Mastering the Basics: How to Use GitLab for Beginners

In today’s fast-paced software development environment, mastering version control is crucial. GitLab, a powerful platform built on top of Git, offers a comprehensive suite of tools to streamline your development workflow. This guide aims to help beginners navigate GitLab, from setting up an account to leveraging advanced features, ensuring you can collaborate efficiently and manage your projects effectively.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the fundamental differences between Git and GitLab.
  • Learn how to set up and configure your GitLab account.
  • Gain insights into creating and managing projects within GitLab.
  • Master basic Git commands and how they integrate with GitLab.
  • Explore advanced features and customization options to enhance your GitLab experience.

Understanding Git and GitLab

Differences Between Git and GitLab

Git is a distributed version control system that allows developers to track changes in their codebase. It operates locally, meaning you can use Git on your computer without needing an internet connection. On the other hand, GitLab is a web-based platform built around Git. It provides a centralized server to host Git repositories, along with a suite of tools for project management, continuous integration, and deployment.

Why Use GitLab?

GitLab offers several advantages over using Git alone. First and foremost, GitLab provides a user-friendly web interface that simplifies many Git operations. Additionally, GitLab includes features like issue tracking, wikis, and CI/CD pipelines, which are essential for modern software development. For those looking for advanced capabilities, GitLab Ultimate offers a comprehensive set of tools for security, compliance, and performance monitoring.

GitLab is not just a repository manager; it’s a complete DevOps platform that enhances collaboration and productivity.

Setting Up Your GitLab Account

person setting up a GitLab account on a computer

Creating a GitLab Account

To register for a GitLab account, all you need to do is create a unique username, set your credentials and validate your email address. Once that’s complete, you can move onto Step 2 of this Git and GitLab tutorial.

Configuring User Settings

After logging in, create a new project. Choose a name, a description, and whether you want it to be private or publicly visible. Open your Git Bash and configure your user name and email ID. To configure, use the following commands:

git config --global "tutorial"
git config --global

Accept all the other defaults and submit the form to create your first GitLab repository.

Creating Your First Project

Creating your first project in GitLab is a straightforward process that sets the foundation for mastering your projects: a comprehensive guide to GitLab documentation. This section will walk you through initializing a new project, navigating the project dashboard, and setting up project visibility.

Working with Git Repositories

To get started learning Git, it’s essential to understand repositories and working directories. A Git repository is essentially a directory that contains all the files, folders, and version history of your project. This section will guide you through the basics of creating, cloning, and managing repositories in GitLab.

Creating a Repository

Creating a repository in GitLab is straightforward. Navigate to your GitLab dashboard, click on the "+" button, and select "New project". You can choose to create a blank project, import a project, or use a template. Ensure you give your repository a meaningful name and description to make it easily identifiable.

Cloning a Repository

Cloning a repository allows you to create a local copy of a remote repository. Use the git clone command followed by the repository URL. This command downloads all the files, branches, and commits from the remote repository to your local machine. It’s a crucial step for collaborating on projects.

Managing Repository Settings

Managing your repository settings in GitLab involves configuring various options like visibility, permissions, and integrations. You can access these settings from the repository’s dashboard. Adjusting these settings helps in maintaining the security and efficiency of your project.

Remember, a well-managed repository is key to a successful project. Regularly review and update your repository settings to align with your project’s needs.

Basic Git Commands in GitLab

Committing Changes

Committing changes is a fundamental part of using Git. To commit changes in GitLab, you first need to stage your changes using git add. Once staged, you can commit them with a descriptive message using git commit -m "Your message here". Remember to commit often to keep your project history clean and manageable.

Pushing and Pulling Code

Pushing and pulling code are essential operations for collaborating with others. Use git push to upload your local changes to the GitLab repository. Conversely, use git pull to fetch and merge changes from the remote repository to your local machine. This ensures that your local copy is always up-to-date with the latest changes.

Handling Merge Conflicts

Merge conflicts occur when changes from different branches clash. To resolve them, you’ll need to manually edit the conflicting files and then commit the resolved changes. GitLab provides a web-based interface to help you handle these conflicts more easily. Effective conflict resolution is crucial for maintaining a smooth workflow, especially in collaborative environments.

For advanced conflict resolution techniques, consider upgrading to GitLab Premium, which offers additional tools and features to streamline this process.

