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How To: Use Git to Version Your Writing

How To: Use Git to Version Your Writing

If you are a writer you may have ran into this problem. You are writing like mad, moving things, changing the way something flows. As you are getting into it, you realize.

Hey! This isn’t what I want to say at all! I need to go back.

You feverishly tap CTRL + z (or Command + z for you Mac aficionados) and come to find that your favorite “no frills” text editor has lost your undo history or you aren’t quite sure where you want to go back to.

Good for more than just development

Git is a piece of software that allows the user to control the versions of files in a directory. It allows the user to ‘commit’ a snapshot of any directory to a ‘repository’ that tracks all of the changes between versions of the files.

Git is awesome for development. But, what I have found is that it is awesome for writing as well.

Git allows me to commit my writing every so often so I can get back to where I want to be. It also allows me to ‘branch’ my writing so I can separate it from everything else.

Let’s take a look at how you can use git to control your writing versions.

Installation, Initialization, and committing

I will be covering Windows and Mac here. For you Linux geeks; you should already know how to use git!

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To install git do the following:

    For Windows:

    Go to git-scm.com, click on the Windows link to the right and download the latest version. Install via the executable and choose the most standard settings. When you get to the Adjusting your PATH environment screen, select the first option, Use Git Bash only and hit next. When at the Configuring the line ending conversions, select the third option, Checkout as-is, commit as-is and hit next. After the install completes click “Finish”.

    For Mac:

    Go to git-scm.com, click on the Mac OS X link to the right and then click the latest .DMG file in the list to download. Launch the DMG from your Downloads directory and double-click the git PKG. Follow the on-screen instructions and enter your user credentials. Close the installer when it is complete.

    OK, now that you have git installed we are going to get geeky and use a terminal in both Windows and Mac.

    To get to the git terminal in Windows go to the Start button and search for ‘git’. Click on ‘Git Bash’ to get to your git command line interface.

    For Mac just open a terminal by going to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.

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    Here is where the fun begins. Let’s say you have a folder where you store a bunch of writing. For me that is in my Dropbox/writing folder. If I want to start tracking that directory I can change to that directory via command line then initialize a git repository.

    This will be close to the same on both platforms. To change to a certain directory use the command:

    cd [path-to-your-writing-directory]

    Of course fill in your own directory. My command looks like this in Windows:

      The backslash after ‘My’ is used to tell the terminal that the space after the word ‘My’ is there. You can autocomplete your paths by starting to type a directory and then hitting the ‘Tab’ key.

      And this on my Mac:

        Once you are at the directory you have all of your writing in you can issue the command git init which initializes a blank “repository” for your directory. This puts a .git directory that is initialized. Once your repository is initialized you can add the files to the repository by typing

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        git add .

        or

        git add [some-name-of-a-file]

        to add only one file.

        After that you can commit your files to the repository by typing

        git commit -m “This is my first commit (or some other message)”

        ‘-m’ is used to tell git that you want to put a message with your commit. Now you have made your first commit to your new git repository! Congrats, you geek.

        More on committing and branching

        OK, I know that was a little technical, but you are over the hump now. If you want to learn more about git though in your free time, check out Pro Git. It’s free and it is the best tutorial on the inner workings of git.

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        So, what committing does is take a “snapshot” of the directory structure or whatever files you told your git repository to watch. If you make a change to a sentence in one of the files that your repository is watching after you just committed and type ‘git status’ you will be presented with the changes that have been made to the watched files. This lets you know that you have “uncommitted” changes to your watched files. You can then easily commit them by issuing the git commit command.

        Another neat feature of git is branching. Branching is the idea of making a totally separate branch of your repository. You can create a new branch by typing:

        git checkout -b this-is-a-new-branch

        You can then make changes to your tracked files totally separate from your “master” branch. This allows you to take different paths with your writing without screwing up something else that was committed.

        To switch back to your “master” branch, type:

        git checkout master

        Also, remember to commit any changes before creating and changing to new branches. If you don’t you may run into issues down the line where some changes get dropped.

        More to come

        Let us know if you think that this is helpful or want to learn more about using git to track files leave some messages in the comments.

        Git is a super application; one that I use everyday. I can’t praise it enough. But, remember, it doesn’t have to be just used by geeks and hackers, writers can use it to keep track of their work and to feel free to explore other writing avenues without losing valuable work they have already created.

        More by this author

        CM Smith

        A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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        Last Updated on July 8, 2020

        10 Smart Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

        10 Smart Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

        Productivity is the ability to perform tasks efficiently and in a timely manner. In today’s busy and competitive business world, productivity is paramount for any business, organization or corporation.

        Productivity is more than just performing tasks successfully. It is about investing and allocating resources, so the company or business can perform to meet its core goals.

        As part of 2019, it is important to commit to new goals. When shopping around for new productivity software keep in mind the following things: cost, reliability, cross-platform compatibility, on the go, technical support, etc.

