There are many software development tools out there, and that's a good thing. However, the demand for new apps keeps climbing, so developers need all the help they can get to create engaging software that works right the first time.

So, we’re looking at GitHub today, explicitly focusing on GitHub Desktop. We'll be investigating the GitHub desktop app, including what it is, how to install and use it, and what a pull request is. This article covers two different operating system versions: GitHub desktop Windows and GitHub desktop Ubuntu.

To review, GitHub is an online open-source development platform. In addition, developers use GitHub to track, store, and collaborate on app design projects. Developers can upload their code files and work with fellow developers on open-source projects. GitHub also doubles as a social networking site that lets developers openly network, collaborate, and pitch their ideas.

Alright then, what's GitHub Desktop, and how does it differ from GitHub? Let’s begin with the GitHub Desktop tutorial.

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What Is GitHub Desktop?

GitHub Desktop is an open-source application that lets you interact with GitHub via a graphic user interface (GUI) instead of relying on a command line or web browser. GitHub Desktop incentivizes you and your team to work together while employing best practices with Git and GitHub.

GitHub Desktop enables developers to activate commands such as repository creation, pull requests, and commits with just a simple click. This extra convenience adds an extra element of flexibility to working with Git and collaborating with other developers.

So, to sum it up, Git is a version control system that helps you manage your code and keep track of it, and GitHub is a cloud-based hosting platform that enables developers to manage their Git repositories. GitHub Desktop is an application that lets users interact better with GitHub through a GUI.

GitHub Desktop Tutorial: Downloading and Installation

You can download GitHub Desktop for Windows using this URL. You can install GitHub Desktop for Windows on Windows 7 64-bit or later. Note that you must have a 64-bit operating system to run the GitHub Desktop successfully!

Download the installation file. Proceed to your Downloads folder and double click on the downloaded GitHub Desktop setup file. That's all you must do; GitHub Desktop will launch once your system completes the installation.

All that’s left is authenticating your account. Click on “File” on the navbar, go down to “Options,” choose “Accounts,” and get authentication. You’re done!

However, the procedure is slightly different if you’re using Ubuntu to run GitHub Desktop. For starters, you must open your terminal and download the GitHub Desktop using this command:

$ sudo wget https://github.com/shiftkey/desktop/releases/download/release-2.6.3-linux1/GitHubDesktop-linux-2.6.3-linux1.deb

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Once you finish the download, you will see this output:

GitHub_Desktop_1

Click on the “Show Applications” icon located on the left side of the desktop and search for the word “Github.” If you click on the downloaded option of the “github-desktop,” you will see the following dialog box. Next, click the "Install" button and enter the root password to begin the installation.

GitHub_Desktop_2.

Once the installation finishes, you will see the following box. It will let you know what version you’ve installed. If you’d like to remove the desktop app, hit the “Remove” button.

GitHub_Desktop_3

Now click on the "Show Applications" icon again and search the term "GitHub." If you installed the GitHub Desktop application correctly, you would get the "GitHub Desktop" icon. Click on the icon and open the application.

GitHub_Desktop_4

When you open the application for the first time, you will see the following dialog box. If you already have a GitHub account, click on the “Sign in to GitHub.com” button. If you have an existing GitHub account, click on the “Sign in to GitHub Enterprise” button. However, if you’re a new user and want to create your first account, click on the “Create your free account” link, but if you’re not interested in creating or accessing your account, just click on the “skip the step” link.

GitHub_Desktop_5

If you choose to make a free account, click on the “create your free account” link. You will see the following page. Next, click on the "create account" button after filling in the required fields.

GitHub_Desktop_6

You will see the following page. Click “authorize desktop” to enable the listed features on your desktop.

GitHub_Desktop_7

Once you click the “authorize desktop” button, you will see a pop-up window, asking permission for github.com to open the “x-github-desktop-dev-auth” link. Next, click the “Choose Application” button.

GitHub_Desktop_8

Choose the “GitHub Desktop” application on the next window and click “Open Link.”

When you open the installed GitHub Desktop application, you will see the following form, which you use to configure Git. You’ll see the GitHub account username and email address that was set when the GitHub account was created. Click “Continue” to configure Git to identify commits done by the user.

