GITIGNORE File (What It Is And How To Open One)


What is a .gitignore file?

A .gitignore file is a simple text file that specifies files or directories that should be excluded from version control when using Git, a widely used distributed version control system. When you commit changes to a Git repository, it tracks all the files within that repository. However, there are certain files or directories that you typically don’t want to include in version control, such as temporary files, build artifacts, and sensitive configuration files. This is where the .gitignore file comes in handy.

The .gitignore file acts as a filter for Git, telling it which files or directories to ignore and not include in version control. By defining the files and directories to ignore, you can avoid cluttering your repository with unnecessary files and prevent sensitive information from being accidentally committed. The .gitignore file follows specific rules and patterns that help Git determine which files to exclude.

The .gitignore file is placed at the root of the repository, and its name must be exactly “.gitignore” (without the quotes) to be recognized by Git. It can be created and edited using any text editor, but it’s important to make sure that the encoding of the file is set to UTF-8 to ensure compatibility across different systems and platforms.

When you create a .gitignore file, you can specify files by their names or patterns using wildcards. This allows you to exclude entire directories, files with specific file extensions, or files matching a certain pattern. Git also supports negation patterns, which allow you to include files or directories that would otherwise be ignored.

In addition to specifying files or directories to ignore, the .gitignore file also supports comments, which start with a hash symbol (#). Comments can be used to provide explanations or notes about specific rules in the file.

Why do you need a .gitignore file?

A .gitignore file is a crucial component of any Git repository. It serves several important purposes that are essential for maintaining a clean and functional version control system.

First and foremost, a .gitignore file helps you avoid cluttering your Git repository with irrelevant files. There are certain files that are generated during the development process or by third-party tools, such as log files, build artifacts, and temporary files. Including these files in your version control system can make your repository bloated and harder to manage. By defining these files in the .gitignore file, you ensure that they are not tracked by Git and not included in the repository.

Another reason to use a .gitignore file is to protect sensitive information. In many projects, there are configuration files, API keys, or other credentials that should never be made public. Including these sensitive files in your repository can lead to security risks. By adding them to the .gitignore file, you prevent them from being accidentally committed to the repository and exposed to others.

A .gitignore file also helps to improve the efficiency of your version control operations. By excluding large or unnecessary files, you reduce the size of your repository, making the cloning and pulling processes faster. Additionally, by excluding files that are frequently modified, you can focus on tracking only the changes that matter, making your commits more meaningful and reducing unnecessary noise in your commits history.

Using a .gitignore file is also important when collaborating with other developers. It helps to ensure that everyone working on the project is ignoring the same files. This prevents conflicts and inconsistencies between different developers’ local repositories. Having a standardized .gitignore file for the project ensures that everyone is on the same page and avoids potential issues with merging or conflicts during collaboration.

How does a .gitignore file work?

A .gitignore file works by providing instructions to Git on which files or directories to ignore when tracking changes in a repository. It uses specific rules and patterns to determine what should be excluded from version control.

The rules in a .gitignore file are based on the following principles:

  • File and directory matching: You can specify files or directories to ignore by their names or patterns. For example, you can use the asterisk (*) wildcard to match multiple characters or the question mark (?) wildcard to match a single character.
  • Directory recursion: By placing a forward slash (/) at the end of a pattern, you can specify that Git should only ignore matching files within directories, not the directories themselves. For example, by adding “/logs/” to the .gitignore file, you can ignore all files within the “logs” directory.
  • Negation patterns: Git allows you to use negation patterns to include files or directories that would otherwise be ignored. By preceding a pattern with an exclamation mark (!), you can override previous ignore patterns and include specific files or directories.
  • Comments: You can add comments to the .gitignore file by using the hash symbol (#). Comments can be used to provide explanations or notes about specific rules.

When Git encounters a .gitignore file, it reads the rules sequentially from top to bottom. If a file or directory matches an ignore pattern, Git will exclude it from version control. However, if a file or directory matches a negation pattern, it will be included, even if previously ignored.

It’s important to note that the .gitignore file only affects untracked files. Once a file has been tracked by Git, modifying the .gitignore file will not automatically untrack it. You would need to manually remove it from Git’s tracking using the git rm command.

