In this lesson, we’ll focus on workflow. More specifically, we’ll use the helpful GitHub service hooks to automatically update a project on our personal server whenever we push updates to a GitHub repo.
Prefer a Video Tutorial?
Step 1 - Create a Git Repo
We certainly need some sort of project to play around with, right? Let’s do that right now. Using which ever tool you prefer (I’d recommend Structurer), create a new directory, called
awesomeProject, and add an
index.html file. Feel free to populate this with some gibberish markup for the time being.
With our test directory in place, let’s create our first Git commit.
If you’re unfamiliar with Git, I highly recommend that you first review “Easy Version Control with Git.”
Open the command line:
cd path/to/awesomeProject git init git add . git commit -m 'First commit'
Those familiar with Git should feel right at home. We’re creating a Git repo, adding all the files to the staging area, and are then creating our first commit.
Step 2 - Uploading to GitHub
The next step is to upload our project to GitHub. That way, we can easily call a
git pull to download this project from any computer/server we wish.
Again, if you’re not familiar with GitHub, and haven’t yet created an account, read Terminal, Git, and GitHub for the Rest of Us.
Begin by creating a new Git repository.
Next, you’ll need to fill in some details about your project. That’s simple:
And finally, since we’re already working with an existing Git repo, we only need to run:
git remote add origin firstname.lastname@example.org:Your-Username/awesomeProject.git git push -u origin master
With that out of the way, our
awesomeProject is now available on GitHub. That was easy!
Step 3 - SSH
Now, we certainly need some sort of live preview for our project, ideally stored on our own server. But this can be a pain sometimes. Push your updates to GitHub, login to your server, manually transfer the updated directory, etc. Granted, this only takes a moment or so, but when you make multiple changes through out the day, this can quickly become a burden.
But one step at a time. We’ll tackle this dilemma in Step 4. For now, let’s simply pull in our Git repo to our server. To do so, we need to SSH in.
Depending upon your host, your SSH credentials will vary slightly. Search Google for “your-host-name SSH,” and you’ll surely find the necessary instructions. Once you’re ready, let’s move along:
We’ll use my personal server as an example:
ssh email@example.com <enter your host password>
And with those two lines, we’re in!
cd to the parent directory of where we wish to store
awesomeProject. For me, this will be:
cd domains/demo.jeffrey-way.com/html/. Of course, modify this according to your own directory structure.
Let’s clone the GitHub repo now.
git clone firstname.lastname@example.org:Your-User-Name/awesomeProject.git
Give that command a few seconds, but, before you know it, that directory is now available on your server, and, in my case, could be viewed at:
Step 4 - Creating a Connection
The inherent problem at this point is that there’s no specific connection between our GitHub repo and the directory stored on our server — at least not an automated connection. For example, if we update our source files on our local machine, and then push the changes to GitHub:
git add index.html git commit -m 'Added photo of dancing chicken' git push origin master
These changes will certainly not be reflected on our server. Of course they won’t! In order to do so, we must – once again – SSH into our server,
cd to the
awesomeProject directory, and perform another
git pull to bring in the updated source files.
Wouldn’t it be great if, every time we pushed updates to GitHub, those new source files were automatically updated on our live preview server?
As it turns out, we can do this quite easily with GitHub service hooks.
You can access this page by pressing the “Admin” button from within your GitHub repo, and then clicking “Service Hooks.” The “Post-Receive URL” option will instruct GitHub to send a POST request to the specified page every time you push to your GitHub repo. This is exactly what we need!
“We’ll hit these URLs with POST requests when you push to us, passing along information about the push.”
To make this work, we’ll need to create one more file that will handle the process of performing the
git pull. Add a new file, called
github.php (or anything you wish – preferably more vague), and add:
<?php `git pull`;
So now you’re thinking: “Jeff’s gone crazy. You can’t put a Bash script into a PHP string.” Well…yes you can, once you realize that those aren’t single quotes above, they’re back-ticks.
When you wrap a sequence in back-ticks, in PHP, it’ll be treated as a Bash script. In fact, it’s identical to using the bash_exec function.
Save that file, and upload it to the
awesomeProject directory on your server. When finished, copy the url to that file, and paste it into the “Post-Receive URL” textbox. In my case, the url would be
With this in place, every single time you
push to your GitHub repo, that file will be called, and the
awesomeProject directory on your server will auto-update, without you needing to move a finger. Pretty nifty, ay?
You Also Might Enjoy:
- Getting the Hang of GitHub
- Terminal, Git, and GitHub for the Rest of Us
- Easy Version Control with Git
- Getting Good with Git – eBook