How to Learn Git

Most programmers use Git to store their code and keep track of the history of their projects. Git is not just for personal use; many companies around the world use Git to make it easy for developers to collaborate on projects. Because it is so widely used, having knowledge of Git is a good investment in your career in tech.

In this guide, we’re going to talk about how you can learn Git. We will start by explaining what Git is. Then, we will discuss the skills you need to learn and what resources you can use.

What is Git?

Git is a distributed version control system that lets developers keep track of their code. Using Git, developers can see how their code has changed over time, who has made changes to a codebase, and when those changes have been made. This record makes it easy for software development teams to measure each developer’s contribution and figure out when certain features have been introduced to their code.

As soon as a developer clones (downloads) a Git repository to their computer, they can see not only all of the code in the project but also the history of that project. This means that developers can track code without having to depend on any online tools (although there are tools available that make tracking code more visual, such as GitHub).

Because developers can keep their own copies of a project on their computer, they can make changes to a codebase without sharing them until they are ready. One must “push” changes to make them available to the rest of the developers on a project.

Jobs that Require Git Skills

Most jobs that involve programming will either list knowledge of Git as a requirement or a nice-to-have skill. This is because Git is widely used by development teams around the world, from mobile app development to data analysis. Even if you do not know Git, most teams will expect that you learn the basics when you start.

Here are a few jobs where Git skills are used:

  • Software developer
  • Quality assurance analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Data engineer
  • Web developer
  • Database administrator
  • Systems administrator

Other developers may use Git too. While there are other methods of version control, Git is so popular you can expect to encounter the tool in almost every programming discipline.

What Industries Use Git?

Git works behind the scenes in programming projects, especially in the technology industry. Outside of the technology industry, Git is still widely used because the platform makes collaborating on code much easier.

Here are a few industries that use Git to store code:

  • Social networks
  • Car-sharing (e.g. Lyft)
  • Government
  • Stock brokerage
  • Music streaming
  • Teaching

Other industries use Git, too, but the above list gives you an idea of the sorts of environments where Git is most commonly used.

What is Git Used For?

Git is used to keep track of programming projects. The Git system is distributed, which means that developers can work on a project independently without changing the main version of the project until they are ready. A central repository, called a “remote” repository, keeps track of changes, but when you pull a repository all of these changes will be logged on your computer.

Here are a few scenarios in which Git can be helpful:

  • To measure the contributions of developers on a team.
  • To revert back to a previous point in a project’s history and view the codebase at that time.
  • To return to a project that has a bug to ensure the bug does not affect the production version of a codebase.

Overall, Git is used for code collaboration. Git makes it easy for developers to see how a project has evolved and gives them the ability to go back in time to see a project in a previous state. 

What Skills Do I Need to Master Git

To learn Git, you will need a basic understanding of at least one programming language. For instance, you may want to learn HTML, CSS, Java, SQL, or Bash. While you could use Git to track regular files, the software is designed to make code collaboration easier. Thus, you cannot effectively learn Git without having some code you are working on that needs to be tracked.

Having a basic understanding of version control systems and how code is developed in professional environments is helpful but not required. You will learn a lot about the architecture of software projects as you learn Git anyway.

Where to Learn Git

Because so many developers use Git, the technology is well documented. A Google search for Git resources will yield many results. Where do you start? What resources are best for beginners? We have reviewed many of these resources and have come up with a list of the best ones for beginners.

Pro Git Book

  • Author: Scott Chacon and Ben Straub
  • Price: eBook is available online for free
  • Type of resource: Book

The Pro Git book is a comprehensive guide to using Git. The book starts with an introduction to Git and setting up Git on your computer. This is followed by tutorials on the basics of Git, such as reverting to previous versions of a project and viewing the commit history.

In later chapters, you will learn about more advanced Git features such as branching, how Git works on a server, and various Git tools that give you more insight into your codebase.

Version Control with Git

  • Author: Udacity
  • Price: Free
  • Type of resource: Course

The Version Control with Git Udacity course teaches you how to work with the Git command line, starting with why developers use version control and the jargon you might encounter while learning Git.

In this course, you will cover topics like creating a GIt repository, reviewing the history of a repository, creating commits, and more. This course features quizzes and interactive exercises designed to help you practice what you learn in the video lectures.

Learn Git

  • Author: Codecademy
  • Price: Codecademy Pro membership ($19.99/month)
  • Type of Resource: Course

The Learn Git Codecademy course starts with an introduction to the Git workflow. You will learn about the main features of Git and how to set up a repository. Later in the course, you will learn how to undo changes made to a repository, how to use branching, and how to use Git in a collaborative environment.

Codecademy estimates this course takes 10 hours to complete. No background knowledge of Git is required to participate.

GitHub Git Cheat Sheet

  • Author: GitHub
  • Price: Free
  • Type of resource: Cheat sheet

The GitHub Git cheat sheet is a two-page PDF that covers the basic Git commands you should know. This cheat sheet is a good resource to turn to if you have already learned the basics of Git and want to revise the commands you have studied.

This cheat sheet features reminders on all of the main commands you are likely to use, from setting up a repository and working with branches to inspecting changes in a repository.

Git-it Desktop App

  • Author: Jessica Lord
  • Price: Free
  • Type of resource: Desktop app

The Git-it desktop app is designed to help you learn how to use Git and GitHub, a popular tool for collaborating on projects. This app is interactive and walks you through features like working with remote repositories and creating commits.

This desktop app runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Although it is not a requirement, the creator recommends that you install GitHub Desktop before using this tool.

A Guide to Learning Git

To start using Git, you will need to learn the basics of its architecture. Then you can go on to using Git in your own project. The best way to learn Git is to start at the very beginning and slowly work your way up to more advanced concepts.

Below is a list of concepts that you should learn as a beginner:

  • How Does Git Work?: How do changes become part of the history of a repository? What is a tree? What is branching? How does Git track the history of a project? These are all basic questions you should be able to answer before you delve too deep into Git.
  • Setting Up a Repository: With some basic knowledge of Git, you will be ready to start a repository, which is a folder in which Git tracks code. You should learn how to set up a repository from scratch or download a repository from an existing source.
  • Pushing a Commit: Once you have set up a repository, you should learn how to add a file to the staging area, add the files in the staging area to a commit, and push a commit to a remote repository.
  • Inspecting a Repository: You should know how to view the status of a local repository and how to look at the history of a repository. You should also feel comfortable navigating between different branches in a repository.
  • Pulling Changes: You should be able to check for changes on a remote repository and pull those changes to your local copy of the repository.

These features make up the basics of the Git version control system and will take you a long way in your programming career. There are other more advanced features that you may need to learn about as you pursue a career in programming, however. For instance, you will need to learn about diffs, merging, and more.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Git?

You can start using a Git repository and logging your code within a few hours of playing around with Git. You will then need to spend a few weeks learning about more advanced features like viewing the history of a project and using them in practice. To learn enough about Git to use the tool in a professional environment, you will need a few months of experience using the tool.

Should I Learn Git?

Git is used by a large percentage of developers to track contributions to software projects. Git is not exclusively used in any type of programming: data analysis, web developers, software engineers, and more all use Git to track code.

Git is easy to use and will help you keep track of your own code and your contributions to team projects. If you want to pursue a career where you will be writing code, knowing Git is almost essential. Many workplaces list Git as a good-to-have skill. In this case, it is probably ok to learn Git as you go. This is because it does not take too long to learn Git; you can learn this skill on the job.

Good luck on your learning journey!

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