How can you use git diff to see the changes made in the staging area?

Git diff is a powerful tool that allows you to see the differences between commits, commit and working tree, etc. The changes made in the staging area, however, are typically viewed using git diff --staged or git diff --cached.

The staging area (also referred to as the “index”) is the preparation area where git keeps track of changes that are ready to be committed. When you add changes with the git add command, you are adding changes to the staging area.

To view the changes that have been added to the staging area but not yet committed, you can use git diff --staged or git diff --cached. Both commands work the same way.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the process:

  1. Open your terminal and navigate to your git repository.
  2. If you want to see the changes that are staged (i.e., changes that have been added but not committed), use the command: git diff --staged or git diff --cached
  3. The output will show the changes between the last commit and the current staging area. This is shown in a standard diff format, with deletions marked in red and additions in green.
$ git diff --staged 

$ git diff --cached

A thing to remember is that git diff by itself without the --staged or --cached option shows the changes that are not yet staged (i.e., changes in the working directory that you haven’t yet run git add on). This is a common source of confusion.

In a nutshell, here’s what each command provides:

  • git diff: Shows difference between Working Directory and Staging Area.
  • git diff --staged or git diff --cached: Shows difference between Staging Area and the last commit.

Understanding how to view the differences at various stages of your git workflow is essential for accurately tracking your work and making sure the correct changes are committed.