GitHub from the CLI with Hub


For fans of the command line who are also regular users of GitHub there’s a great option for integrating Git & GitHub commands into the same CLI workflow.

It’s called hub and it’s maintained by GitHub. While the README is okay, there a few missing details and I couldn’t find any other tutorials on getting started. So I decided to write one!

This tutorial covers:

  1. Installation
  2. Configuration of auto-completion and git integration
  3. Authentication and remote repo creation
  4. More thorough usage example with GitHub Flow

Only continue if you are already familiar with Git as well as browser-based usage of GitHub. To get up-to-speed see GitHub’s own on-demand training courses


As per the README, you can install on Mac, Windows and Fedora with the package managers Homebrew, Chocolatey and DNF respectively.

I’ll provide instructions specific for Ubuntu (tested on 16.04 and 17.10) but you should be able to follow along with modifications for most OSes.

First download the latest of either version 2.3.0 or the latest stable binary for Linux. In this tutorial, I’ll be using version 2.3.0 for some newer features (assigning issues to a user). At this moment it’s not stable (v2.2.9 is) but should be soon.

To install we’ll untar and run the install script, which creates the program in /usr/local/bin and a manpage.

tar zxvf hub-linux-ARCH-X.Y.Z.tgz
sudo hub-linux-ARCH-X.Y.Z/install

You can confirm the install (your versions will likely be different):

$ hub version
git version 2.11.0
hub version 2.3.0-pre10

Integrate with git command and enable auto-completion

Both these parts are optional, as we can now use all of hub's functionality. But two options to consider for a better experience are:

  • aliasing it with git
  • enable auto-completion for a better experience

For auto-completion, first we need to put the etc/hub.bash_completion file included in the release somewhere permanent.

sudo cp etc/ /usr/local/etc

Now, for Ubuntu, we’ll add the following lines to ~/.bashrc.

# Alias hub with git
eval "$(hub alias -s)"

# Enable hub auto-completion
if [ -f /usr/local/etc/hub.bash_completion ]; then
    . /usr/local/etc/hub.bash_completion

To see the effects, open a new terminal or run source ~/.bashrc, then confirm success with:

$ git version
git version 2.11.0
hub version 2.3.0-pre10

Also hit tab after git and you should see auto-completion display a list of available commands.

Authenticate and Create Repos

To use hub we need to authenticate with GitHub. This is done by providing your login credentials.

hub will store your username and an oauth token in a ~/.config/hub. You can delete the token anytime in to revoke access.

Logging in and Brand New Repository

hub expands certain git commands with additional options while creating new ones:

  • git init is one it expands, with the -g flag, hub will initialize a repo while automatically adding a remote
  • git create is a new command with hub, it will create the repo on GitHub
  • git browse is another new command it will open GitHub in your default browser

Let’s try these both with our throwaway “hubapp”:

git init -g hubapp # you'll be asked for your credentials if you're first time
cd hubapp
echo "# My New Hub App" > #optional but let's put something in there
git add .
git commit -m "Initial commit"
git create # hubapp now exists on GitHub!
git push -u origin master
git browse # will open hubapp on GitHub in your browser

Existing Local Repository

A more typical scenario is where you’ve done some work on a new project locally and want to create it on GitHub. Now you can run a simple command instead of:

  • Opening up your browser
  • Logging into GitHub
  • Creating a project on GitHub
  • Adding your remote locally
  • Hopefully getting it right the first time

Let’s say you’re in an existing app with some killer potential called “theNextFacebook” and want to start some GitHub collaboration.

git create # remote added and repo created on GitHub under your user's namespace
git push -u origin master # that's it!
git browse # optionally, open in your browser

Alternatively add an ORG/NAME argument to git create the repo under an organization’s namespace instead (your user will need the required permissions in the organization).

GitHub Flow with git+hub

In this final part we’ll see that we can complete GitHub Flow from the CLI with git+hub commands. Let’s pretend we’re working on a small project with a few contributors using the Shared Repository Model.

