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How to Checkout Git Tags

Prince Onyeanuna
Prince Onyeanuna

Table of Contents

Version control systems like Git provide developers powerful tools to manage codebases effectively. One essential feature of Git is the ability to create tags, which refer to specific points in your project's repository history. Tags are commonly used to mark releases, milestones, or significant changes in the codebase, making it easier to navigate and reference historical versions of the project.

Sometimes, you may need to access a specific version of your codebase, such as when you want to review an older release or compare changes between different versions. In such cases, checking out Git tags becomes a valuable skill. This article will guide you through the process of checking out tags in Git, covering both local and remote tags and providing best practices for working with tags effectively. By the end of this article, you'll be navigating through your Git repository's history with ease.

Understanding Git Tags

Git tags are references to specific commits in your codebase history. They serve as bookmarks that allow you to mark important points or changes in your project. That way, you can easily refer back to these points later on.

Unlike branches, which move forward as new commits are made, tags are static and do not change once created. They provide a stable reference to a specific commit, making it easier to identify and access historical versions of your repository.

In Git, there are two types of tags:

  • Annotated tags
  • Lightweight tags

Annotated tags

In Git, annotated tags are stored as full objects.. They include additional metadata such as the tagger's name, email, message, etc. Annotated tags are generally preferred for creating release versions or marking significant points in history.

To create an annotated tag, you use the -a option with the git tag command:

git tag -a <tag_name> -m "Tag message"

Lightweight tags

Lightweight tags are essentially just a pointer to a specific commit and don't contain additional metadata like annotated tags. They are created with the git tag command without the -a option.

git tag <tag_name>

Both types of tags serve the same purpose of marking specific points in history, but annotated tags provide more information about the tag itself, such as who created it and why it was created.

How to Create a Tag in Git

Before you can check out a tag, you need to create one. The following steps show you how to create a tag in Git:

Step 1: Check your commit history

Before creating a tag, ensure you are on the one you want to tag. You can use git log to view the commit history and identify the commit you want to tag.

git log

Step 2: Create a tag

To create a tag, use the git tag command followed by the tag name and the commit hash you want to tag. Below is an example of creating a lightweight tag:

git tag V1.0 9a9fa7bf95843d802e9d39714399f40b8b9a0fd8

This command creates a lightweight tag named V1.0 pointing to the commit with the hash 9a9fa7bf95843d802e9d39714399f40b8b9a0fd8.

Step 3: Verify the tag

You can view the tag using the git tag command:

git tag

You'll see a list of tags in your repository. In this case, you should see the tag V1.0 listed.

To see more details about a specific tag, you can use:

git show V1.0

Remote Tags in Git

By default, the tags you create are local to your repository. If you want to share tags with others or collaborate on a project, you have to push your tags to a remote repository. Remote tags help mark releases or share specific points in history with your team members.

To push tags to a remote repository, you can use the git push command with the --tags option. Using this command will push all your local tags to the remote repository.

For the example tag V1.0, you can push it to the remote repository with:

git push origin V1.0

You should get a similar output:

Total 0 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 0 (from 0)
 * [new tag] V1.0 -> V1.0

You can now see the tag V1.0 on your remote repository.

When you clone a repository or fetch changes from a remote repository, Git fetches the commits and branches from the remote repository. By default, Git only fetches the remote branches, not the tags. However, you can fetch tags explicitly using the git fetch command with the --tags option:

git fetch <remote_name> --tags

The remote_name is the repository name from which you want to fetch tags.
Once fetched, you can view the remote tags using the git tag command. By default, Git lists both local and remote tags. To see only remote tags, you can use the git ls-remote command:

git ls-remote --tags <remote_name>

For example, to see remote tags from the origin remote:

git ls-remote --tags origin

You should get the following output:

9a9fa7bf95843d802e9d39714399f40b8b9a0fd refs/tags/V1.0

Checking Out Git Tags

Checking out a Git tag means switching your working directory to the state of the repository at the point in time when that tag was created. When you check out a tag, you're essentially saying you want to work with the codebase as it was at that specific point in its history.

