Basic Git and GitHub workflow
This guide is for anyone who is just starting with Git and GitHub. This will provide you a basic git workflow on how to fork a repository or create a repository in GitHub and work from your local workstation. Let’s get started
Before we begin with commands let’s understand what is git and how it works
Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency
Git works based on moving contents to different layers. The following diagram shows the git workflow
1. Working directory
Any directory on your local system can be a working directory for a Git repository.
2. Staging Area
This is an intermediate layer where you can move the files you want to commit and finalized with changes. Having this layer gives the flexibility for the user to select the files that should go in a commit.
3. Local Repository
The local repository is the git repository that exists on the local workstation. A local repository is created by cloning a repo or by running an initialization command.
4. Remote Repository
The remote repository is where you share your code for collaboration (like GitHub)
Now we will see these with the help of git commands
Pre-requisite: set git configs
Let’s set these configs before start working with git commands
- Set username and email (This will be used for your commit messages)
git config --global user.name "Your name"
git config --global user.email "Email address"
- Set default editor while working with git
Case 1: Fork another repo for contributing with your changes
Step 1: Fork
The first step is to fork the repo you need to your profile. You can fork the repo by visiting the repo you need in GitHub and in the top right corner you can see a button Fork
Step 2: Clone
Now that you have forked the repo to your profile. Next is to have a copy of that on your workstation. For that go to the repo from your profile. You can see a green button named Code. Click on that and select HTTPS and copy the link displayed and run the git clone command from your terminal or git bash if you are a windows user
git clone <repository link>
Step 3: Change to cloned repo
cd <repo cloned>
Step 4: Set Remote
The next step is to set upstream remote. By default when you clone the repo a remote named as origin will be created based on the repo link. Now you need to set a remote for upstream from which you actually forked repo. This is important for getting updates from upstream from the time you forked.
git remote add upstream <upstream repo link>
Step 5: Create a feature branch
Now you are all set to make changes to the repo. A good way to do that is to create a new branch instead of updating in the default branch. This will help your work organized and you can easily track the features you did. The following command will create a new branch and checkout to that branch
git checkout -b <feature branch name>
Step 6: Make changes
Now you are all set to make changes to the repo. Make changes to required files.
Step 7: Review Changes
First, let’s review which all files that you have changed
Review changes made in branch
So important thing to note here is git diff will display changes from the working directory and staging area
If you want to revert changes did to any file displayed in git status run
git checkout -- <file>
Step 8: Add files changed to the staging area
Now that you have reviewed the files changed and verified they are as expected. Now you can add them to the staging area.
git add -a
If you want to only specific files seen in git status specify file paths instead of
-a in git add command
Step 9: Review files in the staging area (Optional)
This is an optional step just to make sure you moved only required files to the staging area
git diff --cached
This will compare files changed from the last commit and staging area
Step 10: Commit your changes
Now that you have reviewed your changes. It’s time to commit or create a snapshot of your changes at this point in time. It’s advised to give a commit message based on changes you did.
git commit -m "Commit message"
Step 11: Push your changes to Github
To push your changes to your Github repo
git push origin <feature branch name>
Step 12: Pulling changes from upstream repo
So now that you have a repo in your local workstation. But after you have forked the repo there were some updates done in the upstream repo from which you actually forked. To be on the same page you need these changes in your local workstation. To do that you need to pull changes from upstream. For this reason, we had set a remote named upstream earlier in Step 4. Run the following command to pull changes.
git pull upstream <branch in upstream from which you need changes> --rebase
If you want to pull changes from a branch named patch1 in upstream you will use
git pull upstream patch1 --rebase
Follow this guide if you encounter any merge conflicts
Case 2: You already have a project in your local workstation but want to push it to GitHub
Step 1: Initialize your project folder as a git repo
Since you already have a project in your local workstation and all you need is to push this to GitHub you need to initialize that folder as git repo first. From your project folder run
Step 2: Commit your changes after reviewing
Following the same steps as above as Case 1, review your files and commit your changes. Note that
git diff won’t show any output for newly created files
Step 3: Create a repo in your GitHub matching the same name as your project folder
You can find an option to create a new repository in the top right corner of your GitHub main page (+ sign near your profile pic). Just give your name to your repository and click Create repository. You can skip options mentioned in Initialize this repository with
Step 4: Push your changes GitHub repo
Since you created an empty repo it will display options on your repo page on how you can push your changes. You can look at instructions under …or push an existing repository from the command line section
git remote add origin <github repo link>
git branch -M main
git push -u origin main
Basically, you need to add remote from your local workstation to the newly created repo, rename your branch to main (this is needed since git client still creates default branch name as master and GitHub creates main as default branch), and then push your changes
I hope this article helped those who are just starting with Git and GitHub. Thank you for reading!