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How to write good commits in software development

How to write good commits in software development

Crafting good commits is a foundational skill in software development, crucial for maintaining a healthy codebase and facilitating smooth collaboration. Here's an extended discussion on best practices for creating effective commits, including the importance of organization and easing code reviews.

1. Keep Commits Focused

Why It Matters: Focused commits make it easier to understand the evolution of a project, troubleshoot issues by isolating changes, and roll back specific updates without wide-ranging impacts.

Code Example: Instead of lumping together UI adjustments with backend logic changes, split them into separate commits:

  • git commit -m "Improve user login UI feedback"
  • git commit -m "Refactor authentication logic for clarity"

2. Write Clear Commit Messages

Why It Matters: Clear, descriptive commit messages serve as a project's changelog, helping team members (and your future self) quickly grasp the purpose of each change.

Code Example:

  • Bad: git commit -m "Fixed stuff"
  • Good: git commit -m "Fix issue #42: Resolve login failure on missing email"

3. Use Present Tense

Why It Matters: Consistency in tense keeps the commit history readable and straightforward, as if each commit is a concise instruction to the codebase.

Code Example:

  • Avoid: git commit -m "Fixed bug in payment processing"
  • Prefer: git commit -m "Fix bug in payment processing"

4. Reference Issues and Tickets

Why It Matters: Linking commits to specific issues or tickets in your tracking system provides context and creates a traceable history of how and why changes were made.

Code Example:

  • git commit -m "Add user profile picture feature - resolves #123"

5. Review Before Committing

Why It Matters: Reviewing changes before committing catches mistakes and ensures that commits adhere to the project’s standards, reducing the need for future corrections.

Code Example: Use git diff to review your changes before staging them.

The Importance of Organization and Facilitating Code Review

Organized commits streamline the code review process. Reviewers can easily follow the development logic, assess the impact of individual changes, and provide more precise feedback. This not only speeds up the review process but also enhances code quality by focusing attention on smaller, manageable units of change. A well-structured commit history allows teams to navigate the project’s evolution effectively, making onboarding for new members more efficient and improving overall project maintainability.

By adhering to these best practices, developers not only contribute to the project's health but also foster an environment where collaboration and review are integral to the development process. Remember, every commit is a part of the project's history; making it clear and meaningful adds value to your work and benefits the entire team.


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