Benefits of git, GitHub, and Version Control for Developers

A Beginner's Guide

10/5/2015

What are the benefits of version control?

Version control allows developers to work on small or massively large projects with one or many different collaborators simultaneously. It can also be used by writers, designers, or any typ of knowledge worker. It keeps track of all the changes that have been made on a project including when the changes were made, who made them, and allows you to post comments describing why you did so. This is an incredibly useful tool fro when multiple peopl are working on the same project, but is also useful for solo projects in case you make a mistake and want to undo it or go back in time to a previous state of a file. Version control (VC) keeps all of the different versions(hence the name) of your project on file so that you can refer back to them or revert back entirely if necessary. If multiple collaborators are making changes to the same file, it also allows all those changes to be "merged" into the master copy without overwriting eachother. Any budding developer, coder, or writer, would be wise to learn how to use and take advantage of this wonderfully modern tool.

How does git help you keep track of changes?

Git is what runs your your actual computer when using version control. It keeps track of changes by using "branches" or copies of the master branch to "stage changes" that will later be "merged" into the master, which is essentially your final draft, or most updated code file. While there is a lot of strange vernacular used by coders and tech savvy users, the concepts are fairly simple. Git makes a copy of the master version. This is what you work on on your own computer. In case you accidentally delete the whole thing, git has you covered because it was only a copy! In this realm it's always better to be safe than sorry so that you don't flush hours, days, or weeks of work down the toilet. There is a several step process that occurs before any changes or edits that you made are actually merged into the master but even if you do accidentally change something that you didnt want to, all of the previous versions are stored in git. You can even see exactly which changes you made, highlighted in the file once you upload it to GitHub.

Why use GitHub to store your code?

GitHub is like a handy online storage bank for all of your work. You can copy the most recent versions of you files up to a "repository" on GitHub and rest easy knowing that even if a bear breaks into your home and eats your computer, your work will be safe (watch out for bears though!). Skilled users of GitHub and other version control systems like Subversion know that constantly updating your repos is very important. The more frequently you save and "commit" your changes to GitHub, the less work you will have to redo if you end up making a mistake or losing your work. In addition to the safety net that GitHub provides, theres also the ability to communicate and collaborate on projects with other developers, browse open-source code for inspiration, or meet new and like-minded people.

All in all, these resources can make your life a lot easier and more enjoyable if you know how to use them correctly, so it's worth devoting some time to getting to know the basics. If you're starting from scratch theres tons of info on the help page found here: GitHub Help Page.

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