How to Create a Git Repository in GitLab: A Step-by-Step Guide

GitLab is a powerful platform that offers a comprehensive suite of tools for DevOps teams. Whether you’re starting a new project from scratch or importing an existing one, GitLab makes it easy to create and manage repositories. This guide will walk you through the process of setting up your first Git repository in GitLab, covering everything from account creation to best practices for repository management.

Key Takeaways

  • Creating a GitLab account is the first step to managing repositories on the platform.
  • You can create a new project in GitLab, which automatically sets up a repository for you.
  • Importing existing projects into GitLab involves pushing them to a new Git repository and then importing that repository.
  • Setting up a local repository involves installing Git on your local system and connecting it to GitLab.
  • Using GitLab’s Web IDE allows you to edit files online and commit changes directly from the browser.

Getting Started with GitLab

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 credentials. You can also sign in using third-party services like Google or LinkedIn. Ensure you have a valid email address to complete the registration process.

Navigating the GitLab Interface

Once logged in, you’ll be greeted by the GitLab dashboard. This is your central hub for managing projects, repositories, and team collaborations. The interface is user-friendly, with a sidebar that provides quick access to key features such as Projects, Groups, and Issues. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the layout to make navigation easier as you proceed.

Creating a New Project in GitLab

Starting a New Project

To start a new project in GitLab, follow these steps:

  1. On the left sidebar, at the top, select Create new and then New project/repository.
  2. Select Create blank project.
  3. Enter the project details:
    • In the Project name field, enter the name of your project. Ensure it is all lower case and without spaces.
    • Optionally, fill in a short project description. This will appear under your project logo on its main page and should be concise.

Project Settings Overview

Once your project is created, you can configure various settings to tailor it to your needs. Here are some key settings to consider:

  • Visibility Level: Choose whether your project is public, internal, or private.
  • Project Features: Enable or disable features like issues, merge requests, and CI/CD.
  • Repository Settings: Configure settings related to your repository, such as default branch and protected branches.

Remember, some advanced settings and features are only available in GitLab Ultimate. Make sure to review your plan to access all the functionalities you need.

Creating a Repository from Scratch

Creating a new repository within GitLab is a straightforward process that allows you to manage your code efficiently. Follow these steps to get started.

Initializing a New Repository

To understand the process of setting up a repository, we must first define what a repository is. Many people who are new to version control systems confuse the terms ‘repository’ and ‘project.’ These are actually similar, but ultimately different, terms. Your project is the actual software application that you’re working on. It’s the code and resources needed to make the application.

  1. Navigate to your GitLab dashboard and click on the ‘New Project’ button.
  2. Choose ‘Create blank project’ to start from scratch.
  3. Fill in the project details such as name, description, and visibility level.
  4. Click ‘Create project’ to initialize your new repository.

Configuring Repository Settings

Once your repository is created, you can configure various settings to tailor it to your needs.

  • General Settings: Adjust the project name, description, and avatar.
  • Visibility Settings: Set your project to private, internal, or public.
  • Repository Settings: Enable or disable features like issues, merge requests, and wiki.
  • CI/CD Settings: Configure your continuous integration and continuous deployment pipelines.

Properly configuring your repository settings from the start can save you a lot of time and hassle down the road.

Importing an Existing Project

Preparing Your Local Project

Before you can import your project into GitLab, ensure your local project is ready. This involves cleaning up your project directory, removing unnecessary files, and making sure your project is in a good state. A clean project setup will make the import process smoother and more efficient.

Pushing to GitLab

Once your local project is prepared, you can push it to GitLab. Follow these steps:

  1. Create a new project in GitLab.
  2. Copy the repository URL provided by GitLab.
  3. Open your terminal and navigate to your local project directory.
  4. Initialize a new Git repository if you haven’t already:
    git init
  5. Add the GitLab repository as a remote:
    git remote add origin <repository-url>
  6. Push your local project to GitLab:
    git push -u origin master

Tip: If you encounter any issues during the push process, double-check your repository URL and ensure your local project is properly configured.

