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5 ways to get the most out of GitHub

Instructor Matthew Healy explains how to make GitHub work better for you.

GitHub is a fantastic tool for hosting your source code, and one that every software engineer should know how to use.

But when you’re first starting out it can be a bit daunting working out how to make the most of it.

With that in mind, here are some tips to make sure you’re using GitHub to the fullest.

1. Put some code up

This might sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many developers out there have completely empty GitHub profiles. If you’re applying for software engineering roles without a huge amount of prior experience companies are often going to want to see examples of what you’ve done, and GitHub is pretty much the first place they’ll go.

So get some code up there!

It doesn’t have to be anything perfect, or even particularly original – the code from that tutorial you just worked through, that Twitter bot you made to tweet random Taylor Swift lyrics, whatever you want.

Just make sure you’ve got some work on show.

2. Explore

GitHub’s main purpose is for hosting your own work, sure, but you can also use it to find really cool things other people have built. So definitely take the time to explore what other people are using GitHub for every now and then.

You never know, it might just be that spark of inspiration you’ve been looking for.

3. Use pinned repos to show off your best work

Okay, you’ve got some repositories up there. You might even have loads of them. But how do you make sure people visiting your GitHub see the best stuff first?

That’s where pinned repositories come in.

By going to your profile page and customising your pinned repositories you can make sure that visitors’ attention is drawn first and foremost to the work you want them to see.

GitHub repository

4. Use stars liberally

Sometimes you’ll come across something cool on GitHub as part of your explorations which you like the look of but can’t find a use for just yet – this is where stars come in. Get into the habit of starring anything that piques your interest.

Now, next time you feel like reading or writing some code but aren’t sure what to do, you’ll have your own curated list of interesting projects just waiting for you.

5. Submit a PR

Nowadays, GitHub is home to loads of really exciting open source projects. Everything from Apple’s Swift programming language, to Facebook’s React JavaScript framework, to Ruby on Rails is hosted on GitHub.

So not only can you go and look at the code which makes your favourite library work, you can submit pull requests for bug fixes, additional documentation and even new features.

Submitting your first few PRs can be a pretty daunting process, and there’s definitely enough to be said about it for a blog all of its own, so to keep it minimal: check out YourFirstPR on Twitter to hear about opportunities to get involved in cool projects.

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Main image: Ben Scholzen on Flickr / CC