How-to: Steps to create a Github pull request (git branch, etc.)

I haven’t worked on many open source projects, so my ability to fork a Github project, pull it down, create a branch, push that branch back, and then submit a pull request are weak, at best.

That being said, I’ve done it a few times lately, so I’m getting better at it. Today was a very smooth process, so I thought I’d make these notes while they’re still fresh in my mind.

1) Fork the project

The first thing to do is fork a project on Github. That’s easy to do, just go to the web page for the project, click Fork, then wait while they fork is created. When it’s done you’ll have a new repository in your list of Github repositories.

2) Clone

Next, clone your forked Github project, i.e., git clone <projectName>. When I clone a Github project, the command looks like this:

git clone git@github.com:alvinj/TheProjectName.git

3) Create a branch

Next, cd into that project directory on your local filesystem. First, you can list all of the project branches with this command:

git branch

# note: these commands really show all branches
git branch -a
git branch --all

Then create a new branch. For example, create a new branch named my-improvements, like this:

git branch my-improvements

4) Use that branch

Next, use that branch for your new edits. You do that by switching to it with the git checkout command:

git checkout my-improvements

You can always confirm what branch you’re currently working in with this command:

git branch

Its output should look like this:

master
* my-improvements

Now make all the edits/corrections/changes you need to make on this branch. Edit files, delete files, add new files and directories, etc.

5) Commit your changes

After you’re finished, add and commit your changes just like you’re working in master:

git add .
git commit -m "added my excellent changes"

6) Push the changes back to Github

Next, push your changes back to Github. To do this, first switch back to the master branch:

git checkout master

Now when you run git branch you should see this output:

$ git branch
* master
my-improvements

Now push the changes back to Github with this command:

git push origin my-improvements

When you do this, you’ll see some output like this at the command line:

remote: Create a pull request for 'my-improvements' on GitHub by visiting:
remote:      https://github.com/your_username/project_name_here/pull/new/my-improvements

This is nice, because it now gives you the URL to go to where you can complete your pull request.

7) Finish the process on the Github UI

Now go to the URL Github gives you for your pull request. Fill out that form and submit it to complete the pull request process.

Technically that’s the end of the process until someone on the other end does something with your pull request, so you’re finished for now.

Summary: Creating a pull request on Github

If you ever need to create a pull request on Github, I hope these notes are helpful. In summary, the steps are:

  • Fork the project you want to contribute to
  • Clone that new project from your forked Github repo to your computer
  • cd into that project
  • Create a new branch with git branch my-improvements
  • Use that branch with git checkout my-improvements
  • Make all the changes you want
  • When you’re finished, use git add . and git commit as usual
  • Switch back to master (or main) with git checkout master
  • Push the changes back to Github with git push origin my-improvements
  • Go to the link git gives you to complete the pull request process

Again, if you need to create a pull request on Github, I hope this is helpful.

Update: Keeping your fork in sync

As a “note to self”, these are some resources I read about in regards to keeping your fork in sync with the “upstream” master/main branch:

  • https://gist.github.com/CristinaSolana/1885435
  • https://docs.github.com/en/free-pro-team@latest/github/collaborating-with-issues-and-pull-requests/configuring-a-remote-for-a-fork
  • https://docs.github.com/en/free-pro-team@latest/github/collaborating-with-issues-and-pull-requests/syncing-a-fork
  • https://docs.github.com/en/free-pro-team@latest/github/using-git/pushing-commits-to-a-remote-repository
  • https://medium.com/@topspinj/how-to-git-rebase-into-a-forked-repo-c9f05e821c8a
  • https://medium.com/@sahoosunilkumar/how-to-update-a-fork-in-git-95a7daadc14e

My own experience today looks like this:

> git clone git@github.com:alvinj/docs.scala-lang.git
> cd docs.scala-lang

> git remote -v
  origin    git@github.com:alvinj/docs.scala-lang.git (fetch)
  origin    git@github.com:alvinj/docs.scala-lang.git (push)

> git remote add upstream https://github.com/scala/docs.scala-lang.git

> git fetch upstream
  # not much happened here
  From https://github.com/scala/docs.scala-lang
   * [new branch]        master     -> upstream/master

> git merge upstream/master
  # this had a LOT of output, as expected
  Updating ee65f7ff..9ac8ff20
  Fast-forward
   _overviews/scala3-book/ca-given-imports.md                  |  2 +-
   _overviews/scala3-book/ca-type-classes.md                   |  2 +-
   ... much more here ...
   _overviews/scala3-book/types-type-classes.md                |  2 +-
   _overviews/scala3-book/types-variance.md                    | 16 ++++++++--------
   38 files changed, 81 insertions(+), 74 deletions(-)

# `git branch` shows all of my branches
> gb -a
* master
  remotes/origin/HEAD -> origin/master
  remotes/origin/domain-tools-updates
  remotes/origin/getting-started-formatting
  remotes/origin/master
  remotes/origin/resolve-todos-1
  remotes/origin/tasty-end-users
  remotes/origin/update-why-scala
  remotes/upstream/master

I’m not a very good git user in a team environment, but I can at least share that information. :)