GitHub Desktop Tips

Published: 13 July 2018


I have been using GitHub Desktop more frequently recently, and in the process, I have stumbled across various things which helps you navigate around the user interface faster.

1. Launch from the command-line

You can launch GitHub Desktop from the command-line by running this github command. What is especially useful about this is that if you are inside a directory containing a GitHub repository, GitHub Desktop will automatically navigate to this repository.

Launch GitHub Desktop from the command line

2. Navigate to repository

To quickly navigate to a different repository, use Ctrl+T (on Windows) or Cmd+T (on a Mac) to open the repository list. You can then start typing the name of the repository to filter the list of repositories by that name quickly. Highlight the repository you want and press the Enter / Return key to open that repository. This is especially useful if, like me, you are working across many different repositories.

Navigate to a repository

3. Navigate to a branch

Want to quickly switch to that feature branch you want to work on? Use Ctrl+B / Cmd+B to open the branch list and start typing the name of the branch to filter the list of branches quickly. Highlight the branch you want and press the Enter / Return key to switch to the branch.

Switch to existing branch

4. Create a new branch

Want to create a new branch for a feature you are working on? Use Ctrl+Shift+N / Cmd+Shift+N to open the Create a Branch dialog.

Create a new branch

5. Open the repository directory in File Explorer / Finder

Often when working with a repository, you may want to open the directory containing the repository in File Explorer / Finder to view and operate on the files. You can do this by using the Ctrl+Shift+F / Cmd+Shift+F keyboard shortcut.

Open in File Explorer

6. Open the repository on GitHub.com

You may also want to open the repository on the GitHub website. Use the Ctrl+Shift+G / Cmd+Shift+G shortcut to open the repository on github.com inside your web browser.

Open in GitHub

7. Open repository on command-line

How about opening the directory containing the repository on the command line so you can run git commands directly from the command-line? Use the Ctrl+` shortcut.

Open in command-line

Bonus points for this being the same shortcut used to open the Terminal window in Visual Studio Code, so muscle memory kicks in. You can change the Default Shell in the GitHub Desktop Options (using Ctrl+, / Cmd+,).

8. Open repository in your editor

Want to start coding? Use the Ctrl+Shift+A/Cmd+Shift+A shortcut to open the directory inside your favourite code editor.

Open in editor

You can change the Default Code Editor in the GitHub Desktop Options (using Ctrl+, / Cmd+,).

9. Go over to the dark side

Is dark mode your thing? Good news is that since version 1.2.4, you can switch between Light and Dark themes. Open the Options/Preferences using Ctrl+, / Cmd+, and navigate to the Appearance tab.

Switch to dark mode

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