How to Get Code from GitLab: A Step-by-Step Guide

GitLab is a powerful platform for version control and collaboration, widely used by developers and teams around the world. Whether you’re new to GitLab or looking to refine your skills, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the essential processes of setting up your account, creating projects, authenticating, cloning repositories, and more. By the end of this guide, you’ll be well-equipped to manage your code and collaborate effectively using GitLab.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Authenticate with GitLab by following the instructions in the SSH documentation to securely connect your local machine to the platform.
  • Use the search function or navigate through the GitLab interface to find the project you want to clone.
  • Clone repositories via SSH or HTTPS by copying the URL and executing the clone command in your terminal.
  • Integrate GitLab with popular IDEs like Visual Studio Code and IntelliJ IDEA for a seamless development experience.
  • Follow best practices such as maintaining a clean commit history, using branches effectively, and collaborating with team members to optimize your workflow.

Setting Up Your GitLab Account

Creating a GitLab Account

To get started with GitLab, you’ll first need to create an account. Visit the GitLab website and sign up using your email address. Alternatively, you can sign in with third-party services like Google or LinkedIn. This step is crucial as it sets the foundation for all your future projects and collaborations on GitLab.

Logging In with Third-Party Services

If you prefer not to create a new account, GitLab offers the convenience of logging in with third-party services. You can use your existing Google, LinkedIn, or other supported accounts to access GitLab. This method is not only quick but also secure, leveraging the authentication mechanisms of these trusted platforms.

Navigating the GitLab Interface

Once logged in, you’ll find yourself on the GitLab dashboard. The interface is designed to be intuitive, with a sidebar that provides easy access to your projects, groups, and other essential features. Spend some time exploring the dashboard to familiarize yourself with the layout and available options.

GitLab’s interface is user-friendly, making it easier for both beginners and experienced developers to manage their projects efficiently.

By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll be well on your way to mastering GitLab, from setting up your account to navigating its interface with ease.

Creating Your First Project on GitLab

Creating your first project on GitLab is a straightforward process that will get you started organizing work with projects. Follow these steps to set up your project and configure it to suit your needs.

Starting a New Project

To create a new project:

  1. Go to the top bar and click on Main menu. Navigate to Projects and select View all projects.
  2. Click on New project on the page’s right.
  3. Select one of the following options on the Create new project page:
    • Blank project
    • Built-in template
    • Custom template
    • Import a project from another repository
    • HIPAA audit template
    • Connect to an external repository

Configuring Project Settings

After selecting the type of project, you will need to configure its settings:

  • Project Name: Enter a name for your project. This will be used to identify your project within GitLab.
  • Project Slug: This is a URL-friendly version of your project name. It will appear in the URL of your project on GitLab.
  • Project Description: Optionally, provide a brief description of your project.
  • Visibility Level: By default, the visibility of your project is private. You can change it to public if your project is public-facing and the code doesn’t contain any sensitive data.

Understanding the Project Overview Page

Once your project is created, you will be taken to the Project Overview page. This page provides a summary of your project and quick access to its main features:

  • Repository: This is where your codebase is stored. You can browse files, view commit history, and manage branches.
  • Issues: Track tasks, bugs, and feature requests here.
  • Merge Requests: Manage code changes and collaborate with team members.
  • CI/CD: Set up continuous integration and continuous deployment pipelines to automate your workflow.

Pro Tip: Regularly update your project settings and overview to keep your team informed and your project organized.

Authenticating with GitLab

Generating an SSH Key

To start, you need to generate an SSH key. This key will be used to securely connect your local machine to GitLab. Open your terminal and execute the following command:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C ""

Follow the prompts to save the key in the default location. Once generated, you can find your public key at ~/.ssh/

Adding the SSH Key to GitLab

Next, you need to add your newly generated SSH key to GitLab. Navigate to your GitLab account and go to Settings > SSH Keys. Paste the contents of your file into the Key field and give it a relevant title. Click Add key to save it.

Testing Your SSH Connection

To ensure everything is set up correctly, test your SSH connection by running:

ssh -T

If everything is configured properly, you should see a success message. If you encounter any issues, double-check your SSH key and settings.

Note: If you have enabled two-factor authentication (2FA) on your account, you cannot use your account password. Instead, use a token with read_repository or write_repository permissions, or install an OAuth credential helper.

By following these steps, you can securely authenticate with GitLab and start managing your projects efficiently. For advanced features, consider upgrading to GitLab Ultimate.

