Last updated on November 16, 2017
Git workflow for Excel
This guide presents a simple recipe for how to use Git for Excel workbooks to support small Excel teams in their existing workflow and simplify collaboration.
You probably know how to use Git and are familiar with
git commit and
git push. This is all there is to
it to create an audit log for your Excel workbook in Git:
- Save your workbook changes in Book1.xlsx
git add Book1.xlsx
git commit -m "some changes"
git push origin master
Collaborating and merge conflicts
However, as soon as you start collaborating (or push from multiple locations), you are likely to run into this kind of conflict:
! [rejected] master -> master (fetch first) error: failed to push some refs to 'https://cloud.xltrail:3000/test/workflow.git' hint: Updates were rejected because the remote contains work that you do hint: not have locally. This is usually caused by another repository pushing hint: to the same ref. You may want to first integrate the remote changes hint: (e.g., 'git pull ...') before pushing again. hint: See the 'Note about fast-forwards' in 'git push --help' for details.
Someone pushed their changes before we did. Git now refuses to accept our push, because our local repository is out of
sync with remote. If we were dealing with text files, we could simply pull the changes (
git pull origin), merge them locally and push
back the merged repository. As we are dealing with an Excel (binary) file, we have to choose
our local (
git pull -X ours) or the remote version (
git pull -X theirs) to work around the merge conflict.
A basic single-branch workflow
The goal of our simple workflow is to create a linear workbook commit history. Think more audit log and less collaborative pull request workflow:
- we only work on a single branch (master)
- we always want to push our new head version (even if there have been pushs to remote in the meantime)
Therefore, before pushing, we have to fetch the latest changes and merge so that our changes stay on top:
git pull -X ours origin
This pulls the change set and resolves merge conflicts by choosing our version over the remote. In other words, our
ours) becomes the new head and the remote version (
theirs) its predecessor. This command resolves the merge conflict by creating a separate merge commit so that you have full transparency over what happened here for future reference.
We are good to push without conflicts now:
git push origin master
Automate the workflow using a pre-push hook
We can simplify our two-step workflow further by instructing Git to automatically perform a
git pull -X ours before every
push. We need to go to the
.git/hooks directory in our repository and add a file named
#!/bin/bash echo "Pre-push hook: Pulling changes remote..." git pull -X ours
This brings us back to the simple
git push origin master and git takes care of pulling and resolving merge conflicts
before performing the push.
Note: On Mac you need to run
chmod +x .git/hooks/pre-push, otherwise it will not trigger the hook.
How to apply this to your workflow
This workflow is a basic recipe for simple collaboration and audit logging of your workbook changes. Give it a try and let us know how it works out for you. If you get stuck, have questions or suggestions, or would like to share your workflow, we would love to hear from you!