How to Set Up GitLab in Visual Studio Code: A Step-by-Step Guide

Integrating GitLab with Visual Studio Code can significantly enhance your development workflow by providing seamless access to your repositories, issue tracking, and CI/CD pipelines within a single environment. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of setting up GitLab in Visual Studio Code, from installation and configuration to advanced usage and troubleshooting.

Key Takeaways

  • Installing Visual Studio Code and setting it up for the first time is straightforward and essential for integrating with GitLab.
  • The GitLab extension for Visual Studio Code enables seamless interaction with your GitLab repositories directly from the editor.
  • Connecting Visual Studio Code to your GitLab account requires authorization but offers a streamlined workflow for managing your projects.
  • Cloning repositories, creating new projects, and pushing code to GitLab can all be done efficiently within Visual Studio Code.
  • Best practices, such as maintaining consistent commit messages and utilizing branches, can enhance your development workflow when using GitLab with Visual Studio Code.

Installing Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code is a lightweight but powerful source code editor which runs on your desktop and is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It comes with built-in support for JavaScript, TypeScript, and Node.js and has a rich ecosystem of extensions for other languages and runtimes such as C++, C#, Java, Python, PHP, Go, and .NET.

Installing the GitLab Extension

To integrate GitLab with Visual Studio Code, you need to install the GitLab extension. This section will guide you through the process.

Navigating to the Extensions Pane

First, open Visual Studio Code. On the left sidebar, click on the Extensions icon, which looks like a square with a split in the middle. This will open the Extensions pane where you can search for and manage extensions.

Searching for the GitLab Extension

In the Extensions pane, type "GitLab" into the search bar. Look for the official GitLab extension, which is maintained by GitLab and has over 1,625,371 installs. Ensure you select the correct extension to avoid any issues.

Installing and Restarting Visual Studio Code

Click the "Install" button next to the GitLab extension. Once the installation is complete, you will need to restart Visual Studio Code for the changes to take effect. This step is crucial for the extension to be fully integrated and functional.

Following this step-by-step guide to installing the GitLab extension will ensure a seamless GitLab experience within Visual Studio Code.

Connecting Visual Studio Code to Your GitLab Account

Opening the GitLab Extension Settings

After restarting Visual Studio Code, click on the Extensions sidebar icon and locate the GitLab extension. Click on it to open the extension settings. Here, you will find an option to connect to your GitLab account. Click on the “Connect to GitLab” button and follow the prompts to authorize the extension’s access to your GitLab account.

Authorizing Access to Your GitLab Account

  1. Open Visual Studio Code, then open the command palette by pressing Command + Shift + P.
  2. In the command palette, search for GitLab: Add Account and press Enter.
  3. In the URL to GitLab instance, paste the full URL to your GitLab instance, including the http:// or https://. Press Enter to confirm.
  4. Paste in your GitLab personal access token and press Enter. The token is not displayed, nor is it accessible to others.

Note: Ensure you have generated a personal access token from your GitLab account settings before proceeding with this step.

Verifying the Connection

Once you have authorized access, you can verify the connection by checking the GitLab extension settings. You should see your GitLab account details displayed, indicating a successful connection. This step is crucial to ensure that Visual Studio Code can interact with your GitLab repositories seamlessly.

Cloning a GitLab Repository

Generating a Clone URL from GitLab

To clone a repository, you first need to generate a clone URL from your GitLab project. Navigate to your project on GitLab, click on the Clone button, and copy the URL provided. This URL will be used to clone the repository into Visual Studio Code.

Using the Command Palette to Clone

Open Visual Studio Code and access the Command Palette by pressing Ctrl+Shift+P (Windows/Linux) or Cmd+Shift+P (Mac). Type Git: Clone and select it from the list. Paste the clone URL you copied from GitLab into the prompt and choose a directory on your local machine where the repository will be stored. Visual Studio Code will then clone the repository and open it in a new window.

Verifying the Cloned Repository

After cloning, it’s important to verify that the repository has been cloned correctly. Check the Source Control view in Visual Studio Code to see the list of files and the current branch. You can also open the terminal in Visual Studio Code and run git status to ensure everything is set up correctly.

Cloning a repository is a fundamental step in working with GitLab and Visual Studio Code. Make sure to follow these steps carefully to avoid any issues.

Creating a New Project in GitLab

developer working on computer with GitLab and Visual Studio Code logos

Setting Up a New Repository

To start a new project in GitLab, log in to your GitLab account and navigate to the dashboard. Click on the "New Project" button. You will be prompted to choose between creating a blank project, importing a project, or using a template. Select the option that best suits your needs and provide the necessary details such as project name, description, and visibility level.

Configuring Repository Settings

Once your repository is created, you can configure various settings to tailor it to your workflow. Navigate to the repository settings where you can manage options like branch protection, merge request approvals, and CI/CD settings. For users with GitLab Ultimate, additional features such as advanced security and compliance settings are available.

Initializing with a README

A README file is essential for any project as it provides an overview and instructions. To initialize your repository with a README, check the option to add a README file during the repository creation process. You can also add it later by navigating to the repository and clicking on the "Add README" button.

Remember, a well-documented README can significantly improve the usability and maintainability of your project.

