path: root/Documentation/git-symbolic-ref.txt
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authorJunio C Hamano <>2005-10-04 23:45:01 (GMT)
committerJunio C Hamano <>2005-10-05 00:04:03 (GMT)
commit129056370abff1cc0d347b98fe88afc44a6cb8c0 (patch)
tree231c8c16cb596c23a473e4212793919516efd81d /Documentation/git-symbolic-ref.txt
parentb10c1a74f0edb7664f127a4f7308fb287beb5f01 (diff)
Add missing documentation.
Signed-off-by: Junio C Hamano <>
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+git-symbolic-ref - read and modify symbolic refs
+'git-symbolic-ref' <name> [<ref>]
+Given one argument, reads which branch head the given symbolic
+ref refers to and outputs its path, relative to the `.git/`
+directory. Typically you would give `HEAD` as the <name>
+argument to see on which branch your working tree is on.
+Give two arguments, create or update a symbolic ref <name> to
+point at the given branch <ref>.
+Traditionally, `.git/HEAD` is a symlink pointing at
+`refs/heads/master`. When we want to switch to another branch,
+we did `ln -sf refs/heads/newbranch .git/HEAD`, and when we want
+to find out which branch we are on, we did `readlink .git/HEAD`.
+This was fine, and internally that is what still happens by
+default, but on platforms that does not have working symlinks,
+or that does not have the `readlink(1)` command, this was a bit
+cumbersome. On some platforms, `ln -sf` does not even work as
+advertised (horrors).
+A symbolic ref can be a regular file that stores a string that
+begins with `ref: refs/`. For example, your `.git/HEAD` *can*
+be a regular file whose contents is `ref: refs/heads/master`.
+This can be used on a filesystem that does not support symbolic
+links. Instead of doing `readlink .git/HEAD`, `git-symbolic-ref
+HEAD` can be used to find out which branch we are on. To point
+the HEAD to `newbranch`, instead of `ln -sf refs/heads/newbranch
+.git/HEAD`, `git-symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/newbranch` can be
+Currently, .git/HEAD uses a regular file symbolic ref on Cygwin,
+and everywhere else it is implemented as a symlink. This can be
+changed at compilation time.
+Written by Junio C Hamano <>
+Part of the gitlink:git[7] suite