Emacs, scripting and anything text oriented.

Using Git Delta with Magit

Kaushal Modi

Git Delta is a command line utility that beautifies git diffs in the terminal. But did you know that it can do the same in Magit too?

Delta is a highly configurable  I am not kidding. Check out the output of delta --help. command line utility that makes the git diffs look better, while also syntax-highlighting  Difftastic is another popular diff tool which compares files based on their syntax. I like reviewing git diffs from within Emacs (Magit). But difftastic does not support Magit. the code in the diffs.

When I first heard of “syntax highlighted diffs”, I wasn’t sure what that meant. If you are in the same boat, here’s a screenshot that shows that.

Figure 1: Example of how delta renders a git diff for an ox-hugo commit

Figure 1: Example of how delta renders a git diff for an ox-hugo commit

But I do most of my git operations including viewing of diffs from within Emacs, using Magit.

        .. and thankfully delta works with Magit!

Below screenshot shows how the same diff looks like in Magit.

Figure 2: Example of how magit-delta renders a git diff for an ox-hugo commit

Figure 2: Example of how magit-delta renders a git diff for an ox-hugo commit

The magit-delta Emacs package makes this possible, which is also developed by the delta author Dan Davison.

If the line numbers are enabled in delta, they mess up the interactive expanding and collapsing of diffs in Magit. See Magit Delta Issue # 13 for more details.

Now, I am alright with not seeing the line numbers in Magit. But I really liked to see the line numbers in the side-by-side view in the terminal. Luckily, if disabled the line-numbers feature but enabled the side-by-side view, I got what I wanted!

  1. Line numbers are disabled in Magit and expanding/collapsing of diffs works correctly. I am also really glad that I don’t see the side-by-side view in Magit diffs even when I enable that feature in delta, because I like to have my Emacs buffers only about 90 characters wide.
  2. Line numbers and side-by-side view are enabled in the terminal.

I’ll end this post with pointers to installing delta and magit-delta and how to configure them.

Installing delta #

You can install delta (it’s called git-delta in some package managers) using one of the methods listed in its manual, or you can download → extract its statically compiled binary for your OS from its GitHub Releases page.

Installing magit-delta #

Once you put this snippet in your Emacs config and evaluate it, it will install this package and enable the magit-delta-mode in the Magit buffers.

(use-package magit-delta
  :ensure t
  :hook (magit-mode . magit-delta-mode))
Code Snippet 1: Installing and enabling magit-delta using use-package

Configuring delta #

Here’s a snippet for delta configuration from my .gitconfig. It’s mostly the same as the one in delta’s the Getting Started guide. The main difference in my workaround for the magit-delta issue.

    pager = delta

    diffFilter = delta --color-only
    useBuiltin = false # required for git 2.37.0

    colorMoved = default

    # https://github.com/dandavison/magit-delta/issues/13
    # line-numbers = true    # Don't do this.. messes up diffs in magit
    side-by-side = true      # Display a side-by-side diff view instead of the traditional view
    # navigate = true          # Activate diff navigation: use n to jump forwards and N to jump backwards
    relative-paths = true    # Output all file paths relative to the current directory
    file-style = yellow
    hunk-header-style = line-number syntax
Code Snippet 2: My configuration for delta in .gitconfig

Versions used: delta 0.13.0 , emacs 28.1.90 , git 2.37.0
This is Day 36 of #100DaysToOffload.