GitHub is one of those things that you hear about for months or years without ever knowing what it means. We catch the name “GitHub” all the time on television, in web articles (like this one!), and via overheard bits of chat we catch while in line for coffee. Coders seem to adore it (if you want to see a programmer almost explode with excitement, ask their opinion on GitHub), so it must be pretty useful. But what is GitHub used for? It’s a good idea to learn more about what GitHub is and what it does if only to stop feeling so uninformed when people bring it up.
That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve put together a primer on GitHub and why it’s such a fantastic collaborative and creative tool. With our help, you’ll soon be GitHubbing (I so wish that were a word) with the best of them. You don’t have to be a coder to find GitHub to be immensely useful, either. Anyone who wants to manage a project and invite collaboration will be blown away by what GitHub can do for them. GitHub is an excellent addition to your technological toolkit, so the more you know about it, the more effective you’ll be.
What is “Git,” Anyway?
First things first: when getting to know GitHub and what it’s used for, you gotta start with Git. That’s easy—Git is a version control system. Still unclear, huh? Okay, let’s go back to basics here.
A version control system is a way to keep track of project versions. Large projects require input from multiple developers, and all of them are beavering away on it, writing changes to the code. Every time the code gets updated, every other coder needs to know what’s changed and how it might affect the project on which they’re working. Version control systems allow developers to manage projects and update the version with each revision, which enables all coders to stay on top of the latest software iteration.
Git is an open-source version control system, meaning it isn’t licensed and is available for general use for free, which is a nice bonus. Git’s daddy is Linus Torvalds, the same person who came up with the Linux operating system (also open source). He’s quite a guy and is revered in coding circles.
What’s So Special About GitHub’s “Hub?”
You’ve likely already guessed the main answer as to the Hub’s purpose, which is to act as a central location for projects. Every software project on the Hub gets its own URL, which provides easy access for every attached coder. Git is used to “get” (git… get… get it?) the latest version and upload any changes to the Hub’s project repository, or “repo,” and the Hub keeps everyone involved connected and updated.
It doesn’t stop there, though. The Hub makes it easy for folks to use existing projects as inspiration for their work. When a project is available in the Hub, you can “fork” it, which means copy and alter the original software. That makes GitHub a fantastic way to get new ideas or figure out workarounds for a problem, and work hand-in-hand with the site’s social media features, which encourage communication and cross-pollination.
Why Should I Use GitHub?
You don’t need to be a code cowboy or cowgirl to reap GitHub rewards. The aspects that make GitHub so appealing to software developers, such as its open-source nature and robust social media environment, also serve creators of all stripes. If you have a project that you need to manage, whether it’s writing a new program or developing a book-length poem, you’ll find GitHub to be a valuable assistant, collaboration tool, and organizer.
We hope that this guide has helped you understand GitHub a bit better. Github is a fantastic tool for creators of all sorts, so it’s vital to learn about it and take advantage of all it has to offer. Using GitHub will make you a more efficient and productive person, so what are you waiting for? Git to it! (Sorry.)