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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Git – View the commit log of a remote branch

The git log command will show you commit logs your repository. But it only shows the commits of your local repository. What can you do to view the commit logs of a remote repository? 

There’s no way to directly query the remote repository. Instead, you must add it first (if it doesn’t already exist):

The fetch the changes:

And finally do a git log specifying the remote name and branch name:

Here’s how this works. The git log command is of the following syntax:

By default <revision range> is HEAD – i.e. the whole history up to the current state of the tree. Note that it is a range. To explain that look at the following output from my repository:

On the left side you have the commits/ revisions. HEAD currently points to the top most one in the list. You can specify a range of commits you want the logs for, like:

Here I am asking for logs from the second from last commit (“fixperms.bat added”) to the fourth from last commit (“added modifications to the laptop lid closing script”). Result is the third from down and fourth from down commit. So the range is always from the earlier commit to the later commit. If I reverse the range, for instance, I get nothing:

When you omit a range, it defaults to HEAD, which means everything from the first commit to the latest. 

Also worth knowing, you can refer to previous commits starting from HEAD via HEAD~1, HEAD~2, etc. Thus you can do the following:

Check out this StackExchange answer on what the ~ (and ^) operators stand for. Also worth looking at the git-rev-parse help page for a diagram explaining this. 

Back to git log the range can also specify an remote name and  branch. So you could have:

These simply show the commits that are present in HEAD (of your local copy) but not present in origin or origin/master. Or the reverse, as I do in the last two commands. (You can also omit HEAD, leaving the two dots, so ..origin is same as HEAD..origin, and origin.. is same as origin..HEAD.)

The word origin in this case is the name of your remote repository but is also a pointer to the HEAD of that remote repository. And that’s why you can do git log origin to get all changes on the remote end because it too marks a range. Or you can compare between remote repository and local repository. 

The origin is only updated locally once you do a fetch, which is why you must do a git fetch first. 

Git – View the commit log of a remote branch by rakhesh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.