Reviewing the Git Date Fundamentals
Authors: Ross Brodbeck
In this article I'm going to take a look at dates in Git. The subject doesn't make for good dinner conversation, but when you're blearily staring at a list of Git commits at 2 am, it certainly helps to know what they mean. Since there are three types of dates floating around with various formats and options, having a primer before you need the information can be useful.
Author Date vs. Commit Date vs. Push Date
When looking at any particular Git commit, it helps to keep in mind there are actually three different types of date. Here's a look at the VSTS commit details section, so you can see what I mean:
- Author Date - This is the time you originally authored a commit. Basically, when you first ran
- Commit Date - This is the date your commit was applied to the branch. In many cases it is the same as the author date, but sometimes it will be different if you amended, rebased or someone else applied your commit as part of a patch. In those cases, the date will be when you rebased or the patch was applied.
- Push Date - This is the date you actually pushed your commit to the remote repository in question. This date is specific to the remote version control system you are using, and won't be available in your local repository.
When you run
git log, by default you will see the author date.
If you want to see commit date, you can use one of the many command line options, such as
Let's look at a brief example to see these concepts in practice. First we will create a normal commit:
git init echo test > file.txt git add * git commit -m "A normal commit message"
Now let's ammend our commit with a different message:
echo again > file.txt git add * git commit --amend -m "An ammended commit"
If we look at our regular log history we would see something like the following:
git log commit 17232459f0ae25adeff21c9e21742ba22b7f3499 Author: Ross Brodbeck <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Thu Feb 25 19:38:54 2016 -0500 An amended commit
Now let's view the same commit with the author date:
git log --pretty=fuller commit 17232459f0ae25adeff21c9e21742ba22b7f3499 Author: Ross Brodbeck <email@example.com> AuthorDate: Thu Feb 25 19:38:54 2016 -0500 Commit: Ross Brodbeck <firstname.lastname@example.org> CommitDate: Thu Feb 25 19:39:36 2016 -0500 An amended commit
Note the (slight) difference between the author date and commit date above.
The commit date is my original, unedited, commit time. The author date is the time at which I ran the
In fact, there are a lot of fun
git log command line options to help you understand dates better.
For example, passing the
--date flag will allow you to determine how dates are displayed.
This can be useful for normalizing time zones (git displays dates in their original time zone, by default) or changing the date display string.
To learn more about the various formatting options, see the git log man page.
Changing Git Dates
When you are getting ready to commit your code, you should note that you have the ability to set both the author and commit dates, although beware -- this isn't something you should do often.
You can change the author date of a given commit by passing the
--date flag when you run
There are various articles regarding the formatting of this flag, but the gist is that it isn't well documented. This stack overflow question does a great job of explaining the acceptable date formats.
You can also use the environment variables
GIT_AUTHOR_DATE to set the corresponding dates, as documented in the man page.
If you need to go this route I would also suggest a Stack Overflow question as a good place to start.
Git Date Fundamentals
That wraps up our tour of date fundamentals in Git. Hopefully you now know:
- What the different types of dates mean in Git
- How you can change them and display them using the command line
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