Motivation for Using GitHub#

GitHub is an online web interface for collaborating, developing, sharing and using git (version control). It’s designed to be easily accessible (you do not need to be a coder!) to share your work and (if you want) allow other people to test, modify, remix and reuse it. It also provides space and tools for collaboration and maintenance.

GitHub is not the only available development platform, but it hosts this book and is widely used across disciplinary and private-public boundaries. Thus, this chapter is tailored towards GitHub and its resources, though other platforms probably have analogous functions.

Some key things to know about GitHub:

  • It has terrific project management features, a social platform and communication tools that are useful for any project where a group of people is working together on the same set of documents

  • It can be used to store documentation, data and make web pages for projects

  • It provides an easy-to-use interface for version control that allows all activities to be recorded so you can revisit past versions and you know who made each contribution to the project

  • It has many options for automating repeated project management tasks

Project Management#

You can manage your project by creating project boards that include to-do lists and issues (problems or tasks that need to be done). Discussion forums and flexibility in user permissions mean you can give team members (and/or the general public) the appropriate levels of access.

Easy to use#

You can use GitHub directly in your web browser or download it to your computer. Most instructions about how to use GitHub will start with you downloading it to your computer. However, there is no need to download GitHub onto your computer; it is much simpler to use it in a web browser.

In order to use GitHub, you do not need to be a computer coder! To format text, you only need to learn a very simple type of file formatting syntax called markdown. Again, you do not need to download a markdown editor as it can all be written directly in GitHub in your web browser. Markdown syntax [def] is designed to be human readable even if it isn’t rendered [def]. This allows you to format your text into a nice-looking document, including adding in links, pictures, tables and web links. In most cases, GitHub even provides a “preview” option that allows you to see what your rendered document will look like.

For example, if you want to put a heading in markdown you use a ‘#’ (hash symbol) followed by a space and the title. Like this # heading 1, this will produce the first level header style for that text.

Resources to help you learn Markdown:#

How and when you use Markdown formatting in your file will become clearer as you go through this chapter.