18.7. Remote Repositories

In this chapter, we learned how to use the Git version control system to keep snapshots of our projects. This version history (the repository) is stored on our personal machine.

One advantage of keeping this local repo is that we can work on our project anytime we want. We don’t need access to the internet. One issue with a local repo, however, is that keeping a copy on our personal device does not always fit how we code. For example:

  1. Students often use different devices in class and at home.

  2. In a school, the same computer gets used by multiple students.

  3. Coding projects are often done in teams. Each partner needs their own, current copy of the repository.

Also, accidents happen. If our device takes an unexpected trip to the floor, or falls in the toilet, or gets juice spilled on it, or gets stolen, or the hard drive crashes, then our project is gone.

Fortunately, the whole point of a VCS is to keep a backup of our work. This includes support for shared machines and recovering from accidents!

18.7.1. Local, Remote, GitHub, Oh My!

How can we work on our saved code when we need to use a different device? This is where remote repositories come in. Unlike a local repo (stored on our machine), a remote repository is stored online.

If you’ve ever used the Dropbox service, or created a Google doc (or spreadsheet, presentation, etc.), then you have used a remote repository. For example, you can login to your Google account from a computer at school and start working on a slide presentation. Google stores your work and lets you access it from any other computer that can connect to the web. You just login to Google again and continue working on the same file right where you left off. You can also share your work with one or more partners. Changes made by one person update the slides for everyone else. That way, the entire team sees the most current version.

Instead of keeping a Git repository only on our local machine, we can use an online service to store the repo instead. Then we pull down copies of that repo to work on the code from different devices.

To get started with remote repositories, create an account on GitHub. This is a very popular service that manages repositories and much, much more. Not only can we store our own work on the site, users allow each other to view, clone, and contribute to their code!


Check with your teacher before signing up for a GitHub account. Depending on your school’s technology policy, there might be some restrictions.

18.7.2. Team Projects

Let’s say we join a team that already has a project going. To start helping, we need to get a copy of the repository. Fortunately, the team uses GitHub!

Even without an account, we can clone our team’s work and save it on our own machine. Once we have an account (and permission from our team), we can push the commits we make from our machine up to GitHub. Neat!

To clone a remote repository, the terminal command is:

git clone repo-url

The repo-url part of the command is where we fill in the web address of the repository we want to clone.

Try It!

Since you already initialized the git_practice directory as a Git repository, it’s important to move out of that folder before cloning a new repo!

  1. In VS Code, use the terminal to return to the local_practice directory. Confirm your location with the pwd command.

    $ pwd
  2. Now clone an existing project from GitHub. Copy and paste this command into the terminal:

    $ git clone https://github.com/LaunchCodeEducation/LCHS-git-clone-example.git
  3. Use the file tree or the ls command so see that a new folder has been saved in the local_practice directory. Navigate into that folder and look around.

    $ cd LCHS-git-clone-example
    $ ls
    $ python main.py

    Mac users: Remember to use python3 instead of python in the terminal.

You can view the code you cloned by opening main.py in VS Code. Any branches, changes, and commits you make will be saved to your local version of the repository. The remote version remains unchanged by the actions you take on your device.

18.7.3. Saving to a Remote Repository

Once we clone a repository to our machine, any changes we make to the project stay on our personal device. To update the remote repo, we need to push our changes up to GitHub.

In this chapter’s Project, we will go through a detailed process to practice pushing and pulling changes from a GitHub repository. Your teacher may also have you work through Assignment 5, which adds some partners to your GitHub experience.

For now, we will just look at a summary of the Git commands needed to update a remote repository. The process only adds one new step:

  1. git status

  2. git add .

  3. git commit -m "Message..."

  4. git push origin branch-name

Step 4 uses the new command git push to move our local commits up to GitHub. The command changes the online repository. origin makes sure that any new files and code do indeed go to the remote (the origin of the project). branch-name identifies the branch that the new commits go to.

18.7.4. Check Your Understanding


What is the command for sending a commit to a remote repository?

  1. git push
  2. git pull
  3. git clone
  4. git commit
  5. git add
  6. git status
  7. git outta here