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How to start contributing to open-source projects? (For Beginners)

Before learning about how to contribute to open-source projects, let’s first understand “What are open-source projects?” and “Why to start contributing to open-source projects?”. So, let us understand first.

What are open-source projects?

So, when a project is an open source, that means anybody is free to use, study, modify, and distribute the project for any purpose. We can easily see the source code of the project and can modify it accordingly. Open source is powerful because it lowers the barriers to adoption and collaboration, allowing people to spread and improve projects quickly. Also because it gives users the potential to control their own computing, relative to closed source. It also means that open-source projects are free to use and don’t require any license to use. Example- AOSP(Android Open Source Project), Linux, and Python are some examples of open-source projects.

Why start contributing to open-source projects?

The main reason why anyone should contribute to open-source projects is that it will help many needful people around the world in using those technologies that often come with a price. One more reason to contribute to open-source projects is GSOC (Google Summer of Code). You can read about GSOC from the above link. In short, GSOC is a program organized by google every year to encourage the youth to contribute to open-source projects to build robust technologies. Every year hundreds of companies take part in GSOC to gather new ideas for their product. If you have contributed to their projects before GSOC, then your selection probability gets increased.

What are the prerequisites for contributing to open-source projects?

You don’t need to be a professional to start contributing. You just need to have basic knowledge of GitHub and a programming language.

So let’s dig into the process.

Step-1 Firstly choose an organization for which you want to contribute. If you want to try for Gsoc then check all the names of the organizations that took part in the Gsoc last year. Almost 60% of companies will come back again. Choose any organization from that list and read about them like what their project is and what they are building. For ease choose an organization that is working on the technology you know or the programming language you know. It will be easy for you to fix the issue.

Step-2 After choosing the organization check their GitHub repository and move to the Issues tab.

Issue Tab

Step-3 Click on the Labels tab shown in the pictures above.

Step-4 Search for the “Easy” or “Good First Issue” label. Issues in these labels are for those who just started contributing to open-source projects. You can also search for “Docs” too. You can also start by just correcting the typos in their documentation.

Easy Label

Step-5 Select any issue that isn’t closed or fixed yet. Try to understand what should be corrected to fix that bug. Generally “Easy” label has those issues that are very simple and needs just a minor modification and sometimes you find the solution in the issue thread itself.

Step-6 Let’s say you found the bug and you know what should be modified. The first thing you have to do is to ask the mods to assign that task to you. This is an important step because creating a pull request before an assignment can lead to a ban. You can simply comment on the issue to assign you the task. After that, your first step would be to fork the repository. “Fork” means copying the whole repository into your GitHub account. So you can modify it accordingly.

Step-7 Clone the repository. “Clone” means copying the whole repository into your local system. This can be done using GitHub desktop application or by using the command git clone <github repo link>.git . This command will work only if you have installed git in your local system.

Step-8 Make necessary changes to the files. Then open that repo in your GitHub Desktop application. There you can review the changes which you have made.

Changes made in the line 217

Step-9 Create a new branch by clicking on the Branch option and after that Check if there are any rules to name the branch by checking the github repo of the organization. If there is any rule then follow that and if there is not any rule then the name branch name “<your_username>/issue<issue_no>”. Click on “bring my changes to my branch” and click on “switch branch”.

Step-10 Name your pull request along with writing the description of what you did to fix that issue. For this to look for the GitHub repo of organization for any rule of naming. If there are any then follow that rule.

Step-11 Click on “Commit to <your branch name>” and after that click on publish branch. Click on “Create a pull request”.

Step-12 After that your browser will be opened and you will be redirected to GitHub. Click on “Create pull request”.

Step-13 After that the repo will start testing your changes. If your changes pass the test then they will be submitted for review. The mod of the repo will review your changes and approve or disapprove them according to the changes you have made.

Step-14 If the mod approves your changes, then your changes will be merged to the main branch.

And that’s how you have made your first open-source contribution!

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