Pushing Code to GitLab

Staging Changes in Visual Studio Code

Before you can push your code to GitLab, you need to stage your changes. In Visual Studio Code, you can do this by navigating to the Source Control pane. Here, you’ll see a list of files that have been modified. Click the plus icon next to each file you want to stage. Staging is a crucial step as it prepares your changes for the next commit.

Committing Changes

Once your changes are staged, the next step is to commit them. In the Source Control pane, you’ll find a text box where you can enter a commit message. It’s good practice to write clear and concise commit messages. After entering your message, click the checkmark icon to commit the changes. This action records your changes in the local repository.

Pushing to the Remote Repository

After committing your changes, you need to push them to the remote repository on GitLab. You can do this by opening the terminal in Visual Studio Code and running the command:

git push origin

This command sends your committed changes to the remote repository. Once the push is complete, you can verify the changes by visiting your project on the GitLab web UI. You’ll see all the newly created or modified files in your repository.

Remember, you can also make changes directly in the GitLab Web UI using the Web IDE. This feature allows you to edit files and commit changes without leaving your browser.

Managing GitLab Issues in Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code and GitLab are powerful tools that can greatly enhance your development workflow. By integrating GitLab into Visual Studio Code, you can efficiently manage your code repositories and collaborate with your team. One essential aspect of project management is creating and tracking issues. In this section, we will guide you through the process of managing GitLab issues directly from Visual Studio Code, streamlining your workflow and ensuring seamless issue tracking.

Using GitLab CI/CD with Visual Studio Code

Integrating GitLab CI/CD with Visual Studio Code can significantly enhance your development workflow. By setting up a CI/CD pipeline, you can automate the process of building, testing, and deploying your code, ensuring a more efficient and reliable software delivery process.

Best Practices for GitLab and Visual Studio Code Integration

Maintaining Consistent Commit Messages

Consistent commit messages are crucial for maintaining a clear project history. Ensure each commit message is descriptive and follows a standard format. This practice helps team members understand the changes made without needing to dive into the code.

Regularly Pulling from the Remote Repository

To avoid conflicts and ensure you are working with the latest code, regularly pull updates from the remote repository. This habit keeps your local repository in sync with the team’s progress and reduces the risk of merge conflicts.

Utilizing Branches for Feature Development

Using branches for feature development allows you to work on new features without affecting the main codebase. Create a new branch for each feature or bug fix, and merge it back into the main branch once it’s complete and tested. This approach promotes organized and manageable code changes.

By following these best practices, you can enhance your development workflow and collaboration within your team. Whether you are using the free version or GitLab Premium, these tips will help you maintain a smooth and efficient integration between GitLab and Visual Studio Code.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

When working with GitLab in Visual Studio Code, you might encounter some common issues. This section will help you troubleshoot and resolve these problems effectively.


Integrating GitLab with Visual Studio Code offers a seamless workflow for managing your code repositories and tracking issues. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily create GitLab issues without leaving the Visual Studio Code environment. This integration streamlines your development process, improves collaboration with your team, and ensures efficient issue tracking. Take advantage of the power of Visual Studio Code and GitLab to enhance your development workflow today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is GitLab?

GitLab is a web-based platform that helps developers collaborate on large and complex projects using Git, a popular version control system. GitLab offers a range of features to support the entire DevOps lifecycle, from planning and coding to testing and deploying software, as well as security and monitoring tools.

What is Visual Studio Code?

Visual Studio Code is a free, open-source code editor developed by Microsoft. It supports various programming languages and comes with built-in Git support, making it a popular choice among developers for coding, debugging, and version control.

How do I install the GitLab extension in Visual Studio Code?

To install the GitLab extension, open Visual Studio Code and navigate to the Extensions pane. Search for the ‘GitLab’ extension and click the ‘Install’ button. Once the installation is complete, restart Visual Studio Code for the changes to take effect.

How do I connect Visual Studio Code to my GitLab account?

After installing the GitLab extension, click on the Extensions sidebar icon and locate the GitLab extension. Open the extension settings and click on ‘Connect to GitLab.’ Follow the prompts to authorize the extension’s access to your GitLab account.

How do I clone a GitLab repository in Visual Studio Code?

First, generate a clone URL from your GitLab repository. Then, open Visual Studio Code, press Command + Shift + P to open the command palette, and search for ‘Git: Clone.’ Paste the clone URL and press Enter to clone the repository.

How do I push code to GitLab from Visual Studio Code?

In Visual Studio Code, stage your changes by selecting the files you want to commit. Write a commit message and click ‘Commit.’ Finally, push the changes to the remote repository by clicking on the ‘Push’ button in the Source Control pane.

How can I manage GitLab issues in Visual Studio Code?

With the GitLab extension connected to your GitLab account, navigate to the Source Control sidebar and click on the GitLab icon. This will open the GitLab Issue pane, where you can create, track, and update issues directly within Visual Studio Code.

What should I do if I encounter authentication problems with GitLab in Visual Studio Code?

If you encounter authentication problems, ensure that your GitLab personal access token is correctly entered. You may need to regenerate the token from your GitLab account settings and reauthorize the GitLab extension in Visual Studio Code.

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