For Developers Everywhere: Experience the Power of GitHub CoPilot

With all the hype right now over AI, specially OpenAI and ChatGPT, developers are asking, how can they use AI to write code. They may also be asking if AI will replace their jobs. To that, I say no. Instead, AI is a tool to make us better developers. And the tool to drive that improvement might be GitHub CoPilot.

After just a week of adding it to my development workflow, I am hooked and I think every developer should at least take advantage of the free trial period to see if it can help them too.

GitHub CoPilot The Developer's new Best Friend

What is GitHub CoPilot and how does it work?

Upgrade your coding game with GitHub CoPilot, the ultimate code completion and suggestion tool. With real-time error corrections and suggestions as you type, this tool streamlines your workflow and elevates your coding skills.

Powered by Codex models and machine learning algorithms, CoPilot analyzes your code, understanding its structure, context, and semantics to provide accurate, on-the-spot suggestions for completing code snippets and fixing errors. From refactoring to debugging, CoPilot also offers improvements to your codebase.

Never miss a beat, as CoPilot integrates with top code editors including Visual Studio Code, Atom, and Sublime Text, providing suggestions as you type with a simple keystroke for easy insertion. Level up your coding with GitHub CoPilot.

GitHub CoPilot Suggesting a Complete Function Based on a Comment

GitHub CoPilot also integrates with GitHub, allowing you to easily navigate your codebase and make pull requests. This helps to improve collaboration and code review with your team.

It also allows you to set your preferences and configuration, to adjust the suggestions to your coding style and workflows. As I understand the service it learns from your own code repositories to understand your coding style. I love this because it is like having a built-in automatic style guide enforcer.

GitHub CoPilot is available for various programming languages, including JavaScript, Python, C#, CSS, HTML, Java, and more. My impression is if the language is in a public GitHub repo it is most likely supported.

How can I use GitHub CoPilot to improve my coding workflow?

I have to be honest, the first couple of hours using CoPilot were rather disappointing. Once I got a better feel for how the service worked it just seemed to go from 0 to 60 in about a second. Suddenly I was writing an intent or instruction in a comment and a couple of enter key presses and tabs later and the function would be written. Sure there are a few times I need to clean the code a little, but instead of 10-20 lines of code I am typing 20 characters.

With that here are aspects of your day-to-day developer activities CoPilot will improve:

  • Code completion: GitHub CoPilot provides suggestions for completing code snippets as you type, saving you time and effort.

  • Error corrections: GitHub CoPilot can detect and suggest corrections for errors in your code, helping to improve the quality of your code.

  • Refactoring suggestions: GitHub CoPilot can suggest improvements to your code, such as refactoring and restructuring, to make it more efficient and maintainable.

  • Debugging and testing: GitHub CoPilot can suggest debugging and testing strategies to help you identify and fix errors in your code.

  • Navigation: GitHub CoPilot can help you navigate your codebase by providing suggestions for code symbols and functions, making it easier to find what you need.

  • Collaboration: GitHub CoPilot can improve collaboration with your team by providing suggestions for code review and review apps.

  • Customization: GitHub CoPilot allows you to customize settings to fit your preferences and requirements, and to adjust the suggestions to your coding style and workflows.

  • Integration: Integrating GitHub CoPilot with other development tools you are already using, such as GitHub, can help you to get the most out of it.

  • Continuous improvement: Continuously monitoring and improving your development process with the help of GitHub CoPilot, will help you to write better code faster.

How does GitHub CoPilot integrate with other development tools?

Code editors: GitHub CoPilot works within your code editor, providing suggestions as you type and allowing you to insert them with a simple keystroke. It integrates with popular code editors such as Visual Studio Code, NeoVim, JetBrains, Atom, and Sublime Text.

GitHub CoPilot IDEs

Munib Butt has written an excellent article on installing CoPilot in Visual Studio.

GitHub: GitHub CoPilot integrates with GitHub, allowing you to easily navigate your codebase and make pull requests. This helps to improve collaboration and code review with your team.

Continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) tools: GitHub CoPilot can integrate with CI/CD tools such as Travis CI and CircleCI, to provide suggestions and error corrections during the build and deployment process.

Debugging and testing tools: GitHub CoPilot can integrate with debugging and testing tools such as Jest, Mocha, and Cypress, to provide suggestions for testing and debugging strategies.

Other development tools: GitHub CoPilot can also integrate with other development tools such as ESLint, Prettier, and Webpack, to provide suggestions for code linting, formatting, and optimization.

By integrating with these tools, GitHub CoPilot can provide real-time suggestions and error corrections throughout the development process, helping to improve the quality of your code and streamline your workflow.

