Git. If you hail from the US, perhaps you’re thinking of the word “get” being said with a southern accent. Or if you’re from the UK then maybe you’re thinking of the rather unpleasant slang term.
I don’t mean either. I’m talking about the distributed version control system called Git. Or more specifically, I’m speaking of the hosted version of that software known as GitHub.
What’s GitHub you ask? And why are we talking about it on Mac.AppStorm? Well, the answer to the fist question is a bit long, so if you’ll humor me, I’ll address the second question first: we’re discussing Git and GitHub because the fine folks at GitHub have released a Mac app. And that’s what we’re all about here at Mac.AppStorm. So before we dive into GitHub for Mac, allow me to briefly explain just what Git is in the first place.
What Is Git?
So what exactly is Git? Well, Git’s homepage describes it this way:
“Git is a free & open source, distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.”
I suppose for some of our readers I would need to take a step back and explain what a version control system is. Essentially it tracks changes to versions of files — generally files related to computer programing — and then allows a person to manage those versions in different ways.
For a more in-depth explanation, I highly recommend Wikipedia’s extensive explanation.
GitHub for Mac
That brings us back to GitHub for Mac. Where does that come into all of this? Well, the part I left out in my explanation of Git is that the tool is used by a person strictly via a command line interface.
“Ok, so what’s the problem,” many might ask. Well, for the most part, the people who use version control systems are developers, the type of people who aren’t afraid of a command prompt and lots of text. But with the advent of sites like GitHub that make version control so easy, more and more less experienced developers have been making use of it.
The user base of GitHub has been expanding to encompass web designers and even graphic designers, people who are command line averse, but who understand and value the benefits of version control for their software development projects.
Enter GitHub for Mac. This is the tool for them, a GUI to Git. Let’s look a little closer at it.
True to typical Mac form, the GitHub for Mac UI is beautifully polished. In the initial interface, a two paned Finder-esque view displays sources for repositories on the left and choices of repositories on the right.
Once you click on a repository, things start to get interesting.
Another view slides in very iOS like and we see a new series of options that tie into the management of a repository. On the left is a vertical navigation we have the commit log appears first, followed by the change log, the list of branches and the settings for the repository are at the bottom of the vertical list. On the right is the main content view which changes in conjunction with the navigation on the left.
All in all, GitHub for Mac’s user interface is quite clearly inspired by iOS user interface conventions, and considering Mac OS X 10.7 as well as 10.8 are as well, I think this is a smart, and forward-looking style choice on GitHub’s part.
The Feature Set
The nice thing about GitHub for Mac is that when it comes to features, it’s not lacking. Git itself is an extremely full-featured piece of software. And if you’re already familiar with it and all that it can do, then perhaps GitHub for Mac isn’t the tool for you.
That isn’t to say that anything essential is missing from GitHub for Mac. It has all of the essentials. Repository creation and cloning, change logs, commit management, branch creation, visual merging, I could go on.
The beauty of it all is that GitHub for Mac does a standup job of interpreting these features that are naturally expressed as a serious of obtuse commands in a terminal view into intuitive visual representations.
For anyone who feels more at home in a command line interface, then GitHub for Mac probably isn’t for them. It doesn’t offer a GUI for every single option that Git has to offer. But it does allow for robust creation and management of Git repositories.
Anyone who is working in the web design or software development field today is at the very least familiar with Git, and it’s taking a lot of development teams by storm. If a command line scares you but your boss is telling you that using Git has just become a job requirement of yours, don’t fear. GitHub for Mac is here to the rescue offering the utility and flexibility of Git with the visual polish and ease-of-use that quality Mac apps are known for.