        In the subsequent sections, we will examine the most recommended productivity software in the marketplace. In addition, we will look at what makes them tick and what separates them from the rest of the pack.

        Projects and Tasks Management

        1. Monday dot com

          Monday dot com was founded to create a team management solution so people connect to workplace processes across any industry. The productivity tool is used in more than 140 countries.

          The user interface is intuitive and impressive. It makes collaboration productive and fun because of its simplicity.

          The tool is deemed to have one of the best user experiences across the mobile and online project and task management platform.

          The product includes usability, customization, admin control, group management and control, private or public control, in-group messaging and more.

          Check out the software here!

          2. Asana

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            The mantra behind Asana’s product is to enable teams from across different organizations to work together effortlessly.

            The software comes with lots of customizations. When you create a project as a user, you can choose between a traditional task view and the kanban-style board view. The dashboard allows you to see the progress on a project, and it includes an excellent advanced set of search tools.

            Also, Asana’s Android and iOS apps do retain the web interface’s clean look and feel.

            Check out the software here!

            3. Trello

              Trello was founded in the summer of 2010 and two years later the platform added 500,000 members. Anyone within sales, marketing, HR and operations can collaborate successfully with this product.

              Moreover, the tool has over 100 plus integrations with Google Drive, Slack, Jira and others. The product works flawlessly across various platforms.

              Some of the well-known features includes is speed, easy-to-use, and set up. The interface includes due dates, assignments, file storage, checklists and more.

              Check out the software here!

              4. Jira

                The Jira software is flexible and heralded as the next-generation project.

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                The software allows teams to design and adapt the software to an organization’s needs. This includes having visibility into long term goals, project roadmaps, status of work, real-time release information and more. In addition, the interface is customizable.

                The Atlassian Cloud does not support multiple separate domains, subdomains or domain aliases in Google Apps.

                Check out the software here!

                5. Evernote Business

                  Evernote was founded in 2008 and reached 11 million users by 2011. The company was founded on the premise that their product should address the ever-increasing volume and speed of information.

                  The product helps bring together groups of teams because of versatility and functionality. It creates documents, collaboration on projects, store information all a single location.

                  Moreover, you can find information quickly and includes effective search capabilities and integrations with existing tools you may already use.

                  Check out the software here!

                  Communication

                  6. Slack

                    Slack was founded in 2013 and the tool is heralded as a collaboration hub. Slack is where productivity happens. When you start a new project, hire new staff, deploy a code, review a sales contract, finalize on a budget, Slack covers all of these. Some of the major highlights include highly customizable notifications and seamless integrations with other collaboration and office tools. The free version of the software comes loaded with features, but does not archive old message. So, you have to review what are the best options for your organization or business.

                    Check out the software here!

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                    7. Spike

                      Newcomer Spike makes emails more conversational by helping teams maintain productivity, communication, and collaboration. All of these are achieved from within their inbox.

                      Spike works on top of any existing email (O365, G suite, and IMAP) turning it into a real-time messenger and making your communication much more functional and efficient.

                      Spike’s features include built-in groups and channels, voice and video calls, email encryption, instant access to all your files, and much more.

                      Check out the software here!

                      Creation

                      8. Office 365

                        Microsoft’s Office 365 could not be excluded from the conversation and especially as it pertains to productivity software.

                        Of course we are all familiar with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But there is more capabilities that come with it.

                        You have business-class email, online storage space, and teamwork solutions. These services can be accessed from just about anywhere.

                        Within this suite is Microsoft Sway, which is a presentation software and a step above PowerPoint.

                        Check out the software here!

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                        9. Grammarly

                          Grammarly helps to cut down time on editing. Professionals in several industries like law, healthcare, academia, marketing, engineering and journalism use it to provide instant feedback on the accuracy of writing in English.

                          Once you install the extension from Google Chrome, you can get corrections when you are drafting an email, using social media and other apps.

                          Grammarly is AI powered and it’s a wonderful tool to have to check spelling and grammar before a presentation.

                          Check out the software here!

                          Team Analytics

                          10. ActivTrak

                            ActivTrak is a business intelligence tool that allows you to access team behavior analytics. In other words, it is data-driven.

                            The pros include two-factor authentication with active directory integration. You can also automate your alerts and it has an intuitive interface with easy-to-use admin controls.

                            Furthermore, it comes with Google sign-in, iOS app, productivity track, and more. The bottomline is the product offers employee productivity metrics along with team behavior analytics.

                            Check out the software here!

                            The Bottom Line

                            Depending on the size, budget, resources, and immediate needs of your company, not all productivity software will exactly solve your problem. You will have to contact any of the providers above and probe extensively to find the right product that is made for your business.

                            More Productivity Tools

                            Featured photo credit: Domenico Loia via unsplash.com

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