I recently started using git and Github in a more serious way than I’ve done in the past — and promptly started getting horrendously lost in the process.

One developer kindly published a very detailed workflow with suggestions on how to manage an open-source project’s repo — a far more popular and complex project than any of mine — and I adopted a lot of his techniques.

The issue this gave rise to, though, was the more frequent and complex use of branches. It makes sense to keep the “master” branch holding the latest stable release — all committed, tested, and working — and to do development on side branches that then get pulled or merged for the next release. And I found myself getting lost more and more often, forgetting which branch, dub-directory, and even project i was working in.

Fortunately there was a solution in the same post: a modified bash prompt that shows the information. The version presented didn’t quite work for me, as I’m not solely a developer and so needed a prompt that works outside git repos as well as inside them. I developed the following shell function for use in my ~/.bashrc configuration file:

# Show git project, branch, and prefix in command prompt when we're in a repo
brname () {
    ingit=`git rev-parse --is-inside-work-tree 2>&1 2>/dev/null`
    if [ "$ingit" == "true" ]; then
        gitdir=$(git rev-parse --show-toplevel)
        prompt=$(basename $gitdir)
        branch=$(git rev-parse --abbrev-ref HEAD 2>/dev/null)
        if [ "$branch" != "master" ]; then
        subdir=$(git rev-parse --show-prefix)
        if [ -n "$subdir" ]; then
            prompt="$prompt $subdir"
        echo "[$prompt]"
        echo "simon"
export PS1='$(brname)> '

Inside a repo this changes the bash prompt to show the project name, branch, and prefix path within the repo. Outside a repo, it just shows my name.