WordPress is the world’s most popular website builder thanks to its ease of use and free, open source code that can be modified and shared by developers from anywhere in the worldwide WordPress community. It is possible to design a WordPress site simply by making changes to the source code and uploading the new revised file via FTP, but it isn’t always the fastest or most efficient way to design a site, especially if you’re trying out multiple versions of a new design tweak, or working on the project as part of a team. The process can be streamlined with version control – a system that tracks changes to a site’s code files over time and stores multiple versions that can be accessed by everyone on the design team.

Git is a free version control tool that’s being used by developers and development teams worldwide to make WordPress site design easier, faster and more secure. Here’s a look at how to use Git for WordPress and how it helps developers of all skill levels create sites ranging from small personal or business blogs to large-scale corporate pages.

What is Git WordPress?

Git for WordPress was designed by Linus Torvald, creator of Linux, and the name seems to have a variety of origin stories. Torvald himself has said it’s taken from the slang term for a stupid, obstinate person, but others have claimed it’s either a random sequence or an acronym for “global information transfer.” In any case, Git, like WordPress itself, is a free and open source tool that can be used with any major operating system to manage the often complex process of developing a website from WordPress source code.

Git can be downloaded and installed on local computers in order to track a change or modification to selected site files. Whenever a piece of code is altered in any way, that new version can be tracked and viewed by anyone involved in developing the site. If needed, any previous version of the file can be restored at any time, and it is possible to review and manage all of these versions in order to compare changes. Because Git preserves “snapshots,” of a site’s development workflow at any of its various stages, the site can be restored quickly in case of an adverse event or hacking.

Though it can be used to design any kind of WordPress site, Git has many features that support collaboration among members of a design team. And while Git creates local “repositories,” of design files, its hosted version, GitHub, offers space for remote repositories and a full suite of cloud-based tools for managing collaborations and tracking changes in site files under development.

Version Control Streamlines Site Design

Version control is a key tool in a WordPress developer’s toolkit, making it possible to save and access and manage all versions of a file at any time. That gives developers the freedom to experiment and try out new approaches to designing the site, and a way to work quickly and efficiently without having to recover or replicate lost work.

Version control also benefits design teams in their development workflow. Everyone involved in the development process using Git WordPress can track changes, and work individually as well as collaboratively to access all versions of a file that have ever been created. This reduces redundancy, saves time, and helps protect files from loss or accidental corruption. Git’s distributed version control makes collaboration possible among users of local repositories and remote repositories hosted in the cloud. With Git, WordPress users can select individual files for tracking – or even individual pieces of code.

How to Use Git With WordPress

Git was designed to work with site builders of all kinds, including WordPress, so integrating Git into a WordPress site design workflow takes only a few steps:

Get Git

Users can download Git for free from its home site and install it on multiple local computers. Git is a command line tool, which requires users to type in commands directly. But a number of developers have also created secondary software that adds a graphical interface, which can make it easier to use.

Set Up User Access

Git requires users to create a user identity with an email address in order to ensure that changes made to tracked files are assigned to the correct user. When multiple team members are involved, this makes it possible to keep track of where changes originated and allow members to comment and collaborate directly on them.

Create a Repository

Repositories are directories where all information on files tracked by Git can be stored. Only tracked files, such as those for a WordPress theme or plugin, are stored in repositories. Users can create repositories for version controlled files on local systems or set up remote repositories with a GitHub account.

Select, Stage, Commit

In Git-speak, a commit message is the act of capturing a particular version of the file for storage and tracking. Before a commit can be made, though, users need to select the files or parts of a file to be tracked, and “stage,” them on a staging site, or prepare them to be committed. Every commit records the current state of the file at that time, and users can jump back to previous versions to compare changes, or to restore an earlier version for use in the current project.

Git also allows for “branching,”– making a copy of a set of files or code to work on separately from the main project. This allows users to try out different ideas without affecting the main site files, or for team members to work individually on specific aspects of the project. When changes are completed, they can be committed and, if desired, merged back into the main site files.

GitHub: Hosted Remote Repositories and Cloud-Based Tools

Like WordPress, the basic versions of Git can be downloaded and installed on any computer. But Git is also available in a hosted version from a GitHub account, which offers remote repository space and a number of other cloud-based tools designed to support both individual developers working on small sites and teams designing larger ones. GitHub is also a community for Git users of all skill levels, where developers can share knowledge and work together to solve problems and create new things.

On GitHub, WordPress site builders can deploy files for tracking to remote repositories that can then be used by any authorized member of the team at any time. Afterward, these files can be merged back to the main site files for publishing on the site.  GitHub offers a range of pricing plans for users ranging from personal “developer” accounts to team, business and enterprise options with more storage, support, and features.

Like WordPress, Git is rapidly becoming the go-to tool for version control in site building projects of all sizes. Free and easy to install, Git can streamline the development process and keep site files secure, making it even easier for new and experienced developers to create the perfect WordPress site. Ready to start working with Git for a more collaborative environment? For more information, please call one of our experts at Bluehost today.

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