A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use Sourcetree with GitLab

Sourcetree is a powerful Git GUI tool that simplifies interacting with your Git repositories. Whether you’re new to Git or an experienced developer, Sourcetree can make your workflow more efficient and less error-prone. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of installing Sourcetree, setting up your GitLab account, and using Sourcetree to manage your repositories.

Key Takeaways

  • Sourcetree simplifies Git operations through an intuitive graphical interface.
  • Proper installation and initial configuration of Sourcetree are essential for seamless performance.
  • Connecting Sourcetree to GitLab involves generating and adding SSH keys for secure authentication.
  • Understanding the Sourcetree interface can significantly improve your efficiency in managing repositories.
  • Advanced features like interactive rebase, stash and pop, and tagging commits can greatly enhance your Git workflow.

Installing Sourcetree on Your System

person using a computer with Sourcetree and GitLab logos

System Requirements

Before you begin, ensure your system meets the necessary requirements. Sourcetree is compatible with both Windows and macOS. For Windows, a relatively modern operating system such as Windows 10 is required. For macOS, ensure you have a recent version installed. No prior Git installation is needed as Sourcetree includes the latest stable version of Git.

Download and Installation Steps

  1. Visit the official Sourcetree website.
  2. Click on the download button to get the installer for your operating system.
  3. Run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions.
  4. You will need an Atlassian account to complete the installation. If you don’t have one, you can create it during the installation process.

Initial Configuration

Once installed, launch Sourcetree. The initial setup wizard will guide you through the basic configuration. You can choose to integrate with various version control systems such as GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket. Follow the prompts to set up your preferred configuration. After completing these steps, Sourcetree will be ready for use.

Setting Up Your GitLab Account

Creating a GitLab Account

To get started with GitLab, the first step is to create an account. Visit the GitLab website and sign up using your email address. You can also use your Google or GitHub account for a quicker registration process. Once registered, you will have access to GitLab’s features, including GitLab Ultimate.

Generating SSH Keys

SSH keys are essential for secure communication between your local machine and GitLab. To generate SSH keys, open your terminal and run the following command:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "your_email@example.com"

This command will create a new SSH key pair. You will be prompted to enter a file in which to save the key. Press Enter to accept the default file location. Next, you will be asked to enter a passphrase. It’s recommended to use a passphrase for added security.

Adding SSH Keys to GitLab

After generating your SSH keys, the next step is to add them to your GitLab account. Copy the contents of your public key file (usually located at ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub) and navigate to your GitLab account settings. Under the SSH Keys section, paste your public key and give it a relevant title. Click the "Add key" button to save it.

Setting up SSH keys ensures a secure and efficient connection between your local machine and GitLab, making your workflow smoother and more reliable.

Connecting Sourcetree to GitLab

person using laptop with GitLab and Sourcetree logos

Connecting Sourcetree to GitLab is a crucial step in your Git workflow. This section will guide you through the process of configuring Sourcetree for GitLab, authenticating with GitLab, and testing the connection to ensure everything is set up correctly.

Cloning a Repository from GitLab

The first step is usually to clone an existing repository from GitLab to your local machine. In Sourcetree, click on ‘New’ or ‘Clone’ from the toolbar.

Finding the Repository URL

To clone a repository, you need its URL. Navigate to your GitLab project, and find the HTTPS or SSH URL. Copy the URL to your clipboard for the next step.

Cloning via HTTPS

  1. Open Sourcetree and click on ‘Clone/New’.
  2. Paste the copied URL into the ‘Source Path / URL’ field.
  3. Choose a destination path on your local machine.
  4. Click ‘Clone’ to start the process.

Cloning via SSH

  1. Ensure you have your SSH keys set up in GitLab.
  2. Open Sourcetree and click on ‘Clone/New’.
  3. Paste the SSH URL into the ‘Source Path / URL’ field.
  4. Choose a destination path on your local machine.
  5. Click ‘Clone’ to start the process.

