GitLens was developed in 2016 as a lightweight extension that supercharges the capabilities of Git within VS Code. Today, with over 14 million installs and counting, GitLens is the most popular Git extension in the VS Code marketplace and one of the most widely-used extensions overall.
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GitLens before GitKraken
To share a little information about why I created GitLens, let’s start by going all the way back to my very early days as a budding developer. When I first discovered Microsoft Visual Basic, I was hooked. I could imagine something and bring that vision to life very quickly. One of my first apps was a shareware tool to show desktop notifications for POP3 email accounts. It became so popular at launch that I effectively launched a DDoS attack on my college network which caused an outage for a day or so. Oops. And ever since, I was hooked on creating and building tools to scratch my own itch to make the things I managed better, easier, or faster.
Fast forward many years, I discovered another Microsoft tool: VS Code, a beautiful, fast, streamlined, just-in-time IDE, and I quickly fell in love. Once VS Code introduced an extensibility model, I jumped right in. I had been wanting to do more with TypeScript and decided to try to build a tool to help me and my team be more productive with Git.
Throughout my career, I’ve always learned so much from a codebase by diving into its history, especially when trying to fix bugs or evolve legacy code I didn’t understand yet. And I never found any good tools to make that process easier and less painful. So I set out to create an extension to enable VS Code to provide quick insights into that rich history and make it easy to go back in time and see how the code evolved.
Fast forward to today: GitLens has grown to provide a wide array of tools and visualizations to unlock the untapped knowledge within a repository to help you better understand code. With better understanding comes greater productivity and better outcomes.
Those are the foundational goals of GitLens, and the core features that enable this magic won’t be going anywhere, nor will they stagnate. We will also not be taking anything away or limiting access to any existing GitLens features, nor will we ever charge for them.
Why GitLens is Better with GitKraken
I joined the GitKraken team in the fall of 2021 as the Chief Technology Officer, to lead development for GitLens and GitKraken Client. My main motivation for making the move was ensuring a bright future for GitLens. GitLens has more developer talent and money at its disposal than ever before, allowing us to create better features and experiences for all users, including free users with no accounts.
What is GitLens+?
Similar to GitLens, GitLens+ is also free; the primary difference is that GitLens+ requires a GitKraken account (also free) to utilize additional GitLens+ features with local and public repositories.
Our intention with GitLens+ is to create a sustainable model that allows us the ability to continue to heavily invest in the free and open source core of GitLens–features that enable greater productivity, safety, ease-of-use, and more–while also creating a set of additional, but completely optional, GitLens+ features designed specifically for teams.
The GitLens+ features are intended to improve collaboration and visualization, and are still completely free with an account, for use with local and public repositories. These features only become paid when working with private repos.
Current GitLens+ features include Visual File History, allowing you to better process how your codebase is evolving, and Worktrees which allow you to work on multiple branches at the same time.
What’s New in GitLens 12?
If you were a GitLens user before February 2022, you have likely experienced some recent changes to your favorite Git extension for VS Code.
The GitLens 12 release came with numerous product improvements and updates, with the vast majority of the work focusing on the major refactor of GitLens internals to support virtual repositories, officially bringing GitLens to the Web with vscode.dev and github.dev.
As part of the refactoring, we honed in on performance and efficiency, all the way from the GitLens startup experience to Git discovery, repo discovery, Git parsing, blame generation, and more.
Furthermore, a good deal of time was invested in improving existing UX and enhancing existing flows in the GitLens Command Palette, taking advantage of many new VS Code API features.
Lastly, we added autolinked issues and pull requests in comparisons and comparing revisions with stashes.
All of these features are 100% free. No account required.
Is GitLens Still Free?
GitLens is still completely free, and will continue to remain free forever. This includes future improvements and updates that don’t require an account.
If you’re not interested in GitLens+ features, you can hide them with the
GitLens+: Hide GitLens+ Features command in the GitLens Command Palette.
GitKraken Authentication Extension
Let’s start with the good news: this has been completely removed as a dependency and should no longer be causing confusion or annoyance.
To give a brief explanation of why it was added in the first place: we attempted to separate authentication from the core of GitLens, following the same authentication extension patterns that already exist in VS Code for GitHub and Microsoft.
The main motivation for creating a separate authentication extension was threefold:
- It felt odd that GitLens provided GitKraken authentication to VS Code because the VS Code authentication system is “global”.
- We thought it might be valuable to allow for other extensions to use the GitKraken authentication if desired in the future, and it didn’t make sense to have GitLens as a dependency for that.
- We wanted to avoid making GitLens bigger with additional code.
But because this addition caused confusion and some uproar in the community, we took immediate measures to remove it in the least disruptive way possible.
Future Investments in GitLens
What does the future hold for GitLens? We will continue to invest in making the hard-to-use, but powerful features of Git more accessible in VS Code, like merge conflict resolution and comparing the difference between branches, which users are currently only able to visualize in tree view in GitLens.
We plan to bring powerful visualization features like the GitKraken Client commit history graph to GitLens. The graph will help GitLens users verify recent Git actions on the repo and show who made what code changes and when. This is yet another reason joining GitKraken will help drive innovation for GitLens: there’s so much knowledge and experience within the GitKraken teams after 6+ years of building GitKraken Client, the people at GitKraken really understand Git tooling.
With GitLens now being part of the GitKraken family of tools, we’ll be able to evolve GitLens at a faster pace than ever before. Future investments in GitLens will benefit ALL users, free and paid, whether you have an account or not. So, stay-tuned and keep using GitLens to supercharge Git in VS Code!
GitLens+ unlocks additional visualization and team collaboration features, and it’s free!