Header

Ignoring unwanted files

How to tell Git which files shouldn’t be tracked.

Why do you need to ignore files?

A project’s working directory often contains a number of files you’d rather not save in your repository and share with others.

Some examples of these might be:

  • Files automatically generated by your operating system.
  • Compiled assets created by your build process (e.g. Grunt or Gulp).
  • Config files containing sensitive things like API keys or database credentials.
  • Logs or error reports generated by command line tools.
  • Third-party code installed via package managers (e.g. node_modules).

You can exclude these files by not adding them to the staging area when you commit however it’s easy to forget to do that, and the files still be displayed when you run git status.

Creating an ignore file

To avoid having to ignore unwanted files manually, you can create a .gitignore file in the working directory of your project. Inside this file, you can specify simple patterns that Git will use to determine whether or not a file should be ignored.

Ignoring files

Let's say you have the following directory tree:

.
├── README
├── config.yml
├── foo
│   ├── config.yml
│   └── foo.php
└── index.php

If you wanted to ignore all the config.yml files, you just need to enter:

config.yml

With this pattern, both of these files would be ignored:

  • config.yml
  • foo/config.yml

To just ignore the config.yml in the root directory, you can prefix the pattern with a forward slash, just like this:

/config.yml

Want to ignore all of the PHP files in your project? This pattern will do that for you:

*.php

Ignoring folders

The process for ignoring folders is very similar. Just enter the name of the folder:

foo

With this pattern, Git won't just ignore foo in the root directory. Any subdirectories named foo will be ignored as well.

If they existed, these directories would also be ignored:

  • /bar/foo
  • /baz/foo

Although you don't need to, I'd recommend appending a forward slash to the end of every directory in your .gitignore file.

There are two reasons for doing this:

  1. It makes it clearer to others that you're ignoring a directory.
  2. If you had a file called foo and a directory called foo, using a slash will ensure that only the directory is ignored.

Just like with files, you can tell Git to ignore just the foo directory in the root of your project by adding a forward slash to the beginning of the pattern:

/foo/

Making exceptions

Perhaps you've decided that you want to ignore every PHP file in your project, however you'd like to keep index.php in the root of your working directory.

All you need to do is add ! to the beginning of the pattern:

# Ignore all PHP files
*.php

# Keep the home page
!/index.php

Not every line has to be a pattern

It’s also worth mentioning that blank lines are ignored by Git so they can be used for spacing and lines that start with # are comments.

Want to learn more about Git?

This tutorial is part of a free beginner-friendly course!

Learn More