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

Creating a Pull Request (PR), known as a Merge Request in GitLab, is a crucial part of the collaborative development process. It allows developers to propose changes, get feedback, and merge updates into the main codebase efficiently. This guide provides a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to creating a PR in GitLab, ensuring you can navigate the process with ease and confidence.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the importance of creating a branch for your changes to keep your main codebase clean and organized.
  • Learn how to set up a merge request template to standardize contributions and save time for your team.
  • Get familiar with the process of initiating, reviewing, and merging merge requests in GitLab.
  • Explore GitLab’s advanced features like Auto DevOps and CI/CD pipelines to enhance your development workflow.
  • Adopt best practices for writing clear merge request descriptions and following coding standards to ensure smooth collaboration.

Setting Up Your GitLab Project

Creating a New Project

To get started organizing work with projects, start by creating a new project in GitLab to contain your codebase, documentation, and related resources. A project contains a repository. A repository contains all the files and their history. Creating a new project is the first step in managing your code effectively.

Navigating the Project Dashboard

Once your project is created, you will be directed to the project dashboard. This is your central hub for managing your project. Here, you can access various features such as issues, merge requests, and CI/CD pipelines. The dashboard is designed to give you a comprehensive overview of your project’s status and activities.

Configuring Project Settings

Configuring your project settings is crucial for tailoring the project to your needs. You can set permissions, enable or disable features, and configure integrations with other tools. Proper configuration ensures that your project runs smoothly and securely.

Remember, the project settings allow you to control who can access your project and what they can do within it. Make sure to review and adjust these settings according to your team’s requirements.

Creating a Branch for Your Changes

Understanding Branching in GitLab

Branching is a fundamental concept in GitLab that allows you to work on different features or fixes simultaneously without affecting the main codebase. Branches enable multiple developers to collaborate efficiently by isolating their changes until they are ready to be merged. In GitLab Ultimate, you can also enforce branch protection rules to ensure code quality and security.

Creating a New Branch

To create a new branch in GitLab, follow these steps:

  1. On the left sidebar, select ‘Search or go to’ and find your project.
  2. Select ‘Code’ > ‘Branches’.
  3. Type a branch name and select ‘New branch’.
  4. Above the file list, select ‘Create merge request’. A merge request is created with the default branch as the target.
  5. Fill out the fields and select ‘Create merge request’.

Switching Between Branches

Switching between branches is essential when you need to work on multiple features or fixes. You can switch branches using the GitLab interface or Git commands locally. In the GitLab interface, navigate to the ‘Branches’ section under ‘Code’ and select the branch you want to switch to. Locally, you can use the command git checkout <branch-name> to switch branches.

Remember, always commit your changes before switching branches to avoid losing any work.

Making Changes to Your Code

developer working on code with GitLab interface

Editing Files

Editing files in GitLab is straightforward. You can either edit files directly in the GitLab web interface or clone the repository to your local machine and use your preferred text editor. Direct web edits are quick for minor changes, but for more substantial updates, local editing is recommended.

Committing Your Changes

Once you’ve made your edits, the next step is to commit your changes. A commit is essentially a snapshot of your project at a specific point in time. Make sure to write clear and concise commit messages that describe the changes you’ve made. This practice helps in tracking the history of changes and understanding the project’s evolution.

Pushing Changes to Remote Repository

After committing your changes locally, you need to push them to the remote repository on GitLab. This step updates the remote repository with your local commits. Use the git push command to achieve this. If you’re using GitLab Premium, you can also take advantage of advanced features like push rules to enforce certain policies on your commits.

Remember, frequent and small commits are better than infrequent and large ones. This approach makes it easier to track changes and resolve conflicts.

Creating a Merge Request Template

Creating a merge request template in GitLab can streamline your workflow and ensure consistency across your projects. Follow these steps to set up and use merge request templates effectively.

Initiating a Merge Request

Creating a merge request in GitLab is a crucial step in the development workflow. It allows you to visualize and collaborate on the changes before merging them into the main branch. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you initiate a merge request effectively.

Reviewing Merge Requests

Assigning Reviewers

Assigning the right reviewers is crucial for a thorough code review. Ensure that the reviewers have the necessary expertise to evaluate the changes. Follow GitLab workflow for efficient code integration by assigning team members who are familiar with the project’s codebase.

Adding Comments and Suggestions

When reviewing a merge request, it’s important to provide constructive feedback. Highlight any issues or improvements directly in the code. Use the comment feature to add suggestions and ask questions. This helps in organizing structure and making the review process more collaborative.

Approving or Requesting Changes

After thoroughly reviewing the merge request, you can either approve it or request changes. If the code meets the required standards and passes all checks, approve the merge request. If there are issues, request changes and provide clear instructions on what needs to be fixed. Utilize advanced features like merge request widgets to track the status and progress of the review.

Prioritize what to review in your merge requests. Focus on core functionality and address any major issues before moving on to minor flaws.

Merging the Request

Checking for Merge Conflicts

Before you proceed with merging, it’s crucial to check for any merge conflicts. Conflicts can arise when there are overlapping changes in the source and target branches. GitLab provides tools to help you identify and resolve these conflicts efficiently.

Final Approval

Once conflicts are resolved, the next step is to get final approval. This usually involves a code review where team members can add comments and suggestions. Ensure all feedback is addressed before moving forward.

