How to Use GitHub to Be a More Productive Developer

October 20, 2015 • Devin Partida


Ah, GitHub. Such a lovely place to be, especially for budding developers. What is it, you ask?

GitHub is essentially a social network and Wiki meshed into one platform that serves as a collaborative space for developers and end-users alike. Originally, it started as a portal for developers where they could host and share projects they were working on and receive feedback. It has since evolved into something greater and can be described as a veritable treasure trove of free applications, tools and software.

Back when major companies did their development and coding work in private and kept the data to themselves, we never had a use for such a platform. These days, however, it seems like everything is going open source. The source code is being published online for all to access and use. GitHub is a platform where they can do that.

Who Uses GitHub and How?

You’ll find projects from a variety of developers, starting with small time devs you probably never heard of and stretching to those working for big companies like Facebook and Google.

When you tap into GitHub by creating an account, you’re free to access any of the files hosted on the platform, and you can even use the content as you wish. You can download the code and use the resulting software, study it to better your own projects, or build upon and improve it to make the existing project better.

By diving into the fray, it’s almost like joining a team of like-minded developers and working alongside them. Don’t worry, if you don’t have any coding or dev experience you can still participate. End-users can submit bug reports and notes about the applications, which help the devs iron out problems other users might run into.

Making GitHub Work for You

It’s not a stretch to claim a large majority of the software up for grabs on GitHub is of a higher caliber. Sound crazy? It’s because most of these developers and teams actually care about what they’re working on. They have a vested interest and they want to see it become the absolute best it can be. That doesn’t mean there are no unfinished and shoddy projects on the platform, because there are.

If you’ve never used GitHub before, then you might want to sort through a beginner’s guide before playing around with the platform.

This all sounds fine and dandy, but what does this have to do with personal performance? More importantly, how can you — an end-user or budding developer — tap into the platform to boost your own productivity?


For Starters, There Are Tons of Productivity Apps

This one may be a bit on the nose, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Just browse the software on GitHub and you’ll notice a great deal of apps dedicated to improving productivity; and not just for developers, either.

There are tools to help you improve typing efficiency, tools to help you organize tasks and events, apps to simplify common tasks, and so much more. It’s a blanket statement, but still — do a simple search for whatever you want, and chances are you’ll find an app for it.

If you find an application that’s not yet finished don’t be afraid to give it a try. You can help out the devs and point out any issues you encounter, or you can even suggest new features. That’s one of the best parts about participating on GitHub: You can help shape the software as it’s being created. The same can’t be said of software packages that already have a release date. For the most part, when it comes to retail software, what you see is what you get.

As a Budding Developer, Work on Existing Projects

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve had a bit of experience and want to finally branch out on your own, creating an application from scratch can be cumbersome and tedious. The funny thing with programming is problems can be solved many different ways, and you can use a variety of commands for the same ends, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most efficient way to do so. The best way to improve your coding skills is to watch another skilled developer at work, or more specifically to dive into their code.

By taking a project that already exists and modifying it to do what you need — or improving it — you are saving a lot of time. And since that’s exactly what open source platforms such as GitHub encourage, you might as well use them to your advantage.

Sometimes there are limitations on what you can do with the final code, especially if you plan to sell the final product commercially, but often all it requires is a simple correspondence with the original author.

Use GitHub Shortcuts and Hacks

If you use GitHub regularly, you can take advantage of the many shortcuts embedded into the platform to help users save time. There are keyboard shortcuts, email and comment hacks, and a variety of quick-access dev features to help you save time.

Find New Ways to Use GitHub

Believe it or not, there are unique ways to use GitHub too, such as a blogging platform, travel logging tool or crowdsourced cookbook. Once you understand the features and functionality, you can come up with some great ideas. Such projects, in their own right, will help improve your productivity, especially if you implement your method around your needs.

Get out there and see what else you can do with the platform.