Remote repositories


Teaching: 20 min
Exercises: 20 min
  • Is my local repository the same as the remote one?

  • How can I send my local changes to the remote one?

  • How can I get the changes others have made?

  • Explain the differences between a local and a remote repository.

  • Explain what tracking and upstream mean.

  • Use the push command to send changes on the local branch to the remote one.

  • Use the pull command to update your local branch with the remote one.

  • Find out the available remote branches.

  • Setup a local branch to track a new remote one.

Remote and local repositories

Tracking and upstream

Configuring repositories

Depending on whether you are starting from a remote repository and want to get a local one out of it or the other way around, the steps are different.

Configuring a remote repository from a local one

In this case, you have a local repository and you want to synchronise it with a new, remote one. Let’s create a remote for the recipe repository you worked on in Lesson 1. If you have lost your copy of the recipe repository you can download a completed copy here:

  • Create a new repository in GitHub, as in the last episode. Give it a name, description and choose if it should be public or private, but do not add any other file (no README or licence).
  • You will be offered a few options to populate the remote repository. We are interested in the third one.
  • Launch a new command line interface and run cd recipe to navigate to the directory where you have your local repository - Then execute:
$ git remote add origin [address of your remote repo (should end in .git)]
$ git push -u origin master
# you will be asked to provide your GitHub username and password
  • The first line will set the GitHub repository as the remote for your local one, calling it origin.
  • The second line will push your master branch to a remote one called origin/master, setting it as its upstream branch.
  • You can check if things went well by going to GitHub: the repository there should contain all the files of your local repository.

Configuring a local repository from a remote

This involves the git command clone. Let’s create a local copy of the example repository you created remotely in the last episode.

  • On GitHub, the press down arrow in the far top right and choose “Your repositories” from the drop-down menu.
  • Choose the example repository from the list.
  • In the main screen of your repository, click on the green button on the right, Clone or Download, and copy the address that appears there.
  • Open a new command line interface and execute the commands:
$ git clone [address of your remote repo]
$ cd example
  • This will download the remote repository to a new example directory, in full, with all the information on the branches available in origin and all the git history.
  • By default, a local master branch will be created tracking the origin/master branch.
  • You can find some information on the repository using the commands already discussed in Lesson 1, like git log or git branch -vv, which should show that there is indeed just one branch, master tracking origin/master) Git collaborative


Pushing an updated README

You want to update the README file of the example repository with more detailed information of what the repository is about and then push the changes to the remote.

Modify the README file of your local copy of example with your preferred editor (any change is good enough, but better if they are useful - or at least, funny!) and synchronise the changes with the remote. Check on GitHub that you can view the changes you made.


$ git add
$ git commit -m [Commit message]
$ git push


Git collaborative

Pulling an updated README

When reviewing your new README file online, you have discover a typo and decided to correct it directly in GitHub. Modify the README file online and then synchronise the changes with your local repository (tip: you can edit any text file directly in GitHub by clicking in the little pencil button in the upper right corner).


$ git fetch
$ git status

This will indicate that the remote branch is ahead of your local branch by 1 commit. Since there are no diverging commits, it is safe to pull.

$ git pull

Key Points

  • origin is typically the name of the remote repository used by git.

  • Local and remote repositories are not identical, in general.

  • Local and remote repositories are not synchronized automatically.

  • push and pull commands only affect the branch currently checked out.

  • Only changes to a branch that are committed are pushed to the remote.

  • Local branches need to be explicitly pushed to a new remote one in order to share them.