Cloning the project creates a third copy, this one on your local computer. This is good because you can compile and run it on your machine.

Understanding the Sourcetree Interface

person using computer with GitLab and Sourcetree interfaces on screen

The Sourcetree dashboard is your central hub for managing repositories. It provides a clear overview of your projects, including recent activity and status. You can easily switch between repositories and view detailed information about each one.

The commit panel in Sourcetree allows you to stage changes, write commit messages, and review your commit history. This panel is essential for tracking your progress and ensuring that your commits are well-documented. Staging changes is as simple as dragging and dropping files into the staging area.

The branch view offers a visual representation of your repository’s branches. It helps you understand the relationships between different branches and their commit histories. You can easily create, switch, and merge branches from this view.

Mastering the Sourcetree interface will significantly enhance your Git workflow, making version control more intuitive and less error-prone.

Making Your First Commit

person using a computer with GitLab and Sourcetree on screen, making a first commit

Staging Changes

Before you can commit your changes, you need to stage them. In Sourcetree, you can either click ‘Stage All’ to stage all modified files or select individual files and click ‘Stage Selected’. This step is crucial as it tells Git which changes you want to save. When should you commit your changes? Ideally, you should commit once you’ve finished a chunk of work, like completing a feature or fixing a bug.

Writing Commit Messages

Just like with GitLab, you must write a commit message before you’re allowed to commit your changes. You can do this by filling in the commit message box in Sourcetree. Once you’ve written a commit message, the Commit button will be activated. A good commit message should be concise yet descriptive, summarizing the changes made.

Pushing to GitLab

After committing your changes locally, the next step is to push them to the GitLab server. This ensures that your changes are saved in the remote repository and are accessible to your team members. To push your changes, click the ‘Push’ button in Sourcetree and select the appropriate remote repository. This step is essential for collaborative projects, as it keeps everyone in sync.

Committing and pushing changes regularly helps maintain a clean and organized project history, making it easier to track progress and identify issues.

Branching and Merging in Sourcetree

team collaborating on a project with laptops and GitLab logo, branching and merging code on a computer screen

Branching in Sourcetree allows developers to create isolated code-spaces where they can safely experiment and develop new features without affecting the main codebase. Mastery of Git branching is essential for any team doing modern software development.

Resolving Merge Conflicts

team resolving merge conflicts using GitLab and Sourcetree

When working with multiple branches, merge conflicts are almost inevitable. Identifying conflicts early can save you a lot of headaches. Sourcetree will highlight conflicting files in red, making it easy to spot them.

Sourcetree comes with a built-in merge tool that simplifies conflict resolution. Follow these steps to resolve conflicts:

  1. Double-click the conflicted file in Sourcetree.
  2. The merge tool will open, showing the conflicting changes side by side.
  3. Manually edit the file to resolve the conflicts.
  4. Save the file and mark it as resolved in Sourcetree.

After resolving all conflicts, you need to finalize the merge:

  • Commit the resolved changes.
  • Push the commit to your GitLab repository.

Remember, always test your code after resolving conflicts to ensure everything works as expected.

Advanced Features of Sourcetree

person using a computer with GitLab and Sourcetree on screen, advanced software features, modern workspace

Interactive Rebase

Rebasing is a powerful feature that allows you to rewrite commit history in a linear fashion. Sourcetree simplifies this process with an intuitive interface, making it less intimidating for developers. You can squash multiple commits into one, making your commit history cleaner and easier to understand.

Stash and Pop

The stash feature in Sourcetree lets you temporarily save changes that are not yet ready to be committed. This is particularly useful when you need to switch branches but don’t want to lose your current work. To stash your changes, simply click on the ‘Stash’ button. When you’re ready to continue, you can ‘Pop’ the stash to reapply the changes.

Tagging Commits

Tagging is a way to mark specific points in your commit history as important. In Sourcetree, you can easily add tags to your commits by right-clicking on a commit and selecting ‘Tag’. This is especially useful for marking release points or other significant milestones in your project.