How can I get started with GitHub CoPilot?

Sign up for GitHub CoPilot: In order to use GitHub CoPilot, you will need to sign up for it on GitHub.com.

Install the GitHub CoPilot extension: Once you have signed up, you can install the GitHub CoPilot extension in your code editor. It is available for Visual Studio Code, Visual Studio, JetBrains, and NeoVim.

Connect to GitHub: Once the extension is installed, you will need to connect GitHub CoPilot to your GitHub account. This will allow GitHub CoPilot to access your codebase and provide suggestions.

Configure settings: Configure your settings to fit your preferences and requirements. You can adjust the suggestions to your coding style and workflow.

Start coding: Once you have set up GitHub CoPilot, you can start coding. You will see suggestions as you type, and you can insert them with a simple keystroke.

Monitor your progress: Keep an eye on how GitHub CoPilot is helping you monitor the suggestions, and errors it detects, and adjust your settings accordingly.

Collaborate with your team: Share your GitHub CoPilot settings with your team to ensure consistency and improve collaboration.

Keep your repository updated: Keep your repository updated with the latest code changes to ensure that GitHub CoPilot can provide the most accurate suggestions.

Try the advanced features: Experiment with the advanced features of GitHub CoPilot such as code review and review apps to enhance your development process.

Feedback: Share your feedback with GitHub to help them improve the features and functionalities of GitHub CoPilot.

Keep in mind that GitHub CoPilot is a code completion and suggestion tool, so you will need to have some knowledge and understanding of the programming language you are using before you start using it.

Is GitHub CoPilot available for all programming languages?

GitHub CoPilot currently supports various programming languages including JavaScript, TypeScript, C#, HTML, CSS, Python, Go, Java, and many other popular languages.

GitHub CoPilot Writing CSS

It also supports some frameworks such as React, Vue, and Angular for JavaScript, and Django and Flask for Python.

However, it's not available for all programming languages. GitHub CoPilot is continuously expanding its support for more languages and frameworks, but it's not guaranteed that it will support all the languages.

Also, keep in mind that even if the language you're working on is not officially supported by GitHub CoPilot, you still can use the suggestions, but they may not be as accurate or useful as the supported ones.

Can I use GitHub CoPilot with my existing GitHub repository?

Yes, you can use GitHub CoPilot with your existing GitHub repository. In order to use GitHub CoPilot with your existing repository, you will need to connect it to your GitHub account.

Once you have signed up for GitHub CoPilot and installed the extension in your code editor, you can connect it to your GitHub account. This will allow GitHub CoPilot to access your codebase and provide suggestions.

You can then open the repository you want to work on in your code editor and start coding. GitHub CoPilot will provide suggestions as you type and you can insert them with a simple keystroke.

It's also important to note that GitHub CoPilot can work with private repositories as well as public ones, so you can use it on your personal projects as well as on your work projects.

Also, if you're working with a team, you can share your GitHub CoPilot settings with your team members, ensuring consistency and improving collaboration.

Keep in mind that you will need to keep your repository updated with the latest code changes to ensure that GitHub CoPilot can provide the most accurate suggestions.

How does GitHub CoPilot handle code suggestions and error corrections?

GitHub CoPilot uses machine learning algorithms to analyze your code and provide suggestions for completing code snippets and error corrections.

When you type code, GitHub CoPilot will analyze the context and structure of your codebase, and provide suggestions based on that. The suggestions will appear as a drop-down menu next to the cursor, and you can insert them with a simple keystroke.

GitHub CoPilot also continuously monitors your codebase, and it will detect errors and suggest corrections for them. These errors can include syntax errors, semantic errors, and style errors.

For example, if you forget to close a bracket, GitHub CoPilot will detect the error and suggest the correct closing bracket. If you use a variable that's not defined, it will suggest creating the variable.

GitHub CoPilot also provides suggestions for code improvements, such as refactoring and restructuring, to make it more efficient and maintainable.

GitHub CoPilot Suggestion HTML Form Block for a new Input

Additionally, it can also suggest debugging and testing strategies, to help you identify and fix errors in your code.

Keep in mind that the suggestions provided by GitHub CoPilot are generated by machine learning algorithms, they are not always 100% accurate, but they can be a great help to improve the quality of your code and speed up your development process.

I always review the code it generates. Even though it is a well-trained AI service it was trained on human-written code and needs to make decisions as to what it generates. That means it will make mistakes. I know the code generated from ChatGPT is often buggy and out of date. The CoPilot codexes are better trained for writing and commenting code than the ChatGPT model, but it still has room to learn.

Fortunately, you can use CoPilot to write unit tests to verify the code!

