How to Use GitHub: A Guide for Beginners

GitHub – anyone familiar with the world of coding has undoubtedly heard the name before. If you’re not familiar, you might be wondering how to use GitHub?

The largest and most popular coding repository in the world, GitHub is a great place to discover your own code, share passion projects, and show off your resume. It’s one of the best examples of coding being a collaborative effort.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything there is to know about the platform, as well as how to use GitHub to its full potential.

What Is GitHub?

One of the world’s most popular code hosting platforms, GitHub is where over 83 million developers converge to store, track and collaborate on their software projects. 

The cloud-based service was founded in 2007 by friends Tom Preston-Werner, Chris Wanstrath, and PJ Hyett, who apparently intended for it to only be a ‘weekend project’ at the time. It didn’t take long for them to discover and make use of the potential it had to grow however; after only three months of weekend-long working sessions they were ready and eager to unveil GitHub to the world.

What Is GitHub Used For?

GitHub has had the major impact of helping to facilitate collaborative coding on a much larger scale than ever before. Its cloud-based website and app are used by developers all over the world to share code repositories and track changes made to them.

Git, the open source distributed version control system that GitHub is based on, enables developers to take a project and break it down into smaller pieces that can be worked on independently before being brought back together.

This makes it much easier for large coding projects to be completed by multiple people without running into the problems of merge conflicts (when two different versions of code are being worked on simultaneously and try to merge together).

How to Use GitHub in 8 Easy Steps

If you’re new to GitHub, don’t worry – it’s actually very simple to use once you get the hang of the basic concepts. Here’s a quick run-down of how it works:

Step 1: Create a GitHub Account

The first thing you need to do is create a GitHub account. You can do this by going to the GitHub website and entering your details into the ‘Sign up for GitHub’ form.

Step 2: Install Git on Your Computer

In order to work with code repositories on GitHub, you need to have the Git tool installed on your computer. If you don’t already have it, you can download it for free from the official Git website.    

Step 3: Create a Git Repository

A git repository is a folder (directory) that contains all of the files for a particular project, as well as a number of important files used by Git to track changes made to the code.

You can create a new git repository by clicking on the ‘+’ icon in the top right-hand corner of the GitHub webpage and selecting ‘New repository’.

Step 4: Add a File to the Git Repository

Once you have created a git repository, you can add files to it using the ‘git add’ command. This tells git which files you want to track changes for.

Step 5: Make Changes and Commit in Git

Now that you have added a file to your git repository, you can make changes to it and commit (save) those changes using the ‘git commit’ command.

Step 6: Create a Git Branch

A git branch is a way to create a new version of your code without affecting the master (production) version. This is useful if you want to experiment with new features or fixes without risk of breaking the working code.

You can create a new git branch by clicking on the ‘Branch’ button in your repository, entering a name and selecting ‘Create’.

Step 7: Create a Git Pull Request

A git pull request is a way of requesting that someone else (usually a collaborator or maintainer) review and merge your changes into the main branch of a git repository.

You can create a new git pull request by clicking on the ‘Pull request’ button in your repository, entering a title and description for your changes, and selecting ‘Create pull request’.

Step 8: Merge Your Git Pull Request

Once your pull request has been reviewed and approved, you can merge it into the main branch of the git repository by clicking on the ‘Merge pull request’ button.

And that’s it! You now know the basics of how to use GitHub.

Basic Git Commands Every Programmer Should Know

If you’re going to be working with code repositories on GitHub, it’s important to know the basics of how git works. Here are some of the most common git commands.

Git Help

This command will bring up the git documentation, which can be helpful if you’re unsure about how to use a particular git command.

Git Init

This command is used to initialize a new Git repository. It creates the necessary files and folders that Git uses to track changes made to your code.

Git Add

This command is used to add files to your git repository. It tells Git which changes you want to track.

Git Commit

This command is used to save (commit) changes made to your code. Each commit has a message attached to it, which describes the changes that were made.

Git Branch

This command is used to create, list, rename, and delete a branch.  A branch is a copy of your code that you can experiment with without affecting the master version.

Git Merge

This command is used to merge branches together. This is usually done when you want to combine changes made in one branch with another branch.

Git Config

This command is used to set configuration options for your git repository on a global or local project level. You can use this function to customize how git works.

Git Status

This command is used to view the current status of your git repository. It will list any modified or untracked files, as well as any changes that have been made but not yet committed.

Git Push

This command is used to push (upload) your local changes to a remote git repository (usually on GitHub). This allows others to view and collaborate on your code.

Git Pull

This command is used to pull (download) changes from a remote git repository (usually on GitHub) into your local repository. This is useful if you want to get the latest changes made by others.

Git Checkout

‘Git Checkout’ allows you to navigate between two different branches within a Git repository. The most common use of this command is to switch to a different branch and make it the new HEAD branch.

GitHub for Beginners FAQ

While GitHub is a revolutionary tool that’s made a large impact on the software development community, it can still be confusing for beginners. Here are some frequently asked questions that can help you better understand how GitHub works.

What Is Git?

Git is a version control system that allows you to track, manage, and merge changes made to your code. It’s the software that powers GitHub, and it’s used by millions of developers around the world.

What Is a Git Repository?

A git repository is a place where your code is stored. It contains all of the files and folders that make up your project, as well as all of the history for those files.

What Is a Git Branch?

A git branch is a way to create a new version of your code without impacting its master version. This is useful for making changes and testing them before merging them into the main branch.

What Does Git Commit Do?

The git commit command is a means of capturing a snapshot of your project’s currently staged changes. These committed snapshots can be considered safe versions of the project, as Git will never modify them unless you explicitly ask.

What Is a GitHub Pull Request?

A GitHub pull request is a way for you to ask others to review and merge your changes into their project. This is useful for contributing new features or fixes to someone else’s project, or for getting feedback on your own changes.

How to Clone a Git Repository?

In order to clone a git repository, you will need to use the git clone command. This command will copy the entire repository from the remote location to your local machine.

What Is a Version Control System?

A version control system is a tool that helps you manage changes to your code. It allows you to keep track of different versions of your code, as well as merge changes from one version to another. Git is one type of version control system.

While it can be confusing for beginners, there are many resources available to help you learn how to use GitHub effectively. With a little practice, you’ll be able to do so like a pro! Thanks for reading.


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