Getting to Know and Setting up GitHub Desktop

1. Getting to Know GitHub Desktop

GitHub Desktop is a free, open source application that makes it easier for Mac and Windows users alike to manage repositories and GitHub connections on their local computer.

The fact that Desktop is open source means that you can follow the development of new features, connect with the developers right on the actual repository where the application is being built, and even choose to add features you’re interested in having.

You can find the repository at

To install the GitHub Desktop on your computer:

  • Go to and click Download for the platform you’re using.

This book is written with examples using Google Chrome and a Mac. GitHub Desktop works on a Windows PC as well because it’s built using Electron, which allows it to work on both operating systems.

  • After the download finishes, click the file that was downloaded.

The file automatically unzips.

On Mac, the GitHub Desktop application appears in your Downloads folder, next to the zip file. On Windows, the application immediately opens after you unzip the file.

  • On Mac, drag the purple GitHub Desktop application into your Applications folder.
  • On Mac, go to your Applications folder and double-click the GitHub Desktop icon.

The application opens, shown in Figure 2-6.

2. Setting up GitHub Desktop

Before you can use GitHub Desktop effectively, you have to do a few things to con­nect it to your account. If you do not yet have a account, go to Chapter 1. If you already have a account and have already down­loaded GitHub Desktop, you can set up GitHub Desktop with the following steps:

  1. Open the GitHub Desktop application.
  2. Choose Fileo Preferences.
  3. On the Accounts tab, click Sign In on the row.

The Sign In dialog box, shown in Figure 2-7, appears.

  1. Type your username and password and click the Sign in button or click Sign in using your browser.

When you click Sign in, all the dialog boxes close.

  1. Repeat Step 1 to re-open the preferences.

Your account with your avatar, name, and GitHub username appears under the row, confirming that you have successfully logged in.

  1. Click on the Git tab.

The information has been auto-filled for you.

  1. On the Appearance tab, choose Light or Dark.

Screenshots in this book are in Light mode.

  1. Set other preferences, such as the Editor and usage data, on the Advanced tab.

This book uses Atom and Visual Studio Code as example editors, but you can select whichever editor you prefer.

I recommend agreeing to send usage data, which is checked by default. By leaving it checked, you help the GitHub Desktop development team under­stand how all users use the application and therefore make it better.

If you do not have a GitHub repository on your computer yet, you can stop the setup here. If you do have a repository, see Chapter 4.

While a team of folks at GitHub predominately does the development of GitHub Desktop, a part of their role is to support community members who want to con­tribute to the project. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the team on its repository at

Source: Guthals Sarah, Haack Phil (2019), GitHub for Dummies, Wiley.

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