GitHub Desktop is a powerful and user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) client for managing Git repositories, making it easy for developers and teams to collaborate on projects. It is designed to simplify common Git tasks, such as committing changes, creating and managing branches, and merging pull requests without command-line expertise. This introduction will highlight the key features and differences that make GitHub Desktop a preferred choice for many users.
Key Features and Differences
- User Interface: GitHub Desktop offers an intuitive and visually appealing interface that makes managing repositories a breeze for both new and experienced users. The clean layout helps users easily navigate the application and perform various Git actions.
- Commit History: The commit history panel lets users view a detailed log of all commits, including author, date, and commit message. This makes tracking changes, reviewing code, and pinpointing specific commits in a project’s history easy.
- Branch Management: GitHub Desktop simplifies branch creation and management. Users can create, switch between, and merge branches with just a few clicks, streamlining the development process and reducing the potential for conflicts.
- Pull Requests: The application integrates seamlessly with GitHub’s pull request system, allowing users to create, review, and merge pull requests without leaving the application. This tight integration reduces the need to switch between the command line and GitHub’s web interface.
- Diff Viewer: GitHub Desktop includes a built-in diff viewer that visually represents changes made to files, making it easier to review and understand code modifications. Users can quickly identify additions, deletions, and modifications in the code with color-coded highlights.
- Conflict Resolution: When merging branches or pull requests, GitHub Desktop helps users resolve conflicts with a straightforward interface that clearly identifies conflicting files and changes, simplifying the process of resolving merge conflicts.
This guide will demonstrate how to install GitHub Desktop on your Debian 12 Bookworm, Debian 11 Bullseye, or Debian 10 Buster system using two methods: manually installing a .deb file or importing an officially endorsed third-party repository by the same team that creates the .deb installation package.
Table of Contents
Section 1: Install GitHub Desktop with .deb
While GitHub officially supports only Windows and macOS, Linux users can access the platform through the “shiftkey/desktop” project. This fork provides Linux-compatible packages for various distributions, including Debian.
To start, visit the releases page and download the most recent release. Although this guide focuses on installing the “.deb” package, you can also choose the AppImage if you prefer and are familiar with it.
Step 1: Download the GitHub Desktop .deb file
Download the latest release using the following command in your terminal. This command fetches the .deb file from the GitHub repository and saves it to your local system:
Step 2: Install GitHub Desktop
With the .deb file downloaded, you can now install the GitHub Desktop application. Our guide uses version 3.2.1 RC1 as an example. Replace
<filename> in the command below with the name of the .deb file you downloaded:
sudo dpkg -i <filename>.deb
Example with 3.2.1 RC1:
sudo dpkg -i GitHubDesktop-linux-3.2.1-linux1.deb
For newer Debian users who might not know,
dpkg is a package manager used to install, remove, and manage Debian packages. It’s a fundamental tool for installing .deb packages on your system. The
-i flag is a command option that tells
dpkg to install the specified package.
Section 2: Install GitHub Desktop with APT Repository
The second approach to installing GitHub Desktop is through a third-party APT repository. This method is preferable as it enables easy updating of your GitHub Desktop application and other packages. Currently, two third-party APT repositories in the United States are mirrors for the shiftkey/desktop GitHub project. These repositories are endorsed and listed on the project’s page. However, some users in other parts of the world may experience difficulties connecting to a US mirror, although this is not expected to impact most users.
Step 1: Update Debian
Before installing GitHub Desktop, ensure your Debian system is up-to-date by running the following command:
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
This command updates the package lists and upgrades any installed packages to their latest versions.
Step 2: Install the Required Packages
To install GitHub Desktop using an APT repository, you’ll need to install some prerequisite packages. Run the following command to install them:
sudo apt install wget software-properties-common
These packages are required to import the GPG key and add the repository to your system.
Step 3: Import GitHub Repository
Choose one of the two available mirrors. It is recommended to use the first one, but you can opt for the second one if you encounter any issues.
Import GPG key and repository for @shiftkey:
Add the GPG key:
wget -qO - https://apt.packages.shiftkey.dev/gpg.key | gpg --dearmor | sudo tee /usr/share/keyrings/shiftkey-packages.gpg > /dev/null
Import the repository:
sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64 signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/shiftkey-packages.gpg] https://apt.packages.shiftkey.dev/ubuntu/ any main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/shiftkey-packages-desktop.list'
Alternative mirror by @mwt:
Add the GPG key:
wget -qO - https://mirror.mwt.me/shiftkey-desktop/gpgkey | gpg --dearmor | sudo tee /etc/apt/keyrings/mwt-desktop.gpg > /dev/null
Import the repository:
sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64 signed-by=/etc/apt/keyrings/mwt-desktop.gpg] https://mirror.mwt.me/shiftkey-desktop/deb/ any main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mwt-desktop.list'
Step 4: Update the Packages List
After importing one of the mirrors, run an APT update to ensure that the newly added repositories are recognized:
sudo apt update
Step 5: Install GitHub Desktop
To install GitHub Desktop, use the following command:
sudo install github-desktop
This command installs the GitHub Desktop application from the chosen repository.
