When using git, I sometimes want to fast-forward some branchA, but currently I’m on branchB. The simplest way to do this is to checkout branchA, do a pull (or another command to fast-forward branchA), and then to checkout branchB again.

However, when switching branches, git modifies my source files, so when I’m back on branchB and recompile, make will think many files changed, and the recompilation might take a long time.

So it would be nice to fast-forward branches without checking them out, and here’s how to do it.

Fast-forwarding a local branch with new commits from a remote

Suppose I’m on a branch called feature, and I want to diff the work I’m doing on this branch against master, but my local master is not up to date.

I can update my master as follows:

git fetch origin master:master

More generally, this is the syntax of the command:


Fast-forwarding a local branch with new commits from another local branch

Suppose I’m still on my branch called feature, and I’m happy with the changes I did, and want them to be on master, without any merge commit.

Turns out I can also use git fetch for this, even though I don’t want to perform any network operation:

git fetch . feature:master

The trick is that . denotes the “remote” which is my local clone.

The other direction sometimes also makes sense: Suppose I’m on master, and made something a bit experimental, did not commit it yet, and want to commit it to branch featureX. If there was no branch called featureX yet, I could just do git checkout -b featureX, but if it already exists (but has been merged into master), I first have to update it to current master. So I can “fetch my local master into featureX”:

git fetch . master:featureX