I have a remote branch remote-branch-long-name. When I magit checkout with helm completion I can type remote-branch and origin/remote-branch-long-name will show up as an option. The issue is that to checkout this branch locally, I actually cannot switch to that branch, I need to switch to remote-branch-long-name (without the origin/ prefix), since helm doesn't provide that as a completion option, I have to manually type the entire branch name out.

Is there another function I should be using for this use case or do I have to hack a function together?

2 Answers 2


It sounds like the problem you are trying to solve is not the problem you are encountering. Git doesn't allow you to work locally with remote branches (the origin/remote-branch-long-name you see is just a tracking branch; you can't work with it directly) and Magit is guiding you toward the intended workflow.

Since you want to work with origin/remote-branch-long-name you should probably run magit-branch-and-checkout (b c). Select origin/remote-branch-long-name and it will prompt you for a local branch name and will default to remote-branch-long-name. This gives you the local branch need to make your changes. When are done with your changes and push to origin/remote-branch-long-name it will update the remote tracking branch.

You can have local branches with a slash in them, but using a remote name in a local branch name can make things very confusing. Git remembers which remote a local branch was checked out from, so you don't need to track it yourself.

For a more complete explanation than my answer here (!) you find this page a to be good overview about remotes.

  • 17
    I think the disconnect here is that the Magit flow is different from the git flow. If you run git checkout foo, and foo is not a branch, but origin/foo is, git will create a new branch foo and set it to track origin/foo. So git teaches you to think "I just checkout foo, and git does everything necessary". But this does not work with magit; running magit-branch-and-checkout is the way to go.
    – zck
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 20:56

Since magit v2.12.0, there's a command magit-branch-checkout, bound to b l (Checkout local branch), that does exactly what you want. See the doc for details.

  • I did F p but I don't see origin/name-of-my-branch when I do b c. After running the command git pull origin I'm able to b l to it. Why does pulling through magit not work the same way as pulling through git?
    – user18669
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 16:01
  • Assuming that origin is your push remote... You've used two different commands. b c and b l read the branch argument differently.
    – phils
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 8:38
  • what I'm saying is that I have the branch pushed up on github but I don't have it locally. neither command lets me use it's name until I pull using the git command. How do I pull it through magit?
    – user18669
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:25
  • 1
    F p only fetches the branch you're pulling from (you'll see from the process log that Magit passes the <refspec> argument). Use f p to do a general git fetch, and then b l will know what origin/name-of-my-branch is.
    – phils
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 5:01
  • git pull on the command line also fetching other branches by default is a slightly weird quirk, so using that command purely for that side-effect is an equally quirky workflow. If fetching other branches is the goal, then git fetch is the appropriate command.
    – phils
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 5:07

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