First, clone a remote Git repository and cd into it:

$ git clone git://example.com/myproject
$ cd myproject

Next, look at the local branches in your repository:

$ git branch
* master

But there are other branches hiding in your repository! See these using the -a flag:

$ git branch -a
* master
  remotes/origin/HEAD
  remotes/origin/master
  remotes/origin/v1.0-stable
  remotes/origin/experimental

To take a quick peek at an upstream branch, check it out directly:

$ git checkout origin/experimental

To work on that branch, create a local tracking branch, which is done automatically by:

$ git checkout experimental

Branch experimental set up to track remote branch experimental from origin.
Switched to a new branch 'experimental'

Here, “new branch” simply means that the branch is taken from the index and created locally for you. As the previous line tells you, the branch is being set up to track the remote branch, which usually means the origin/branch_name branch.

Your local branches should now show:

$ git branch
* experimental
  master

You can track more than one remote repository using git remote:

$ git remote add win32 git://example.com/users/joe/myproject-win32-port
$ git branch -a
* master
  remotes/origin/HEAD
  remotes/origin/master
  remotes/origin/v1.0-stable
  remotes/origin/experimental
  remotes/win32/master
  remotes/win32/new-widgets

At this point, things are getting pretty crazy, so run gitk to see what’s going on:

$ gitk --all &