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How Do You Get Started on GitHub?

If you’re interested in front-end or back-end development, one of the first things you should do is learn how to use GitHub. For those unfamiliar with the international coding hosting platform, GitHub is an online git or version control repository and an Internet hosting service.

GitHub allows users to collaborate on projects from anywhere in the world. Since the company’s launch in 2008, it has supported millions of developers in creating projects and for business growth on open-source technology.

WHY SHOULD YOU START USING GITHUB?

There are many reasons why you should start using GitHub— you may want to play around with it for fun, to prepare yourself for a career in web development, see the work of other developers, or benefit from open-source tools. Here are three main reasons why you should start:

  1. 1. It’s basically free
    Do you really need a better reason than this? Every public project is free for users, while unlimited private repositories will only set you or a small team back $7-$9 a month. This is an obvious selling factor for cash-strapped small businesses or startups. It’s even ideal for large organizations looking to shave off necessary overhead costs. As anyone can see whatever you post on GitHub, your code becomes accessible for others to use through the open source. However, businesses do have the option to keep their code private by paying a nominal monthly fee.
     
  2. Open source is the future
    The ongoing debate between open-source software and commercial softwareis quickly coming to a consensus. The widespread adoption of open-source programs has led many companies and individuals to use GitHub and other, similar programs. While there are benefits to traditional software and open-source is not always synonymous with free, the sheer collaborative benefits from GitHub are astounding. Like never before, teams across multiple cities, states, and continents can easily work on shared projects—all from their laptops or other electronic devices.
     
  3. All the cool kids are using it
    As of 2016, GitHub boasted 12 million registered users and 30 million repositories, making it one of the most popular websites on earth. Everyone from Silicon Valley startups to government agencies around the world use GitHub to share and collaborate. This widespread popularity is phenomenal, considering that the main users are web developers, software engineers, and their companies. If you are looking to become a web developer, the odds are high the company you are applying for will require you to know how to use GitHub. “Pretty much everyone hosts their open-source projects on GitHub, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and even Microsoft — once the bete noire of open-source software,” Cade Metz wrote for Wired. “In recent months, as Microsoft open sourced some of its most important code, it used GitHub rather than its own open-source site, CodePlex.”

HOW CAN YOU GET STARTED ON GITHUB?

Getting started on GitHub is simple and quick for anyone looking to learn. Thankfully, GitHub and other online sources provide helpful step-by-step guides for beginning users. While it’s possible to use GitHub without knowing git, ReadWrite provides a list of a few key GitHub terms and Git-specific commands you might want to become familiar with if you want to gain proficiency. After you have installed git and created a free account, here are a few essential steps from a GitHub tutorial about understanding and creating repositories, branches, commits and pull requests. 

Detailed instructions for each step are provided:

Step 1: Create a repository

Step 2: Create a branch

Step 3: Make and commit changes

Step 4: Open a pull request

Step 5: Merge your pull request

These five steps are by no means comprehensive, but there are plenty more available resources to help you learn how to use GitHub on the company’s website and elsewhere online. To gain proficiency, just keep researching and practicing within GitHub.