GitHub and command line

by Roman Zolotarev

Why command line? Okay, GitHub has a clean and straightforward website, but while I stay in Terminal all day long, it is much easier to write a function and place it into my .bashrc than switching to a web browser and clicking buttons.

Basic setup

First of all, make sure you have enabled two-factor authentication for your GitHub account.

Then generate SSH keys and add your public key to your profile on GitHub to be able to connect to GitHub via SSH. Test it right away.

ssh -T [email protected]

By the way, did you know GitHub makes your public key available via HTTPS? Having your keys accessible is very convenient, for example, when you are on one of your remote servers.

touch ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
curl >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys


If you work in Terminal most of the time, install hub. It is a CLI tool made by GitHub. It makes it easier to use GitHub from the command line: create repositories, create pull requests, compare branches, etc.

To install it on macOS with Homebrew run:

brew install hub

As soon as you have got hub you can do more things from the command line.

# Short repository names
hub clone dotfiles
# git clone git://

hub clone romanzolotarev/dotfiles
# git clone git://

# Open the current repository in web browser
hub browse

# Open the current repository's issues page
hub browse -- issues

# List the current repository's issues
hub issue

# Open a text editor for your pull request message
hub pull-request

# Open compare view between two releases
hub compare v0.9..v1.0

# Create a repository with the name of current directory
hub create


Explore the documentation.

To parse JSON from API responses, I suggest you install jq.

brew install jq

Let’s play with /user/keys endpoint to see what is possible with GitHub API. For this endpoint you need your personal access token. Get one on your profile page or via command line. To make further examples work your token should be in admin:public_key scope.

Get access token

Replace USERNAME, OTP_CODE, NOTE with actual values:

curl -s \
  -H 'X-GitHub-OTP: OTP_CODE' \
  -d '{"scopes": ["admin:public_key"], "note": "NOTE"}' \
  | jq -r .token

In response you will your personal access token. Treat it carefully as a password.

List your public keys

For example, you can check your public keys via API now. Replace ACCESS_TOKEN with your personal access token.

curl -s \
  -H 'Authorization: token ACCESS_TOKEN' \
  | jq

Add your public key

You can even add new public keys. Replace ACCESS_TOKEN, TITLE, PUBLIC_KEY with actual values, where PUBLIC_KEY is a path to your public SSH key.

curl -s \
  -H 'Authorization: token ACCESS_TOKEN' \
  -d "{\"title\": \"TITLE\", \"key\": \"$(cat PUBLIC_KEY)\"}" \
  | jq

Delete your public key

To delete a key you need to get its ID at GitHub. Do not forget to replace ACCESS_TOKEN and ID with actual values.

curl -X 'DELETE' \
  -H 'Authorization: token ACCESS_TOKEN'

Happy curling.

Illustration: GitHub and command line