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Forking A Repository on Github and Subsequently Creating a Pull Request

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Forking A Repository on Github and Subsequently Creating a Pull Request
Photo by Paolo Chiabrando on Unsplash

I little while ago I went over a student's homework project, and I noticed a small error in her html. Since I am also teaching my students Git, I decided that I would add the experience of forking repositories and subsequent pull requests on the original repos. After all, that is at the center of Git collaboration.

  • First, I had to fork her repository. I went to the repository in question, and clicked on the fork button to the right of the star button. I wanted to be able to make slight changes where necessary to her repository, but most of all, I wanted her to gain exposure to merging pull requests. And perhaps even forking (open source) repositories herself.

Whenever I fork a repository, my goal is to be able to make pull requests and offer suggested changes to the original source code. In other words, "propose changes to the upstream", aka "original" repository. Don't we all? And where does this all take place? Via the Command Line (Terminal) of course! And sometimes, especially in the cases of proposing changes to open source repositories that you may be interested in or even depend on, it is also a good idea to regularly sync your fork with the upstream repository.

Forking a repository
  • Next, I needed to create a clone locally on my laptop. First I go to my fork I have created of my student's repository, copied the url of the repository residing inside the "Clone or download" button, and then I git clone url it using SSH (that is what I am set up for on Github) in Terminal.
git clone

If you are using https or

git clone

If you are using SSH. Now you have your copy of the repository you have forked locally on your computer.

  • Next I want to configure Git to sync my fork with the original repository I forked.

    • First I go back to the repository I forked.
    • Under the repository name, again I click the "clone or download" button and copy the url inside, choosing HTTPS or SSH.
    • Next I go back into Terminal. I cd into the root of my local copy of the forked repository.
    • Then I execute the command git remote -v. It shows me the link associated with the git fetch and git push commands on origin. -> git fetch (origin) and git push (origin).
    • Then I execute the git remote add upstream This is very similar to git remote add origin preparing to push a new local git repository to remote origin for the first time. There we also sync our remote repository with ourlocal repository via the remote url used for cloning as well.
    • Next, I check to see whether my syncing took on upstream withgit remote -v again. If upstream prints out to the Terminal Console for both fetch and push with the correct urls, then I know I was successful.
git remote -v
  • Now I can set up my local repository to be synched with the upstream repository on Github with a few more Git commands.
    • First I make sure I am actually in the local copy of my forked repo.
    • Then I execute the command git fetch upstream.
    • If there were any changes made on remote that are not reflected locally, they will be fetched from upstream into the local copy of the forked repository.
    • Next I have to make sure I am checked out into the master branch. If there are no other branches in the forked repository, only a master branch, then I will already be there as would be evidenced by the appearance of "master" in the Terminal window. But it is still not a bad idea to go through the paces of git checkout master. All that will happen then is that I would be informed that I am already in the master branch.
    • Next I need to merge the changes from upstream/master into my local master branch. This brings my fork's master branch into sync with the upstream repository, without losing my local changes.
git merge upstream/master
git merge upstream/master

In fact, what I like to do is

git merge upstream/master --no-ff

because I don't like to fast-forward. I like to see all commits before the merge (in case if there are any, and sometimes there are). --no-ff means no fast forward.

  • If I want my local forked version to have the same changes as the original repository I forked, I can do a git pull upstream [branch] as I would with my own local repositories, just in those cases it would be git pull ( don't need to do more because I execute git push -u origin master when I push a new local repository to remote for the first time). And then to push to my forked repository on remote, I would execute git push origin [branch].
    • I could also choose to do a rebase, but I like to avoid that if not necessary. I don't like to rewrite histories unless I have to.

And that it is it!

Update 9.13.21:

If I want to make changes to my forked repository on Github so that I can then make a pull request on the original repository, I would do the following before pushing changes I have made to my local copy of my remote forked repository:

git remote set-url origin

This is analogous to git remote add origin when first pushing your local repository to your remote repository on Github. Now you are ready to create your first pull request on the original repository you forked! And when you want to push those changes for the first time to your remote forked repository on Github, you would do the following:

git push -u

After the first push, you no longer have to include -u in subsequent pushes. It is only necessary the first time you do so.

I will be embedding this episode of Plugging in The Holes along with a transcript in the form of a post on for your hearing and reading pleasure. I will be including the related resource links mentioned in the podcast of course. Always do. Bye for now!