Working with git and github

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Revision as of 15:04, 15 December 2022 by Ceford (talk | contribs) (Added section on using composer and node)
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This document will provide information about contributing to the Joomla! CMS with help of Git and GitHub. If you like to make 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?[edit]

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:

Getting Started[edit]

Sign Up on GitHub and Install Git[edit]

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 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 "Your name"
git config --global

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 further with setting up our test installation.

Setting up a Test Installation[edit]

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

After the installation of such a program (I use MAMP in this documentation), we are 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![edit]

On GitHub you can find projects called Repositories. Inside a project you might find several versions. One such 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 use this branch directly, we have a 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.


After forking, we install Joomla! on our local Web server. Go to the folder where you can run files on you Web server. Most programs 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. Replace username with the username you are using on GitHub.

git clone

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.

Composer and Node.js[edit]

To work with the Joomla clone you need to install two items of software:

  1. Composer - for managing Joomla's PHP dependencies. For help installing Composer, read the documentation at
  2. Node.js - for compiling Joomla's JavaScript and SASS files. For help installing Node.js, please follow the instructions available on Note you will need NodeJS 12 or higher to install Joomla.

Once installed:

  1. Run composer install from the root of the git repo. (You can add --ignore-platform-reqs if you don't have the PHP-LDAP locally installed and you don't need it.)
  2. Run npm ci from the root of the git repo. (Note you need npm 6.13.4 or higher for this. Run npm install -g npm@lts to upgrade your version of npm to the LTS version.)

Linux and OSX users can set up the following bash alias by placing the following inside the ~/.bashrc file:

alias jclean="rm -rf administrator/templates/atum/css; \
rm -rf templates/cassiopeia/css; \
rm -rf administrator/templates/system/css; \
rm -rf templates/system/css; \
rm -rf media/; \
rm -rf node_modules/; \
rm -rf libraries/vendor/; \
rm -f administrator/cache/autoload_psr4.php; \
rm -rf installation/template/css"
alias jinstall="jclean; composer install; npm ci"

This will delete all the compiled files in your system and run a fresh install as one command by calling jinstall inside your Joomla install. You can also use the jclean command to swap back to a Joomla 3.x branch

Install Joomla![edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Push the Change to the Fork[edit]

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[edit]

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

Extra Information[edit]

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

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