Sort git Branches by Date

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I'll be first person to admit I don't do as much git repository maintenance as I should.  I rarely delete branches which have been merged, so a git branch execution shows me a mile-long list of branches that likely aren't relevant.  The best way to find branches I've recently used is to use the following command:

git for-each-ref --sort=-committerdate refs/heads/

The command above lists the most recently worked on branches from top to bottom.  If you want to see the date of last commit, you can do this:

git for-each-ref --sort='-committerdate' --format='%(refname)%09%(committerdate)' refs/heads | sed -e 's-refs/heads/--'

I find these commands incredibly helpful when returning to work from a weekend or just jumping from project to project.  Hopefully you can use these commands too!

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Discussion

  1. I use this version to show latest git branches with the timestamp as a relative/human readable format:

    git for-each-ref --sort='-authordate:iso8601' --format=' %(authordate:relative)%09%(refname:short)' refs/heads
    • Eoghan

      Hey man, I used your snippet and noticed after a while that it actually gets the timing wrong. For example a branch I created today is showing as being worked on 2 weeks ago

    • Philipp

      That might be because the timestamp doesn’t show the branch creation time but the commit time of the last commit of the branch.

  2. I’m definitely going to bookmark this as I’m using git more and more in team settings where we will probably be branching a lot more. This will come in handy.

  3. Glenn

    Super-helpful even three years on — thank you!

    FWIW, I found it much easier to read by putting the date first, as in Amy’s example. That also allows for reverse sorting if desired.

  4. Fredrik

    This is gold, thanks a lot!

  5. John Dawson

    So helpful! I’ve accumulated dozens of branches in my main project over the years. Sorting them by date, and seeing the dates, is super helpful when trying to purge the useless ones while still keeping around some of the just-in-case guys.

  6. Nikita

    Good feature, thanks a lot!

    Also I add that you can add this command to .gitconfig e.g. like a “lastbrs” (last branches) and add the flag “–count” to prevent display all the branches.

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