Finding the Project You Want to Clone

To clone a project from GitLab, you first need to locate it. This section will guide you through the process of finding the project you want to clone, ensuring you can easily access the code you need.

Cloning a GitLab Repository via SSH

Cloning a GitLab repository via SSH is a secure and efficient way to manage your code. This section provides a complete guide on cloning GitLab repositories using SSH. Learn to set up your SSH environment, generate keys, clone repositories, and manage SSH configurations for secure access.

Cloning a GitLab Repository via HTTPS

person using laptop to clone code from GitLab repository

To clone a GitLab repository to your local computer using HTTPS, follow these steps. This method is particularly useful if you prefer not to set up SSH keys or if you are working in an environment where HTTPS is the preferred protocol.

Copying the HTTPS URL

First, navigate to the project you want to clone. On the project’s overview page, in the upper-right corner, select Code, then copy the URL for Clone with HTTPS. This URL is essential for establishing a connection with the server and downloading the files to your computer.

Opening Your Terminal

Open a terminal window on your local machine. Navigate to the directory where you want to clone the files. Git will automatically create a folder with the repository name and download the files there.

Executing the Clone Command

In your terminal, type the following command, replacing <repository-URL> with the HTTPS URL you copied earlier:

git clone <repository-URL>

You will be prompted to enter your GitLab username and password. Once authenticated, the repository will be cloned to your local machine.

Note: On Windows, if you enter your password incorrectly multiple times and an Access denied message appears, add your namespace (username or group) to the path: git clone

By following these steps, you can easily clone a GitLab repository via HTTPS and start working on your project locally.

Using GitLab with Visual Studio Code

Installing the GitLab Extension

To get started with GitLab in Visual Studio Code, you need to install the GitLab Workflow extension. This extension supports code suggestions for both GitLab SaaS and GitLab self-managed instances. You can find it in the Visual Studio Marketplace. Requirements include Visual Studio 2022 and a compatible GitLab version.

Cloning a Repository in VS Code

You can clone a GitLab repository directly from the GitLab interface or from within Visual Studio Code. From the GitLab interface:

  1. Go to the project’s overview page.
  2. In the upper-right corner, select Code.
  3. Under Open in your IDE, select Visual Studio Code (SSH) or Visual Studio Code (HTTPS).
  4. Select a folder to clone the project into.

After Visual Studio Code clones your project, it opens the folder automatically. Alternatively, you can use the extension’s Git: Clone command within Visual Studio Code.

Managing Your Project in VS Code

Once your project is cloned, you can manage it directly in Visual Studio Code. This includes editing files, committing changes, and pushing updates to GitLab. The GitLab Workflow extension provides a seamless experience, integrating GitLab features directly into your IDE. OAuth credential helpers can also be used to streamline authentication when using HTTPS.

Visual Studio Code and GitLab together offer a powerful combination for developers, making it easier to manage and collaborate on projects efficiently.

Using GitLab with IntelliJ IDEA

Setting Up IntelliJ IDEA

To get started with GitLab in IntelliJ IDEA, you need to have the JetBrains Toolbox App installed. This app helps manage your JetBrains IDEs, including IntelliJ IDEA. Ensure you have the latest version of IntelliJ IDEA installed for the best experience.

Cloning a Repository in IntelliJ

Cloning a GitLab repository into IntelliJ IDEA is straightforward:

  1. Go to the project’s overview page on GitLab.
  2. In the upper-right corner, select Code.
  3. Under Open in your IDE, select IntelliJ IDEA (SSH) or IntelliJ IDEA (HTTPS).
  4. Choose a folder to clone the project into.

After IntelliJ IDEA clones your project, it will open the folder automatically.

Managing Your Project in IntelliJ

Once your project is open in IntelliJ IDEA, you can manage it just like any other project. Here are some tips:

  • Use the Version Control tool window to see all your changes.
  • Commit and push changes directly from IntelliJ IDEA.
  • Utilize IntelliJ’s powerful code analysis and refactoring tools to maintain code quality.

IntelliJ IDEA integrates seamlessly with GitLab, making it easier to manage your projects and collaborate with your team.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

SSH Authentication Problems

SSH authentication issues can be a common hurdle when working with GitLab. Ensure your SSH key is correctly added to your GitLab account. You can verify this by navigating to your SSH Keys settings in GitLab. If problems persist, try regenerating your SSH key and adding it again.

