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An introductory guide to Git submodules

Git submodules are a powerful feature that allow you to include other repositories within your own repository. This can be useful for including libraries or other code that you want to keep separate from your main repository.

Add a submodule

To add a submodule to your repository, you can use git submodule add <upstream-path> <local-path>. The first argument is the URL of the repository you want to add as a submodule, and the second argument is the path where you want the submodule to be located within your repository.

# Syntax: git submodule add <upstream-path> <local-path>

git submodule add ./30code
# Creates the directory `30code` containing the submodule from
# ""

Adding a submodule will create a new directory in your repository that contains the contents of the submodule repository. The submodule directory will contain a .git directory that points to the submodule repository, allowing you to track changes to the submodule independently of your main repository.

Additionally, a .gitmodules file will be created in the root of your repository that contains information about the submodule, such as the URL of the submodule repository and the path where the submodule is located.

Initialize submodules

After adding a submodule to your repository, you will need to initialize and update the submodule to fetch its contents. You can do this by running git submodule update --init --recursive.

While the --recursive flag isn't strictly necessary, it ensures that any nested submodules are also updated. This is useful if the submodule itself contains submodules, as it will ensure that all submodules are initialized and updated.

# Syntax: git submodule update --init --recursive

git submodule update --init --recursive
# Clones missing submodules and checks out commits

Update submodules

When you clone a repository that contains submodules, the submodules will be checked out at a specific commit. When you want to update the contents of the submodules to the latest version, you can use git submodule update --recursive --remote. Again, the --recursive flag ensures that any submodules within the submodule are also updated.

# Syntax: git submodule update --recursive --remote

git submodule update --recursive --remote
# Pulls all submodules from their respective remotes

Rename a submodule

Luckily, renaming a submodule is just as easy as renaming a directory. Using git mv <old-submodule> <new-submodule> will rename the directory containing the submodule. This will also update the submodule's path in the .gitmodules file.

# Syntax: git mv <old-submodule> <new-submodule>

git mv 30code 30-seconds-of-code
# Renames the `30code` submodule to `30-seconds-of-code`

Delete a submodule

Deleting a submodule is a little more complicated. You'll first have to use git submodule deinit -f -- <submodule> to unregister the submodule. Then, you need to remove the .git/modules/<submodule> directory, using rm -rf .git/modules/<submodule>. Finally, you can remove the working tree of the submodule using git rm -f <submodule>.

# Syntax:
#  git submodule deinit -f -- <submodule>
#  rm -rf .git/modules/<submodule>
#  git rm -f <submodule>

git submodule deinit -f -- 30code
rm -rf .git/modules/30code
git rm -f 30code
# Removes the `30code` submodule

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