Understanding git hooks to automate your development workflow

Bharat Kalluri / 2021-02-06


Ensuring code quality in projects (Personal or Professional) is very important. Probably the only way to ensure code quality long term is by automation. Remember to make it easy and make it obvious. Git hooks are the simplest and most powerful solution to automate code quality monitoring.

Let's look at a couple of things an organization does with a decent team size. There will be

  • linting on the codebase to check for syntax errors
  • code formatting to enforce a uniform code style
  • tests to run to ensure the code has not changed anything
  • notifications if someone has merged to the base branch
  • coverage reports for each merge, to make sure a huge change does not go untested
  • sanity checks on commit messages. To avoid spelling mistakes etc..

These are some of the most common devops tasks we would want to automate. Git gives us a powerful and simple solution to automate all of these using hooks.

Hooks allow us to tap into the lifecycle of git and allows us to execute scripts before or after the lifecycle event. Hooks can be classified into two buckets, local and remote.

These are some common hooks (note that all the hooks listed below are local)

  • pre-commit : this hook runs just before the commit is done. Usually static analysis (tsc for example), linting, spell checks and other code formatting checks are usually done here.
  • prepare-commit-message : this hook runs just before the commit message editor is shown to the user, this can be used to edit the default commit message to automatically include the author name, issue ID, maybe even a TODO list.
  • commit-msg : this hook executes before the commit message is saved and a commit is created. Here you can run some sanity checks on the commit message like checking for typos, making sure if follows a format etc..
  • post-commit : executes after a commit is successfully made. This maybe used to notify the team of your commit.

This is not the entire list of hooks, there are a lot more. Read more here

How to install and share git hooks

Git hooks are by default at .git/hooks/ in the root of the git repository. Jump into that folder to see what are the possible hooks. Here is a sample output

applypatch-msg.sample fsmonitor-watchman.sample pre-applypatch.sample pre-merge-commit.sample pre-push.sample pre-receive.sample
commit-msg.sample post-update.sample pre-commit.sample prepare-commit-msg.sample pre-rebase.sample update.sample

Remove sample from a file name and the hook becomes active. So to have a pre-commit hook, just create a file named pre-commit and that file will be run before every commit.

But there is a downside to this, hooks cannot be shared since they are in the .git folder and .git cannot be committed and pushed. But there is a way out.

Git exposes a configuration to set the hooks folder. I generally tend to create a folder named .hooks in my repositories and put all the hooks there. To change the config, just run

git config core.hooksPath .hooks

And from now on, instead of looking at .git/hooks git will look at .hooks for git hooks. Now since the folder is not in .git, .hooks can also be committed and pushed!

Using the pre commit hook to prettify code and run tsc

Here is a sample pre-commit hook to prettify typescript files and run tsc to make sure there are no type errors. Most of it is just taken from the prettier docs

FILES=$(git diff --cached --name-only --diff-filter=ACMR "*.ts" | sed 's| |\\ |g')
[ -z "$FILES" ] && exit 0
# Prettify all selected files
echo "$FILES" | xargs ./node_modules/.bin/prettier --write
# Compile code and check for errors
# Add back the modified/prettified files to staging
echo "$FILES" | xargs git add
exit 0
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