How to Install GitHub Desktop on Debian 12, 11 or 10

GitHub Desktop is a beacon for developers seeking a seamless and efficient way to manage Git repositories. This GUI client, tailored for Git, streamlines intricate tasks, enabling novices and seasoned developers to collaborate effortlessly.

GitHub Desktop’s Noteworthy Features:

  • Sleek User Interface: GitHub Desktop’s design prioritizes user experience, offering a clear and intuitive layout. This design ethos ensures effortless repository management, regardless of a user’s familiarity with Git.
  • Commit Chronicles: Users can delve into a comprehensive commit log detailing authors, timestamps, and messages. This feature enhances code review and change tracking, offering a panoramic view of a project’s evolution.
  • Effortless Branching: With GitHub Desktop, branch creation and navigation are a cinch. The platform facilitates branch switching, merging, and creation, minimizing conflict risks and enhancing the development trajectory.
  • Integrated Pull Requests: GitHub Desktop’s synergy with GitHub’s pull request framework is evident. Users can initiate, assess, and integrate pull requests without exiting the application, eliminating the need to juggle between interfaces.
  • Visual Diff Viewer: The built-in diff viewer visually delineates code alterations, aiding users in comprehending modifications. The color-coded system swiftly highlights code additions, deletions, and changes.
  • Conflict Mediation: Merging becomes hassle-free with GitHub Desktop’s conflict resolution feature. The platform lucidly marks conflicting files and alterations, ensuring smooth merge conflict navigation.

With these robust features, GitHub Desktop promises to elevate your development and collaborative endeavors, making Git management more intuitive and efficient. Now, let’s install the software on your Debian desktop using various methods that suit your preference.

Method 1: Install GitHub Desktop via .deb Package

While GitHub officially supports only Windows and macOS, Linux users can access the platform through the “shiftkey/desktop” project. This fork provides Linux-compatible packages for various distributions, including Debian.

To start, visit the releases page and download the most recent release. Although this guide focuses on installing the “.deb” package, you can also choose the AppImage if you prefer and are familiar with it.

Download the GitHub Desktop .deb file

Download the latest release using the following command in your terminal. This command fetches the .deb file from the GitHub repository and saves it to your local system:

wget https://github.com/shiftkey/desktop/releases/download/release-3.2.1-linux1/GitHubDesktop-linux-3.2.1-linux1.deb

Install GitHub Desktop on Debian via DPKG Command

With the .deb file downloaded, you can now install the GitHub Desktop application. Our guide uses version 3.2.1 RC1 as an example. Replace <filename> in the command below with the name of the .deb file you downloaded:

sudo dpkg -i <filename>.deb

Example with 3.2.1 RC1:

sudo dpkg -i GitHubDesktop-linux-3.2.1-linux1.deb

Note: Remember, this is just an example command; your installation command should be newer than “v3.2.1” version.

For newer Debian users who might not know, dpkg is a package manager used to install, remove, and manage Debian packages. It’s a fundamental tool for installing .deb packages on your system. The -i flag is a command option that tells dpkg to install the specified package.

Method 2: Install GitHub Desktop via APT PPA (Recommended)

The second approach to installing GitHub Desktop is through a third-party APT repository. This method is preferable as it enables easy updating of your GitHub Desktop application and other packages.

Two third-party APT repositories in the United States are mirrors for the shiftkey/desktop GitHub project. These repositories are endorsed and listed on the project’s page. However, some users in other parts of the world may experience difficulties connecting to a US mirror, although this is not expected to impact most users.

Update Debian Before Installation of GitHub Desktop

Before installing GitHub Desktop, ensure your Debian system is up-to-date by running the following command:

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

This command updates the package lists and upgrades installed packages to their latest versions.

Install Initial Required Packages For GitHub Desktop

You’ll need to install some prerequisite packages to install a GitHub Desktop using an APT repository. Run the following command to install them:

sudo apt install wget software-properties-common

These packages must import the GPG key and add the repository to your system.

Import GitHub APT Repository

Choose one of the two available mirrors. It is recommended to use the first one, but you can opt for the second one if you encounter any issues.

Import GPG key and APT Repository from @shiftkey:

wget -qO - https://apt.packages.shiftkey.dev/gpg.key | gpg --dearmor | sudo tee /usr/share/keyrings/shiftkey-packages.gpg > /dev/null
sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64 signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/shiftkey-packages.gpg] https://apt.packages.shiftkey.dev/ubuntu/ any main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/shiftkey-packages-desktop.list'

Alternative mirror by @mwt:

wget -qO - https://mirror.mwt.me/shiftkey-desktop/gpgkey | gpg --dearmor | sudo tee /etc/apt/keyrings/mwt-desktop.gpg > /dev/null
sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64 signed-by=/etc/apt/keyrings/mwt-desktop.gpg] https://mirror.mwt.me/shiftkey-desktop/deb/ any main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mwt-desktop.list'

Refresh APT Packages Cache After PPA Import

After importing one of the mirrors, run an APT update to ensure that the newly added repositories are recognized:

sudo apt update

Finalize Installation of GitHub Desktop via APT Command

To install GitHub Desktop, use the following command:

sudo install github-desktop

This command installs the GitHub Desktop application from the chosen repository.

