An Introduction to Trunk-Based Development

An Introduction to Trunk-Based Development

In the fast-paced world of software development, efficiency and rapid iteration are crucial. Trunk-based development (TBD) emerges as a version control strategy that prioritises these aspects. This article dives into the core concepts of TBD, explores its benefits, and sheds light on how it can enhance your development workflow.

Understanding the Trunk: A Centralised Codebase

Imagine a central repository, the “trunk,” that stores the entirety of your codebase in a continuously deployable state. This forms the foundation of TBD. Developers work on small, incremental changes and integrate them frequently into the trunk. Short-lived feature branches, if used at all, only exist for a brief period to isolate small chunks of work.

Here’s a diagram illustrating the core idea:

|        Trunk       | (Continuously Deployable)
+---------+     +---------+     +---------+
| Feature |-----| Feature |-----| Feature |
|  A      |     |  B      |     |  C      |
+---------+     +---------+     +---------+
     |                     |
     v                     v
+--------------------+   +--------------------+
|      Bug Fix       |   |      Release       |
+--------------------+   +--------------------+

In contrast to traditional feature branching, where developers work on isolated branches for extended periods, TBD emphasises continuous integration. This fosters a more collaborative environment and minimises the risk of merge conflicts.

Benefits of Embracing the Trunk

  • Faster Delivery: Frequent integrations into the trunk enable quicker delivery of new features and bug fixes.
  • Reduced Merge Hell: Smaller, more frequent changes lead to less complex merges, minimising merge conflicts.
  • Improved Code Quality: Continuous integration with automated testing surfaces issues early in the development cycle.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: Working on a shared trunk fosters better communication and code ownership within the team.

Putting TBD into Practice

Here are some key practices to effectively implement TBD:

  • Automated Testing: A robust suite of automated tests ensures the integrity of the codebase with every integration.
  • Continuous Integration (CI): Every code change triggers an automated build and test process, providing immediate feedback.
  • Feature Toggles: To manage unfinished features, utilise feature toggles to hide them from end-users until they are fully functional.
  • Code Reviews: Regular code reviews maintain code quality and identify potential issues before integration.

Scalability and Considerations

While TBD offers numerous advantages, it’s essential to acknowledge its limitations. Complex projects with larger teams might require adaptations to the core principles. Here are some pointers:

  • Scaled TBD: For larger teams, consider a hybrid approach where short-lived integration branches act as buffers before merging into the trunk.
  • Communication is Key: Effective communication is paramount to avoid conflicts and ensure everyone is aware of ongoing changes.


Trunk-based development offers a compelling approach for streamlining development workflows and accelerating software delivery. By prioritising continuous integration and collaboration, TBD empowers teams to deliver high-quality software efficiently. If you’re looking to optimse your development process and embrace a more agile approach, consider incorporating TBD into your development strategy.