How to use the git log graph and tree command

Git log graph example

One of the coolest features of the git log command is the graphing feature. The git log graph command creates a graphic overview of how a developer’s various development pipelines have branched and merged over time.

I find it especially impressive how this visual display is done through a decidedly non-visual BASH shell or terminal window. Let’s examine some more features of the git log graph command and how to use it in your code.

The git log graph command

In its simplest form, the git log graph command looks like this:

graph@log:~$ git log –graph

git log graph pretty

The git log graph command is too verbose without a pretty switch.

The problem with the basic –graph usage is that the log’s wordiness gets in the way. Instead, match the git log graph command with a pretty one line option to make the output look much nicer:

graph@log:~$ git log –graph pretty=online

Developers can also condense this line by dropping the pretty switch:

graph@log:~$ git log –graph –online

Both options greatly improve the readability of the git log graph, and also allow for created and merged branches over time to be displayed pleasantly.

Graph all git branches

Developers can see all branches in the graph with the –all switch. Also, in most situations, the –decorate switch will provide all the supplemental information in a formatted and nicely color-coded way.

graph@log:~$ git log –all –decorate –oneline –graph

A developer can really get crazy with the way they format the git log, but these four switches together is all most Git users will ever need. You can think of the mnemonic a dog as a good way to remember this combo:

git log graph dog

The Git log graph a dog mnemonic.

graph@log:~$ git log --all --decorate --oneline --graph

A pretty git log graph

The pretty switch of the git log provides a multitude of ways to format git log output, especially when a developer uses the custom string. For example, if a developer provides the string %ad as the parameter to the pretty switch, they will see the git log graph with nothing but commit dates next to the branch and merge points.

The %h string will display nothing but a short commit hash, and %s will display nothing but the commit message next to the git log graphs’ commit points.

graph@log:~$ git log –graph –pretty=”%h” –date=short

graph@log:~$ git log –graph –pretty=”%s” –date=human

If you wanted to get real crazy you could even start coloring coding the display with a git log graph call like the one that follows:

git log --graph --pretty="%C(yellow) Hash: %h %C(blue)Date: %ad %C(red) Message: %s " --date=human
git log graph example

Combine the pretty option and a custom string with git log graph

Git log graph examples

The following images show the git log graph output for these commands:

  • git log --graph --pretty="%ad" --date=short
  • git log --graph --pretty="%C(yellow) %s"
  • git log --graph --pretty="%C(bold green) %(ar)"
  • git log --graph --pretty="%C(bold blue)%h" --decorate --all
git log graph date

Git log graph with just the date showing.

git log graph color

Change the color of the git log graph output to yellow.

git log graph %ar

Use the pretty %ar switch with git log graph pretty.

decorate all git log graph

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