Introduction to the Unix Shell & Version Control with Git
Penn State Libraries
February 21 & 28, 2022
1:00 - 4:00 pm EST
Seth Erickson, Carrie Brown
aims to help researchers get their work done
in less time and with less pain
by teaching them basic research computing skills.
This hands-on workshop will cover basic concepts and tools,
including program design, version control, data management,
and task automation.
Participants will be encouraged to help one another
and to apply what they have learned to their own research problems.
Participants must have access to a computer with a
Mac, Linux, or Windows operating system (not a tablet, Chromebook, etc.) that they have administrative privileges on.
They should have a few specific software packages installed (listed below).
We are dedicated to providing a positive and accessible learning environment for all. Please
notify the instructors in advance of the workshop if you require any accommodations or if there is
anything we can do to make this workshop more accessible to you.
If you haven't used Zoom before, go to the
to download and install the Zoom client for your computer.
Set up your workspace
Like other Carpentries workshops,
you will be learning by "coding along" with the Instructors.
To do this, you will need to have both the window for the tool
you will be learning about (a terminal, RStudio, your web browser, etc..)
and the window for the Zoom video conference client open.
In order to see both at once,
we recommend using one of the following set up options:
Two monitors: If you have two monitors,
plan to have the tool you are learning up on one monitor and
the video conferencing software on the other.
Two devices: If you don't have two monitors,
do you have another device (tablet, smartphone) with a medium to large
sized screen? If so, try using the smaller device as your video
conference connection and your larger device (laptop or desktop)
to follow along with the tool you will be learning about.
Divide your screen: If you only have one device
and one screen, practice having two windows
(the video conference program and one of the tools you will be using
at the workshop) open together.
How can you best fit both on your screen?
Will it work better for you to toggle between them
using a keyboard shortcut?
Try it out in advance to decide what will work best for you.
This blog post includes detailed information on how to set up your screen to follow along during the workshop.
The Bash Shell
Bash is a commonly-used shell that gives you the power to do
tasks more quickly.
Click on "Next" four times (two times if you've previously
installed Git). You don't need to change anything
in the Information, location, components, and start menu screens.
From the dropdown menu select "Use the Nano editor by default" (NOTE: you will need to scroll up to find it) and click on "Next".
On the page that says "Adjusting the name of the initial branch in new repositories", ensure that
"Let Git decide" is selected. This will ensure the highest level of compatibility for our lessons.
Ensure that "Git from the command line and also from 3rd-party software" is selected and
click on "Next". (If you don't do this Git Bash will not work properly, requiring you to
remove the Git Bash installation, re-run the installer and to select the "Git from the
command line and also from 3rd-party software" option.)
Ensure that "Use the native Windows Secure Channel Library" is selected and click on "Next".
Ensure that "Checkout Windows-style, commit Unix-style line endings" is selected and click on "Next".
Ensure that "Use Windows' default console window" is selected and click on "Next".
Ensure that "Default (fast-forward or merge) is selected and click "Next"
Ensure that "Git Credential Manager Core" is selected and click on "Next".
Ensure that "Enable file system caching" is selected and click on "Next".
Click on "Install".
Click on "Finish" or "Next".
If your "HOME" environment variable is not set (or you don't know what this is):
Open command prompt (Open Start Menu then type cmd and press Enter)
Type the following line into the command prompt window exactly as shown:
setx HOME "%USERPROFILE%"
Press Enter, you should see SUCCESS: Specified value was saved.
Quit command prompt by typing exit then pressing Enter
This will provide you with both Git and Bash in the Git Bash program.
The default shell in some versions of macOS is Bash, and
Bash is available in all versions, so no need to install anything.
You access Bash from the Terminal (found in
See the Git installation video tutorial
for an example on how to open the Terminal.
You may want to keep Terminal in your dock for this workshop.
To see if your default shell is Bash type echo $SHELL
in Terminal and press the Return key. If the message
printed does not end with '/bash' then your default is something
else and you can run Bash by typing bash
If you want to change your default shell, see
this Apple Support article and follow the instructions on "How to change your default shell".
The default shell is usually Bash and there is usually no need to
To see if your default shell is Bash type echo $SHELL in
a terminal and press the Enter key. If the message printed
does not end with '/bash' then your default is something else and you
can run Bash by typing bash.
Git is a version control system that lets you track who made changes
to what when and has options for easily updating a shared or public
version of your code
on github.com. You will need a
You will need an account at github.com
for parts of the Git lesson. Basic GitHub accounts are free. We encourage
you to create a GitHub account if you don't have one already.
Please consider what personal information you'd like to reveal. For
example, you may want to review these
for keeping your email address private provided at GitHub.
For macOS, install Git for Mac
by downloading and running the most recent "mavericks" installer from
Because this installer is not signed by the developer, you may have to
right click (control click) on the .pkg file, click Open, and click
Open on the pop up window.
After installing Git, there will not be anything in your /Applications folder,
as Git is a command line program.
For older versions of OS X (10.5-10.8) use the
most recent available installer labelled "snow-leopard"
If Git is not already available on your machine you can try to
install it via your distro's package manager. For Debian/Ubuntu run
sudo apt-get install git and for Fedora run
sudo dnf install git.
When you're writing code, it's nice to have a text editor that is
optimized for writing code, with features like automatic
color-coding of key words. The default text editor on macOS and
Linux is usually set to Vim, which is not famous for being
intuitive. If you accidentally find yourself stuck in it, hit
the Esc key, followed by :+Q+!
(colon, lower-case 'q', exclamation mark), then hitting Return to
return to the shell.