How to get started with GitHub Desktop

How to get started with GitHub Desktop

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Guide: How to get started with GitHub Desktop

If you need to work with GitHub but don’t have time to learn how to use the command line, Jack Wallen believes the GitHub Desktop software is the best option.

Git is, without a doubt, the world’s most popular version control system. You may contribute to and collaborate on projects of any size and variety with Git. However, if you’re new to Git, you could discover that utilising the command line is inconvenient. You may have come from a platform where everything was done via point-and-click. You may also lack the time to understand the ins and outs of Git’s command-line tools.

If this describes you, GitHub Desktop could be the perfect answer for getting you up and running with a flawless Git workflow in no time.

GitHub Desktop is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows and makes it easy to:

  • Attribute commits
  • Checkout branches
  • View all open pull requests
  • Create or clone repositories
  • Upload local repositories

GitHub Desktop features a simple workflow that anyone can follow, a very simple (and helpful) onboarding wizard, syntax highlighting when viewing diffs for several languages, extensive editor features and shell integrations, expanded image diff support, and much more. The one thing GitHub Desktop cannot do (within the app itself) is open pull requests. When you go to open a pull request, it will open your default browser to the pull request action in your GitHub repository.

So, if you’re looking for a way to start your GitHub journey, this is the tool you need.

Let’s get GitHub Desktop installed and connect it with your GitHub account.

What you’ll need

I’ll be demonstrating the installation with Pop!_OS Linux, but the app can be installed on just about any Debian-based, RHEL-based, or SUSE-based Linux distribution. It can also be easily installed on macOS or Windows. To install on Linux, you’ll need an account with sudo privileges. You’ll also need either a GitHub or a GitHub Enterprise account.

How to install GitHub Desktop

I’m going to demonstrate installing GitHub Desktop on Pop!_OS Linux. Installing the tool on macOS and Windows is as simple as downloading and running the installer for either Windows or macOS. For Linux, it requires a few extra steps. Here they are for Debian and Ubuntu-based distributions.

First, add the necessary GPG key with the command:

wget -qO – | sudo tee /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/shiftkey-desktop.asc > /dev/null

Next, create a new repository entry with the command:

sudo sh -c ‘echo “deb [arch=amd64] any main” > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/packagecloud-shiftkey-desktop.list’

Update apt with:

sudo apt-get update

Finally, install GitHub desktop with:

sudo apt install github-desktop -y

For RHEL-based distributions (such as Fedora, AlmaLinux, and Rocky Linux), the steps are:

Install the GPG key:

sudo rpm –import

Add the necessary repository information:

sudo sh -c ‘echo -e “[shiftkey]nname=GitHub Desktopnbaseurl=$basearchnenabled=1ngpgcheck=0nrepo_gpgcheck=1ngpgkey=” > /etc/yum.repos.d/shiftkey-desktop.repo’

Install GitHub Desktop with one of the following commands (depending on the package manager you use):

sudo yum install github-desktop -y
sudo dnf install github-desktop -y

How to get started with GitHub Desktop

Upon successful installation, launch GitHub Desktop. The first window required you either sign into GitHub or GitHub Enterprise.

Clicking either button will redirect you to your web browser. Make sure you’re signed in to your GitHub account and then, when prompted, authorize the desktop app for use.

You will then be prompted to confirm access to the account. Once you’ve taken care of that, you will then need to allow the site to open x-github-desktop-dev-auth link (Linux only). For this, all you should have to do is click Choose Application and then click Open Link.

Once you’ve taken care of that, you should find yourself back at the GitHub Desktop application.

Walk through the wizard until you land on the GitHub “let’s get started” window where you’ll find a very well-designed introductory tutorial.

Click Create a tutorial repository and the app will open to the main window.Follow the blue arrow prompts that walk you through installing a text editor (which probably won’t be needed, as you should already have one), creating a new branch, editing a file, making a commit, publishing to GitHub, and opening a pull request. After you’ve stepped through that onboarding, you will be ready to start working with GitHub, via a very well-designed and user-friendly GUI.

And that’s how you get started with the GitHub Desktop application. For anyone who needs to work with GitHub, but doesn’t want to deal with the git command line, this is the tool you need. GitHub Desktop makes working with GitHub easy enough for any user of any skill level.


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