Science 3 min read

Git to Gitless: 3 key Improvements

Honza Hruby |

Honza Hruby |

Some users have complained that GIT is too complex, so it’s gotten an MIT-makeover. Computer scientists at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed Gitless – a revised interface that addresses the major concerns about GIT.

During software development, a number of different technical specialists often collaborate to bring a finished product to market. At the core of any software development process is the source code, which is typically constructed by one person or a small group. When new programmers are brought in on works in progress, it can be a serious challenge to get them up to speed quickly.

GIT was designed to ease this process and improved Gitless hopes to facilitate it even more.

GIT: a Social Network for Programmers and Developers

Linus Torvalds created GIT so that developers could contribute to the development of Linux core kernel.

GIT is a type of version control software, which helps to handle changes to code without overwriting any part of the project. Using an application like GIT, multiple programmers can, therefore, work simultaneously on separate “branches” of code.

Copies of the changes are automatically saved and allow the programmers to track them so they can be merged without losing work.

Changes are also reversible, as GIT keeps a snapshot of all versions of a given project.

‘With Gitless we’ve developed a tool that we think is easier to learn and use.’ Santiago Perez De Rosso

The problem with GIT is that it is quite complex and difficult to use and, thus, takes time to fully understand and manipulate. Such critiques from developers and prgrammers prompted a team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to sift through 2,400 GIT-related criticisms and outline its major problems. Consequently, the team developed Gitless, an experimental new interface that is compatible with the old one.

In the Beta phase, Gitless can be used interchangeably with GIT. In fact, a GIT user wouldn’t know if a collaborator was using GIT or Gitless.

Key Changes to GIT

1. Gitless Eliminates the “Staging Area”

This was a function that had tricked many programmers into committing the wrong version to memory.

2. Branches within Gitless are Completely Independent

This eliminates GIT’s “stashing,” which compiles uncommitted data for later use. GIT user’s complained that tracking where which stashes went where became confusing.

3. Scientific Approach to Problem-solving

Gitless suggests a scientific approach to solving shortcomings in software design as well as to coding that can be applied in identifying flaws and debugging other systems.

“With Gitless we’ve developed a tool that we think is easier to learn and use,” said Santiago Perez De Rosso, graduate student and co-author of a related paper, “but that still keeps the core elements that make GIT popular. What’s particularly encouraging about this work is that it suggests that the same approach might be used to improve the usability of other software systems, such as Dropbox and Google Inbox.”

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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