No more cloning: VS Code gets remote repositories extension

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Instead of having to clone a repository in order for developers to review their colleagues’ code, Visual Studio Code users can now get working directly from the IDE — if their team is using GitHub, that is.

To make this happen, Microsoft’s VS Code folks have teamed up with their colleagues at GitHub to develop a Remote Repositories extension. The project is meant to let users “browse, search, edit, and commit to any remote GitHub repository (and soon, Azure Repos)” without having to save code to their local machine first. Microsoft also hopes to prevent devs from working with outdated versions of a project, always opening the latest iteration available.

After having installed the extension and authenticated against GitHub, VS Code will offer the option to open a GitHub repository by either typing Remote Repositories: Open Repository ... into the Command Palette or using the green remote indicator located in the lower left corner of the status bar. Repositories can be searched either by name or direct link.

Once they’ve found and loaded the repo they’ve been looking for, devs will be connected to a virtual workspace that lets them go about their work. However, they will have to make do with a couple of limitations, since the workspace doesn’t support debugging, terminals, or tasks yet. It also has trouble supporting certain extensions, since it works with a virtual file system — which won’t do for tools relying on direct access to local files.

Meanwhile, other issues more related to the workflow the extension propagates are easier to fix. Having someone editing the same file a reviewer is currently investigating, for example, isn’t exactly an ideal scenario and could lead to problems when merging corrections. For this scenario, the Remote Repository is fitted with capabilities to inform developers of yet-unpulled requests, and also flags potential merge conflicts.

Switching between different branches of a project is always an option without any stashing procedures necessary, the development team promises. Changes made will go directly to GitHub once commit has been pressed. And to keep on top of what still needs to be shared, comparing changes in the Remote Explorer will help.

Devs interested in trying the extension can find additional information in the Visual Studio Marketplace. It’s also worth noting that the tool collects usage data, so those not keen on that should make sure to uncheck the Telemetry: Enable Telemetry setting which can be found under File > Preferences > Settings, if they haven’t already.