Interactive Rebase

Interactive rebase is a Git command that supports manipulating your Git history. Please note that this requires some understanding of how Git works.

The problem

Let’s say we have the following Git history (the last 5 commits at the time of tihs writing):

e5b6bb7 - Add Darkmode in CSS
b956b7b - Fix formatting on Subset Webfonts
a0c2551 - Add Eucalyptus Gunii
21909d5 - Update Subset Webfonts
4a5dc2e - Parse sitemap.xml for font subsetting

You see that commit b956b7b (Fix formatting on Subset) fixes an issue introduced in 21909d5 (Update Subset Webfonts). This might be fine in lot’s of cases, but let’s say we want to clean this up. Our preferred outcome would look the same as above, but without b956b7b (Fix formatting on Subset) .

How to solve this.

Running git rebase -i 4a5dc2e will start the interactive rebase and open the following text in your editor:

pick 21909d5 Update Subset Webfonts
pick a0c2551 Add Eucalyptus Gunii
pick b956b7b Fix formatting on Subset Webfonts
pick e5b6bb7 Add Darkmode in CSS

# Rebase 4a5dc2e..e5b6bb7 onto 4a5dc2e (4 commands)
# Commands:
# p, pick <commit> = use commit
# r, reword <commit> = use commit, but edit the commit message
# e, edit <commit> = use commit, but stop for amending
# s, squash <commit> = use commit, but meld into previous commit
# f, fixup <commit> = like "squash", but discard this commit's log message
# x, exec <command> = run command (the rest of the line) using shell
# b, break = stop here (continue rebase later with 'git rebase --continue')
# d, drop <commit> = remove commit
# l, label <label> = label current HEAD with a name
# t, reset <label> = reset HEAD to a label
# m, merge [-C <commit> | -c <commit>] <label> [# <oneline>]
# .       create a merge commit using the original merge commit's
# .       message (or the oneline, if no original merge commit was
# .       specified). Use -c <commit> to reword the commit message.
# These lines can be re-ordered; they are executed from top to bottom.
# If you remove a line here THAT COMMIT WILL BE LOST.
# However, if you remove everything, the rebase will be aborted.

One thing you might notice is that the commits are in reverse order and the commit we’re rebasing onto is missing. You will get used to that.

So now we have a bunch of commands, read the explanation above, I won’t repeat it. The commands I personally use most often are reword, fixup and squash.

What we want is squashing b956b7b (Fix formatting on Subset Webfonts) into 21909d5 (Update Subset Webfonts) but discarding it’s message. So we first move the whole line 3 up so it’s below the first line. Then we change pick of that line to f (or fixup). If we now save and close the file, Git will do the rebase and you will be left with the following history:

e5b6bb7 - Add Darkmode in CSS
a0c2551 - Add Eucalyptus Gunii
b401354 - Update Subset Webfonts
4a5dc2e - Parse sitemap.xml for font subsetting

Success! Fix formatting on Subset Webfonts is gone and squased into Update Subset Webfonts (which now has a new sha).

You can read the official documentation on git rebase if you want to know more.


I use this most often when I want to clean up a branch that I created from main, so instead of writing the commit sha I’d write git rebase -i main and it will bring up all commits of my current branch.


Rewriting your Git history will require you to force-push if you have some commits on a remote branch. This is fine for branches that only you work on but will bring trouble if you do this on a shared branch or even main.

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