A repository (or repo) is a type of centrally located storage where you can keep all your project’s files and resources. Any of the project’s stakeholders or developers can pull your repository’s code (or resource) for new feature delivery or bug fixes in the product or software application.

You can think about the repository as a folder created on the cloud. The folder contains a set of programming files that collectively make an application. Repositories have many features like adding, deleting or modifying files. Other key features include versioning, information about who created and updated the files, and at what time they were created. All of these features make repositories easy to work with and contribute to the repository in order to build high-quality products. 

Should I Use a Repository?

A repository is a place where you can store shared code with friends, co-workers, classmates and even complete strangers. As a result, repositories help individuals and teams write better code faster.


Repository Key Concepts and Features

  • A repository, or software repository, is also known as a code repository.
  • A branch refers to a separate line of development that initially has the same code base as the main repository. This new branch can have its own set of files and commits.
  • A commit means saving changes made to a project's files to the repository itself.
  • A pull from a repository simply means getting the source code from the remote repository (a cloud server) to the local machine. A pull request contains file changes (the files that are added/modified or deleted) that are to be integrated with the main repository.
  • A push means pushing the locally built source code to a remote repository either created on GitHub, Bitbucket or a similar repository management platform.
  • A pull request refers to when you make changes in one of your branches and try to integrate those changes with the main repository.

More From the Built In Tech DictionaryWhat Is Source Code?


Why Are Repositories Important?

If an individual or a company needs to build an application or a product, they will need storage space and a code base management tool. A repository is the best way for an individual or team to work on code changes and a product’s new features in real time. Repositories are distinct from other online cloud-based collaboration tools like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive because repos are better suited for the specific needs of developing a code base. 

A person or an individual can own a repository or they can share ownership of a repository with other people in an organization. Generally, companies prefer private repositories that are visible to certain employees as that hides repository code from the general public. In practice this means others can’t copy the source code for their own benefit (monetary or otherwise).


Are Repositories Public?

An individual can restrict who has access to a repository by choosing the repository’s visibility (private or public). For example, a private repository is visible to those with whom the repo owner shares access. However, if a person sets their repo to public, it will be visible to everyone online. Anyone can contribute to a publicly available repo by creating a pull request to this repository.

If an organization owns the repo, the system administrator can provide organization members with permission to access and collaborate on the repo.

What Is a Repository? | Video: Lars Bilde


What Are the Advantages of a Repository?

  • Contribution: When we work on an open-source repository It becomes easy to contribute to the project.
  • Documentation: By using GitHub or any other repository management tool, it’s easy to develop robust documentation.
  • Create a Portfolio: Are you a developer who’s looking to attract technical recruiters? Your repository is your best tool. When searching for new candidates, many companies look at GitHub profiles and repositories.
  • Markdown: Markdown allows you to use a simple text editor to write formatted documents.
  • Track Changes for Multiple Versions: When multiple people collaborate on a project, it’s hard to keep track of revisions — who changed what, when and where those files are stored. GitHub and Bitbucket repository managers take care of this problem by keeping track of all the changes that your collaborators have pushed to the repository.
  • Integration With Other Tools: The repositories that you create on GitHub or Bitbucket can also integrate with different CI/CD tools like Jenkins.

Related Reading From Built In Experts5 Ways to Learn Git and Version Control


Examples of Repository Providers

Companies and individuals can use various software hosting services when setting up their own private or open-source product repositories. Some standard options that provide repository management services include GitHub, Bitbucket, and SourceForge. These repositories, or repo management companies, also provide premium services to their paid customers (typically software companies). Some of the premium services include access to GitHub codespaces, protected branches, draft pull requests, code owners, required reviewers and more.


How to Create a GitHub Repository

You can create a new repository on your personal or organizational GitHub account as long as you have sufficient permissions.

Let’s assume you’ve already created your GitHub account and are ready to create a new GitHub repository for yourself or your team.

First, in the upper-right corner of any page, use the + drop-down menu, and select New Repository.

repository image of a repo menu
An example of a repository menu. | Image: Vikram Gupta

Next, in the Owner drop-down, select the account on which you wish to create the repository. Then type a name of your choice for your repository and an optional description.

Here’s an example: 

  • Repo name : chat-application
  • Description:   This repo contains features and code modules to build a chat application for peer-to-peer direct messaging.

Now it’s time to choose the repository visibility option. For example, you can select private or public. If you’re creating a repo for your organization, you can set the visibility to internal, which will be visible to organization team members only.

Finally, click the “Create Repository” button.

repository image of a gray create repository button
An example of a create repository button. | Image: Vikram Gupta

More From This ExpertHow to Undo the Last Commit Using Git Reset Command


How to Clone a GitHub Repository

Once you are done with creating a repository for your application code, you only need to clone this newly created repository to your local machine, open it with your favorite IDE and start contributing to it. 

For example, you can use git clone <repo_url> to clone the repo locally.

Later you can use git add to add all untracked files to git and then use git commit -m <msg> to commit these changes to the local git repo. Finally, use git push origin <your_branch_name> to push your changes to the remote repository.

Note that when you clone GitHub’s repository to the local machine, you need to set up a username, user email, and password or you can authorize your IDE to perform the above git operations.

Once you’ve completed the above-mentioned steps, you should be in a position to perform an entire pullor push the operation on the cloned repository.

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