To checkout a Git tag, you typically use the following command:

git checkout <tag_name>

This command will switch your working directory to the state represented by the specified tag. After checking out a tag, you'll be in a "detached HEAD" state, meaning any changes you make won't be on any branch unless you create a new branch from that point.

If you want to create a new branch from a specific tag and switch to it, you can use:

git checkout tags/<tag> -b <branch>

This command creates a new branch at the specified tag and switches to it, allowing you to work on new changes based on that specific version.

Using the example tag V1.0, you can check it out with:

git checkout V1.0

You should see the following output:

After checking out the tag, you can start working on the codebase as it was at the time of the V1.0 tag.

To switch the V1.0 tag and create a new branch from it, you can use:

git checkout tags/v1.0 -b v1.0-branch

This command creates a new branch named v1.0-branch based on the V1.0 tag and switches to it.

You can inspect your changes using git log or git status to see the current state of your repository.

commit 9a9fa7bf95843d802e9d39714399f40b8b9a0fd (HEAD -> v1.0-branch, tag: V1.0)
Author: Aahil, theCr3ator <>
Date: Thu Mar 9 09:36:38 2023 +0100

 Update: "Push image"

Best Practices for Working with Git Tags

When working with Git tags, consider using the following best practices to ensure efficient version control and collaboration:

  1. Use descriptive tag names: Choose descriptive and meaningful names for your tags. Use names that clearly indicate the purpose or significance of the tagged commit, such as version numbers, release names, or milestones.
  2. Semantic versioning: Follow semantic versioning principles (major.minor.patch) when tagging releases. This helps your users understand the significance of each release and ensures compatibility with dependency management systems.
  3. Use annotated tags for releases: Prefer annotated tags over lightweight tags for marking releases. Annotated tags provide additional metadata, such as tagger information and a message, which can be useful for understanding the context of the release.
  4. Tag at stable points: Tag releases at stable points in your project's development lifecycle. This could be after completing significant features, fixing critical bugs, or passing certain quality assurance checkpoints.
  5. Protect tags: Consider configuring your Git repository to prevent accidental deletion or modification of tags, especially for important releases. Git provides mechanisms like branch protection rules and signed tags to enhance tag security.
  6. Push tags to remote repositories: After tagging releases locally, push the tags to remote repositories to share them with other team members or contributors. Use git push --tags to push all tags or git push <remote_name> <tag_name> to push specific tags.
  7. Fetch and verify tags: Regularly fetch tags from remote repositories to ensure you have the latest tagged releases. Verify the integrity of fetched tags by checking signatures, especially for security-sensitive projects.

Benefits of Using Git Checkout for Tags

You can use Git tags and the git checkout command for various reasons, such as navigating your project's history, managing releases, and much more.

The following are some benefits of using git checkout for tags:

  1. Time travel through project history: With Git, every commit represents a snapshot of the project at a specific point in time. git checkout allows you to move through this history effortlessly, enabling you to inspect, test, or work with past versions of the codebase.
  2. Code review and comparison: Accessing specific codebase versions with git checkout is useful for code review purposes. You can easily compare different versions of files or entire branches to identify changes, track down bugs, or understand the evolution of a feature.
  3. Reproduce and debug issues: When you encounter a bug or unexpected behaviour in the current code version, git checkout allows you to switch to the version where the issue originated. This facilitates bug reproduction and debugging by providing a controlled environment for investigation.
  4. Release management: Git tags represent stable points in the project's history, such as releases or milestones. Using git checkout to access tagged versions enables efficient release management, ensuring the code deployed matches the intended release state.
  5. Isolation of changes: git checkout creates a detached HEAD state when switching to specific commits or tags, allowing developers to isolate changes without affecting the current branch. This is useful for testing new features or fixes in isolation before integrating them into the main codebase.


Checking out Git tags is fundamental for navigating your project's history effectively. In this article, you learned how to create tags in Git, push them to remote repositories, and check them out using the git checkout command.

By following the best practices for working with Git tags, you can ensure efficient version control and collaboration within your team.

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Prince Onyeanuna Twitter

Prince is a technical writer and DevOps engineer who believes in the power of showing up. He is passionate about helping others learn and grow through writing and coding.