How to Send a Pull Request to the Lesson Template

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

At the end of last year we split out lessons to have one Git repository per topic that we teach. To ensure that all lessons have the same look we use one template for our lessons. If you want to create a new lesson from scratch we already have a nice step-by-step guide but what about if you want to contribute to the template itself? In this post I will explain how I wrote my pull request for our template.


I start by cloning our example:

$ git clone -b gh-pages

and add some remote repositories:

$ cd lesson-example
$ git remote add template
$ git remote add template-upstream
$ git remote -v
origin (fetch)
origin  h (push)
template (fetch)
template (push)
template-upstream (fetch)
template-upstream (push)

I use our example because it is easy to debug but if you want to use origin as your fork of the lessons you are working is totally OK.


Every time before I start to hack the template I update my local copy using:

$ git fetch origin
$ git fetch template
$ git fetch template-upstream

Once my local copy is updated I create a feature branch, starting from the last commit on lesson-example, where I will work:

$ git checkout -b example-centering-image origin/gh-pages


For this how-to, suppose that I want to add the class img-responsive to every img elements of our lessons. One quickly and dirty way to do that is change Makefile with:

$ git diff
diff --git a/Makefile b/Makefile
index 4d38850..ff49ca9 100644
--- a/Makefile
+++ b/Makefile
@@ -55,6 +55,7 @@ motivation.html : _layouts/slides.revealjs Makefile
        --filter=tools/filters/ \
        $(INCLUDES) \
        -o $@ $<
+       sed -i "s/^<img /<img class="img-responsive" /g" $@

 # Pattern to convert R Markdown to Markdown. %.Rmd $(R_CHUNK_OPTS)

To avoid losing my work, I save it in the staging area:

$ git add -u

Now I compile the HTML files:

$ make -B preview

and verify the changes.

$ git diff
diff --git a/01-one.html b/01-one.html
index 7622e55..1fc0d45 100644
--- a/01-one.html
+++ b/01-one.html
@@ -56,7 +56,8 @@ program</code></pre>
 <p>or an image from the <code>figs</code> directory:</p>
 <div class="figure">
-<img src="fig/example.svg" title="this is the image&#39;s alt text" alt="this is the image&#39;s title" /><p class="caption">this is the image"s title</p>
+<img class="img-responsive" src="fig/example.svg" title="this is the image&#39;s alt text" alt="this is the image&#39;s title" />
+<p class="caption">this is the image"s title</p>
 <div id="challenge-title" class="challenge panel panel-success">
 <div class="panel-heading">

This is exactly what I want, so I can now commit my changes:

$ git commit -m "Add img-responsive class to img"
[example-centering-image a9cc86d] Add img-responsive class to img
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+)

I will also save the change to the HTML file.

$ git add -u
$ git commit -m "Update HTML"
[example-centering-image 1ebf8c3] Update HTML
 1 file changed, 2 insertions(+), 1 deletion(-)

Copying the change to template

If you have taken the Git lesson at a Software Carpentry workshop, you should be comfortable with what you see until now. What I need to do is copy my change at Makefile to template using git cherry-pick. If you are trying to remember it from our workshop, don't panic because we don't teach it but you will discover that it is very simple to use.

Before anything else I need to know the ID of the commit I want to copy, the one where I changed Makefile.

$ git log --oneline -3
1ebf8c3 Update HTML
a9cc86d Add img-responsive class to img
5426365 Merge pull request #1 from gvwilson/updating-docs

The commit that I want is a9cc86d. I will save the ID for a moment until I create a new branch starting from the template (instead of the example):

$ git checkout -b template-centering-image template-upstream/gh-pages

Now I can copy my changes from a9cc86d into the current branch and create a new commit, and for that I use

$ git cherry-pick a9cc86d
[template-centering-image 2004c4f] Add img-responsive class to img
 Date: Sat Apr 4 18:19:26 2015 -0300
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+)

I can check that the commit was copied

$ git log --oneline -2
2004c4f Add img-responsive class to img
cf25427 Merge pull request #218 from wking/trailing-newlines

The commit ID change but this is OK and is desired. Now I can upload my changes

$ git push template template-centering-image

And create a pull request, like this one.


Once the pull request was created our contributors will review it and eventually merge it. From time to time we will propagate the change at our template to our lessons. If your changes are in the CSS that we use you must copy your changes to this repository instead of template. As always, in case of troubles with Git you can contact us and one of our Git gurus will get back to you for help.

Thanks for the help of François Michonneau, James Allen and Piotr Banaszkiewicz to improve our CSS.

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