By following these steps, you can successfully import your existing project into GitLab and start leveraging its powerful features for your development workflow.

Setting Up a Local Repository for GitLab

To effectively collaborate with your team and maintain a backup of your important data, it’s crucial to set up a local repository for GitLab. This section will guide you through the necessary steps to get started.

Installing Git on Your Local System

Before you can set up a local repository, you need to have Git installed on your local system. Follow these steps to install Git:

  1. Download Git from the official website.
  2. Run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions.
  3. Verify the installation by opening a terminal and typing git --version.

Connecting to GitLab

Once Git is installed, you need to connect your local repository to GitLab. This involves configuring your Git settings and managing SSH keys for secure access.

  1. Generate an SSH key if you don’t already have one. You can do this by running ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "" in your terminal.
  2. Add the SSH key to your GitLab account by navigating to the SSH Keys section in your GitLab profile settings and pasting the key.
  3. Configure your local Git settings by running git config --global "Your Name" and git config --global "".

Setting up a local repository config is essential for seamless integration with GitLab. Make sure to manage SSH keys properly to ensure secure access.

By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a complete guide on cloning GitLab repositories using SSH. This will enable you to manage your projects efficiently and collaborate with your team effectively.

Cloning a Repository from GitLab

Using HTTPS or SSH

When cloning a repository from GitLab, you have two primary options: HTTPS and SSH. HTTPS is simpler to set up but requires you to enter your credentials each time you interact with the repository. SSH, on the other hand, uses key pairs for authentication, making it more secure and convenient for frequent interactions.

Cloning Commands

To clone a repository, you’ll need to use the git clone command followed by the repository URL. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Using HTTPS:
    git clone
  2. Using SSH:
    git clone

For users with GitLab Premium, additional features like repository mirroring and advanced security settings are available, making it easier to manage and secure your cloned repositories.

Managing Repository Permissions

person using GitLab on a computer

User Roles and Permissions

In GitLab, managing repository permissions is crucial for maintaining a secure and efficient workflow. User roles in GitLab are designed to provide different levels of access and control over the repository. The main roles include:

  • Guest: Can view the repository but cannot make any changes.
  • Reporter: Can view and clone the repository, and also create issues and comments.
  • Developer: Has all the permissions of a Reporter, plus the ability to push code to the repository.
  • Maintainer: Can manage the repository settings and has all the permissions of a Developer.
  • Owner: Has full control over the repository, including the ability to delete it.

Setting Access Levels

Setting the appropriate access levels for your team members is essential for maintaining the integrity of your project. You can set access levels by navigating to the repository settings and selecting the ‘Members’ section. Here, you can add new members and assign them the appropriate role based on their responsibilities.

Properly managing user roles and permissions helps in preventing unauthorized changes and ensures that the right people have the right level of access.

By understanding and utilizing these roles effectively, you can ensure a smooth and secure workflow for your GitLab projects.

Using GitLab’s Web IDE

The GitLab Web IDE is a powerful tool that allows you to edit your code directly from the GitLab interface. This feature is particularly useful for quick fixes and minor changes without the need to clone the repository locally. Follow GitLab workflow for efficient code integration and make the most out of this feature.

Editing Files Online

To start editing files online, navigate to your project and select the file you want to edit. Click on the ‘Edit’ button, and the Web IDE will open, allowing you to make changes directly in your browser. This is especially handy for organized development and maintaining a clean codebase.

Committing Changes

Once you’ve made your changes, you can commit them directly from the Web IDE. Simply click on the ‘Commit’ button, add a commit message, and push the changes. This streamlined process ensures that you can work with Git locally or directly through the Web IDE, providing flexibility in your development workflow.

Collaborating with Team Members

Creating Merge Requests

Creating merge requests in GitLab is a straightforward process that allows team members to propose changes to the codebase. Merge requests facilitate code reviews and discussions, ensuring that all changes are vetted before being integrated into the main branch. To create a merge request, navigate to your project, click on ‘Merge Requests’, and then ‘New Merge Request’. Fill in the necessary details and submit.

