Mastering Git Hooks: Advanced Techniques and Best Practices

Git doesn’t have to be complex, but there are certain facets of it that are intricate and require a deeper understanding – Git hooks, for example. These are scripts that Git will run automatically based on certain events.

While they can be simple, you have much more scope to use them in an effective way. However, to do this, you must understand all the cogs that make up the entire wheel.

For this post, we’ll look at advanced techniques for Git hooks that include some fundamentals, how to create and install them, and more.

Throughout, we’ll explain hook parameters and environment variables, offer some tips and tricks, run through troubleshooting methods, and many other topics.

The Fundamentals of Git Hooks: A Primer

One of Git’s key features is its hooks: a powerful mechanism that lets you automate tasks, enforce standards, and ensure consistent workflows throughout a project’s lifecycle.

Git hooks are scripts that execute automatically at specific points in the Git workflow. You can use them to customize and extend Git’s behavior to meet your project’s needs. Hooks ensure that code quality is maintained, tests are run, and deployments are orchestrated smoothly.

Git offers several types of hooks, and each one will trigger at different stages of the Git workflow:

  • Pre-commit. These hooks run before you finalize a commit, which lets you enforce code styles, run tests, or check for syntax errors.
  • Post-commit. This will execute after you create a commit. It’s useful for notifications or logging.
  • Pre-push. This hook will trigger before you push code and enables you to perform integration tests, check for compatibility, or ensure quality.
  • Post-push. The final hook runs after you complete a push. As such, it’s valuable for deploying code to production or updating documentation.

You’ll find hooks within the .git/hooks directory of your Git repository. There are sample hooks within there, too – you can use them as templates to create your own custom scripts. The hooks cover a range of actions and use a sample- prefix for reference:

A macOS Finder screen showing a local directory containing 13 white sample hooks files on a gray background.
A local Git directory showing sample hooks files.

Hooks trigger during various Git actions. For instance, a pre-commit hook runs when you commit changes, and a pre-push hook triggers before you push to remote. Once you understand more about these triggers, you can deploy hooks more strategically to enforce quality control and streamline your workflow.