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A Tutorial on Creating GitHub Pull Requests

··888 words·5 mins·
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Today I make my first ever GitHub pull request to the great Hexo theme NexT. I will summarize how to make a pull request in following post.

Creating a fork

According to GitHub documentation:

If you don’t have write access to the repository where you’d like to create a pull request, you must create a fork, or copy, of the repository first.

If you do not have write access to the repository you want to contribute to, the first step is to fork it. A fork means a complete copy of the original repository. But now you can do whatever you want on the fork without permission from the maintainer of the original repo.

It is easy to fork a public repository. Take the theme NexT for an example. Go to theme NexT’s GitHub repo, and click the “fork” button on the upper right to fork it.

Now I have a forked repo of the original repo. The address of the forked repo is

Create a local clone of your forked repo

If you want to start working on your forked repo, first you need to create a local clone the forked repo. Go to the forked repo in GitHub, and copy its address (see image below).

On the command line, use the following command to clone the forked repo:

git clone # replace this address with your actual address

After a while, the forked remote repo will be copied to your local computer. The folder name is hexo-theme-next.

Add original remote repo as one of your remote

In order to communicate with the original remote repo, we need to add it as one of our remote repo. Before that, your remote repo is only the forked remote repo. Use the following command to confirm that:

cd hexo-theme-next && git remote -v

You will see something like:

origin (fetch) origin (push)

In the above output, origin means your forked remote repo. Then go to the original remote and copy its address, just as we do for the forked remote. We then add the original remote as upstream:

 git remote add upstream

Now, using git remote -v again, you will see that original repo is also shown in your remote list:

origin (fetch) origin (push) upstream (fetch) upstream (push)

Make changes

Now you can make changes in your local repo. It is good practice to only change one feature at a time and commit it. After you have finished making changes to your local repo, you should commit and push it to your forked remote.

git add .
git commit -m "change feature xxx"
git push origin master # your forked remote will be updated now

Make your pull request

Now you can make your pull request. Go to the original repo, and click “New pull request” button,

On the Compare page, click “compare across forks”, you will see something like the following

On the left, there is “base fork”. On the right, there is “head fork”. Click the pull-down list to choose the original remote as base fork and choose your forked repo as head fork.

Then give a title to your pull request. You should also create a description according to the repo’s pull request template. Most serious projects have a pull request template. Make sure your pull request description follows their guidelines.

Finally, click the button “create pull request” on the bottom of the page to finish your pull request. Stay patient and wait for the original repo owner to review your pull request!

How to update your pull request

As is often the case, your pull request may need some polishing before it can be merged. So how do we update our pull request with new changes? It turns out that git can do that for us “magically”!

You just need to make modifications on your local branch, commit the changes and push it to your forked remote. Now go to your pull request page, you will find that the new commit will appear at the bottom of this pull request discussion (see image below for an example).

How to sync your master with original repository

A lot of people contribute to an open source project. After you have forked a project, other people may have committed several changes to the original repo’s master branch. How to keep your forked remote master up to date with the original repo?

You can fetch the changes from the upstream master and then merge the changes with your origin master:

git fetch upstream # fetch latest changes in upstream to your local
git checkout master # make sure that you are on local master
git merge  upstream/master # merge changes with your local master
git push origin master # push changes to your forked remote master

In the git merge stage, there may be some conflict between your master and upstream master. In order to merge, you have to resolve the conflicts. See here as a start on how to handle merge conflicts.



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