Using Git and GitHub for Documentation

Managing and documenting complex systems is a challenge. Effective documentation is a cornerstone of operational efficiency and reliability. This lecture explores how Git and GitHub, traditionally seen as tools for software developers, is equally valuable for systems administrators for documenting various processes and configurations.

Documentation in systems administration encompasses a broad spectrum: from configuration files and scripts to server deployment guides and maintenance procedures. It serves as a crucial reference point for teams, ensuring consistency in system management and easing the onboarding process for new administrators.

Our focus on Git and GitHub arises from their robustness and versatility. Git, a distributed version control system, excels in tracking changes and managing versions of any set of files, be it code or text documents. GitHub, building upon Git, provides a user-friendly interface and additional features like issue tracking and collaborative tools, making it a suitable platform for hosting and sharing documentation.

In this lecture, we will delve into how these tools can be used effectively for maintaining and enhancing documentation in a systems administration context. This will only be an intro to Git and GitHub, but key areas of discussion include:

  • Utilizing Git for version control of configuration files and scripts.
  • Leveraging GitHub for centralized documentation storage and access.
  • Employing best practices for documenting system configurations.

Using Git and GitHub will allow you to gain an understanding of the applications of Git and GitHub. This knowledge will help streamline your documentation processes and improve the overall efficiency and communication within your teams.

Creating a GitHub Account

Creating a GitHub account is a straightforward process. Here's how you can set up your own GitHub account:

  1. Visit the GitHub Website: Start by navigating to GitHub's website.
  2. Sign Up: Click on the “Sign Up” button usually located at the top right corner of the page.
  3. Enter Your Details: You will be prompted to enter some basic information:
    • Username: Choose a unique username that will be your identity on GitHub. It’s important to select a name that reflects your personal or professional identity as it will be visible publicly.
    • Email Address: Provide a valid email address. This will be used for account verification and communication.
    • Password: Create a strong password. It’s recommended to use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols for better security.
  4. Verify Your Account: Complete the CAPTCHA verification to confirm that you’re not a robot.
  5. Choose a Plan: GitHub offers various plans, including a free option that is quite robust for most individual users. Select the plan that best suits your needs.
  6. Tailor Your Experience (Optional): GitHub may ask a series of questions to customize your experience, like your programming experience and intended use of GitHub. These can be skipped if preferred.
  7. Verify Your Email Address: After completing the sign-up process, GitHub will send a verification email to the address you provided. Click on the verification link in that email to activate your account.
  8. Start Exploring: Once your account is verified, you’re ready to explore GitHub. You can start by creating repositories, collaborating on projects, or exploring other users’ repositories.

Tips for New Users

  • Profile Information: After creating your account, consider adding more details to your profile, like a profile picture and bio, to make it more personable.
  • Security: Set up two-factor authentication for added security.
  • Learning Resources: GitHub has a wealth of tutorials and guides to help you get started. Utilize these to familiarize yourself with GitHub’s features and best practices.

Understanding File Naming Conventions

File naming is a fundamental aspect of organizing and maintaining a clear and efficient documentation system, especially when using platforms like GitHub. Adhering to a consistent naming convention is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Clarity and Accessibility: Well-named files are easier to identify and understand at a glance, saving time and reducing confusion.
  2. System Compatibility: Certain characters in file names can cause issues in different operating systems. Avoiding spaces and special characters ensures broader compatibility.
  3. Ease of Navigation: Consistent naming aids in navigating through files, especially in a large repository.
  4. Version Control: Clear naming helps in tracking changes and managing versions more effectively.

When naming files for GitHub, it's best to follow these guidelines:

  • Use single words or combine words using camelCase, underscores (_), or hyphens (-). For example, or
  • Avoid spaces, as they can cause issues in URLs and command-line operations.
  • Steer clear of special characters like !, $, #, %, etc., as they might have specific functions in certain environments or scripts.

The Importance of .md Extension for Markdown Files

When it comes to Markdown files, adding the .md extension is vital for several reasons:

  1. GitHub Rendering: GitHub automatically renders files with a .md extension as formatted Markdown. This means your documentation will be displayed with the intended formatting (like headers, lists, links, etc.) directly in the repository view.
  2. Editor Support: Most code editors recognize .md files and provide appropriate syntax highlighting and formatting previews, making editing more efficient.
  3. Consistency and Recognition: Using the .md extension helps users and systems alike to quickly identify the file type and its intended use.

For instance, naming a file ensures that GitHub will render it as a Markdown document, displaying all formatting correctly in the browser. This enhances readability and makes the documentation more user-friendly.

In summary, adhering to clear file naming conventions and correctly using the .md extension for Markdown files are essential practices for effective documentation on GitHub. These practices facilitate better organization, compatibility, and usability of your documentation, contributing to an overall smoother experience for both maintainers and users.

Basic Markdown Tutorial

Markdown is a lightweight markup language designed to be easy to read and write. It's widely used for formatting files on platforms like GitHub, in forums, and for creating web content. Here's a quick guide to the most commonly used Markdown syntax:


Headings are created using the # symbol before your text. The number of # symbols indicates the level of the heading:

# Heading 1
## Heading 2
### Heading 3
#### Heading 4
##### Heading 5
###### Heading 6


  • Bold: To make text bold, wrap it in double asterisks or double underscores. For example, **bold** or __bold__.
  • Italic: To italicize text, wrap it in single asterisks or single underscores. For example, *italic* or _italic_.


  • Unordered Lists: Use asterisks, plus signs, or hyphens to create bullet points.

    * Item 1
    * Item 2
      * Subitem 2.1
      * Subitem 2.2
  • Ordered Lists: Use numbers followed by periods for an ordered list.

    1. First item
    2. Second item
       1. Subitem 2.1
       2. Subitem 2.2
  • Links: To create a link, wrap the link text in brackets [ ], and then wrap the URL in parentheses ( ).
    • For example, [GitHub](
  • Images: Similar to links, but start with an exclamation mark, followed by the alt text in brackets, and the URL in parentheses.
    • For example, ![Alt text](image-url.jpg).


  • Inline Code: For small bits of code, use backticks to wrap your code. For example, `code`.

  • Code Blocks: For larger sections of code, use three backticks or indent with four spaces:

    ```language your code here ```

Replace language with the programming language for syntax highlighting (e.g., python, javascript).


To create a blockquote, use the > symbol before your text. For nested blockquotes, use multiple > symbols.

> This is a blockquote.
>> This is a nested blockquote.

Horizontal Rules

Create a horizontal line or rule by using three or more asterisks, dashes, or underscores on a new line.


Additional Tips

  • Whitespace and Line Breaks: In Markdown, line breaks and spacing can be crucial. To create a new line without starting a new paragraph, end a line with two or more spaces before hitting Enter.
  • Escaping Markdown: To display a Markdown character, precede it with a backslash (\). For example, \*not italic\*.

Markdown's simplicity and readability make it an excellent choice for documentation and note-taking. As you become more comfortable with these basics, you'll find it a versatile tool for your writing needs.


In summary, Git and GitHub stand as powerful tools for documentation and version control, offering a platform for managing, tracking, and collaborating on projects. Adhering to clear file naming conventions enhances this system's efficiency, ensuring files are accessible and compatible across various environments. Furthermore, the use of Markdown within this framework simplifies the process of creating and maintaining readable and well-structured documentation. Together, these elements form an ecosystem that streamlines project management and fosters a collaborative and organized workspace, which is important for the successful execution of individual and team-based projects in information technology disciplines.