What is GitHub?

Understanding GitHub: An Essential Guide

During this training, you might hear GitHub mentioned.  Here is a quick primer on what it is, why it’s helpful and how to use it.


GitHub is a platform where developers store and share their code. But it’s more than just a storage space – it’s a hub for collaboration and version control. Below, we break down why GitHub is useful and the essentials you need to know before diving in.

1. What is GitHub?

GitHub is primarily a platform for hosting and managing code using a system called Git. This system tracks changes, making it easier for teams to collaborate on projects without stepping on each other’s toes. Beyond that, GitHub provides a community and tools to review, discuss, and improve that code.

2. Why is GitHub Useful?

  • Collaboration: Multiple people can work on the same project simultaneously. You can see others’ changes, discuss them, and combine them into the main project.
  • Version Control: With GitHub, every change made to a codebase is tracked. This means if something breaks, you can trace back to when it broke and fix it.
  • Open Source: Many developers share their projects with the public for free on GitHub. This means you can use, modify, and even contribute to these projects.
  • Integration: GitHub works well with other tools, making the development process smoother.

3. Basics to Know Before Using GitHub

  • Repositories (Repos): This is where your project lives. Think of it as a folder for your project that contains all the files and the record of all changes.
  • Commits: When you save changes to your project, that’s a commit. Each commit has a unique ID allowing you to see what changes were made, by whom, and when.
  • Branches: Imagine you want to test a new feature without altering the main project. You’d create a branch – a parallel version of your repository. Once the feature is perfect, you can merge it back to the main project.
  • Pull Requests (PRs): If you’ve made changes you want to add to the main project (often referred to as the ‘main’ or ‘master’ branch), you open a pull request. This lets others review, discuss, and approve the changes.
  • Issues: If you encounter a problem with a project or have a suggestion, you can open an issue. It’s a way to discuss specific topics at hand.

4. How Can You Get Started?

Sign Up: Head over to GitHub’s website and sign up for a free account.

Download: To work on projects offline and sync them with your online repositories, download  GitHub Desktop.

Create a Repository: Click the ‘+’ on the top right of GitHub’s web interface, select ‘New repository’, and follow the instructions.

Learn Markdown: Repositories often have a README file. It’s a document to explain what the project is about. GitHub uses a language called Markdown for these, so getting a basic grasp can be useful.


GitHub is a powerful tool for anyone working with code, whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned developer. With its capabilities for tracking changes, collaborating, and integrating with other tools, it has cemented its place as an essential in the developer’s toolkit. As you begin your GitHub journey, remember that like any other tool, practice makes perfect. Dive in, experiment, and happy coding!