How do pull requests work?

What is a pull request?

In collaborative software development environments such as GitHub or Bitbucket, developers employ a crucial mechanism: the pull request. This serves as their formal notification to the team about implemented changes in the code repository. When a developer pushes updates onto a branch within the remote repository, they are initiating this pull request. The pull request acts like an engaging bridge that invites peers to review, discuss, and provide input on suggested alterations. Indeed, this step is integral to our overarching goal of impeccable development work. Every code alteration undergoes scrutiny and refinement before integrating into the main branch, thus transforming a process from simple notification to active collective project involvement.

  • Purpose: The primary purpose of a pull request is to foster team collaboration and enable an in-depth code review process. This mechanism empowers developers to share their contributions; they can then garner constructive feedback, cultivating a culture steeped in quality with relentless improvement at its core.
  • Usage: Pull requests are prevalent in a myriad of settings – from individual projects to expansive, team-based workflows. Specifically, within open-source projects, they empower an array of contributors from diverse backgrounds to propose enhancements and improvements for a given project. Through this leveraging process – the utilization of pull requests – open source initiatives ensure not only robust development but also innovation by tapping into their collective community expertise.
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How do pull requests work?

A meticulously designed sequence of steps, the pull request process, ensures thorough examination and discussion for every new code addition before incorporation into the main project. By rigorously scrutinizing these contributions, this sequence upholds not only integrity but also the quality of the overall project.

  • Branch creation: Initiating the process, a developer creates a novel branch in the repository. This particular branch operates as an independent workspace, enabling the developer to concentrate on specific features or fixes without compromising the integrity of the main/master branches.
  • Development: In this new branch, the developer actively implements code changes: they may write fresh code, modify existing lines of programming, or address bug issues.
  • Committing Changes– The developer, upon completing the alterations, commits them to the branch; each commit serves as a comprehensive record of specific modifications – it not only provides an archived history but also details the underlying rationale: this is change management in action.
  • Remote Repository: Then, the local repository pushes the committed changes to its corresponding remote repository. This action renders these alterations accessible – viewable and interactive – for other team members.
  • Opening a Pull Request: The developer subsequently initiates a pull request in the remote repository; this is a pivotal action that solicits review and integration of their branch’s modifications into the main branch.
  • Review and Discussion: At this stage, the team members or collaborators actively review the proposed changes; they offer comments, suggest improvements, and even request additional modifications. This peer review process – a cornerstone of the pull request procedure – facilitates a collaborative refinement of code.
  • Approval and Merge: After carefully examining and talking about it and if the adjustments are good enough for the project’s rules and getting a green light from the important people (like those who take care of the repository or manage the project), we can combine the pull request. This action brings in new code to the main branch, so now it is included in what makes up our project’s code. This step must be done carefully to make sure that the merge does not bring mistakes or problems with the current code.
  • Closing the Pull Request: Finally, after merging, one signals the completion of the code integration process by closing the pull request. Following this step, it is optional to delete that specific branch as a way of maintaining repository cleanliness.