HTTPS Cloning Errors

When cloning a repository via HTTPS, you might encounter errors related to authentication or network issues. Make sure your GitLab credentials are correct and that you have the necessary permissions to access the repository. If you continue to face issues, check your network connection and firewall settings.

General Troubleshooting Tips

For general issues, consider the following steps:

  1. Check GitLab Status: Sometimes, the issue might be on GitLab’s end. Visit the GitLab status page to see if there are any ongoing issues.
  2. Clear Cache: Clearing your browser or application cache can resolve unexpected behavior.
  3. Update Software: Ensure that your Git client and any related software are up to date.
  4. Consult Documentation: GitLab’s documentation is comprehensive and can provide solutions to many common problems.

If all else fails, don’t hesitate to reach out to GitLab support or consult community forums for additional help.

Pushing Changes to GitLab

Making Changes Locally

Before you can push changes to GitLab, you need to make some modifications to your local repository. This could involve editing files, adding new ones, or deleting obsolete ones. Once your changes are ready, you can proceed to the next steps.

Committing Your Changes

To commit your changes, use the following commands in your terminal:

git add .
git commit -m "Your commit message"

The git add . command stages all the changes, and git commit -m commits them with a message. Ensure your commit message is concise and descriptive.

Pushing to the Remote Repository

Now, it’s time to push your local changes to the remote repository on GitLab. Use the following commands:

git remote add origin <remote-url>
git push -u origin master/main

When you execute the push command, you may be prompted to authenticate. Enter your GitLab credentials to proceed. Once authenticated, your changes will be reflected in the remote repository.

All of your local changes will be checked into version control and reflected on your remote GitLab repository.

If you’re using GitLab Premium, you can also take advantage of additional features like merge request approvals and code quality checks to ensure your code meets the required standards.

Best Practices for Using GitLab

Maintaining a Clean Commit History

A clean commit history is essential for maintaining the integrity and readability of your project. Use meaningful commit messages that accurately describe the changes made. This practice helps team members understand the project’s progress and makes it easier to identify specific changes when troubleshooting.

Using Branches Effectively

Branches are a powerful feature in GitLab that allow you to work on different features or fixes simultaneously without affecting the main codebase. Create a new branch for each feature or bug fix and merge it back into the main branch only after thorough testing. This approach minimizes conflicts and ensures that the main branch remains stable.

Collaborating with Team Members

Effective collaboration is key to a successful project. Use GitLab’s built-in tools like merge requests, code reviews, and issue tracking to facilitate communication and coordination among team members. Regularly update your team on your progress and be open to feedback to improve the overall quality of the project.

Remember, the ultimate guide to hosting your website on GitLab involves understanding the GitLab workflow, CI/CD pipelines, system administration, project management, security practices, and advanced features for efficient website deployment.


By following this step-by-step guide, you should now have a solid understanding of how to get code from GitLab. Whether you’re cloning a repository for the first time or managing multiple projects, these instructions will help you navigate the process with ease. Remember, the key steps involve authenticating with GitLab, locating your project, and using the appropriate commands to clone the repository to your local machine. With practice, these tasks will become second nature, allowing you to focus more on coding and less on setup. Happy coding!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I authenticate with GitLab using SSH?

Authenticate with GitLab by following the instructions in the SSH documentation. Generate an SSH key, add it to your GitLab account, and test your SSH connection.

How do I create a project on GitLab?

Go to the GitLab website and log in. If you don’t have an account, sign up. Click on ‘New Project’ and follow the prompts to create your project.

How can I clone a GitLab repository via SSH?

1. Find the project you want to clone. 2. Copy the SSH URL from the project’s overview page. 3. Open a terminal and run `git clone [SSH URL]`.

How can I clone a GitLab repository via HTTPS?

1. Find the project you want to clone. 2. Copy the HTTPS URL from the project’s overview page. 3. Open a terminal and run `git clone [HTTPS URL]`.

What should I do if I encounter SSH authentication problems?

Ensure your SSH key is correctly added to your GitLab account. Test the connection using `ssh -T`. Check your SSH configuration and network settings.

How do I push changes to a GitLab repository?

1. Make changes to your files locally. 2. Commit your changes using `git commit -m “commit message”`. 3. Push the changes using `git push`.

Can I use GitLab with Visual Studio Code?

Yes, you can. Install the GitLab extension for Visual Studio Code, then use the extension to clone and manage your repositories.

What are some best practices for using GitLab?

Maintain a clean commit history, use branches effectively, and collaborate with team members by using merge requests and code reviews.

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