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GitHub Desktop 3.0 gets lukewarm reception

GitHub Desktop 3.0 introduces tools that make it easier for software developers to stay up to date with code changes. Some developers, though, are calling for more features.

GitHub released GitHub Desktop 3.0, improving the pull request and notifications features. Some developers endorsed the update, saying it will make life easier; for others, Desktop 3.0 missed the mark, with sought-after features still absent from the platform.

The update added the ability to review the status of pull request check runs and view important notifications. Some software developers welcome the new additions, including prioritizing notifications from team members and the ability to see checks for pull requests to make sure code is production-ready.

"For onboarding new contributors into Camunda Community Hub projects, GitHub's update may be hugely impactful," said Amara Graham, head of developer experience at Camunda, an open source workflow and decision automation platform. "New contributors may not have their GitHub notifications set up in such a way to see things like failed checks, and pointing them to the GitHub Desktop experience should help reduce our back-and-forth dialogue on the pull request itself to get it merged."

Others, however, have described the rollout as lackluster. They want to see better cross-platform connectivity, pre-populated information in pull requests and stash improvements.

Software developers at Redgate, a software provider for compliant database DevOps in Cambridge, England, said that Desktop 3.0 has little to offer for developers with workflows already in place.

"The update isn't relevant," said Jeff Foster, head of product engineering at Redgate. That's because most of its developers use the Git command line or an IDE integration, he said.

Grant Fritchey, a DevOps product advocate at Redgate, was also less than impressed the 3.0 version. "I don't think GitHub Desktop is going to change my life much," he said about the release.

Welcome additions to GitHub Desktop

GitHub Desktop 3.0 informs developers specifically why a check failed. Kimberly Silva, senior software engineer and CEO at FindPeopleFirst, a people finder service, thinks this new functionality is helpful because it enables developers to try and resolve transitory check issues without exiting the app.

Silva isn't the only developer finding value in the new feature. "This adds more convenience to my work and decreases the number of places I have to check when working with the repository," said Olena Kutsenko, a developer and software engineer at Aiven, a multinational open source data cloud company. "In other words, it helps me focus on my tasks at hand."

The consolidation of issue resolution and security analysis gives developers the ability to remediate vulnerabilities more easily before sharing work, said Ankur Papneja, product manager at Contrast Security, an application security company. "This means that developers will become more productive," he said.

Another welcome feature is the improved notifications process. In prior versions of GitHub Desktop, software developers had to sift through hundreds of notifications for every event in every repository -- most of which were noise. The improved feature will make it easier for developers to keep track of code changes and requests, Silva said.

Desktop 3.0 lacks important features

If you can get me connected properly to Git remotely in AWS CodeCommit, I'll have your children.
Grant FritcheyDevOps product advocate, Redgate

But other developers said the 3.0 version doesn't go far enough. One feature that developers would like to see is better cross-platform connectivity, which is a crucial need for developers working on more than one platform. Fritchey, who mainly interfaces through VS Code or the command line, said, "If you can get me connected properly to Git remotely in AWS CodeCommit, I'll have your children."

Graham would like to see a link to create a pull request that includes pre-populated information about check failures. If this information floats up to the exact place where the check failed, the reviewer may be able to respond faster, she said.

As for FindPeopleFirst's Silva, she would like to see a specific UI for creating a stash with a customizable name, adding that another useful addition would be the ability to create a commit template with preset text that can be reused for many commits. "These features will reduce work silos," she said, "giving developers who prefer to work on various files more flexibility."

Future updates likely to bring more improvements

Despite the lukewarm reception to the update, there is optimism that GitHub will fix many of these issues in future updates.

"Microsoft has done a great job in maintaining the open source posture of GitHub," said Larry Carvalho, an independent analyst at RobustCloud. He added that the GitHub Desktop initiative is backed by a large community of developers giving feedback on which features are a priority, indicating that future GitHub Desktop updates will continue to build on developers' needs and wants.

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