Mastering these advanced features will significantly enhance your productivity and make your version control workflow more efficient.

Collaborating with Team Members

team collaboration using GitLab with Sourcetree

Collaboration is a key aspect of any development project. In this section, we’ll cover how to effectively collaborate with your team using Sourcetree and GitLab. Effective collaboration ensures that everyone is on the same page and that the project progresses smoothly.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

person using computer with GitLab and Sourcetree logos, troubleshooting issues

Connection Problems

Connection issues can be frustrating, but they are often easy to resolve. First, ensure that your internet connection is stable. If you’re using a VPN, try disconnecting it to see if that resolves the issue. Additionally, check your firewall settings to make sure Sourcetree is allowed to communicate over the network. If you’re still having trouble, try the following steps:

  1. Verify your GitLab server URL is correct.
  2. Ensure that your SSH keys are properly configured.
  3. Restart Sourcetree and try again.

If none of these steps work, consult the Sourcetree and GitLab documentation for further guidance.

Authentication Errors

Authentication errors are commonly caused by incorrect credentials or misconfigured SSH keys. Double-check your username and password to ensure they are correct. If you’re using SSH keys, make sure they are added to your GitLab account. You can do this by navigating to your GitLab profile settings and adding the public key under the SSH Keys section. If you’re using GitLab Premium, you may have additional authentication options available, such as two-factor authentication (2FA).

Syncing Issues

Syncing issues can occur when there are conflicts between your local repository and the remote repository on GitLab. To resolve these issues, try the following steps:

  1. Pull the latest changes from the remote repository.
  2. Resolve any merge conflicts that arise.
  3. Commit your changes and push them to the remote repository.

If you’re still not seeing your changes on the GitLab server, something else might be wrong. Try to reproduce the error and search for solutions online. If that doesn’t work, consider reaching out to a discussion forum or your instructor for help.

By following these steps, you should be able to troubleshoot and resolve most common issues when using Sourcetree with GitLab.


In conclusion, using Sourcetree with GitLab can significantly streamline your version control workflow, making it easier to manage your projects. By following this step-by-step guide, you should now be able to clone repositories, switch branches, and push your changes with confidence. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to explore more advanced features as you become more comfortable with the basics. For further instructions, be sure to check out our related articles on connecting Sourcetree and GitLab, switching branches, and more. Happy coding!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Sourcetree?

Sourcetree is a popular and extensive Git GUI tool that simplifies the process of using Git by providing a visual interface.

How do I install Sourcetree?

To install Sourcetree, visit the official Sourcetree website, download the installer for your operating system, and follow the installation instructions provided.

What are the system requirements for Sourcetree?

Sourcetree requires a compatible operating system (Windows or macOS), a minimum amount of RAM and storage space, and an internet connection for downloading and updating the software.

How do I connect Sourcetree to my GitLab account?

To connect Sourcetree to GitLab, you need to configure Sourcetree with your GitLab account details, authenticate using your GitLab credentials, and test the connection to ensure it is working properly.

How do I clone a repository from GitLab using Sourcetree?

To clone a repository, find the repository URL on GitLab, open Sourcetree, select ‘Clone/New,’ enter the repository URL, choose a local directory, and click ‘Clone.’

What should I do if I encounter authentication errors in Sourcetree?

If you encounter authentication errors, ensure that your SSH keys are correctly generated and added to your GitLab account, and verify that your credentials are correctly entered in Sourcetree.

How do I resolve merge conflicts in Sourcetree?

To resolve merge conflicts, identify the conflicting files, use Sourcetree’s merge tool to resolve the conflicts, and finalize the merge by committing the changes.

What are some advanced features of Sourcetree?

Some advanced features of Sourcetree include interactive rebase, stash and pop, and tagging commits, which help in managing complex workflows and maintaining a clean project history.

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