It’s recommended to create a .gitignore file early in your project’s development and to regularly review and update it as necessary. This ensures that you’re excluding the right files and directories, and helps to maintain a clean and organized version control system.

How to create a .gitignore file?

Creating a .gitignore file is a straightforward process. You can follow these steps to create a .gitignore file:

  1. Open a text editor of your choice. You can use any plain text editor, such as Notepad, Sublime Text, Visual Studio Code, or even the command line.
  2. Create a new file and save it with the name “.gitignore” (without the quotes).
  3. Add the files, directories, or patterns that you want to exclude from version control to the .gitignore file. Each entry should be on a new line.
  4. Save the .gitignore file.

When adding entries to your .gitignore file, keep in mind the following:

  • Specify files or directories by their names or patterns. For example, to ignore all log files, you can use “*.log”.
  • Use wildcards like asterisk (*) to match multiple characters or question mark (?) to match a single character.
  • Prefix the entry with a forward slash (/) to specify that it applies to a specific directory only.
  • Add comments by using the hash symbol (#) at the beginning of a line.

It’s important to note that the .gitignore file should be placed in the root directory of your Git repository. This ensures that it applies to the entire project and will be recognized by Git.

Once you have created and saved the .gitignore file, Git will automatically begin ignoring the files and directories specified in the file, preventing them from being tracked or included in your commits.

Remember to regularly update the .gitignore file as your project evolves and new files or directories need to be excluded from version control.

What to include in a .gitignore file?

When creating a .gitignore file, you need to specify the files, directories, or patterns that should be excluded from version control. The content of the .gitignore file will vary depending on the specific project and development environment. Here are some common entries that you may want to include in your .gitignore file:

  • Temporary files: Files generated by text editors, IDEs, or build tools that are used during development, such as swap files or backup files. Examples include “*.swp”, “*.bak”, or “~*”.
  • Build artifacts: Generated files or directories that are produced by the build process. These files are often created when compiling code, running tests, or generating documentation. Examples include “build/”, “dist/”, or “node_modules/”.
  • System-specific files: Files or directories that are specific to certain operating systems or development environments. These files are not necessary for the overall functionality of the project and can be safely omitted. Examples include “.DS_Store” for macOS or “Thumbs.db” for Windows.
  • Sensitive information: Configuration files, API keys, or any other files containing sensitive information that should not be shared or committed to the repository. Examples include “config.ini”, “secrets.json”, or “*.key”.
  • Logs and debug files: Files generated during runtime for logging or debugging purposes that are not essential for the project. Examples include “*.log”, “*.debug”, or “logs/”.

These are just a few examples of what you might include in your .gitignore file. It’s important to consider the specific requirements of your project and the files that are generated or specific to your development environment. Remember that the goal is to exclude files that are not necessary for the functionality of your project and to improve the efficiency and security of your version control system.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that there are pre-defined .gitignore templates available for different programming languages and frameworks, which provide a starting point for excluding common files and directories. These templates can be customized to suit your project’s needs and are a useful resource to ensure that you’re excluding the right files.

How to edit a .gitignore file?

Editing a .gitignore file is a straightforward process. You can make changes to the file at any time to add, modify, or remove entries. Here are the steps to edit a .gitignore file:

  1. Open the .gitignore file in a text editor of your choice.
  2. Make the necessary changes to the file:
    • To add a new entry, simply add a new line and specify the file name, directory, or pattern.
    • To modify an existing entry, find the entry in the file and make the necessary changes.
    • To remove an entry, delete the corresponding line from the .gitignore file.
  3. Save the changes to the .gitignore file.

When editing the .gitignore file, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Each entry should be on a separate line.
  • Use the appropriate syntax for specifying files or directories, such as wildcards (*) or forward slashes (/) for directories.
  • Comment out any lines that you want to temporarily disable by adding a hash symbol (#) at the beginning of the line.
  • Be cautious when modifying or removing entries, as it can impact the functionality of your project. Take care to double-check your changes before saving the file.

Once you have edited the .gitignore file and saved your changes, Git will automatically recognize the modifications and apply the new rules for excluding files or directories from version control. It’s important to regularly review and update your .gitignore file to ensure that it accurately reflects the requirements of your project and development environment.

