How To Learn Git

Git is an open-source tool that’s commonly used by software developers to work on their code collaboratively. It’s a distributed version control system that allows programmers to work offline or remotely and sync the local copy of the software with the main copy.

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In comparison, other tools are centralized, which requires users to sync with the server before creating new code. As a decentralized tool, Git offers a high degree of flexibility for experimentation and building features without affecting the primary production software build. One of its most powerful features is the branching model, which allows developers to create branches of the software code to try out ideas and add features. When the code is ready, developers can merge the new code or delete it without affecting other branches. 

Git allows simultaneous development of software, which speeds up delivery times. Many tools and products incorporate Git to simplify developers’ workflows. Git includes collaboration tools that help developers discuss code changes before merging them into the main branch of the software.

Because of its popularity, there is strong community support for Git and a wide range of resources and tools to help users become more proficient. Git is widely considered to be one of the first tools developers of all types should learn as it will help them learn how to create web pages and programs.

How Is Git Used?

Software developers use Git to track changes they make to files. As a version control system, it keeps a record of the changes that have been made and allows users to revert to specific versions when necessary. It also allows changes made by multiple people to be merged into a single file.

Git may be used for numerous types of software development and management. It’s used for web design, UX/UI and in the development of coding languages such as C, C++, Java, JavaScript and many others.

One of its biggest benefits is that developers can collaborate on projects. Team members are able to work on the same files at the same time and then merge their changes into the master branch. For software teams, Git is paired with a central repository like GitHub or BitBucket. The repository stores the code and revision history and supports collaboration with other developers. Git can also create a repository on a single computer.

With Git, developers can work remotely on projects and merge code when needed. It’s also used to support open-source projects with contributors from around the world. To keep track of different versions, Git examines the changes in the code itself—not just the file name.

Git is accessed via a command line in terminal mode on a desktop computer or via a graphical user interface. 

What Do I Need To Know Before Git?

Learn to code

Git is a tool used in coding and software development. When you reach the point in your education or career that you need to use Git, it may help to have a basic familiarity with how to write code and use terminal commands for basic functions.

Version control

Version control is Git’s primary function, so it may help to understand how a distributed version control system works compared to a centralized system.

Terminology

Git has its own set of terminology and may have different meanings for common terms compared to other tools.

Terminal commands

It helps to become comfortable using terminal commands, which require typing commands directly into the command line. It may benefit you to know basic computer commands such as cd (change directory) and mkdir (make directory), as well as Git-specific commands. Even though graphical user interface (GUI) tools are available, you may want to  learn to work via terminal commands for a deeper understanding of the process.

Basic commands

It might be helpful to learn git add, git commit, git pull and git push commands that developers use on a daily basis.

Create a repository

A repository is the first step for working on a project in Git. A fork is a copy of a repository where you can work on code without affecting the original copy.

To learn more, the official Git site offers free copies of the program, documentation and a community of new and experienced users. Additional resources include tutorials and animated walk-throughs to help new users get started.

Tips and Strategies for Learning Git

Learning Git is a process that looks different on an individual basis. Specific learning processes and the amount of time they take may vary, but the following tips may  help you get started:

Download Git 

Getting Git downloaded to your machine is  the first step of the process. It’s available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. After downloading Git, create a user account.

  • Use a tutorial

There are many different types of tutorials to help you get better acquainted with Git, including videos and interactive learning environments. Practice with applications that help you learn Git by solving practical, real-world challenges.

  • Play in a sandbox

Explore commands and functions with a GUI version of Git in a sandbox environment. A sandbox environment is an isolated virtual interface where code can be practiced without having any actual effect on networks or applications. These are helpful, safe environments to test your prowess. 

  • Work with a team

It may be helpful to simulate a collaborative project and practice making changes to the file using a shared repository. The team will be able to learn how to make changes to files they didn’t create and use the pull and push commands.

Frequently Asked Questions

Git is a powerful collaboration and management tool for software developers using many kinds of programming languages. Some users learn Git with the intention of applying it to the career they seek in the future, but some get involved with it for the first time when they begin working on a task for which their team will be using Git to manage versions of the project. In the case of the latter, users may have to get up to speed fast.

Below, we examine some of the frequently asked questions surrounding Git—and learning how to use it—that might pop up for beginners. 

What is the difference between Git and Github?

It’s common for questions to arise regarding Git vs. GitHub. Git is an open-source version control tool created in 2005. GitHub is a collaboration tool for using Git. GitHub is a popular online destination for software repositories where teams working in Git store their project for easy access. There are also other tools available that perform the same function as GitHub.

Can I teach myself Git?

Git can be self-taught, especially for experienced developers. It’s often self-taught by developers working as part of a team on software projects. Learning and using Git is often a requirement for traditional computer science programs as well as online coding bootcamps. There are multiple online tutorials and guides that experienced developers can use to learn Git at their own pace.

Is it easy to learn Git?

For experienced programmers who understand the process, Git commands usually make sense. For beginners, Git may be a bit challenging. Use available tutorials and resources to work your way through the basics, such as free intro to Git videos. Turning to online communities to help answer your questions and get over stumbling blocks will likely be very helpful.

How long will it take to learn Git?

Some sources say it’s possible to learn the basics of Git in just 20 minutes, but that mainly applies to experienced programmers. If you’re trying to learn Git along with a new software language or work on a new project, it may take some time—up to a week or more. Of course, daily practice will help you become familiar with Git and further your mastery. 

Last updated: January 2021