Because of our git workflow we end up with lots of branches in our repositories. Although these branches will not cause any harm, they do make your branch overview look cluttered when doing git branch or viewing your repository in a visual tool like github or Codebase.
Usually we clean up branches right after we’ve merged and deployed them, but sometimes you forget about that. When I was recently doing some maintenance on our repository and deleting some long forgotten branches, I came across some branches that refused to be deleted.
To get an overview of your branches you do git branch for just your local branches, git branch -r to see only remote branches or git branch -a to see them both. Deleting branches is easy, by doing git branch -d for local branches and git push origin : for remote branches (note the semi-colon in front of the branch name).
Then I ran into a branch that was in my remote branch list, but when I tried to delete it, git told me the branch actually wasn’t there anymore. Then why was it still in my remote branch list and how do I delete it from there? The solution was git prune together with git remote show origin.
The latter command shows a detailed status of what your local machines knows about the origin, including so called stale branches, or branches that are in your local cache of the origin but do not exist there anymore. Removing these stale branches is easy with git prune -n.
Additionally, it’s also wise to run git gc every now and then which does just this, and more housekeeping tasks.