Remember to commit and push the .gitignore file to the repository to ensure that all team members are using the updated version.

How to delete a .gitignore file?

If, for any reason, you need to delete a .gitignore file from your Git repository, you can follow these simple steps:

  1. Open your preferred file explorer or command line tool.
  2. Navigate to the root directory of your Git repository where the .gitignore file is located.
  3. Locate the .gitignore file in the directory.
  4. Right-click on the .gitignore file (or use the appropriate command in the command line) and select the “Delete” option.
  5. Confirm the deletion when prompted.

Once you delete the .gitignore file, it will be permanently removed from your repository. Git will no longer apply any of the rules or patterns specified in that file when tracking changes.

It’s important to note that deleting the .gitignore file does not automatically untrack the files that were previously ignored. The removal of the .gitignore file simply means that there are no longer any rules explicitly set for ignoring certain files or directories. To untrack a file that was previously ignored, you would need to manually remove it using the git rm command followed by committing the change.

Remember, if you decide to delete the .gitignore file, make sure it aligns with the requirements of your project and development workflow. It’s generally recommended to have a .gitignore file in place to exclude unnecessary files and directories, but there may be scenarios where removing the .gitignore file is necessary, such as when you want to track previously ignored files.

How to open a .gitignore file?

To open a .gitignore file, you can use any text editor or Integrated Development Environment (IDE) of your choice. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Locate the .gitignore file in your Git repository. It is typically located in the root directory of your project.
  2. Right-click on the .gitignore file and select “Open with” from the context menu. Alternatively, you can open your preferred text editor or IDE and navigate to the location of the .gitignore file and open it from there.
  3. If you’re using a text editor, simply click on the .gitignore file to open it. If you’re using an IDE, you can double-click on the .gitignore file or choose the “Open” or “Open File” option from the File menu and select the .gitignore file.

Once you have opened the .gitignore file, you can view its contents and make any necessary changes or additions. The file will be displayed in the text editor or IDE, allowing you to modify the rules and patterns specified in the .gitignore file.

Remember to save any changes you make to the .gitignore file before closing it. This ensures that the modifications are applied and will take effect when Git tracks your project’s files and directories.

It’s worth noting that the .gitignore file uses plain text formatting. Therefore, you can open and edit it using any text editor or IDE that supports editing plain text files. Some popular text editors for opening .gitignore files include Notepad, Sublime Text, Visual Studio Code, or Atom.

By being able to open and modify the .gitignore file, you have control over which files and directories are excluded from version control, allowing you to customize your Git repository for your specific project requirements.

Popular .gitignore Templates

Using a .gitignore template can save you time and effort in specifying which files to exclude from your Git repository. These templates provide a starting point that includes common rules and patterns for different programming languages, frameworks, and development environments. Here are some popular .gitignore templates:

  • GitHub’s gitignore Repository: GitHub maintains a collection of .gitignore templates for various languages and frameworks on their gitignore repository. You can find templates for popular languages like Java, Python, Ruby, and frameworks like Node.js, React, Rails, and more.
  • provides a web service that generates .gitignore files based on your specific needs. You can input the programming languages, IDEs, or tools being used, and it will create a customized .gitignore file for you.
  • Visual Studio: If you’re using Visual Studio IDE for .NET development, you can create a .gitignore file specific to your project by selecting the appropriate options when creating a new project or by using an existing .gitignore template available for Visual Studio projects.
  • JetBrains IDEs: JetBrains provides .gitignore templates for their various IDEs, including IntelliJ IDEA, PyCharm, PhpStorm, WebStorm, and more. These templates can be accessed within the IDE or from their gitignore repository on GitHub.

When using a .gitignore template, it’s recommended to review the content and make any necessary modifications to match your specific project requirements. You may need to add or remove certain rules, depending on the files and directories generated by your project or the tools you’re using.

Remember that the .gitignore templates serve as starting points, but it’s important to regularly update and customize them as your project evolves, to ensure that you’re excluding the appropriate files and directories from version control.

No matter which template you choose or if you create a custom .gitignore file from scratch, having a well-defined .gitignore file helps to keep your repository clean, prevents unnecessary files from being committed, and ensures a smoother version control workflow.