Section 3: Launch GitHub Desktop
After successfully installing GitHub Desktop on your Debian system, you can launch the application using either the terminal or the graphical user interface (GUI) method.
Step 1: Terminal Method
To launch GitHub Desktop from the terminal, run the following command:
This command opens the GitHub Desktop application. If the application starts successfully, you’ll see the main window where you can sign in, manage repositories, and perform other Git-related tasks.
Step 2: GUI Method
To launch GitHub Desktop using the GUI method, follow these steps:
- Open your system’s application menu. This menu is usually accessed via a button or icon on the taskbar or dock, such as the “Activities” button in GNOME or the application launcher in KDE Plasma.
- Search for “GitHub Desktop” in the application menu by typing “GitHub Desktop” into the search bar or browsing through the list of installed applications.
- Click on the “GitHub Desktop” icon to launch the application.
Example of launching GitHub Desktop application icon on Debian Linux:
Section 4: Getting Started with GitHub Desktop on Debian Linux
After installing and launching GitHub Desktop on your Debian system, it’s time to explore some tips, customizations, and general advice for getting started with the application. This section will cover various topics to help you make the most of GitHub Desktop on Debian Linux.
- Sign in with your GitHub account: To fully utilize GitHub Desktop, sign in with your GitHub or GitHub Enterprise account. This allows you to easily access your repositories, manage your profile, and sync your work with the remote server.
- Clone repositories: Use the “Clone a Repository” feature to create a local copy of a remote repository on your Debian system. This enables you to work on projects offline and sync your changes later.
- Manage branches: Easily create, switch between, and merge branches with the GitHub Desktop interface. This simplifies the process of working with multiple branches in a repository.
- Commit and push changes: GitHub Desktop allows you to commit and push changes directly from the application. Track changes, write commit messages, and easily push your work to remote repositories.
- Configure Git settings: To customize your Git settings, such as your name, email address, and default editor, go to the “Preferences” menu in GitHub Desktop. This ensures that your commits are properly attributed to you.
- Change appearance: Customize the appearance of GitHub Desktop by selecting a light or dark theme in the “Preferences” menu. Choose the theme that best suits your preferences and work environment.
- Enable or disable notifications: Control which notifications you receive from GitHub Desktop by adjusting the settings in the “Preferences” menu. Opt to receive notifications for specific events, like new commits, or disable notifications altogether.
- View commit history: Use the “History” tab in GitHub Desktop to view a repository’s commit history. This provides a visual representation of your project’s progress and allows you to review previous changes.
- Resolve merge conflicts: If you encounter merge conflicts while working with GitHub Desktop, the application provides built-in tools to help you resolve them. Review the conflicting changes, choose the correct version, and commit the resolution.
- Open projects in your favorite editor: GitHub Desktop lets you open your repositories directly in your favorite code editor. Configure this setting in the “Preferences” menu to streamline your workflow.
By following these tips and customizations, you’ll be well on your way to making the most of GitHub Desktop on your Debian Linux system.
Example of GitHub Desktop opened for the first time on Debian Linux:
Section 5: Additional Commands & Tips
This section will cover some important additional commands and tips for managing GitHub Desktop on your Debian system, including updating and removing the application.
Step 1: Update GitHub Desktop
Keeping your GitHub Desktop application up-to-date is essential for ensuring you have the latest features, bug fixes, and security patches. The update process depends on the installation method you used earlier.
Method 1: Update via APT Repository
If you installed GitHub Desktop using the APT repository method, run the following commands to update your application:
sudo apt update sudo apt upgrade
sudo apt update command updates your package lists, while
sudo apt upgrade upgrades all installed packages, including GitHub Desktop, to their latest available versions.
Method 2: Update via .deb File
If you installed GitHub Desktop using the .deb file method, you must download the latest .deb file from the GitHub Desktop release page and repeat the installation process described in Section 1.
Step 2: Remove the GitHub Desktop Client
If you ever need to uninstall GitHub Desktop from your Debian system, you can do so with the following command:
sudo apt remove github-desktop
This command removes the GitHub Desktop application from your system. Note that this command does not delete any repositories or Git-related data you’ve worked on using the application.
Conclusion: Installing GitHub Desktop on Debian Linux
In summary, installing GitHub Desktop on Debian Linux can be accomplished using two primary methods: manually installing a .deb file or importing an officially endorsed third-party repository. Both methods are effective and allow you to access the GitHub Desktop client on your Debian system, even though the application is not officially supported by GitHub for Linux.
Additional Resources and Links
To further enhance your GitHub Desktop experience on Debian Linux and deepen your understanding of Git and GitHub, consider exploring the following official resources:
- GitHub Desktop Official Website: Visit the official website for GitHub Desktop to learn more about the application and its features.
- GitHub Guides: These official guides offer in-depth information on various Git and GitHub topics, including managing repositories, collaboration, and more.
- GitHub Help Documentation: Explore the comprehensive official documentation for GitHub Desktop, which covers installation, usage, and troubleshooting.
- Pro Git Book: This official book on Git, written by Scott Chacon and Ben Straub, is available for free online and provides an extensive guide to using Git and understanding its underlying concepts.
- Git Official Website: Visit the official website for Git to access documentation, videos, and other learning resources on this popular version control system.