files .gitignore file.

4. Dependencies and Package Files

Dependency and package files are files that contain information about the dependencies and packages used by your application. Various build tools, such as the Node Package Manager (npm), generate these files.

For example, if you use npm to manage dependencies for a JavaScript project, it will “node_modules” folder in the root directory of your project. The directory contains all installed dependencies for your project.

This directory can be very large, especially if your project has many dependencies or some dependencies have large file sizes. except for “node_modules“folder from your Git repository, you can keep it clean and reduce its size.

to avoid adding “node_modules” directory in your Git repository, add its name to your .gitignore file:



5. Operating system files

Your operating system, and other system tools may generate files through normal use. This may include log files, temporary files, and system configuration files. is an example Thumbs.db file on Windows and its macOS equivalent, DS_Store file.

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It is generally good practice to exclude operating system files from your Git repository, as they are specific to your local environment and can vary between different computers and operating systems.

GitHub has recommended .gitignore guidelines Windows, macOSand Linux.

The importance of version control

Using version control can significantly improve your workflow and reduce errors and conflicts that can arise when working on a codebase. With version control, you can easily track code changes, review them, and easily collaborate with team members.

However, you should always exclude certain files, such as configuration files, IDE files, and OS files. This keeps your storage size down and ensures you don’t leak sensitive information.


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