Tips for using a git pre-commit hook

Note, this article was published over 4 years ago and hence the content may be stale. Consume with a pinch of salt.

Here's a few tips for using a Git pre-commit hook.

Keep your hook script in source control

Commit your hook script (say at the root of your project and include the installation instructions in your README/documentation to encourage all developers use it.

Installation is nothing more than:

ln -s ../../ .git/hooks/pre-commit

Then everyone benefits from running the same set of tests before committing and updates are picked up automatically.

Stash unstaged changes before running tests

Ensure that code that isn't part of the prospective commit isn't tested within your pre-commit script. This is missed by many sample pre-commit scripts but is easily acheived with git stash:

git stash -q --keep-index

# Test prospective commit

git stash pop -q

The -q flags specify quiet mode.

Run your test suite before each commit


It's best to have a script (say that encapsulates the standard arguments to your test runner so your pre-commit script doesn't fall out of date. Something like:

git stash -q --keep-index
git stash pop -q
[ $RESULT -ne 0 ] && exit 1
exit 0

where a sample implementation for a Django project may look like:

./ test --settings=settings_test -v 2

Skip the pre-commit hook sometimes

Be aware of the --no-verify option to git commit. This bypasses the pre-commit hook when committing, which is useful if you have just manually run your test suite and don't need to see it run again when committing.

I use git aliases to make this easy:

# ~/.bash_aliases
alias gc='git commit'
alias gcv='git commit --no-verify'

Search your sourcecode for debugging code

At some point, someone will try and commit a file containing

import pdb; pdb.set_trace()

or some other debugging code. This can be easily avoided using the file to grep the staged codebase and abort the commit if forbidden strings are found.

Here's an example that looks for console.log:

git diff --cached --name-only | \
    grep -E $FILES_PATTERN | \
    GREP_COLOR='4;5;37;41' xargs grep --color --with-filename -n $FORBIDDEN && echo 'COMMIT REJECTED Found "$FORBIDDEN" references. Please remove them before commiting' && exit 1

It's straightforward to extend this code block to search for other terms.