David Harting

April 12, 2021

How to delete all but one local git branch

This post was originally published at davidharting.com on July 17, 2019.

Here is a command to delete all local branches except for master.

git branch | grep -v "master" | xargs git branch -D

Now, let’s break down what each of these does.

1. git branch

This prints all your local branches to standard out. Each branch goes on it’s own line.

2. grep -v “master”

The grep tool finds regular expression matches. It can be used against a file, but in this case we are “piping” the output of git branch into grep, so it will find matches against that.

The -v option on grep is sort of like inversing the operation. Rather than selecting all the lines that match “master,” we will match all the lines that do not match “master.”

So in step 1, we got a list of branches. This step is essentially just filtering out the master branch from that list.

If you want to exclude more branches, just substitute master for a regular expression that would match all the branches you want to preserve.

3. xargs git branch -D

The simple part of this is git branch -D which deletes a local branch. You just put the name of the branch you want to delete on the end.

Now we have our filtered list of branches that we want to delete piped as input to xargs. The xargs tool will take each line going in and pass that line is as an argument to a command.

To break that down further, the argument we are passing into xargs is itself a command (git branch -D).

The input piped into xargs is a list of branches, which we want to become arguments for the git branch -D command.

xargs will essentially iterate through each line of standard input and invoke git branch -D line-of-standard-input for us.