Synchronizing with Remote Repositories

Synchronizing the states of local and remote repositories consists of pulling from and pushing to the remote repositories. SmartGit also has a Synchronize command that combines pulling and pushing.


The Pull command fetches commits from a remote repository, stores them in the remote branches, and optionally ‘integrates’ (i.e. merges or rebases) them into the local branch.

Use Remote|Pull (or the corresponding toolbar button) to invoke the Pull command. This will open the Pull dialog, where you can specify what SmartGit will do after the commits have been fetched: Merge the local commits with the fetched commits or rebase the local commits onto the fetched commits. In the latter case, you can merge or rebase by hand, as explained in Merge and Rebase, respectively. These options are meaningless, if you select to Fetch Only.

The Pull dialog allows you to set your choice as default for the current repository. More options can be configured in the Repository|Settings.

If a merge or rebase is performed after pulling, it may fail due to conflicting changes. In that case SmartGit will leave the repository in a merging or rebasing state so you can either resolve the conflicts and proceed, or abort the operation. See Merge and Rebase for details.

When rebasing, SmartGit will detect whether there are local merge commits which have to be rebased and in this case ask you whether you want to “preserve” these merge commits during the rebase or flatten the merge commits.

By default, Git (and hence SmartGit) will only pull new tags, but don’t update possibly changed tags from the remote repository. To have tags updated as well, select Update existing and fetch new tags from More Options.

Pulled vs. Fetched vs. Remote-Repository-Only Commits

Regarding the presence in your repository/working tree you can distinguish between three kinds of commits:

  • Remote-Repository-Only commits: are not yet present in your local repository. SmartGit will denote such kind of “incoming” commits by displaying a green arrow for the repository’s node in the Repositories view if Detect remote changes has been selected in the Preferences, section Background commands. To detect such commits, SmartGit uses a git ls-remote which is a light-weight operation which only reports remote repository branches together with their remote commit SHA. If the SHA is not yet present in the local repository for a specific branch, it is considered to have “incoming” commits. SmartGit does not have more information on these commits, not even the number of “incoming” commits. If you want to know more details about these commits and/or investigate them, it’s usually safe to fetch them using Remote|Pull with Fetch Only option.
  • Fetched commits: are already present in the local repository, but not yet part of your HEAD’s history. You can see and investigate such commits in the Log and perform various operations on it, especially you can Merge or Rebase onto such a commit or Reset your HEAD onto such a commit.
  • Pulled commits: are part of your HEAD’s history and their contents are present in your working tree.


The various Push commands allow you to push (i.e. send) your local commits to one or more remote repositories. SmartGit distinguishes between the following Push commands:

  • Push pushes all commits of the current branch (or the selected branch in the Branches view) to its tracked branch. With this Push command you can push to multiple repositories in a single invocation. SmartGit will detect automatically whether a forced push will be necessary.
  • Push To pushes all commits in the current branch either to its matching branch, or to a ref specified by name. With the Push To command you can only push to one remote repository at a time. If multiple repositories have been set up, the Push To dialog will allow you to select the remote repository to push to. Also, the Push To command always allows to do a forced push, what can be convenient. This is necessary when pushing to a secondary remote repository for which forcing the push may be necessary while it is not when pushing to the primary remote repository (i.e. the one which is considered by SmartGit’s forced push detection). You can also invoke Push To on a remote to push (or synchronize) all branches from the selected remote to another remote.
  • Push Commits pushes the selected range of commits from the Journal view, rather than all commits, in the current branch to its tracked remote branch.

If you try to push commits from a new local branch, you will be asked whether to set up tracking for the newly created remote branch. In most cases it is recommended to set up tracking, as it will allow you to receive changes from the remote repository and make use of Git’s branch synchronization mechanism (see Branches). The preferences contains an option to avoid this dialog and always configure the tracking.


The tracking will not be configured if the git option push.default is set to matching.

The Push commands listed above can be invoked from several places in SmartGit’s main window:

  • Menu and toolbar In the menu, you can invoke the various Pull commands with Remote|Push, Remote|Push To and Remote|Push Commits. The first two may also be available as toolbar buttons, depending on your toolbar configuration. The third command is only enabled if the Journal view is focused.
  • Repositories view You can invoke Push in the Repositories view by selecting the open repository and choosing Push from the context menu.
  • Branches view In the context menu of the Branches view, you can invoke Push and Push To on local branches. Additionally, you can invoke Push on tags.
  • Journal view To push a range of commits up to a certain commit, select that commit in the Journal view and invoke Push Commits from the context menu.


If a Push fails with error:

remote: error: refusing to update checked out branch: refs/heads/master
remote: error: By default, updating the current branch in a non-bare repository
remote: is denied, because it will make the index and work tree inconsistent
remote: with what you pushed, and will require 'git reset --hard' to match
remote: the work tree to HEAD.
remote: You can set the 'receive.denyCurrentBranch' configuration variable
remote: to 'ignore' or 'warn' in the remote repository to allow pushing into
remote: its current branch; however, this is not recommended unless you
remote: arranged to update its work tree to match what you pushed in some
remote: other way.
remote: To squelch this message and still keep the default behaviour, set
remote: 'receive.denyCurrentBranch' configuration variable to 'refuse'.

you have tried to push to a non-bare repository (a repository which has a working tree). Please either switch the remote to a different branch or - better - only push to bare repositories (repositories without a working tree).

To create a bare repository, please invoke

$ git init --bare path/to/repository


With the Synchronize command, you can push local commits to a remote repository and pull commits from that repository at the same time. This simplifies the common workflow of separately invoking Push and Pull to keep your repository synchronized with the remote repository.

In SmartGit’s main window, the Synchronize command can be invoked as follows:

  • from the menu via Remote|Synchronize,
  • with the Synchronize toolbar button,
  • and in the Repositories view via Synchronize in the repository’s context menu.

From the toolbar button’s options menu, you can configure whether to push or to pull first.

Push, then Pull

If there are both local and remote commits, the invoked push operation fails. The pull operation on the other hand is performed even in case of failure, so that the commits from the remote repository are available in the tracked branch, ready to be merged or rebased. After the remote changes have been applied to the local branch, you may invoke the Synchronize command again.

Pull, then Push

If there are both local and remote commits, the first triggered pull will fetch the remote changes, merge your local changes or rebase your local commits on top of the remote commits and if this was successful, invokes the push. This has the advantage that if there were no conflicts all your local changes are pushed. The disadvantage is that it may push untested changes.