Git - Do you know when to create a fork vs a branch?

Last updated by Brady Stroud [SSW] about 1 month ago.See history

When starting to work on a project, it's common to wonder whether to fork an existing repository or create a new branch for it. Before making this decision, it's important to consider the key differences between the two options.

Figuring out whether to fork or branch

Generally, branching is a default option if you're working on a team developing a product. However, if you run into someone else's product and have new ideas you want to try, then forking is a good option because you can work on your ideas in isolation.

Tip: If unsure ask yourself 3 questions...
If your answer is 'no' to any of the following questions, then you should go for a fork:

  1. Do you have access to the existing repository to clone a new branch?
  2. Is the change going to be part of that project and has it been approved by the Product Owner?
  3. Do you or anyone you're working with on that project own the existing repository?

Summary - Forking vs Branching

Fork Branch
Purpose Create a separate copy of a repository for significant changes or different directions Develop new features or fix bugs without disrupting the main codebase
Relationship to the original codebase Completely independent repository Linked to the original repository
Ownership Owned by the user who created them Owned by the repository owner
Scope of changes Typically involve significant changes Typically involve smaller changes
Collaboration Used to develop ideas in isolation from the main team Used to develop ideas that the main team is working on
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