Git Merge v Rebase

Git Merge v Rebase

Git Rebase and Git Merge are two different approaches for integrating changes from one branch into another in Git, each with its use cases and implications:

Git Rebase

  1. Process: Rebase rewrites the commit history by applying changes from one branch onto the tip of another branch.
  2. Use Case: Ideal for cleaning up and linearising the history of a feature branch before integrating it into a main branch.
  3. Pros:
    • Results in a cleaner, linear commit history.
    • It avoids unnecessary merge commits.
  4. Cons:
    • It can complicate history if used on public branches.
    • It is not intuitive for beginners; there is a risk of losing commits if not used carefully.

Git Merge

  1. Process: Merge combines the histories of different branches. It creates a new “merge commit” that ties together the histories of the merged branches.
  2. Use Case: Commonly used to integrate completed features or fixes from one branch into another (e.g., merging a feature branch into main).
  3. Pros:
    • Preserves the complete history and context of the integrated branches.
    • Safer and more intuitive, especially for collaborative work.
  4. Cons:
    • This can lead to a more complex and non-linear commit history.
    • Merge commits can clutter the history.

Choosing Between Rebase and Merge

  • Rebase is preferred for maintaining a clean and linear project history, often used internally by developers when working on a feature.
  • Merge is more suited for integrating completed work and is safer for collaborative branches, ensuring that the history of all contributions is preserved.

In practice, a combination of both approaches is often used. For example, a developer might use rebase to tidy up their feature branch and then use merge to integrate these changes into the main branch. This is typically what I tend to do.


Hi, my name is Stephen Finchett. I have been a software engineer for over 30 years and worked on complex, business critical, multi-user systems for all of my career. For the last 15 years, I have been concentrating on web based solutions using the Microsoft Stack including ASP.Net, C#, TypeScript, SQL Server and running everything at scale within Kubernetes.