How to create a Pull Request for an existing branch in your own repo in GitHub – 019

Yep, if you’ve been reading this series, you knew this tip was coming.

For explanation purposes, I’m going to ignore for now the Compare & pull request buttons you’ve probably been seeing if you’ve been following along at home. Why? Because I find it more straightforward to explain how things work when you have to set it up manually the first few times. Otherwise, it’s just magic happening under the scenes.

The scenario is you’ve created a file in a branch called readme-draft on your repo. You created the file in this non-master branch, because you wanted a few days to work (and sleep) on your writing. Now that you are ready to commit the file, you want to merge it into master. Let’s also assume (for now) you are like me, a solo developer on many of your repos.

(aside: I’m pretty sure the only way to do a merge on GitHub is via a Pull Request, even if you are the only developer. Here’s the corresponding SO question/answer to sanity check.)

First, you’ll click on Pull requests tab. (It doesn’t matter which branch you are currently viewing.) Then click on the New pull request button.

New Pull Request button on Pull Request tab

Next you’ll need to specify that you want the readme-draft branch (head) to be merged into the master branch (base).

(If you tried the other way, you’ll immediately get a message that “readme-draft is up to date with all commits from master,” because remember, the readme-draft was based from master only 2 commits ago.)

compare: master dropdown button switching to readme-draft

Alrighty, lots happening on this page, but let’s chill, and only pay attention to 3 things, plus some lagniappe.

Comparing changes page of a Pull Request

On this comparing change page, you’ll see the following items:

  1. Able to merge. These branches can be automatically merged – Awesome. This means no merge conflict, so we’re good. We’ll cover merge conflicts later. It’s only mid-January Smile
  2. Create pull request – This is the action you’ll take next.
  3. 2 commits – something that took a bit of getting used to for me is that this is the number of commits included in this branch, and not the number of files.
  4. Guides – using pull requests –  there’s a little help button sitting off to the far side taking you to the about pull requests guide.

Press the Create pull request button and the Open a pull request form appears.

Open a pull request form page

“What? Another commit form????”  Well, that was my first thought creating my first Pull Request (or PR as I might sometime refer to it as).

My second thought was, “why doesn’t GitHub just use my last commit?” But recall, your last commit is just that… your last commit to a branch. It might say “fix typo” whereas the other 5 commits might talk about all the changes and updates you made to that branch. So you need a new form to represent all your work on that branch.

My third thought was “okay, on closer look, this isn’t the standard commit form after all. So… where does this title and description go?” Glad I asked. This title “Updated the readme” and description “In this pull request…” will be shown as an item on the Pull Request page for the repo (the page when you click on the Pull Request tab.) Think of this as the overall description for your branch.

Without further ado, click Create pull request.

Updated the readme pull request created

And there you go! Your first pull request!

The Pull Request has been created. Note this does not mean your code has been merged. This just means your branch as been marked as wanting to be merged, in case there are other contributors on your repo that want to give you feedback. Your code will be merged once you click the Merge pull request button, but we’ll stop here for today. We’ll cover everything on this page in future tips.

Instead of providing end-to-end walkthroughs, my goal is to provide the smallest, yet practical, bites of information to chew on for 24 hours at a time. This is my personal spin on how to best deep dive into things.

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