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Working with git and github

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Intro

This document will provide information about contributing to the Joomla! CMS with help of Git and GitHub. If you like to made a simple change (one file only), it is easier to use this documentation: Using the Github UI to Make Pull Requests If you like to add more complex changes or you're just interested in this, keep reading!

What are Git and GitHub?

Git is a distributed version control system. It is a system that records changes in files and keeps these changes in a history file. You can always look back to an earlier version of your code and restore changes if you like. Because of the history archive, Git is very useful when you work with many people together on the same project.

Here is how GitHub can be used. GitHub is an website that helps manage Git Projects in a visual way. As owner of a project you can change the code and compare different versions. As a user of the project you can contribute by making a Pull Requests. A pull request is a request to the owner to pull some code into the project. You're offering a piece of code (perhaps a solution for a bug) and asking if the Project owner would like to use it. If the owner likes it, he can merge (add) it to his project.

Joomla! uses GitHub and Git to maintain its code. Everyone can contribute Joomla! software. The URL to the Joomla! CMS Project on GitHub is: https://github.com/joomla/joomla-cms


Getting Started

Sign up on GitHub and install Git

First, you will need to register at GitHub. It's free and easy to do. Just follow the provided steps.

One we are signed up, we need to install Git. The latest version of Git can be found on http://git-scm.com. Download and open the installer. Git is an CLI (Command Line Interface) program. At the start this can be confusing and a bit scary but this document will lead you through the process.

If you're not an advanced user, just run the installer and press the "next" buttons until the program is installed. Git won't damage your system. Later you can remove it just like any other program if you like.

Once we installed Git, we open the program called "Git Bash." A command line will be opened. We're going to tell Git our name and email address. Git will use this information when we contribute to a project. With the following commands we give Git that information:

git config --global user.name "Your name"
git config --global user.email youremail@mail.com

In the above commands, and all other commands given in this documentation, each line is a new command. So you type the fist line, press enter and then type the second line and press enter.

We are now ready to use Git and go farther with setting up our test installation.


Setting up a test installation

For our test installation we need a Web server program so that we can install and run Joomla! on our computer. There are a lot of programs that can do that such as MAMP and XAMPP. Download an install one of them.

After the installation of such a program (I use MAMP in this documentation), we going to install the latest version of Joomla!. In our case, the latest version of Joomla! is not the last stable release. The last version of Joomla! is the staging branch on GitHub. First, let me explain a little bit more about GitHub.

Fork and Clone Joomla!

On GitHub you can find projects, so called Repositories. Inside a project you might find several versions. Such a version is called a Branch. Joomla! has the following branches:

  • Staging: This branch contains the latest bug fixes and new features of Joomla!
  • Master: This branch is the current stable version of Joomla!
  • 3.5-dev This branch contains the files for Joomla! 3.5, which is not stable at this writing.

On our test location we going to use the Staging branch but if we should use this branch directly we have problem. We cannot modify this branch because we are not the owner of it. We are going to make a copy of it. On GitHub this is called a Fork. We are the owner of that copy so we can modify it. After modifying we compare our fork with the original project. Then we can make a Pull Request for the changes we've made. More about that later. You can Fork a branch by pressing the Fork button on the Joomla! CMS Github Repository. This button is located at the right top of the page.

Github-fork-button.png

After forking, we are going to install Joomla! on our local Web server. Go to the folder were you can run files on you Web server. Most of the program use a folder called htdocs. Once we are inside that folder, press the right mouse button an click on: "Git Bash Here". The command line will open for this location.

Type the following command to download the files from your Fork of the Joomla! CMS to your computer. Please replace username with the username you are using on GitHub.

git clone https://github.com/username/joomla-cms.git

For all commands given in this documentation, you have to open Git via the above described steps. Please remember that for other commands in this documentation.

Once Git is ready, open your browser and go to the installation on your localhost. Usually the URL is something like: http://localhost/joomla-cms. You will now see the default Joomla! installation process.

Install Joomla!

The installation of Joomla! for our local test installation is almost the same as a regular installation. There are a two little differences.

For the database settings, the password and username are default. Most often the username is root and the password is also root or there is no password. If you still can't connect to the database, look in the manual for your local Web server for the username and password.

The last difference is the final step of the installation. Normally we must delete the installation folder to go further to the back-end or front-end of Joomla!. For a test installation we can skip this part and go directly to the back-end or front-end. Don't remove the installation folder. It can be very useful when we have to install Joomla again.

Make Your Changes

Now it is time to made our file changes to Joomla!. All changes we make will be registered and monitored by Git. At any moment you can type the command git status to see which files are modified or untracked. Untracked means that the file at that location is new for Git.

If you made a mistake or you would like to restore a file, use this command:

git checkout path/to/file

If you like to remove all changes you made, use the following commands:

git checkout .
git clean -f -d

The first command resets all files. The second command removes untracked files and folders.

Publish Our Changes on GitHub

Push the Change to the Fork

After making our changes, we have to upload our changes to our repository on GitHub. After that, we can make a pull request with our changes.

Uploading changes is called push in Git terms. Before we can do that, we have to do something very important. We must create a new branch for our changes. (A branch is a version of our project, remember?) If we don't do that and made our change directly to the staging branch, the first time there won't be a problem. But if we made changes for the second time, and the change we made the first time are not merged yet, all these changes will registered too as new changes.

So the first command we are going to run will create a new branch. It will prevent the above described problem. Replace name-new-branch with the name of the new branch. This name must be short, and can only contain lower case letters and numbers. Do NOT use spaces. Instead of spaces, use - (minus).

git checkout -b name-new-branch

The next command tells git that all made changes are good, and are ready to commit.

git add --all

The following command adds our change to the branch. Please replace the message with a short description of your changes. This description will be the title of the pull request we are going to make.

git commit -m "description"

The final command will push (upload) the changes to our fork. Please replace name-new-branch with the name of the branch you made a few steps above.

git push origin name-new-branch

Compare Forks and Make a Pull Request

After pushing our change to GitHub, go to your fork of the Joomla! CMS.

Extra information

Because the staging version of Joomla! can change any moment, it is very useful to have the possibility for keeping our fork up-to-date. We can do that by adding a remote to our forked project:

git remote add upstream https://github.com/joomla/joomla-cms.git

We now added a remote called "upstream". With the following command, Git will search for new contribution (commits) in the staging branch we don't have in our fork. If it found some, it will add them to our fork:

git pull upstream staging

The changes are now only made on our local fork. To upload them to GitHub use the following command:

git push