Collaborating with Your Team

Creating groups in GitLab is essential for organizing your projects and teams. Groups allow you to manage multiple projects simultaneously and streamline permissions. To create a group, navigate to the ‘Groups’ section and click ‘New group’. Provide a name and optional description, then set the visibility level. Groups can be public, internal, or private, depending on your needs.

Once your group is set up, you can invite team members to collaborate. Go to your group’s page, click ‘Members’, and then ‘Invite members’. Enter the email addresses of your team members and assign appropriate roles. Roles range from Guest to Owner, each with different levels of access and permissions. This ensures that everyone has the right level of access to perform their tasks efficiently.

Managing permissions is crucial for maintaining the security and integrity of your projects. GitLab provides a robust permission system that allows you to control who can view, edit, and manage your repositories. You can set permissions at both the group and project levels. For example, you might want to give developers write access to the repository while restricting others to read-only access. This granular control helps in safeguarding your code and maintaining a smooth workflow.

Effective collaboration in GitLab starts with proper group management and clear permission settings. This not only enhances productivity but also ensures that your projects are secure and well-organized.

Using GitLab Issues and Boards

Creating and Assigning Issues

Creating issues in GitLab is straightforward. Navigate to your project and click on the ‘Issues’ tab. From there, you can create a new issue by filling out the necessary details. Assigning issues to team members helps in tracking who is responsible for what task. You can also set due dates and add labels to categorize issues effectively.

Using Issue Boards

Issue boards in GitLab are a powerful way to manage your workflow. They allow you to visualize the progress of your issues in a Kanban-style board. You can create multiple boards for different purposes, such as development, QA, and deployment. Use an issue board and scoped labels to manage ideas in a team. This helps in keeping the team aligned and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Tracking Progress

Tracking progress in GitLab is made easy with features like burndown charts and milestones. These tools help you monitor the progress of your project and ensure that you are on track to meet your deadlines. Setting up a project for issue triage can also be beneficial in managing and prioritizing issues effectively.

Efficiently managing issues and boards in GitLab can significantly improve your team’s productivity and project outcomes.

Continuous Integration and Deployment

Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD) is a crucial aspect of modern software development, enabling teams to deliver code changes more frequently and reliably. This section will provide a step-by-step guide on setting up GitLab for CI/CD, ensuring you can automate your build, test, and deployment processes effectively.

Managing Merge Requests

Creating a Merge Request

A Merge Request is a request to merge one branch to another. When you create a new feature, change files, and push them to GitLab, you need to create a merge request. This process helps to update the changes made in the copy file and the original file. To create a merge request, follow these steps:

  1. Open your project and click on ‘Merge Requests’ in the project’s dashboard.
  2. Click on ‘New merge’.
  3. Select your source branch and click ‘Compare branch and continue’.
  4. Fill out the title and description on the new merge request page and click ‘Submit merge request’.

A request will be sent to the person responsible for merging the changes into the project.

Reviewing and Approving Changes

When you open the GitLab navigation bar on the left, you will see a new Merge Request listed. Click the ‘Merge requests’ link and then ‘Approve’ to approve it. If you like the changes, give it a thumbs-up as well.

Merging Code

To bring the dev and main branches in sync, click the blue ‘Create merge request’ button at the top of the screen. Fill out the title and description and submit the merge request form. Merges can be performed locally or through GitLab merge requests online.

Efficiently managing merge requests ensures that your project stays up-to-date and that all team members are on the same page.

Advanced GitLab Features

Using GitLab Pages

GitLab Pages allows you to host static websites directly from your GitLab repository. This feature is particularly useful for documentation, portfolios, and project pages. Setting up GitLab Pages is straightforward and can be done with minimal configuration. You can also use custom domains and SSL certificates to enhance security and branding.

Implementing GitOps

GitOps is a modern approach to continuous delivery and operational management using Git as a single source of truth. With GitLab, you can implement GitOps to automate your infrastructure and application deployments. This method ensures that your deployments are consistent, auditable, and easy to manage. Leveraging GitOps can significantly improve your DevOps practices.

Exploring Security Features

GitLab offers a comprehensive suite of security features to help you maintain the integrity of your codebase. These include static and dynamic application security testing (SAST and DAST), dependency scanning, and container scanning. By integrating these tools into your CI/CD pipelines, you can identify and address vulnerabilities early in the development process.