Completing the Merge

After receiving the necessary approvals, you can complete the merge. Navigate to the merge request list, select your merge request, and click on the ‘Merge’ button. This will integrate your changes into the target branch, finalizing the process.

Merging requests is a critical step in maintaining a smooth workflow on GitLab. Always double-check for conflicts and ensure all feedback is incorporated for a seamless integration.

Using GitLab’s Advanced Features

Auto DevOps

Auto DevOps simplifies the setup of CI/CD pipelines by automatically configuring your project with the best practices. This feature can save you a lot of time and effort, especially if you’re new to CI/CD. It includes automated testing, security scans, and deployment to your preferred environment.

CI/CD Pipelines

CI/CD pipelines in GitLab allow you to automate the process of integration and deployment. You can define your pipeline in a .gitlab-ci.yml file, which specifies the stages, jobs, and scripts to be executed. This ensures that your code is always in a deployable state.

Mastering your projects: a comprehensive guide to GitLab documentation. Dive deep into GitLab features, advanced configuration, integration with tools, customizing workflow, CI, and deployments. Explore basic features and get started efficiently.

Code Quality Checks

GitLab provides built-in code quality checks that help you maintain high standards in your codebase. These checks can be integrated into your CI/CD pipeline to automatically analyze your code for issues. Implementing these checks can significantly reduce the number of bugs and improve the overall quality of your software.

Best Practices for Merge Requests

Writing Clear Descriptions

A well-written description is crucial for a successful merge request. It should provide context, outline the changes made, and explain why they are necessary. Clear descriptions help reviewers understand the purpose of the merge request and what to look for during the review process.

Following Coding Standards

Adhering to coding standards ensures that your code is consistent and easy to read. This makes it easier for others to review and maintain the code. Make sure to follow your project’s specific guidelines and use tools like linters to catch any deviations.

Regularly Updating Your Branch

Keeping your branch up-to-date with the main branch helps avoid merge conflicts and ensures that your changes are compatible with the latest codebase. Regular updates can save time and reduce the likelihood of issues during the final merge.

When you open a merge request, you can visualize and collaborate on the changes before merge. Merge requests include:

A description of the request.
Code changes and inline code reviews.
Information about CI/CD pipelines.
A comment section for discussion threads.
The list of commits.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Resolving Merge Conflicts

Merge conflicts can be a common hurdle when working with multiple branches. To resolve these conflicts, you need to identify the conflicting files and manually merge the changes. Use GitLab’s conflict editor or resolve them locally using your preferred text editor. Once resolved, commit the changes and push them to the remote repository.

Handling Failed Pipelines

Failed pipelines can disrupt your workflow. First, check the pipeline logs to identify the error. Common issues include syntax errors, missing dependencies, or failed tests. Address the specific error and re-run the pipeline. If the issue persists, consult the documentation for further guidance.

Addressing Code Review Feedback

Receiving feedback during code reviews is crucial for maintaining code quality. To address feedback effectively, review each comment and make the necessary changes. If you disagree with a suggestion, discuss it with the reviewer to reach a consensus. Once all feedback is addressed, update your merge request and notify the reviewer.

Regularly updating your branch with the latest changes from the target branch can help minimize conflicts and ensure a smoother merge process.

Troubleshooting Geo Synchronization

Geo synchronization issues can occur when repositories are not properly synced between primary and secondary sites. To troubleshoot, find repository check failures in a geo secondary site and diagnose specific errors. Ensure that all repositories are up-to-date and that there are no network issues affecting synchronization.

Maintaining Your GitLab Repository

Maintaining your GitLab repository is crucial for ensuring smooth and efficient project management. This section will guide you through essential practices to keep your repository in top shape.


Creating a Pull Request (PR) in GitLab is a straightforward process that can significantly streamline your development workflow. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your code contributions are efficiently reviewed and merged, maintaining high standards and consistency across your projects. Remember, a well-maintained PR process not only saves time and effort but also helps onboard new team members more smoothly. Keep your templates updated and leverage GitLab’s features to enhance collaboration and productivity within your team.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I create a new project in GitLab?

To create a new project in GitLab, navigate to the ‘Projects’ section, click on ‘New Project’, and follow the prompts to set up your project details.

What is the purpose of creating a branch in GitLab?

Creating a branch allows you to work on changes independently from the main codebase, making it easier to manage and review changes before merging them.

How do I switch between branches in GitLab?

You can switch between branches using the Git command line with ‘git checkout ‘ or through the GitLab interface by navigating to the repository and selecting the desired branch.

What is a merge request template, and how do I create one?

A merge request template is a predefined format for creating merge requests. To create one, add a .md file in the .gitlab/merge_request_templates folder in your project root.

How can I resolve merge conflicts in GitLab?

Merge conflicts can be resolved by manually editing the conflicting files to reconcile the differences and then committing the resolved changes.

What steps are involved in reviewing a merge request?

Reviewing a merge request involves assigning reviewers, adding comments and suggestions, and either approving the request or requesting further changes.

How do I handle failed pipelines in GitLab?

To handle failed pipelines, review the pipeline logs to identify the errors, make the necessary code changes, and rerun the pipeline.

What are some best practices for creating merge requests in GitLab?

Some best practices include writing clear descriptions, following coding standards, and regularly updating your branch to keep it in sync with the main codebase.

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