Launch GitHub Desktop

After successfully installing GitHub Desktop on your Debian system, you can launch the application using either the terminal or the graphical user interface (GUI) method.

Firstly, to launch GitHub Desktop from the terminal, run the following command:

github-desktop

Alternatively, to launch GitHub Desktop using the GUI method, follow these steps:

  1. Open your system’s application menu. This menu is usually accessed via a button or icon on the taskbar or dock, such as the “Activities” button in GNOME or the application launcher in KDE Plasma.
  2. You can search for “GitHub Desktop” in the application menu by typing it into the search bar or browsing the list of installed applications.
  3. Click on the “GitHub Desktop” icon to launch the application.
Launching GitHub Desktop on Debian
Click to launch GitHub Desktop on Debian

Getting Started with GitHub Desktop

After installing and launching GitHub Desktop on your Debian system, it’s time to explore some tips, customizations, and general advice for getting started with the application.

General GitHub Desktop Tips

  • Sign in with your GitHub account: To fully utilize GitHub Desktop, sign in with your GitHub or GitHub Enterprise account. This allows you to easily access your repositories, manage your profile, and sync your work with the remote server.
  • Clone repositories: Use the “Clone a Repository” feature to create a local copy of a remote repository on your Debian system. This enables you to work on projects offline and sync your changes later.
  • Manage branches: The GitHub Desktop interface makes it easy to create, switch between, and merge branches, simplifying the process of working with multiple branches in a repository.
  • Commit and push changes: GitHub Desktop allows you to commit and push changes directly from the application. You can track changes, write commit messages, and quickly push your work to remote repositories.

GitHub Desktop Customizations

  • Configure Git settings: To customize your Git settings, such as your name, email address, and default editor, go to the “Preferences” menu in GitHub Desktop. This ensures that your commits are correctly attributed to you.
  • Change appearance: Customize the appearance of GitHub Desktop by selecting a light or dark theme in the “Preferences” menu. Choose the theme that best suits your preferences and work environment.
  • Enable or disable notifications: You can adjust the “Preferences” menu settings to control which notifications you receive from GitHub Desktop. You can receive notifications for specific events, like new commits, or disable notifications altogether.

Other GitHub Desktop Tips

  • View commit history: Use the “History” tab in GitHub Desktop to view a repository’s commit history. This provides a visual representation of your project’s progress and allows you to review previous changes.
  • Resolve merge conflicts: If you encounter merge conflicts while working with GitHub Desktop, the application provides built-in tools to help you resolve them. Review the conflicting changes, choose the correct version, and commit the resolution.
  • Open projects in your favorite editor: GitHub Desktop lets you open your repositories directly in your favorite code editor. Configure this setting in the “Preferences” menu to streamline your workflow.

Additional GitHub Desktop Commands

Update GitHub Desktop

Keeping your GitHub Desktop application up-to-date ensures you have the latest features, bug fixes, and security patches. The update process depends on the installation method you used earlier.

If you installed GitHub Desktop using the APT repository method, run the following commands to update your application:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

If you installed GitHub Desktop using the .deb file method, you must download the latest .deb file from the GitHub Desktop release page and repeat the installation process described in Method 1.

Remove the GitHub Desktop

If you ever need to uninstall GitHub Desktop from your Debian system, you can do so with the following command:

sudo apt remove github-desktop

This command removes the GitHub Desktop application from your system. Note that this command does not delete any repositories or Git-related data you’ve worked on using the application.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you want to use GitHub Desktop on Debian Linux, you have two primary options: manually installing a .deb file or importing an officially endorsed third-party repository. Both methods are effective and allow you to access the GitHub Desktop client on your Debian system, even though the application is not officially supported by GitHub for Linux.

Useful Links

Here are some valuable links related to using GitHub Desktop:

  • GitHub Desktop Project GitHub Repository: Visit the Shiftkey GitHub project repository for GitHub Desktop to access the source code, report issues, and contribute to the development.
  • GitHub Desktop Official Website: Explore the official GitHub Desktop website for information about the application, its features, and download options.
  • GitHub Official Website: Access GitHub’s main website to explore repositories, collaborate with others, and manage your projects.
  • GitHub Desktop Documentation: The documentation for GitHub Desktop provides detailed guides on installing, configuring, and using the application.
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