Git & Github

Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Cognitique

Baptiste Pesquet


  • Introduction to software version control
  • Git fundamentals
  • Collaborating with Git
  • Git from the command line
  • GitHub

Introduction to software version control

The need for source code management

  • Source code is the core of any software project.
  • These projects have a long lifespan, with numerous releases containing new functionalities and bug fixes.
  • Throughout this lifespan, the development team needs a way to work in parallel while sharing a common code base.

Manual source code management

  • Relies on shared places (local or cloud-based) where snapshots of the code base are regularly pushed by developers.
  • Highly impractical: no individual history of files, no release management, no handling of conflicts (simultaneous updates of a file)…

Version Control Systems

Dedicated source code management tools, often called Version Control Systems, offer developers the ability to:

  • share and update a common code base;
  • work on new features and fixes without breaking current versions;
  • track who did what;
  • handle conflicts;
  • and more!

Centralized VCS

  • Uses only one repository, accessed by developers in a client/server way.
  • Repo administration (security, backups…) is easy.
  • Synchronization is impossible in a disconnected scenario.
  • Examples: CVS, SVN, ClearCase.

Centralized SCM

Decentralized VCS

  • Each developer has its own code repository, including history and all other metadata.
  • Repositories are frequently synchronized in a peer-to-peer way.
  • Disconnected workflows become possible.
  • Examples: Git, Mercurial.

Decentralized SCM

Git fundamentals

Git in a nutshell

  • Free and open source DVCS published in 2005 to manage the Linux kernel source code.
  • Has become the standard tool for versioning software.
  • Can handle any text-based project: knowledge bases, books, etc.
  • Designed as a command line tool.

Git logo

Git is not (that) hard

Git Bob

The Git repository

  • Storage place for all versioning data: source code, history, versions, remote addresses…
  • Corresponds physically to a .git/ subdirectory in the project folder, with a complex internal structure.

.git/ directory structure

The .gitignore file

  • Some project files don’t need to be versioned:
    • generation output;
    • local settings;
  • Added in the root folder, the .gitignore file defines files and folders excluded from the repository.
  • This repository contains standard .gitignore files for many environments: Python, .NET, JavaScript…

The Git workflow

  1. Update files in project folder, aka working directory.
  2. Add files to index, aka staging area.
  3. Commit indexed files into the current branch, aka HEAD.

Git workflow


Branches allow parallel work in isolated contexts, for:

  • new features;
  • bug fixes;
  • experimentations;

Git branches

Working with branches

  • Only one branch can be active at a time.
  • The content of a branch can be merged into another. Once merged, a temporary branch should be destroyed.
  • The default branch is named master (sometimes renamed main). In general, it is considered the “production” branch and must be kept stable: commits or merges on this branch must not introduce generation errors or regressions.

HEAD is an alias to the most recent commit of the active branch.


Under the hood

  • Git uses the SHA-1 hash of content to create references to commits.
  • A commit object stores the metadata about a commit, such as the parent, the author, timestamps and references to the file tree of this commit.


  • Large File System: Git extension for versioning large files.
  • The files live on an external server. Only references to them are stored in the Git repository.
  • Usage examples: audio and graphical assets, datasets…

Collaborating with Git

Collaboration workflow

  • Developers work locally, regularly commiting their code into their local repo.
  • Repos are kept in sync through specific commands.

Syncing Git repos

Remote repositories

  • Git repos that are hosted somewhere on the Internet or local network.

  • Can be:

    • cloned to create a local copy;
    • fetched to obtain remote updates, that can be merged into a local branch thereafter;
    • pushed to to send local updates.
  • Identified by a remote alias (named origin after cloning a repo).

Remote Git workflow

Remote Git workflow

Pulling changes

  • Pulling = fetching & merging.
  • Creates a new merge commit.

Git pulling example


  • Simultaneous file updates on different machines can result in conflicts during repos syncing.
  • Git can resolve some of them by automerging files… But not all!

I request your assistance

Manual conflict management

  • Typically, the second developer trying to push his/her updates receives a “non fast-forward” error.
  • He/she has to pull remote updates first.
  • Files Git cannot automerge contain conflict markers. A manual merging is needed before commiting and pushing again.
<<<<<<< HEAD
# My Git project
# My git project
>>>>>>> c1129dfbbe585fc94978be38625b5ae7f63474bf

Git from the command line


git config --global "{email}"Set user email
git config --global "{firstname lastname}"Set user name


git initCreate an empty repository in the current folder
git clone {url}Clone an existing repository located at {url}

Working locally

git statusShow status of working directory and index
git add {file}Add {file} to index
git add -AAdd all new or modified files to index
git commit -m "{message}"Commit indexed files to current branch
git logShow commit history

Managing branches

git branchList existing branches
git branch {branch}Create a new branch named {branch}
git checkout {branch}Switch to {branch}
git merge {branch}Merge {branch} commits into the current one
git branch -d {branch}Delete {branch}

Undoing things

git checkout {file}Overwrite {file} with latest committed version
git reset {file}Remove {file} from index
git resetEmpty index
git reset --hard HEAD~{n}Return to {n}-to-last commit, losing all updates

(More details and options here and here)


git remote add {alias} {url}Add a remote repository
git remote -vList remote repositories
git pull {alias} {branch}Fetch & merge remote commits into {branch}
git push {alias} {branch}Push {branch} commits to a remote repo

Additional resources


GitHub in a nutshell

  • GitHub is a code hosting platform for version control and collaboration.
  • Its main purpose is the hosting of Git repositories.
  • Launched in 2008, it has been acquired by Microsoft in 2018 for $7.5 billion.
  • As of December 2021, it has approx. 73 million users worldwide.
  • GitHub is the central hub for open source projects.
  • Main alternatives are BitBucket and GitLab.

GitHub repo example

GitHub repo example

The shared repository model

  • A GitHub repo centralizes team updates.
  • Efficient for small teams and small-to-average-sized projects.

Shared repository model

The “fork & pull” model

  • Each developer forks ($\approx$ clone on GitHub) the original repository.
  • Updates are pushed to the forks, then proposed to the original repo through Pull Requests.
  • Efficient for large organizations or public projects.

Fork & pull model

Other features and services

  • Issues are used to track ideas, feedback, tasks, or bugs.
  • Gists are single pieces of code that can be forked and cloned like repositories.
  • Project boards offer a Kanban-like interface for organizing and prioritizing work.
  • Codespaces is a cloud-based development environment mimicking Visual Studio Code.
  • Copilot is an AI-based code suggestion service.