GitHub Copilot: All you need to know

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Hello reader!

Microsoft subsidiary GitHub launched Copilot to power pair programming with AI. In this blog post, I will share all you need to know about it.

You can refer to my YouTube video Tutorial to see a working tutorial for better understanding and a step-by-step guide of the same.

What will be covered in this Blog

1. What is GitHub Copilot?
2. How does GitHub Copilot work?
3. How good is GitHub Copilot?
4. Does GitHub Copilot write perfect code?
5. Will your private code be shared with other users?
6. Availability
7. How can You contribute?
8. Ownership

Let's get started!

What is GitHub Copilot?

GitHub Copilot is an AI pair programmer. GitHub Copilot is powered by a new AI system developed by OpenAI Codex and is coming soon to Visual Studio Code. It aims to help Programmers code faster. It basically draws context from the code you’re working on, suggesting whole lines or entire functions.

OpenAI Codex has a broad knowledge of how people use code and is significantly more capable than GPT-3 in code generation

How does GitHub Copilot work?

github_copilot.png It can suggest complete lines of code or entire functions by analyzing how you code. GitHub Copilot can assemble code from user comments and predicts your code by just reading the function name you have declared. It allows you to cycle through alternative suggestions and manually edit the suggested code. It autofill repetitive code, or create unit tests for your methods.

The GitHub Copilot editor extension sends your comments and code to the GitHub Copilot service, which then uses OpenAI Codex to synthesize and suggest code. it actually works by reading through all the open-source code on the GitHub repos worldwide and then collect the data and tries to find the best possible code related to it! It is said to work great with repetitive code patterns so users can let it generate the rest of the code. The AI assistant can also help you learn a new programming language.

How good is GitHub Copilot?

The technology is truly promising.

Copilot helps developers to quickly discover alternative ways to solve problems, write tests, and explore new APIs without having to tediously tailor a search for answers on sites like Stack Overflow and across the internet,

says Friedman.

It said to have been tested against a set of Python functions that have good test coverage in open source repos by blanking out the function bodies and asked GitHub Copilot to fill them in. The model got this right 43% of the time on the first try, and 57% of the time when allowed 10 attempts. And it’s getting smarter all the time.

Does GitHub Copilot write perfect code?

No. GitHub Copilot tries to understand your intent and to generate the best code it can, but the code it suggests may not always work or even make sense. “GitHub Copilot draws context from the code you’re working on, suggesting whole lines or entire functions,” GitHub CEO Nat Friedman explained in a blog post introducing the technology. The algorithm consistently improves by recording whether each suggestion is accepted or not.

In order to make the most out of it, it is suggested to divide the code into smaller functions, provide meaningful function names, parameters, and docstrings.

Will your private code be shared with other users?

No. They claim to use telemetry data, including information about which suggestions users accept or reject, to improve the model.

Availability

Screenshot_5.png

For now, GitHub Copilot will only be made available to use in Visual Studio Code and the access is limited to a small group of testers. The preview version is available for free. The preview version is already installed by 88,783 coders.

The technical preview works well for Python, JavaScript, TypeScript, Ruby and Go but the final version will work with a broader set of frameworks and languages. It will be used to learn how people use GitHub Copilot and what it takes to operate it at scale.

How can You contribute?

Screenshot_3.png

The best way to contribute is to sign up for the technical preview. Access is limited to a small group of testers during the technical preview of GitHub Copilot, so you can Join the GitHub Copilot waitlist here.

Screenshot_4.png

You only need to answer a simple question regarding how often do you use Visual Studio Code, accept the terms and conditions and you are good to go. The number of spots for the technical preview is limited, so sign up today!

Screenshot_2.png

GitHub states that the current preview phase is restricted because of the “state-of-the-art AI hardware” required for the project. Once the free preview phase is over, the company plans to build a commercial version, which should be “available as broadly as possible”.

About sharing code snippets on Social media, GitHub says:

Please use #GitHubCopilot when you post so we can see what you produce!

Ownership

GitHub assigns rights to the person writing the code, so the user becomes responsible for the suggestions it generates and code created with Copilot. It belongs to you, and you obtain the sole ownership of the code.

Will GitHub Copilot affect developer jobs?

Copilot autocompletes code snippets, suggests new lines of code, and can even write whole functions based on the description provided. It adapts to the way you write code and helps you complete the work faster. The technology will enable existing engineers to be more productive, reducing manual tasks and helping them focus on interesting work. It only suggests a piece of code, it still needs to be reviewed and tested manually like you normally do with every other code.

It is very interesting to observe how events will now unfold and what the future holds for us but regardless, I do not think that it will replace developer jobs anytime soon. What do you think of this? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

That's it. And with that, it's a wrap! I hope you found the article useful.

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Maxi Contieri's photo

Nice article

I've been using copilot and the generated code has many code smells.

I wouldn't rely much on it. But in a short period of time I think it might produce much better code

Ayushi Rawat's photo

Glad you liked it Maxi Contieri

Thank you for sharing your opinion. I am also waiting to get my hands on it.

Niranjan Borawake's photo

A nice read. This covers everything one would want to know about Copilot as a beginner.

A suggestion. May be the What will be covered in this Blog section would look better as below and avoid unnecessary highlights of keywords is and with.

  1. What is GitHub Copilot?
  2. How does GitHub Copilot work?
  3. How good is GitHub Copilot?
  4. Does GitHub Copilot write perfect code?
  5. Will your private code be shared with other users?
  6. Availability
  7. How can You contribute?
  8. Ownership
Ayushi Rawat's photo

Glad you like it Niranjan Borawake

Thanks for the suggestion!

Pavel Kashuba's photo

good

Matej Bošnjak's photo

Nice article, short and brief. I'm still waiting for tech preview approval for some time now. :)

Ayushi Rawat's photo

Thank you Matej Bošnjak

Glad you like it. Do share your views, once you get your hands on it.

Yash Tiwari's photo

Great article. Really Helpful!

Tapas Adhikary's photo

Nice article Ayushi Rawat. I'm still not tired of trying Copilot. You captured things really well.

Ayushi Rawat's photo

Thank you Tapas Adhikary. Glad you liked it!

Mayank Pathak's photo

Nicely explained Ayushi Rawat, thanks to give basic overview.

Victoria Lo's photo

Thanks Ayushi for writing this! It's super detailed and insightful! I was writing a similar article, so I can't wait to include your article in the Read More section.

Ayushi Rawat's photo

Thank you Victoria Lo.

You are an amazing writer, can't wait to read your article.

priyanka prasad's photo

Really nice article I have Made a video on this have a look youtu.be/VbYjJBFss7g