It's that time of the year again when GitHub does its show'n'tell of features – some new and others kinda new

Universe event reveals iterative improvements but no big bang


Microsoft's GitHub social code motel begins its two-day Universe happening on Wednesday, bringing with it assorted enhancements to its developer-oriented products and services.

The renovation and refurbishment at GitHub is a constant state of affairs. Since last year's Universe show, said chief product officer Thomas Dohmke in a post provided to The Register earlier this week, there have been more than 20,000 enhancements to GitHub. Despite this constant drizzle of change, the company likes to hold periodic events to mark its introductions, fixes, and changes.

There are no new major announcements along the lines of 2018's GitHub Actions or Copilot from earlier this year. Rather, GitHub has made previously teased services available and has expanded the scope of existing ones.

GitHub Issues, a tracking-and-discussion system for posts related to a code repository, got a redesign in June but it was labelled as beta-grade software. Well, the software is still in beta, but now at least everyone using GitHub can try reworked Issues without signing up.

The result is a much more customizable interface that provides the ability: to switch project views from boards to spreadsheet-style tables; to filter, sort, and arrange group issues and pull requests; and to turn tasks into a hierarchy of issues.

Another beta service, GitHub Discussions – created to move pure chatter out of Issues (which is intended for dealing with code correction) – was introduced last year and has now incorporated the ability to trigger Actions workflows on the Discussion and DiscussionComment webhook events. Discussions also now support custom labels for filtering and categorizing board warrior gabbing. And the GitHub Mobile app now provides access to Discussions.

Coming soon, according to Dohmke, is the ability to create Polls in Discussions and a community insights dashboard.

Make space

Codespaces, introduced last year, provide Team and Enterprise account holders with a cloud-based development environment that can be accessed from a browser-based version of Microsoft's Visual Studio Code or a local code editing app.

Dohmke said GitHub earlier this year moved its engineering teams to Codespaces, which led to a reduction in time required to spin up a dev environment, from 45 minutes down to 10 minutes. The implication is that you too should try Codespaces.

And to help make that happen, GitHub has made environment creation easier with one-click setup, CLI support, a new beta REST API for managing machine types and secrets, access controls for forwarded ports, and automatic authentication to the GitHub Container Registry.

GitHub Copilot isn't yet publicly available – there's still a waitlist – but the invited beta test group continues to expand. Two of us at El Reg gained access a few days ago and we can confirm that the AI code assistant is impressive when it gets things right, which happens often but not even nearly always.

It's a bit like speech recognition in Google Assistant before it got good enough to avoid being the subject of jokes. It won't be long until Copilot becomes reliable enough that developers will be able to participate in pair programming without anyone else around.

Copilot, however, is becoming more diverse in the editors it supports – it should now work with Neovim and JetBrains IDEs like IntelliJ IDEA and PyCharm. The AI helper's understanding of Java has also been improved such that it can handle multiline completions in Java.

Meanwhile, GitHub Actions has seen a few recent updates. These include reusable workflows, an API for managing self-hosted infrastructure, and OpenID Connect (OIDC) support for rotating secrets per deployment at cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP.

There's a new command palette public beta that can be invoked with a single shortcut command – command k on macOS or control k on Windows and Linux.

Also, GitHub's CodeQL, which analyzes repos for security issues, has been expanded to cover the Ruby programming language, alongside C/C++, C#, Go, Java, JavaScript/TypeScript, and Python.

And finally, GitHub Enterprise Cloud has received two security updates. It now supports Enterprise Managed Users, for administering enterprise identities, and custom repository roles, to provide people with custom permission levels when accessing repos.

That's GitHub's Universe in a nutshell. ®

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