What is the pricing model for GitHub CoPilot?

GitHub CoPilot is a paid service, but it offers a free trial period of 60 days for you to test the service. The free trial allows you to test the features and functionalities of the service.

The pricing model for GitHub CoPilot is based on the number of users and the level of service you need.

There are two main plans:

The Individual Plan: This plan is designed for single developers and it includes all of the features of GitHub CoPilot. The pricing for this plan is $10 per user per month or $100 per year.

The Corporate Plan: This plan is designed for larger organizations and it includes additional features such as advanced analytics, custom integrations, dedicated support, and organization-wide policy management. The pricing for this plan is $19 per user per month.

It's important to note that if you're part of an open-source project, you can apply to GitHub's Open Source Program, and get access to GitHub's Developer Tools, including GitHub CoPilot, for free.

Also, if you're a student, you can apply for GitHub's Student Developer Pack and get access to a variety of developer tools, including GitHub CoPilot, for free.

You can check the pricing and plans on GitHub's website, they have detailed information about the pricing and the features included in each plan.

Can I use GitHub CoPilot for team collaboration?

The Team Plan of GitHub CoPilot is designed for teams and it includes features that help with collaboration and code review.

For example, GitHub CoPilot can provide suggestions for code review, making it easier for your team to review and approve code changes. Additionally, it can also provide suggestions for review apps, which allow your team to test code changes in a staging environment before they are deployed to production.

GitHub CoPilot also allows you to share your settings with your team members, ensuring consistency and improving collaboration.

Additionally, by integrating with GitHub, GitHub CoPilot allows your team to easily navigate your codebase and make pull requests, which helps to improve collaboration and code review.

It also allows you to set permissions, to define who can access the suggestions and who can adjust the settings.

Overall, GitHub CoPilot can help your team to improve the quality of the code, speed up the development process, and collaborate more effectively.

Are there any limitations to using GitHub CoPilot?

GitHub CoPilot is a powerful tool that can help you improve your coding workflow, but there are some limitations to keep in mind:

Language support: GitHub CoPilot currently supports a limited number of programming languages, frameworks, and libraries. Some languages and frameworks that you might be using may not be supported yet, or may not be fully supported.

Accuracy: GitHub CoPilot is based on machine learning algorithms, and suggestions provided by GitHub CoPilot may not always be 100% accurate. Verifying the suggestions before applying them to your codebase is always a good practice.

Customization: While GitHub CoPilot allows you to customize settings to fit your preferences and requirements, there may be some limitations to the level of customization that is possible.

Internet connection: GitHub CoPilot requires an internet connection to work, and the suggestions may not be as accurate or responsive if you are working in an area with poor connectivity. No airplane mode with CoPilot. I know some businesses and defense projects require a disconnected environment, so this will be a limitation for now. Hopefully, in the near future, the addition of the Azure OpenAI service will lead to the ability to create a private instance of CoPilot.

Limited to the code: GitHub CoPilot can provide suggestions for completing code snippets and error corrections, but it can't provide suggestions for other types of tasks, such as project management or team collaboration.

Cost: GitHub CoPilot is a paid service, and the cost may be prohibitive for some individuals or small teams.

It's important to be aware of these limitations when using GitHub CoPilot, but keep in mind that the tool is constantly evolving and improving, so some of these limitations may be addressed in future updates.

CoPilot Best Practices

Understand the features: Familiarize yourself with the features of GitHub CoPilot and how they can help you improve your coding workflow.

Integration: Integrate GitHub CoPilot with other development tools you are already using to get the most out of it.

Use the suggestions: Use the code suggestions and error corrections provided by GitHub CoPilot to improve the quality of your code.

Keep your repository updated: Keep your repository updated with the latest code changes to ensure that GitHub CoPilot can provide the most accurate suggestions.

Collaborate with your team: Share your GitHub CoPilot settings with your team to ensure consistency and improve collaboration.

Customize settings: Customize settings to fit your preferences and requirements.

Try the advanced features: Experiment with the advanced features of GitHub CoPilot such as code review and review apps to enhance your development process.

Take advantage of the documentation: Review the documentation provided by GitHub to learn more about the best practices for using GitHub CoPilot.

Continuously monitor and improve: Continuously monitor and improve your development process with the help of GitHub CoPilot.

Feedback: Share your feedback with GitHub to help them improve the features and functionalities of GitHub CoPilot.

Summary

If you are looking for a productivity tool or hack and are a software developer GitHub CoPilot is well worth the cost. Think about how many hours of work it can save you compared to the $10/month fee. I think it is a no-brainer for professional software developers to more than 10X their value without learning a new language, platform, framework, or operating system.

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