In the last blog post, we looked at our local development environment and how the complexity of modern stacks made it challenging to setup correctly.
In this post, we will look at the second step of path to production, the version control system, and the advantages and best practices around using tools like Git.
Version control systems (VCS) have become integral to modern software development. They allow teams to efficiently collaborate, manage, and track changes in our codebases. While several VCS options are available, Git has emerged as the industry standard, and platforms like GitHub and GitLab have gained widespread popularity.
This blog post will delve deeper into the advantages of using VCS and provide some best practices for developers.
The Advantages of Using Version Control Systems
Streamlined collaboration: GIT enables multiple developers to work on the same project simultaneously without the risk of overwriting each other’s work. It allows for easy merging of changes, facilitating collaboration and communication within development teams.
Versioning and history: GIT keeps a detailed record of every change made to a project, making it simple to revert to previous versions if needed. This feature is handy when troubleshooting bugs, allowing developers to pinpoint when and where the issues were introduced.
Accountability and traceability: GIT logs every change made to the codebase, allowing teams to trace modifications back to individual contributors. This fosters accountability and can help identify areas for improvement or training.
Data Assurance: GIT data model ensures the cryptographic integrity of every bit of your project. Every file and commit is checksummed and retrieved by its checksum when checked back out. It’s impossible to get anything out of Git other than the exact bits you put in.
Branching and merging: GIT allows developers to create separate branches for new features or bug fixes, enabling parallel development without affecting the main codebase. When the changes are complete and thoroughly tested, they can be merged back into the main branch.
Conflict resolution: GIT automatically identifies conflicts when merging changes, prompting developers to manually resolve the discrepancies before proceeding. This helps maintain code integrity and prevents unintentional overwrites.
Continuous integration and deployment: GIT facilitates the implementation of continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD) practices, ensuring that code is tested and deployed efficiently.
Best Practices for Using Version Control Systems
Commit early and often: Frequent commits make it easier to track changes, identify bugs, and revert to previous versions when needed. Break your work into small, logical chunks and commit each one separately.
Write clear and concise commit messages: Good ones help your team understand the purpose and impact of each change. Include a brief description of the changes and, if applicable, the issue or feature being addressed.
Use branches for new features or bug fixes: Create separate branches for each new feature or bug fix to prevent interference with the main codebase. Merge the changes back into the main branch only after thorough testing and review.
Keep the main branch stable: The main branch should always be in a stable, deployable state. This ensures that your team can release new software versions at any time.
Resolve conflicts promptly: Address merge conflicts as soon as they arise to maintain code integrity and avoid compounding issues.
Regularly update your local repository: Pull the latest changes from the remote repository frequently to stay up-to-date and minimize merge conflicts.
Follow a consistent coding style: Adhering to a consistent coding style across your team makes the codebase more readable and easier to maintain.
Don’t commit sensitive information: Avoid committing sensitive data such as passwords, API keys, or personal information to your repository. If you accidentally commit sensitive data, remove it promptly and rotate the exposed credentials.
Don’t push large binary files: Version control systems like Git are not designed to handle large binary files efficiently. Instead, use specialized tools like Git LFS (Large File Storage) to manage these files.
Don’t squash commits excessively: While keeping the commit history clean and concise, excessively squashing commits can make it difficult to understand the history and context of changes. Aim for a balance between too few and too many commits.
Why GitHub or GitLab
We don’t need any major platform to use git, matter of fact, we can setup a git server in a few steps as long as we can reach that system over ssh; of course, this approach has quite some limitations, and this is why Web-based platforms like GitHub and GitLab have played a significant role in modern software development by providing hosting, collaboration, and management services for Git repositories. These platforms share some similarities, but each has distinct features and benefits that cater to different project requirements and team preferences.
In general, by choosing one of these platforms, you’ll get:
Community and Ecosystem
A strong community presence and active user base can be crucial for open-source projects and developers, as it can lead to more contributions, feedback, and visibility. A wealth of third-party integrations and tools can further enhance a platform’s ecosystem and its usability.
Some platforms offer both cloud-hosted and self-hosted options, allowing organizations to choose the deployment method that best suits their needs. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for organizations with strict data security and compliance requirements.
Most platforms offer a free plan, just setup an account and start pushing code, we can also leverage some of the other functionalities for free, like CI/CD or project management tools.
Having built-in continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) features can enable teams to automate their testing and deployment processes without relying on third-party services. This can streamline workflows and make it easier to manage projects within a single platform.
User Interface and Experience
A clean, user-friendly interface and smooth user experience can make it easier for developers to get started with a platform. Comprehensive documentation and resources can also be beneficial for new users.
Some platforms include additional features, such as built-in project management tools, security testing, and performance monitoring. These features can help teams manage their projects more efficiently and improve software quality.
In summary, web-based platforms for Git repositories have made a significant impact on software development by providing collaboration, hosting, and management tools. When choosing a platform, consider factors such as community presence, deployment options, built-in features, pricing structures, and user experience. By evaluating these aspects, you can select the platform that best meets your project’s requirements and aligns with your team’s preferences.
Developers can significantly improve their workflow, collaboration, and overall project quality by understanding the advantages of version control systems and adopting best practices. I would overall say, master the tools you use, if you are using Git try staying up to date with its functionalities; an easy way to do that is by subscribing to the Git Rev News newsletter.
In the next post, we will discuss packaging your code, from package management to containerization. Stay tuned.