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8 Productivity Tips for GitHub

_darrenburns profile image Darren Burns Updated on ・4 min read

With the recent announcement of unlimited private repositories, let's take a few minutes before we push up the code we don’t want anyone else to see, and make sure we’re making the most of what GitHub has to offer.

GitHub is built with some extremely helpful shortcuts and productivity-boosting features. From personal experience, however, it’s clear that these often fall under the radar amongst developers. If I’ve ever witnessed a specific GitHub feature surprise or assist someone, then that feature is on this page. That said, what follows is by no means an exhaustive list.

Quick fuzzy file search in repositories

This is, without doubt, the fastest way to browse a repository when you know what you’re looking for. Open up any repository and press t. You can now search for the name of any file in the repository, and use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move through the results. Press Enter to open the file.


Code change suggestions in pull requests

When commenting on a piece of code in a pull request, you can suggest alternative code using the “Suggested Changes” feature. The author of the pull request will be able to apply your suggestion instantly without leaving GitHub.

To make the suggestion, surround a code snippet with a multiline Markdown snippet, with the tag suggestion:


Now that you’ve made the suggestion, the author of the pull request can immediately apply it to their branch, without the hassle of manually changing the file!


Navigate the code tree like in an IDE

This one requires an unofficial Chrome extension, but it’s a slightly more familiar way to navigate your code compared to the default interface. The Octotree extension lets you browse GitHub repositories with a sidebar tree view similar to what you get in applications like VS Code.


Jump to a function when reviewing code

Unless you’re reviewing a single function, a code review often involves a lot of jumping between function calls and their definitions (and therefore a lot of scrolling up and down). GitHub lets you jump to a symbol by pressing t when you’re looking at files in a pull request.


Creating a permalink to a file

When viewing a file or directory, press y, and the URL will be converted to a permalink, which you can share knowing that the contents of the file will never change.

If you send a link to a file or directory on GitHub without making it into a permalink, you’ll need to accept the possibility that the file could disappear tomorrow, breaking the link!

Viewing the blame and change recency heatmap

When viewing a file, you can press b to view the Git blame and a heatmap showing how recently each line was changed. It’ll tell you who most recently changed each line of code, and give you a clickable link taking you to the full commit the change was part of.

On the right-hand side of the gutter (which contains the commit message and author), you’ll notice an orange vertical bar. The more vivid this bar is, the more recent the change, meaning you can easily scan the file to find the freshest code!


Powerful code search

GitHub indexes most code and offers powerful search functionality over it. If you need to find something in a repository, but don’t plan on making any changes to it. There’s usually no need to check the repository out. Press / to search all the code in the repository.


If your search contains multiple words and you want to search for occurrences of your specific search query, put the quotations around the query. You can filter your searches by other things too, such as file size, extension, the path the file is on, and much more.

Saved replies

If you ever find yourself repeating the same comments, you’ll save some time by creating a saved reply. The next time you find you’re going to type that comment again, you can instead just select it from a drop-down menu:


To perform the above action without using my mouse, I can do ctrl + . followed by ctrl + 1.


Thanks for reading. I hope you found at least one thing on this page that will make you a more productive GitHub user. If you enjoyed this post or have any feedback in general, let me know!

If you’re interested in more content like this, follow my Twitter.

Originally published on my blog.

P.S. You can make your own Octocat for sharing like the one in the cover photo at myoctocat.com!

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Darren Burns


A software engineer living in Edinburgh, Scotland. I'm passionate about programming, learning new things (and sharing what I learn), digital art, and good sci-fi/fantasy books! 💻📚🎨✨


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Great post Darren 👏🏻👏🏻


Food for thought

For building such powerful and fast search system Github must be indexing our code. Is that ohk? 🤔
It’s make me uncomfortable as these features work on private repos as well.
I always use to wonder why Microsoft bought Github. What you guys think?


Hi Sarthak! You might want to take a look at GitHub's terms of service, specifically the section about private repos.

If you're not OK at GitHub potentially having access to your code under the terms then you should probably consider a self hosted solution.

It really depends on what you're comfortable with.


Point is awareness. You know this, I know this but most developers out there, they are clueless.

Don't know, I think you underestimate developers or overestimate how much companies care about this a little bit.

Most cloud providers support teams can see your code if you authorize them to when you open a ticket and most terms include authorization to access your code, even if only for backups or redundancy.

With severless computing I'm even authorizing you provider to take my code, put it god knows where so you can start it up to serve customers.

BTW the argument could be made with data (which in a lot of cases is far more important than the code).

