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How to download from GitHub

Learn how to download from GitHub and hone your developing skills

If you’re a programmer then one of the essential skills you need is knowing how to download from GitHub. The platform is usually always mentioned when talking about web development or software and is relied on by many programmers around the world. It’s also an essential collaboration platform that teams developing open source coding projects rely on.

With so many people working on the same code, collaborative coding can rapidly get out of hand. Coders have different programming styles and when you add this to the fact that a lot of changes are made in different iterations, it can turn an exciting project into a problem if you have never-ending files and folders.

This is where GitHub excels, since it gives users a way to make the process of tracking changes more simple through its collaboration tools. It also provides a range of tools for things like continuous integrations, task management, and issue tracking.

GitHub helps new programmers experience their first taste of open source development, while being a safe space for projects to be worked on for all developers, new and old. The platform tends to be selected for open source projects thanks to the fact that there isn’t a limit to how many collaborators it can support and it has unlimited projects, which are also called ‘repos’ or ‘repositories’.

Developers can also take advantage of features like its pull requests which helps them to alert other users working on a repository of any changes they’ve made, or ‘pushed’. Developers are also able to insert a little note of the changes they’ve made so that collaborators can fully understand what the developer has done.

If you’re not familiar with GitHub or its user interface, its download process can be slightly intimidating. In this guide, we'll show you how easy it is to download files, folders, repos, and archives from GitHub.

How to download a repository from GitHub

Public repositories contain open source codebases users can download for free. They don’t even need a GitHub account.

Follow these steps to download an open source database:

1. Navigate to GitHub’s website.

2. Click 'Explore' on the top left corner of the page.

3. In the 'Explore GitHub' menu, select 'Topics.'

4. Pick a topic from the featured list of topics. GitHub will list all public repositories matching the selected topic. You may also choose to filter the repositories based on programming language, sort by most stars, and more.

5. Click on the desired repository. 

6. Navigate to the '<>Code' tab.

7. Click on the 'Code' button on the right. A dropdown should appear.

8. In the 'Clone' menu, under the 'HTTPS' tab, click on 'Download ZIP'

GitHub download box screenshot

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The chosen repository will download as a ZIP file. Once the repository installs on your device, use the 'README.md' file for setup and use instructions.

Note: It’s not always possible to download private repositories from GitHub, as they’re only visible to the repository owners and collaborators.

If you wish to contribute to a project and push changes to the original code, forking a repository is the way to go. According to GitHub, 'a forked repository differs from a clone in that a connection exists between your fork and the original repository itself.'

Forking allows you to experiment or change a file on your computer without affecting the original repository. You may choose to propose changes to the original repository via pull requests, which are subject to the project owner’s approval. Keep in mind that you need an active GitHub account to access fork and pull request features.

How to fork a repository on GitHub

GitHub repo with an arrow pointing to the &#039;fork project&#039; button

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It is relatively easy to fork a project on GitHub. Here’s how to do it.

1. On GitHub, navigate to your desired public repository.

2. Click on 'Fork' on the top right corner.

A copy of the original repository will be saved to your GitHub account. Next, you’d create a clone of the fork locally on your computer so the changes remain local to your system.

Use the following steps to create a local clone of your fork:

1. Hover on your GitHub username to view repositories.

2. Navigate to the desired fork or clone of a repository.

3. Click on 'Code' above the list of files. 

4. Click on the copy file URL icon in the clone menu under 'Clone with HTTPS' to copy the URL. 

5. Change the current working directory to your preferred directory.

6. Type 'git clone' and paste the URL you copied earlier. For instance, to clone Spoon-Knife repo, use the following command line: '$ git clone https://github.com/YOUR-USERNAME/Spoon-Knife'.

7. Press 'Enter'.

You now have a local copy of your desired repository’s fork. When you're done making local changes, you can push your local branch to GitHub by initiating a pull request.

Lastly, GitHub also makes it possible to download an archive of your account data. Below are the instructions.

How to download an archive of your GitHub data

1. Navigate to your 'Account Settings' page.

2. In the 'Export account data' section, click 'Start export'. GitHub will now send a download link to your primary email address.

3. Click the download link in your email and re-enter your password if prompted

By default, GitHub packages your account data in a tar.gz file. The download link will automatically expire after seven days. GitHub stores repositories and profile metadata as part of personal account activity.

How to download a file from GitHub

GitHub repo with an arrow pointing to the &#039;go to file&#039; button

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If you're only looking to download a file from GitHub, instead of a whole repository or archive, then follow these steps.

1. Select 'Go to File' located at the top of repo contents of the repository you want to download the file from.

2. You should now be shown a list of all the files located in that repository. Now click the file you want to download, right click the 'Raw' button at the top, and then hit 'Save Link as'. You should now be able to choose the location on your device where you want to save the file to, and the click save to finish the process.

How to download multiple files from GitHub

If you're looking to download multiple files from GitHub, it's fairly straightforward. There isn't a way to do this for a group of files, but there are two strategies you can employ.

1. If you're looking for a number of files from a repository, then you'll have to download a zip folder of the repository and then carefully delete the ones you don't want.

2. If you only want a couple of files then you'll have to download them separately following the process outlined in the section 'How to download a file from GitHub'.

How to download a Folder from GitHub

Just looking to download a folder from GitHub instead of the whole repository? Thankfully, the GitHub community has created a number of tools to help with this. You can use Download DirectoryGitZip, or even DownGit.

How to download a CSV from GitHub

Downloading a CSV file from GitHub is very similar to how you would download a normal file.

1. Locate the CSV file in the repository

2. Right click the Raw button in the GitHub interface at the top

3. Choose 'Save Link As' and navigate to where you want to save the file.

4. Click save, and you're done.

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