Code Reviews and Approvals

Code reviews are an essential part of maintaining code quality and fostering collaboration. In GitLab, you can assign reviewers to your merge requests, who can then provide feedback and approve the changes. Utilize the comments and threads feature to discuss specific lines of code. Once the review is complete and all issues are addressed, the merge request can be approved and merged into the main branch.

The GitLab talent engagement team is here to support your onsite planning. We can help you plan activities and make suggestions on how you can best spend this time together.


  • Merge requests facilitate code reviews and discussions.
  • Assign reviewers to your merge requests.
  • Utilize comments and threads for discussions.
  • Approve and merge changes after reviews.

Monitoring Repository Activity

Using the Activity Feed

The Activity Feed in GitLab provides a comprehensive guide to downloading and managing GitLab repositories, covering setup, navigation, cloning, troubleshooting, using web IDE, and advanced features for efficient version control. It’s an essential tool for tracking changes and updates within your project. You can view recent commits, merge requests, and issues, making it easier to stay on top of project developments.

Setting Up Notifications

Setting up notifications in GitLab ensures you never miss important updates. You can customize your notification settings to receive alerts for specific events, such as new merge requests or issues. This feature helps you stay informed and responsive to changes in your repository.

Regularly monitoring your repository activity helps maintain project health and ensures timely responses to any issues or updates.

Best Practices for Repository Management

Maintaining a Clean Commit History

A clean commit history is essential for the long-term health of your repository. Avoid committing large, unrelated changes in a single commit. Instead, break down your changes into smaller, logical commits. This makes it easier to track changes and understand the evolution of the project. Use meaningful commit messages that clearly describe the purpose of each commit.

Regular Backups and Security

Regularly backing up your repository ensures that you don’t lose important work. Set up automated backups to run at regular intervals. Additionally, ensure that your repository is secure by managing access controls and using strong authentication methods. Regularly review and update your security settings to protect against unauthorized access.

Repositories are a central component in how version control works. Each developer works on their own local copy of a repository and can make changes without affecting the master branch that is stored remotely. When the developer is finished with their work, they can send, or ‘push,’ their changes to the master branch, where the maintainer of the project can check for conflicts and approve the changes. This allows many developers to all work on the same project without ever stepping on each other’s toes.


Creating a Git repository in GitLab is a straightforward process that can significantly streamline your development workflow. Whether you’re starting a new project from scratch, importing an existing project, or setting up a local repository, GitLab provides the tools and features to make the process seamless. By following the step-by-step instructions outlined in this guide, you can quickly get your repository up and running. Remember, setting up your repository is just the beginning. GitLab offers a wealth of tools for continuous integration, project management, and collaboration that can help your team work more efficiently and deliver high-quality software faster. Dive in, explore these features, and make the most out of what GitLab has to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Git repository?

A Git repository is a storage space where your project’s code and its revision history are stored. Git repositories can be hosted locally on your computer or on a remote server like GitLab.

How do I create a GitLab account?

To create a GitLab account, go to the GitLab website and sign up using your email address. You can also sign in using third-party services like Google or LinkedIn.

Can I import an existing project into GitLab?

Yes, you can import an existing project into GitLab by pushing your local project to a new Git repository and then importing that repository to GitLab.

What are the steps to create a new project in GitLab?

First, log in to your GitLab account. Then, navigate to the ‘Projects’ section and click on ‘New Project’. Follow the prompts to set up your new project.

How do I clone a repository from GitLab?

You can clone a repository from GitLab using HTTPS or SSH. Use the ‘git clone’ command followed by the repository URL to clone it to your local machine.

What are the roles and permissions available in GitLab?

GitLab offers various user roles and permissions, including Guest, Reporter, Developer, Maintainer, and Owner. Each role has different levels of access to the repository.

How can I edit files online in GitLab?

You can edit files online in GitLab using the Web IDE. Navigate to the file you want to edit, click on it, and then click the ‘Edit’ button to make changes.

What are some best practices for managing a GitLab repository?

Some best practices include maintaining a clean commit history, performing regular backups, setting appropriate user permissions, and ensuring the security of your repository.

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