  1. Create and assign an issue
  2. Create and work on a topic branch
  3. Sync with GitHub and rebase on master for a clean history
  4. Push and create pull request
  5. Merge with master and close issue

Create an issue

First we’ll create an issue and assign ourselves:

git issue create -a mygithubusername

Your default text editor will open. The first line will be the title while the rest will be the description. For example:

Add fetch user action

To be called by multiple components for a customized interface

Just save and close and the issue is created! You can list the issues with git issue.

Work on a topic branch

Next, we’ll create a branch both locally and on GitHub. The second part is optional at this moment, but provides visibility to peers on what’s being worked on.

git checkout -b fetch-user-action
git push -u origin !$ # note: !$ is a bash shortcut for last word of last command

…we develop, test and commit changes locally…

Great. Now, everything is working nicely, so let’s do a pull request, but let’s pretend two things have happened:

  • we have multiple commits in this topic branch, including typo fixes
  • buddy just pushed his own changes on another feature, so our topic branch is behind master

We want a clean commit history when our branch is merged into master, so how do we achieve this?

Rebase and Sync

First let’s squash our multiple commits into one. For simplicity’s sake let’s say we only have two our topic branch:

$ git log --oneline
513568e Fix typo... oops
5dda11f Finished fetch user
...older commits

We’ll run an interactive rebase.

git rebase -i HEAD~2

Git will show you this in your text editor:

pick 5dda11f Finished fetch user
pick 513568e Fix typo... oops

# ... A bunch of instructions

All we need to do is tell Git to squash the 2nd commit, then save and close. We’ll use a special type of squash called “fixup” which also discards the commit message, but incorporates the changes into the first commit. If we used “squash” instead we’d have an opportunity to rewrite the entire commit message (an unncessary step in this specific scenario).

pick 5dda11f Finished fetch user
fixup 513568e Fix typo... oops

Running git log again will show one commit in the place of these two, with a new hash but the same message “Finished fetch user”.

Now let’s update our master branch and use rebase again. We’re using rebase here to apply our commit on top of any interim changes made to master by our buddy. This way we can avoid the noisy and unnecessary “merge commit”.

git sync # use the new sync command to tersely update master locally
git diff master # check to see if there are may be any conflicts warranting a different approach
git rebase master # rebase your branch commit on top of master

If there were no unresolvable conflicts, you’ll get this message:

First, rewinding head to replay your work on top of it...
Applying: Finished fetch user

If there is an unresolvable conflict, you’ll need to deal with that (Git will help you a lot here) then use rebase --continue. I’m not going to go into detail on this here, so instead I’ll suggest some resources:

  • For more on the why and how of rebasing the topic branch check out this article.
  • Some additional instructions on resolving conflicts and rebase –continue.

Create Pull Request

Next, let’s push and create a pull request at the same time. We’ll assign ourselves, but you can also ask for “reviewers” to check the quality of the work with the -r flag. As we’ll likely be practising this flow alone the first few times let’s skip the reviewers part.

git push #this pushes to topic branch remotely
git pull-request -a reviewersusername

Similar to the issue, you will now write your PR message. Make sure the body includes a reference to the original issue, so it will be closed automatically, for example put “Closes #11” in the body where NUM is substituted with number of the issue. To get the issue number run git issue.

Add fetch user action

Closes #1

Merge and Close

Now let’s finally merge the topic branch and push, closing the pull request and issue at the same time.

git checkout master
git merge fetch-user-actions
git push

Note, if you are merging someone else’s work on a PR assigned to you, you would run git sync to ensure master is up-to-date locally, then git merge origin/fetch-user-actions.

If you’re happy to delete the topic branch now, just run:

git branch -d fetch-user-actions
git push origin --delete !$

That’s it! Everything’s been done via the command line. Of course mix this up with browser-based activity where it makes sense. But if you love the command line, having both options in your tool belt is pretty awesome.

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