Git Instaweb Example

1. Introduction

In this post, we feature a comprehensive Example on Git Instaweb. Git is a popular version control system. Git comes with a command-line utility to manage file repositories. Using the command-line utility can be cumbersome for certain tasks. Fortunately, Git comes with other tools you can use to work with your repositories. GitWeb is one of these tools.

GitWeb is a Git web interface used for browsing Git repositories. Additionally, you can use GitWeb to:

  • view the content of a file
  • search for commits by author (the committer)
  • examine commits, commit messages and changes made by a given commit
  • view differences between file versions
  • download a snapshot of a project
  • see logs for a given branch

Also included as part of the Git distribution is Instaweb. Instaweb is a script used to set up a temporary instance of GitWeb on a web server for browsing local repositories. Instaweb requires, at a minimum, a light-weight server such as lighttpd or webrick.

(Note: If you want a more permanent solution to view repositories, you will need to set up GitWeb on a traditional web server, such as Apache. For instructions, visit

1.1 Tools Used in this Example

  • Maven 3.5.4
  • WEBrick

Maven downloads are available here:
Instructions for installing Maven are provided here:

WEBrick is a Ruby library used to create simple HTTP web servers. Ruby is pre-installed on macOS.

Note: This example was created on the macOS platform. Git for Windows includes Git GUI, a tool that provides much of the same functionality demonstrated in this example.

2. Git Instaweb Example

In this example, we will add a Maven project to a Git repository and demonstrate some of the tasks we can perform with Instaweb.

2.1 Create a Maven Project

Create a directory in your file system. Open a terminal (shell) in that same directory and execute the following Maven goal:

$ mvn archetype:generate -DartifactId=my-app -DarchetypeArtifactId=maven-archetype-quickstart -DinteractiveMode=false

The process may take a while to complete if you have just installed Maven. You may also need to execute the command a couple of times before it succeeds.

Maven Project Creation Output

[INFO] ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
[INFO] Using following parameters for creating project from Old (1.x) Archetype: maven-archetype-quickstart:1.0
[INFO] ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
[INFO] Parameter: basedir, Value: /Users/gilbertlopez
[INFO] Parameter: package, Value:
[INFO] Parameter: groupId, Value:
[INFO] Parameter: artifactId, Value: my-app
[INFO] Parameter: packageName, Value:
[INFO] Parameter: version, Value: 1.0-SNAPSHOT
[INFO] project created from Old (1.x) Archetype in dir: /Users/gilbertlopez/gitexample/my-app
[INFO] ------------------------------------------------------------------------
[INFO] ------------------------------------------------------------------------
[INFO] Total time: 6.800 s
[INFO] Finished at: 2018-08-22T12:22:14-07:00
[INFO] ------------------------------------------------------------------------

2.2 Create a Local Repository

While in the same directory, run the following command to initialize a Git repository:

$ git init

Git init Command Output

Initialized empty Git repository in /Users/gilbertlopez/gitexample/.git/

This directory is now a Git repository and a folder “.git” with the repository metadata has been generated.

(Note: This folder is hidden by default as you would, typically, not edit its contents.)

Next, check the status with the following command:

$ git status

Git status Command Output

On branch master

Initial commit

Untracked files:
  (use "git add ..." to include in what will be committed)


nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track) 

We have a project in the repository directory, but Git cannot track it until we add it to the repository.

2.3 Add and Commit the Project to the Repository

Let’s add the project to the repository. Run the following command (don’t forget the dot at the end):

$ git add .

This will add all the files and folders of the current directory, recursively, to the repository index. The project files and folders are now in the staging area. You can run the ‘git status’ command to see the changes that are to be committed.

Git status Command Output

$ git status
On branch master

Initial commit

Changes to be committed:
  (use "git rm --cached ..." to unstage)

	new file:   my-app/pom.xml
	new file:   my-app/src/main/java/com/jcg/app/
	new file:   my-app/src/test/java/com/jcg/app/

To commit the files from the staging area to the repository, run the following command:

$ git commit -m 'Initial commit of project'

Note: The -m option allows us to add a commit message inline.

Git commit Command Output

[master (root-commit) e682818] initial commit of project
 3 files changed, 69 insertions(+)
 create mode 100644 my-app/pom.xml
 create mode 100644 my-app/src/main/java/com/jcg/app/
 create mode 100644 my-app/src/test/java/com/jcg/app/

2.4 Start Git Instaweb

Now that the files have been committed, run the instaweb script. This will initialize an instance of GitWeb and open a view of the repository in the default browser at

$ git instaweb -d webrick

We are specifying WEBrick as the web server since it is already installed on macOS. For more configuration options see the Instaweb documentation here:

Git Instaweb - Project View
Project View

The elapsed time of the last commit is shown under ‘Last Change’. Click on ‘tree’ to see the top directory of the project. (‘Tree’ allows you to drill down in the directory hierarchy.)

Git Instaweb - Tree View
Tree View

The tree view displays the files and/or folders in the current directory that have been committed to the repository. You can also download the project from this view by clicking ‘snapshot’ in the menu bar. Next, click on ‘commit’ in the menu bar.

Git Instaweb - Commit View
Commit View

The commit view displays details about the ‘commit’ that was previously executed.

Return to the previous page and click ‘tree’. The contents of the ‘my-app’ folder are displayed.

Git Instaweb - Tree View
Tree View

pom.xml has options to view the history of the file and to view the current version of the file, as you can see by clicking ‘blob’.

Git Instaweb - Blob View
Blob View

Return to the previous page and click ‘tree’ next to ‘src’.

Git Instaweb - Tree View
Tree View

As you can witness, ‘tree’ applies to directories while ‘blob’ applies to files. Now, click on commitdiff in the menu bar.

Git Instaweb - Commit Difference View
Commit Difference View

The commitdiff view shows differences between versions of committed files. At the moment, there is only one version, the one from the initial commit.

2.5 Edit and Commit the Change

Make a change to in the my-app/src/main/java/com/jcg/app/ directory. For example:


 * Hello world!
public class App
    public static void main( String[] args )
        System.out.println( "Hello Universe!" );

Save the file and run the ‘git status’ command.

$ git status
On branch master
Changes not staged for commit:
  (use "git add ..." to update what will be committed)
  (use "git checkout -- ..." to discard changes in working directory)

	modified:   my-app/src/main/java/com/jcg/app/

no changes added to commit (use "git add" and/or "git commit -a")

Now add the modified file to the staging area and commit the change.

$ git add .
$ git commit -m 'Updated greeting'
[master aa73dca] Updated greeting
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+), 1 deletion(-)

Return to the browser and refresh the page.

Git Instaweb - Commit View Updated
Updated Commit View

The change is color coded with red for what was removed and green for what was added. Click ‘side by side’ in the menu bar.

Git Instaweb - Side by Side View
Side by Side View

Finally, click ‘log’. The log view will display information about all commits executed in the repository.

Git Instaweb - Log View
Log View

3. Summary

In this example, we demonstrated how to use Instaweb for browsing a local Git repository and featured some of the most common tasks that can be performed with the tool.

Gilbert Lopez

Gilbert Lopez is an application developer and systems integration developer with experience building business solutions for large and medium-sized companies. He has worked on many Java EE projects. His roles have included lead developer, systems analyst, business analyst and consultant. Gilbert graduated from California State University in Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business.
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