GitHub_Desktop_9

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You will see the following display if you've correctly set up GitHub Desktop. Click “Finish,” and presto! You’ve completed your Ubuntu GitHub Desktop setup!

GitHub_Desktop_10

All images provided above courtesy of Linuxhint.

GitHub Desktop Tutorial: How Do You Use GitHub Desktop?

Whether you use Windows or Ubuntu, once you’re successfully past the GitHub Desktop installation phase, you will find it easy to use GitHub.

If you're using Windows, start by launching GitHub Desktop. We can clone the remote repository to your local machine, make some changes, then push it back to the remote repository. Follow these steps:

  • Once in GitHub Desktop, go to File => Options and verify that you have set up your GitHub account.
  • Clone a repository by selecting File => Clone Repository.
  • Go to the URL tab, enter your remote repository details with GitHub Username/repository, and click Clone.
  • Now that you’ve cloned the remote repository to your local device, you can open the contents with either the Command prompt or Explorer and change the files you want.
  • Make your file changes and save them.
  • Go back to the GitHub Desktop. You will see any lines deleted or added marked in red.
  • If needed, add co-authors and a summary, then click on “commit” to master.
  • Now push the changes to the GitHub remote repository by clicking on the Push origin button.
  • The changes should be visible in the master branch. However, if you want to ensure that your changes are merged to the feature branch, you will have to create a Pull Request, which we will get into later.

If you’re using Ubuntu, you will see the following options:

GitHub_Desktop_11

You can use this to create four different types of repositories:

  • Create a tutorial repository: This option creates a tutorial repository in the local machine, which can then be published in the GitHub account.
  • Clone a repository from the internet: This option clones a repository from the GitHub account, the GitHub Enterprise account, or the URL.
  • Create a New Repository on your local device’s hard drive: This option creates a new local repository.
  • Add an Existing Repository from your hard drive: This option adds any previously created repository from the local drive.

Additionally, you can search the repository from the GitHub account using the “Filter your repositories” search box. If no repository is published in the GitHub account, the list will be empty.

You can also make use of the menu bar at the top of the application's window to perform different tasks related to the repository.

GitHub Desktop Tutorial: How to Make a Pull Request in GitHub Desktop

Pull requests, also known as merge requests, are software development events that occur when a developer or contributor is ready to start the process of merging their code changes with the main project’s repository.

The pull request informs the development team about the changes and lets everyone review and discuss the changes before anything gets merged into the base branch. It’s the developer’s way of saying, “Hey, team, I’m ready to incorporate my changes into our main branch. Let’s talk about it and see if there’s anything I overlooked before I merge it!”

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Here’s an image of a GitHub repository courtesy of Nexmo.

GitHub_Desktop_12.

Notice the left-hand side of the image. That's where you see the files that have been changed, added, or removed. Tick the files you want to be moved to the repository.

Look at the bottom-left corner of the screen. There are two text boxes and a Commit command that needs your branch name.

Place a very brief description of your commit into the first text box. Then, place a longer, more detailed description of the commit into the second text box.

After completing your two messages, click the "Commit to" button. Next, you'll get a text box asking if you want to push your changes to the origin remote. Click “Push origin.”

Once you push your changes, you’ll get another text box that asks if you want to create a pull request. If you’re ready, click the “Create pull request” button.

After clicking the button, you will get a pull request creation screen. These can vary depending on the organization, but most of them ask for some or all the following:

  • A summary of the changes
  • A description of the changes
  • The reasons you want the changes
  • Any new tests added
  • Have any changes broken any existing tests?

Click on the “Create pull request” button, and the process is underway.

How to Upload a Project to GitHub Desktop

For the final step in this GitHub Desktop tutorial, here’s how you upload a project to GitHub Desktop.

  1. Make a new repository on GitHub by clicking on New and giving it a name.
  2. Click on “Set up in Desktop.”
  3. Clone the repository in a project folder or an empty folder, which will contain what we want to upload and provide a specific path.
  4. Once we upload the file into the folder, we upload the file onto GitHub by writing a “First Commit” message and click on “Commit to master.”
  5. Click on “Publish branch,” and the file is uploaded on GitHub.
  6. Recheck your GitHub repository to verify that the file got uploaded.
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About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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