So, what is GitHub? GitHub is a powerful collaboration, code review, and code management for open source and private projects. GitHub started in April of 2008, but since then has accumulated over 3.5 million users and more than 6 million repositories.

Why is GitHub being used?

GitHub utilizes Git, a version control and source code management system. It allows developers to easily manage code and make it available publicly or privately. With that being said, it is being used for WordPress plugins and themes because of its ease, it’s open source mentality – that is done through social networking features: watching, starring and forking, and because the developer may develop non-WordPress items, so all their code is in one place.

Downloading WordPress Plugins and Themes From GitHub

Each plugin and theme is contained in a repo. A repo is just a word used to describe a project page. Simply go to the project page and you’ll see something like this:

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Any red text is what I added, to give you an overview of a project page.

Based on the above image, you can see the download button is located on the right side bar. There are two download format options available: .zip or .tar.gz. However, only one format will be available to download, based on your computer’s operating system.

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Click on the download button to download the WordPress plugin or theme.

Installing WordPress Plugins and Themes

Once you’ve downloaded the theme or plugin, you can install it in two ways: manually, by uploading it to the plugins or themes directory or through your WordPress administration panel.

We’ll take a look at how-to install the WordPress plugin or theme, through the administration panel.

Install the Plugin or Theme through the Administration Panel

Firstly, login to your WordPress site and go to the administration panel if you are not automatically redirect there.

Install a Plugin

On the left side, you’ll see a menu with a variety of options. Locate the word “Plugins.” Hover your mouse over “Plugins,” and you’ll see another menu. Now locate the option called “Add New.” Click on “Add New.” A page will appear on the right side called “Install Plugins.” Underneath the page title, you’ll see a menu, locate and click on “Upload.” Now, click on “Choose File,” locate the plugin file and upload it. Once uploaded, activate it.

Install a Theme

Installing a theme through the administration panel is pretty much the same as installing a plugin through the administration panel.

On the left side menu, locate “Appearance.” Hover your mouse over “Appearance,” and click on “Themes,” which is the first option. You’ll be taken to a new page, located on the right, called “Themes,” and beside the page title, you’ll see a button called “Add New.” Click on it. Now, you’ll be taken to a page called “Install Themes,” and right underneath it will be a menu. Locate and click on “Upload.” Now, click on “Choose File,” locate the theme file and upload it. Once uploaded, activate it.

Theme and Plugin Updates

Now you’re wondering how the theme and / or plugin will be kept up-to-date. The problem is, WordPress updates are based on WordPress’s own software version control system and as of right now, do not have integration for GitHub.

So, if the information about how to keep the theme or plugin up-to-date is not available, you should ask the author.

The theme or plugin author can write custom code to do this or ask you to use a plugin called “GitHub Updater.” You can also bookmark the project page and check page constantly or subscribe to the author’s website, but that can be a pain staking task, so ask the author.

Authors on GitHub, do produce a high quality of code and lots of it, so don’t be afraid of using GitHub hosted themes or plugins.