SourceTree versus Gitk

Git is a command line focused tool with hundreds of options. You can even visually see a graph of commit history in the terminal using git log with –graph. The default visual git tool is gitk which makes a reasonable GUI client for digging through history or doing ad-hoc code reviews.

A few years ago someone suggested looking at Atlasssian’s SourceTree as a better option. I’ve used Atlassian tools in the past and generally found them to be well designed a useful. As it’s a free tool it was an easy option.

SourceTree has been marketed in many ways as a visual tool for users new to git. I think it’s probably a bit dangerous to use in this way. You’re better off learning the simple workflow through something like Try Git and sticking to the command line. SourceTree can be a a great supplement showing you in a visual way exactly what’s going on.

I use SourceTree in an entirely read-only mode. It’s easy to see the various branches and merges and walk through history. Since we currently don’t use Gitlab or a similar tool for git I use it for ad-hoc code reviews. It’s easy enough to step through commits fairly quickly. When I have comments I simply screen capture the view from SourceTree and attach it to a simple email. It’s primitive, but effective enough. Other than that my most common use case is perusing stashes as I sometimes let things stack up there and I can quickly bring them up to see if there’s anything worth keeping.

After three years it still serves my purpose much better than gitk and I find the layout more efficient and powerful.