This page is a GitHub and Git survival kit for people not familiar with these tools! This is not a documentation or tutorial about these tools. Many excellent ones are already available, including:
At first glance, GitHub (and Git) might appear complex with their “workflows.” But, in reality, they are not so much. What makes these tools great is that they allow a clear separation between personal work and what you decide to show or export. Personal work, unlike with tools like SVN, can be versioned and you can work on different things in parallel (branches) very easily.
In the HSF website context, all the shared content is in the project repository - hsf.github.io. The personal environment is made of 2 parts:
Fork button when you are in the project repository. Despite this being a Git repository, you cannot access it directly from your local computer with Git commands (for example, you cannot
git commit changes made on your local computer to it).
git push) your changes to the personal repository (fork) on GitHub, they are not visible by anybody else. Once in the personal repository, it is potentially visible, but you control when you want to submit these changes to the project repository by creating a
pull request: at this point, people can review/comment your changes and people with appropriate permissions can
merge your changes in the project repository.
With this GitHub workflow, the only repository you need to have write access to on GitHub is the personal repository. This ensures that nothing wrong can happen to the project repository because you are not a Git/GitHub expert.
For simple things, there is an alternative to creating a clone on your local computer: you can use the GitHub editor in the web interface. When you save your changes, this commits your changes and you are asked for commit message. Note that this is really limited to situations where your contribution is limited to only one file as you cannot edit several files and commit them together this way. Apart from the management of the Git clone, their workflow for pushing your changes to the project repository remains the same, using pull request.
Sections below give more details on the main steps involved. Examples are based on the HSF web site repository. Note that there is help available for each Git command that can be displayed with:
git help command
To contribute, you definitely need to have a GitHub account: connect to gitHub and follow the instructions.
Once you have an account, if you want to use the full workflow with a clone of the GitHub repository on your local computer, it is recommended to configure your SSK keys that will be used for the authentication: follow the GitHub documentation. Using SSH keys is not a requirement but is recommended: the alternative if you want to contribute is to use
https but, in this case, any interaction with GitHub through the
git command will require that you enter your password…
As explained in the introduction, this involves 2 steps:
Fork button at the top-right of page.
Creating the local clone of your personal fork (assuming your name is
# The local Git repository will be in a directory hsf.github.io in your current directory.
# The exact URL to use is on the right side of the web page when you display the personal fork.
git clone email@example.com:dupont/hsf.github.io.git
# Move in your repository
Connect your local clone to the project repository: as it will be explained in other sections, there are several occasions where you will want to import changes that happened in the project repository into the local clone that you use to develop your contributions. In Git, this involves creating a remote and is done with:
# Later to refer to the project repository, we'll use the remote called upstream
git remote add upstream firstname.lastname@example.org:HSF/hsf.github.io.git
Note that adding a remote adds no information to the repository itself.
This step is about making your changes in your local clone: nothing will be visible on GitHub at this stage. There are many variations of the steps involved here: below are the main/recommended ones.
Get the last updates from the project repository and add them to your local clone. This doesn’t make any change to your local developments (branches):
git fetch upstream
Create a branch for your new contribution. Unlike tools like SVN, branches are cheap, don’t use space and you can have hundred of thems without impact on performances (existing branches can be displayed with
git branch). Here we’ll start a new branch based on the last state of the main project branch called
# New branch will be called mydev1
git checkout -b mydev1 upstream/master
Make your changes: create new files, modify new ones with your preferred editor.
Commit your changes. Git is quite powerful to select what changes you want to make part of a commit: this allows to commit separately several sets of changes made at the same time. For this reason, there is a command
git add than can be used before the commit itself (
git commit). Here we describe the simplest form that you can use if you want all your changes to be part of a single commit (the proposed commands given here are working with Git v1 and v2). When you enter the commit, you’ll be asked for a message: it is important to say in a few words the reason for the change.
# Add all your changes to the next commit
git add .
# -m option can be used to set the commit message rather than being asked for
Note that you can do the cycle edit/commit as many times as you want, until you are satisfied, before pushing your changes.
Publishing changes involves 2 steps (again!):
Pushing your changes to the personal fork on GitHub. This is done on your local machine with the following Git command. Note that the command is executed twice: the first time to check that what will be done is correct, the second to actually do it: this is by no means mandatory but is a best practice, in particular when you are not familiar with Git.
# In this command origin is the Git remote pointing to your fork
# and HEAD is a symbolic name for the current branch.
# After the first push of your branch to GitHub, you can use 'git push' without options
git push --set-upstream origin HEAD -n
# Check what will be done by the command and reexecute without -n to actually do it
git push --set-upstream origin HEAD
Ask for your changes to be integrated into the project. This is done by creating a pull request, using the web interface: if you open either your personal fork or the project repository after you have pushed something to a branch of your personal fork that is not yet published in an open pull request, GitHub will display a line proposing to create a pull request. Just click the button, check the title of the pull request and add a description.
After the pull request has been created, all the persons interested in the project repository changes will be notified by email. Everybody can subscribe to the repository notifications. At this point, your contribution is open for review: people can comment, suggest changes… At some point, when there is an agreement that the contribution is in good shape, somebody with the appropriate permission will merge it in the project repository (this is a one-click operation).
Note that as soon as a pull request is open, every change that you make to the personal branch that you published (which is the source of the pull request) is published immediately (until the pull request is closed/merged). You cannot create several pull requests with the same source branch.
When the pull request is merged, you can decide to delete your personal branch that was used to make your contribution but there is no real need to do it… It’s a matter of personal taste!