To some, the idea of a graphical Git client is sacrilege. Git is a command line tool, after all. It’s actually one of the easiest command-line tools to use, so why use a GUI in the first place? That comes down to the visual areas that the command line falls short in. GUI clients are for graphs, charts, highlighting, and all the nice things that help to wrap your head around the complexities of your project. These clients are all rich in those very things, and any one would be an excellent addition to your Git workflow.
The following are some of the best graphical Git clients for Linux.
1. Git Cola
Git Cola has been around for a decent amount of time, and it’s a classic example of an open-source Linux tool that does exactly what it needs to, without getting bogged down with a lot of unnecessary extras.
Git Cola is written in Python and features a GTK interface, so it integrates perfectly with most desktops. Since it’s open source, it’s also available in most distribution repositories, making it easy to update and maintain.
The interface is broken down into four panes. Each displays a separate aspect of your project’s Git repo. It lets you easily visualize the difference between commits in your files, and you can quickly navigate and browse between branches.
GitEye is a cross-platform freeware client for Git. It may not be open source, but it is freely available and free to use. Interestingly, GitEye doesn’t install on your computer. Instead, it comes packaged in binary form, and you can simply run it from its own directory.
GitEye brings with it a more detailed interface. It has an excellent file tree browser to the left of the screen. GitEye also makes browsing and checking out your branches very simple. Additionally, GitEye has some neat features that allow you to track the history of a file and manage builds of a project via a build server.
Gitg is the default graphical Git client for the GNOME desktop. Like many newer GNOME utilities, it’s sort of bare bones in appearance. GNOME’s minimalist design choices don’t mean that Gitg can’t do exactly what you need it to.
Gitg has a great visualization of the project’s history, and it lets you select your branch on the fly. Its commit screen is a little confusing at first, but its actually very easy to use once you get the hang of it. It presents you with the staged changes, and you can easily evaluate them right there and create your commit.
Gitg is an excellent option if you’re looking for something simple that fits right in with your desktop.
If Gitg is the GNOME client, QGit is the Plasma/Qt one. QGit has been around for a while, and it’s really refined its approach. QGit also has an excellent visual representation of your project’s history that’s intuitive to navigate. You can not only see what the commit was but the affected files as well.
It also has a great file tree browser that lets you dig through your project in a snap and view files and the changes made to them by revision.
QGit taks a more classic approach to its controls. Most of them are in the toolbar to the top of the window. You can manage everything from your own commits to branches from there. It’s nothing groundbreaking but is effective.
SmartGit is another proprietary option. This time, though, it’s packaged for use on Linux systems. SmartGit is free for personal use but does require a license for the enterprise. SmartGit looks and feels a bit like an IDE. If you like programs like Netbeans and Eclipse, chances are SmartGit is for you.
It’s packed with utilities and tools, and it makes navigating your project a breeze. It also has some excellent highlighting and visualization for your commits and changes to your projects.
SmartGit’s toolbar is among the best. It makes most of your common tasks as effortless as possible while still allowing you maximum control when you need it.
All of these clients are great. The choice between them comes down to a matter of taste. Remember, you can use Git comfortably without a GUI, so this choice is all about extras. Which one appeals to you most, and do you think it will help with the way you work?
This article was first published in January 2012 and was updated in June 2018.