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Migration from CVS to Git

We are currently testing the benefits of migration to git distributed version control.

Currently we have a git repository hosted at

This is the official branch, it's synchronized with the main CVS trunk every hour, so it should be up to date most of the time.

All developers and potential contributors are encouraged to try out this repository.

Below you can find rudimentary instructions on how to develop Biopython with git.


Installing git

First, you need to have git installed on your computer.

Git ( is now available for all major operating systems, you can get it

  • Linux: Git is now packaged in all major linux distributions, you should find it in your package manager.
  • Mac OS X:
  • Windows: There are two options: MsysGit or running the compiled git under Cygwin. You can find more information in [[this github guide][1]]

Getting a github account (Optional)

Once you have git installed on your machine, you can get the code and start developing, However, since the code is hosted at github, you can use more features if you sign up for github account. This is completely optional but if you do sign up all other developers will be able to see (and review) the changes you have made.

If you dan't already have a github account:

  • create one here (the free plan is absolutely enough)
  • Upload an ssh public key by clicking on 'account' after having logged in

Obtaining the source code

There are two ways of getting the code tree onto your machine. They're not that different, in fact both will result in a directory on your machine containing a full copy of the repository on your machine. However, if you have a github account, you can make your repository a public branch of the project. If you do so, other people will be able to easily review your code, make their own branches from it or merge it back to the trunk.

In fact you can change this later, using the .git/config file, but to make it easier I'll describe the two possibilities separately.

Forking biopython using a github account

If you are logged in to github, you can go to the Biopython repository page

and click on a button named 'Fork'. Yes, it's that easy.

It will create a fork (basically a copy) of the official Biopython repository your personal account.

Now, assuming that you have git installed on your computer, execute the following commands locally on your machine:

git clone<your username>/biopython.git

Where <your username>, not surprisingly, stands for your github username. You have just created a local copy of the biopython repository on your machine.

You may want to also link your branch with the official distribution:

git remote add official_dist git://

You can find more info here:

Forking without a github account

Getting a copy of the repository without github account is even easier:

 git clone git://

This command creates a local copy of the biopython source on your machine. However, if you want other people to see your changes without github, you need to take care of publishing your branch yourself.

Making changes

Now you can make changes to your branch. Since your local branch is a full repository, you can commit your changes as often as you like. In fact, you should commit as often as possible, because smaller commits are much better to manage and document. Let us assume you've made changes to the file Bio/ You need to add this file to your change-set:

git add Bio/

and now you commit:

git commit -m "added feature Y in Bio.x"

Your commits in git are local, i.e. they affect only your working branch and not the whole Biopython tree or even your fork on github. You don't need an internet connection to commit, so you can do it very often.

Once you think your changes are fine and should be reviewed by others, you can push your changes back to the server:

git push origin

Other information

There is a lot of different nice guides to using git on the web:

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