GitLab’s advanced features empower teams to streamline their workflows, enhance security, and adopt modern development practices like GitOps.

Customizing Your GitLab Experience

Personalizing Your Dashboard

Your GitLab dashboard is the first thing you see when you log in, so making it work for you is essential. Customizing your dashboard can help you focus on the most critical aspects of your projects. You can add or remove widgets, rearrange them, and even choose which projects to display. This flexibility ensures that you have quick access to the information that matters most to you.

Using GitLab Themes

GitLab offers a variety of themes to make your interface more visually appealing and easier on the eyes. Whether you prefer a dark mode for late-night coding sessions or a light theme for daytime work, GitLab has you covered. To change your theme, navigate to your user settings and select the appearance tab. From there, you can preview and apply different themes to see which one suits you best.

Setting Up Notifications

Staying updated on your project’s progress is crucial, and GitLab’s notification system is designed to keep you in the loop. You can configure notifications to alert you about specific activities, such as merge requests, issues, or comments. To set up your notifications, go to your user settings and select the notifications tab. Here, you can choose the level of detail you want to receive and even set up email or Slack notifications for real-time updates.

Customizing your GitLab experience can significantly enhance your productivity and make project management more enjoyable. Take the time to explore these options and tailor the platform to fit your needs.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Resolving Authentication Problems

Authentication issues can be a common hurdle when working with GitLab. Ensure your credentials are correct and that you have the necessary permissions. If you’re using SSH keys, verify that they are correctly configured and added to your GitLab account. Sometimes, clearing your browser cache or using an incognito window can resolve unexpected login problems.

Fixing Broken Pipelines

When dealing with broken pipelines, start by examining the error messages in the pipeline logs. Common issues include syntax errors in your .gitlab-ci.yml file or missing dependencies. Make sure all required services are up and running. If you’re using GitLab Runners, check their status and logs for any connectivity issues.

Addressing Merge Conflicts

Merge conflicts can occur when multiple changes are made to the same part of a file. To resolve these, you’ll need to manually edit the conflicting files. GitLab provides a web editor for this purpose, or you can use your local development environment. After resolving the conflicts, commit the changes and push them to the repository. This will update the merge request and allow you to proceed with the merge.

When working with Git LFS, you might encounter the following issues: error: repository or object not found.


Mastering GitLab is an essential skill for any developer looking to streamline their workflow and collaborate more effectively with their team. This tutorial has covered the fundamental aspects of using GitLab, from setting up your first project to managing repositories and handling merge conflicts. As you continue to explore GitLab, you’ll find that its robust features can significantly enhance your development process. Remember, the key to mastering GitLab—or any tool—is consistent practice and exploration. We hope this guide has provided you with a solid foundation to build upon. Happy coding!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is GitLab?

GitLab is a web-based DevOps lifecycle tool that provides a Git repository manager providing wiki, issue-tracking, and CI/CD pipeline features, using an open-source license.

How is GitLab different from Git?

Git is a version control system for tracking changes in source code during software development, while GitLab is a platform built on top of Git that provides additional features like project management, CI/CD, and more.

Why should I use GitLab?

GitLab offers a comprehensive suite of tools for the entire DevOps lifecycle, including source code management, CI/CD, and project management, making it easier for teams to collaborate and streamline their workflows.

How do I create a GitLab account?

To create a GitLab account, visit the GitLab website, click on the ‘Register’ button, and follow the prompts to enter your details and set up your account.

What are GitLab CI/CD pipelines?

GitLab CI/CD pipelines are automated processes that allow you to build, test, and deploy your code. They help ensure that your code is always in a deployable state and can be automatically tested and released.

How can I invite team members to my GitLab project?

To invite team members, navigate to your project, go to the ‘Members’ section, and use the ‘Invite members’ button to add their email addresses or GitLab usernames.

What should I do if I encounter a merge conflict?

If you encounter a merge conflict, GitLab will notify you and provide instructions on how to resolve it. Typically, you’ll need to manually edit the conflicting files to reconcile the differences and then commit the resolved changes.

How do I track progress using GitLab issue boards?

GitLab issue boards allow you to visually track the progress of your issues. You can create columns for different stages of your workflow and move issues between columns as they progress.

You may also like...