Agreed, Data is more important but that also being stoled by these big crops. The only thing I'm concerned about is Microsoft. Github can be a great resource for them to build DeepCoder . Let's hope I'm wrong about this. 😃

Github can be a great resource for them to build DeepCoder.

Is it stolen though? GH has had a API for years. All the article says is that they used existing software code (which you can find everywhere thanks to open source) to feed the AI.

I understand your distrust but if you believe your data is being actively stolen by a cloud provider (not talking about privacy related data leaks of companies in general) I think you can likely sue them.

It would be a giant blowback if the database of a customer is being stolen for internal usage against the terms of service. Imagine the PR nightmare and I reckon many people would migrate instantly.

I think it's far easier and less risky for cloud providers to just copy your idea and offer it as a standard service, like AWS seems to be doing from time to time :D

It's okay. I respect your way of thinking too. The thing is that other people should be thinking more about their privacy than they do and if they that's good. Often free is not free and we as developers should be more cautious than others. 😊

True that! Privacy is paramount these days. Companies are out there doing shady things, like selling your location data or... being Facebook :D


Thanks Sarthak :)


I will shamelessly promote my github extension for chrome that helps me reviewing large PRs where it shows a hierarchical view of all changed files so you can see the scope of changes at a glance: chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/...


Looks really cool! I'll give it a shot this week 🙂


Thanks for the great info!

Another awesome tip for reviewing pull requests is to append ?w=1 to the URL. This will make the pull request ignore whitespace changes :)

Also, if you want a more natural GitHub Pull Request review experience, check out the GitHub Pull Request extension for VS Code.


Looks awesome 😊


Github is bursting with features, it's always good to revisit some favourites!

One thing that is important to keep in mind about the pull request suggestion feature: be careful if you have any sort of commit message linting (either in relationship with a semantic versioning system or just for the sake of standardization), I had to amend commit histories more than once after accepting a suggestion too hastily and using the default commit message.

While it's a useful feature for quick fixes, being able to disable it on a per-project basis could definitely save some headaches.


Totally agreed. I'd only use it for really small things that I'm confident won't result in a broken build.

I don't know that I'd disable it though. If you've got GitHub linked to a CI platform then in the worst case it should result in a single broken commit.


True for the single broken commit, I'm just very averse to any variation of manual rebasing to be honest. In reality, fixing a broken commit history is actually a pretty straightforward process.

I wish that something like a user-defined commit message regexp could be set for repos though, it's a crude guardrail that could catch that kind of stuff.


Press ? to see the available keyboard shortcuts.


Great tips, I didn't know about the search hotkeys at all. Thanks


I always wondered why there is a weird / on the search bar of github, now I know why. Awesome post. All of them are so helpful and I didn't know a single one of them, now I do. Thanks a lot.


Happy to hear that 🙂


This article is absolute gold. Will definitely be using the t keyboard shortcut to search for files.


Thank you so much 🙂


Thanks, Darren, this list is a real gem of tips for all levels of GitHub users.


Thank you Peter.


Great post Darren! I use a few these in my day to day.


Awesome article, thanks!


I did know about "suggestions" and "saved replies", they are amazing.

I recommend also the Refined GitHub.

Thanks for tips!


Awesome list, Darren! ✨

I didn't know about the hotkey to search for functions in code changes. Going to give it a shot this week!


Thanks Nick 😄


Genius tips! Thanks :)


You're welcome! Glad you enjoyed it Ido 🙂


Thanks for the valuable tips. 👌
Wasn't aware at all of some of these.


You're welcome 🙂


Great post! I'll take note of almost all your tips.


Cool post, thanks :)


Great post, Darren. Thanks for sharing.


This is fantastic! Keep up the good work!


I had no idea about the suggested revision feature--going to start using that a lot. Thanks for sharing!


It's pretty helpful for quick fixes 😄


Any idea if you can get Octotree working for GitHub enterprise(privately hosted)?


You can use it with if you grant the correct permissions. Here's a guide:


Hope that helps :)


And unfortunately only on Chrome :/ No way for me to make it work on firefox


Thanks for octotree and fuzzy file search. Never knew GitHub has such gems.


Glad I could introduce you to some new features!


Thanks for writing this up. It's gonna be very beneficial for me. 😁


Thanks Ankur!

Happy to hear you found it helpful :)


Learned quite a lot today. Thank you for this post!


Brilliant! Then my mission is accomplished 😊


Good tips...liked it


Thank you, Darren.

Love the compiled list and wasn't aware one can do so much more on GitHub 🙂


Thanks for the interesting information...