How to whitelist files in .gitignore

⋅ 1 min read ⋅ Development

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.gitignore is a file that specifies any files and folders that you don't want to commit to git.

But you might not be aware of the ability to re-include an ignored file with the ! (exclamation mark) operator.

How to whitelist files in .gitignore

To whitelist a file that is currently ignored:

  • You declare another pattern that points to the file you want to whitelist.
  • Prefix the pattern with !.

For example, my project contains the following .env files.

.env
.env.prod
.env.staging
.env.template
  • I want to ignore those .env files because they contain sensitive information.
  • But I want to include .env.template because it contains placeholders for all my keys. I want to share this with my teammates.

This is the .gitignore that does that.

// Ignore .env
.env
// Ignore .env.staging, .env.prod, and .env.template
.env.*
// Re-include .env.template
!.env.template

Caveat

It is not possible to re-include a file if a parent directory of that file is ignored.

For example, a project contains the following files and folders.

logs
- log1.txt
- log2.txt
- important.txt

If I want to ignore logs, but include only important.txt, this .gitignore won't work.

// Ignore logs directory
logs
// Re-include important.txt won't work
// Because a parent directory is already ignored.
!important.txt

To make this work, I need to leave the logs directory out and ignore everything inside the logs instead.

// Ignore everything inside the logs directory
logs/*
// Re-include important.txt
!important.txt

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