Restrict GitHub branches to specific prefixes

Many people follow some kind of naming format for their branches. Be it because they're using GitHub Flow or Git Flow or because they've created their own meaningful naming patterns.

Restrict GitHub branches to specific prefixes
Photo by : Train Light Signal, used under Creative Commons

With the new Rulesets you can enforce branches with specific patterns. It was a bit confusing to me at first, because I had to think in inverse to make this rule work.

If you are on GitHub Enterprise you can use the metadata restrictions feature of the new Rulesets:

Create a metadata restriction which enforces a regex on the branch name
Available rules for rulesets - GitHub Enterprise Cloud Docs
Learn which rules you can add to a ruleset to protect specific branches and tags in a repository.

But if you are on a different plan (free, team), here's a trick that will also do the job.

Create a rule that restricts the creation of any branch **, then selectively excludes prefixes from this restriction:

Include pattern:

  • **

Exclude pattern:

  • fix/**/*
  • release/**/*
  • main

Then turn on ✅ Restrict creations.

In case you need specific GitHub apps (such as Dependabot and Renovate or Azure Pipelines) to create arbitrary branch names, you can exclude them from the policy: