Batch cherry-picking with git

Posted on December 16, 2015
Tags git

Today I came to work and found that I have to move 18 commits from my development git branch to the old release. I’ve worked on one feature for several weeks, and kept my branch up to date with master, so the history looked like this:

               Z -- Y -- X -- W -- V -- U -- T -- S            feature
              /         /              /
-- A -- B -- C -- D -- E ----- F ---- G -- H                   master
    \
     R -- Q                                                    release

So, my goal is to create a feature' branch on top of the release and copy the commits Z, Y, W, V, T and S there:

               Z -- Y -- X -- W -- V -- U -- T -- S            feature
              /         /              /
-- A -- B -- C -- D -- E ----- F ---- G -- H                   master
    \
     R -- Q                                                    release
           \
            Z' -- Y' -- W' -- V' -- T' -- S'                   feature'

I was not able to rebase my working branch. So I had to cherry-pick the commits one by one from my working branch to the new branch, based on release version. I’m not very meticulous man. To be honest I’m quite careless, so I really didn’t want to do it by hand one by one. Fortunately, git cherry-pick allows you to pass several commits, or to pass the range. But the problem is to get only related commits, and skip commits from the master and merges. The cherry-pick command itself doesn’t have this function, but it can take commits from another command using --stdin option.

The powerful command to get different commit lists is git rev-list. You can use --grep option to filter the commits (I used bug tracker id, but it can be used with any other criteria). Since we need to apply commits in chronological order, --reverse option shall be specified. And the last, but lot least required option --no-merge is required to avoid merge-commits in the list. Now the list of commits can be passed to git cherry-pick command:

git rev-list --reverse C..S --grep='featureX' --no-merge | git cherry-pick --stdin

If any conflict occurs, you have to solve it (using git mergetool or manually with git add) and then run git cherry-pick --continue until all commits are copied.

Finally, if you are going to merge the release branch into your master, it might be a good idea to merge original feature branch into master first. It will simplify the merge with release since all conflicts between master and feature branches will be already resolved.

               Z -- Y -- X -- W -- V -- U -- T -- S            feature
              /         /              /           \
-- A -- B -- C -- D -- E ----- F ---- G -- H ------ K -- L     master
    \                                                   /
     R -- Q -- Z' -- Y' -- W' -- V' -- T' ------------ S'      feature'

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