How to Use GitHub for WordPress Development

If you’ve spent a lot of time reading WordPress, you’ve probably heard of GitHub. It is one of the most popular platforms for developers to host their projects and collaborate with others. Maybe you’ve considered trying it out yourself, but don’t know where to start.

Time to familiarize yourself with this valuable WordPress resource. GitHub is a great platform for tracking, managing, and collaborating on development projects, so we recommend learning how to use it. This allows you to host your project online and use Git’s powerful version control to track all changes.


Introduction to GitHub

GitHub may seem overwhelming to newcomers, but at its core, it is very simple. Essentially, GitHub is a free hosting service designed specifically for developers. Its primary use is to host projects for sharing and collaboration, allowing others to contribute and download.

Github WordPress repository

As the name suggests, GitHub is built around the capabilities of Git. This is a version control system that tracks all changes to your project. What makes this system so powerful is how comprehensive it is. Git tracks all files and changes in your project so you can quickly revert to previous versions.

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Git also allows developers to create ‘branches’, which are copies of a project that they can work on independently. Creating branches gives you the opportunity to make changes and test them without affecting the entire project. You can then ‘merge’ your changes into the main branch or simply delete them if you wish.

These features are important to understand why Git and GitHub are so important to developers. For example, you can always create a branch and roll back all revisions, so you don’t have to worry about doing irreparable damage to your project.

You can also easily collaborate on projects with an unlimited number of users. In fact, this is how WordPress itself is developed these days.

Get started with GitHub

Before using GitHub, you need a system for using Git and GitHub together. First, you need to download and install Git on your local computer. You will use it to perform important GitHub-related tasks such as transferring files between your computer and GitHub repositories.

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GitHub is just a host for the project, so all actual development happens on your local computer. Git then uses a ‘repository’ to store each project.

In theory, this can sound confusing, so let’s look at a typical workflow.

  1. I have a project hosted in a repository on GitHub.
  2. Create a local repository and use Git to ‘pull’ the latest version of the project from GitHub.
  3. You can now work on the project on your local machine. After making changes, you can ‘push’ them back to your GitHub repository.

How you decide to configure a particular workflow depends on your preferences and project requirements. What matters is that the process works seamlessly for you, your project, and your collaborators.

Finally, to get the most out of Git, you should use the command line. Git is most commonly used through Secure Shell (SSH), which provides a command-line interface. If you don’t already know how to use the command line, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the process before starting.

How to use GitHub for WordPress development (7 steps)

Now is the time to try out GitHub development for yourself! This example creates a GitHub project for developing a WordPress theme. It shows how to create a GitHub account and two repositories before showing how to transfer themes between them.

Step 1: Create a local WordPress environment

It is important to always use a staging environment when developing WordPress. This gives you the freedom to try new things without worrying about how it will affect your live site.

In this case, we will install WordPress on our computer to create a local staging environment. There are a few different ways to do this, but we recommend using Local, which allows you to quickly create a local version of WordPress for free.

local homepage

Just select your platform and download the free version of Local. Then just run the installer.

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The installer will take a moment to work. Once done, you can follow the instructions in this guide to create and configure your new local WordPress site.

Step 2: Install Git on your local computer

Now it’s time to install Git. If you’re running a newer version of Mac OS, you’ll find that Git is already on your computer. You can check this by opening a command line interface such as Terminal and entering the following command:

git --version

If Git is installed, this function returns the version number. If not, you will be prompted to install it immediately instead. You can also download the installer and run it manually on Mac, Linux, and Windows computers.

If you are not familiar with the command line interface, we recommend downloading the Git GUI application instead. However, this example uses the standard command-line method. Either way, once Git is installed, you are ready to create a local repository.

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Step 3: Create a local repository for your project

You can now create a local Git repository for your project. This example uses the Twenty Twenty-One theme, which should already be included in your local WordPress installation.

First, you need to access the theme folder using the following command:

cd /Users/you/Documents/Websites/website/wp-content/themes/twentytwentyone
git init

Next, we need to add the file to the index. This process tells Git which files have been added or edited since you last committed (that is since you saved your changes).

Since this is your first commit, you can add all the files in the folder with the command:

add child

You can now commit your changes. The following command commits all files in the index and includes messages to help keep versions organized.

git commit -m "first commit"

The local repository configuration is now complete! That said, it’s time to turn your attention to GitHub.

Step 4: Sign up for a GitHub account

At this point, you will want to create a GitHub account. Start by accessing the GitHub homepage and filling out the registration form.

Github signup form

An interactive signup form prompts you to enter your password and username and confirm your email address. You will then be asked to choose how many team members will work with you and whether you will be a student or a teacher.

Join GitHub
GitHub signup process
Choose a GitHub free plan

This will take you directly to your GitHub dashboard. If you want to learn more about the basics of using GitHub, we recommend taking the time to read the guide as mentioned above. But for now, we will create a repository.

Step 5: Create a Repository on GitHub

You are finally ready to create a GitHub repository for your project. This is a very simple process and requires only a few settings to be configured. Let’s start at the top.

Create a new repository with GitHub

First, you can choose the owner of the repository. This owner is effectively the repository’s administrator. This is already set for you, so you can leave it as is.

Next, you need to give your repository a descriptive and concise name. You can name it after a plugin, theme, or other projects you’ll be working on.

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You can then enter a description of your project. Again, this should be specific and descriptive so other developers and users can understand what you’re building.

Finally, two drop-down menus will appear at the bottom of this screen. The first option allows you to select the gitignore option if you do not want Git to track certain files.

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The second option allows you to choose a license for your repository. It is important to carefully consider which license to use when creating a real project. WordPress has very specific rules about licensing that you need to be aware of when developing for the platform.

This will take you to a new project, so it’s time to add a theme.

Step 6: Commit the project to GitHub

You can now push your theme to GitHub. Enter the following command in Git, replacing the URL with the link to the repository you set up.

git remote add origin https://github.com/yourusername/my-git-theme.git git push -u origin master

You will then be prompted to enter your GitHub username and password. That way, any files you commit to your local repository will be pushed to your GitHub project.

If you go back to your GitHub repository, you’ll see all the files have been added.

Step 7: Get updates from GitHub to your local repository

You now have two repositories set up and you know how to push changes from your local machine to your GitHub project. The final step is to reverse this process and learn how to pull data from GitHub into your local installation.

If you’re working alone on a project, you need to worry a little about this. However, it is required if other developers push their changes to an external repository as well.

You can easily do this using the import command. Enter this command into Git and replace the URL with the correct URL of your GitHub project.

Get git https://github.com/yourusername/my-git-theme.git

This command will fetch and copy all changes from GitHub. Local repositories are now synced with GitHub repositories.

When done, you have successfully created a new GitHub project for your WordPress theme! At this point, keep experimenting with these tools to see what they can do.

Getting Started with WordPress Development Using GitHub

Using GitHub for WordPress development gives you absolute control over every aspect of your project. Git’s powerful version control features give you access to each change, so you can easily revert to previous versions of your files. Git and GitHub make it easy for multiple developers to collaborate on the same project.

To use GitHub for WordPress development, all you need to do is create a local WordPress environment, install Git, and sign up for GitHub. You can then create a local repository for your project and create a GitHub repository. Finally, we need to commit the project to GitHub and pull the updates into our local repository.

Are you looking for a WordPress hosting provider with developer-friendly features? Hostinger offers advanced features such as SFTP, SSH access, easy access to the command line, and more.

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I am Omotunmihse Temitope (Xander), A Contents Writer, Web and Graphic designer, and A pro blogger who has a passion for blogging and has taken blogging as part of my daily activities.
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