Git in the Command Line

There are many reasons one would prefer to work from the command line. Regardless of your reasons, here is how to use Git/GitLab using only command line tools.

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This guide is adapted from GitLab's documentation.

It is assumed that users of this guide understand basic Git/version control principles. To read more, visit this page.


  • First, use the command line to see if Git is installed.

    git --version
    • To install or update Git using your package manager:

      • CentOS, RedHat:

        sudo yum install git
        sudo yum update git
      • Debian, Ubuntu:

        sudo apt-get install git
        sudo apt-get update git
      • MacOS, use Homebrew:

        /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
        brew install git
        brew upgrade git
      • Windows: download Git for Windows and install it.

  • Setup Git with your access credentials to GitLab with the following commands:

    git config --global "your_username"
    git config --global "[email protected]"
    • You can review the information that you entered during set-up: git config --global --list

  • (Optional) Consider adding your SSH key to your GitLab profile so you are not prompted for credentials after every commit. To add your public SSH key to GitLab:

    • Click on your user image in the top-right of the GitLab window.

    • Select Settings.

    • On the left, click SSH keys.

    • Paste your public ssh key in the box, provide a title, and save by clicking Add key.

  • Clone an existing repository. In GitLab, this information is found on the "Overview" page of the repository.

    git clone [email protected]:username/example-project.git


  • If you have already cloned the repository but are returning to your local version after a while, you'll want to make sure your local files are up to date with the branch. You can pull updates from master or branch_name.

    git pull origin branch_name
  • You need to create a new branch or checkout an existing branch that can later be merged into the master branch. When naming branches, try to choose something descriptive.

    • To create a branch: git checkout -b branch_name

    • To list existing branches: git branch -r

    • To checkout an existing branch: git checkout --track origin/branch_name or git checkout branch_name

      • Note: You may only have one branch checked out at a time.


  • Make edits to the files with your favorite text editor. Save your changes.


  • Git places "added" files in a staging area as it is waiting for you finalize your changes.

    git add --all


  • When you have added (or staged) all of your changes, committing them prepares them for the push to the remote branch.

    git commit -m "descriptive text about your changes"


  • After committing the edits, you'll want to push the changes to GitLab. If the following produces an error, see below the code snippet for common solutions. The structure of this command is git push <remote> <branch>.

    git push
    • Upstream error: git push --set-upstream origin branch_name or git push -u origin branch_name


At this time, GitLab does not natively support submissions for merge requests via the command line.

You can send a merge request using the GitLab GUI.

  1. From the left menu panel in Gitlab, select Merge Request then the green New merge request button.

  2. Select your branch in the "Source Branch" side.

    • Target branch is master.

    • Click compare branches.

  3. On the next screen the only thing needed is:

    • Assign to: < Project Owner, etc. >

    • Click Submit merge request.