Hands-on Git & GitHub setup

Last updated: January 4, 2023

 Table of contents

In order to follow this course, you will need to:

  • Install Git
  • Configure Git
  • Create a GitHub account (if you don't already have one)

Optionally, you can also set up SSH for your GitHub account.

This lesson will guide you through the initial setup.

Install Git

Linux, MacOS, and WSL users can download Git from the official website.

While that version also works on Windows, Windows users are advised to download Git from the Git for Windows project as this also provides a Bash emulation to run Git in the command line.

How to run Git?

There are many GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) which allow to run Git in a friendly, visual manner, but for this course, we will run Git in the command line.


  • The Git GUIs are often buggy, slow, and limiting.
  • Whenever something goes wrong with a Git GUI, or when it cannot perform a complex command, you have to revert to the command line anyway.
  • If you use SSH (for instance to access Compute Canada clusters), working with the command line is really the best option.

So, even if you choose to use a GUI in your everyday versioning, it is important to know how to run Git in the command line.

In this course, to run Git commands, open:

Windows users: Git BASH
MacOS users:   Terminal
Linux/WSL users: Your usual terminal emulator

Configure Git

Before you start using Git, you need to set it up.

Name & email address

Each recorded version of your project will have a Git object called a commit pointing to it. Amongst the information contained in those commits are the name and email address of the author (i.e. you). You have to set those so that Git uses the proper information.

While you can use a pseudo, it is common practice to use your full name here.

The email address you choose does not have to be the one you are using for your GitHub account: both are totally unrelated. This is only the email address that will be associated with your commits. If you have a work and a personal address, your work address is probably the one you want. But again, this is up to you.

git config --global user.name "<Your Name>"
git config --global user.email "<your@email>"


git config --global user.name "John Doe"
git config --global user.email "john.doe@gmail.com"

Text editor

Then, you need to pick the text editor you want Git to open whenever you need to type a message. Choose whatever text editor you are familiar with.

git config --global core.editor "<text-editor>"

Example using the text editor nano:

git config --global core.editor "nano"

Line ending format

Finally, you need to set the proper line ending format for your operating system.

If you are using macOS, Linux, or WSL, run:

git config --global core.autocrlf input

If you are using Windows, run instead:

git config --global core.autocrlf true

List settings

If you want to see your current Git configuration, you can run:

git config --list

If one of the values isn't right, just re-run the relevant command with the proper value.

Note that there are many additional configurations that can make Git work better for you.
The customizations you just set represent the minimum to start using Git.

Create a GitHub account

If you don't already have one, create a free GitHub account.

(Optional) Set up SSH for your GitHub account

Each time you will upload/download data to/from a GitHub repository, you will have to enter your GitHub username and password.

If you want to avoid this, you can set up SSH for your GitHub account.

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