Git Gadget

Build Status

gitgadget is an R-studio addin for version control and assignment management using git. The assignment management functions currently support the GitLab API. PRs for use with GitHub are welcome.

gitgadget is not intended as a tool for all-things-git. For that you need something like sourcetree. gitgadget provide a few additional features not (yet) available in R-studio that can be useful to students and faculty using git for classes. For an excellent discussion of this level of functionality see happy git with R by Jenny Bryan.

gitgadget requires Rstudio version 1.1 or later. Please use the issue tracker on GitHub to suggest enhancements or report problems. To install the latest version of gitgadget use the command below:

install.packages("gitgadget", repos = "")

To start gitgadget click on the Addins menu in Rstudio and then on gitgadget.

Note: Hover over any button in the application for additional information about what clicking the button will accomplish


To start using git and gitgadget first introduce yourself to git. Set a global user name and email for git (e.g., your GitLab user name and email). By default, gitgadget will try to turn on credential helpers for your platform. See for additional information.

To create and fork repos and collect merge requests you will need to provide a GitLab personal access token. First create the token on GitLab ( and then copy-and-paste it in the Token input.

Unless you plan to use gitgadget to manage student assignments, use student as the User type. Finally, enter the main directory where you plan to clone code repos (e.g., “C:/Users/me/GitLab”)

Create (GitLab only)

Enter the path to a local directory to create a repo on GitLab. If the local directory does not yet exist it will be created. You can also click the Open button and navigate to an existing directory. If a Group name is provided it will be used to place the repo on GitLab. This is recommended if you are using gitgadget for assignment management. If left blank, the GitLab user name will be used as the group. A Prefix can be added and will default to the value of git.prefix in .Renviron (see Initial settings below). The prefix can be used to avoid conflicting assignment names across classes (e.g., multiple classes using “assignment1”).

If you selected faculty as the User type in the Introduce tab you will have the option to upload a CSV file with student tokens (see below). If a user file is provided, a radio button will be shown that can be used to indicate if the work should be completed individually or in teams.


Clone a repo from GitLab (or GitHub) (e.g., The name for the directory placed inside Base directory to clone repo into will be taken from the repo name unless a Custom directory to clone repo into is provided. If there is no R-studio project file (.Rproj) in the repo, one will be created.

To activate an HTTPS credential helper the first time you clone a repo from GitHub or GitLab you will be asked to provide your username and password in the Rstudio terminal


Create a local branch from the active branch by providing a name for the new branch and clicking Create local. Link and push to the (GitLab) remote by clicking the Link remote button. If remote branches exists click the Check out button to work with a branch locally. If branches other than master exist you can Merge branches or delete them if they are no longer needed. To undo a merge-in-progress, e.g., with merge conflicts, click the Abort merge button. Unlink remote will not remove the local or the remote branch but only the link to the remote (i.e., the push/pull arrows in R-studio will gray-out).

Changes to the list of available branches may only be visible in R-studio after clicking the refresh button in the Git tab.


To commit changes to the local copy of your repo provide a Commit message and then click the Commit button. If the remote repo contains changes you do not yet have locally press the Pull button. To add committed local changes to the remote repo, click the Push button. It you completely broke the local repo and want to start over with a clean copy of the remote repo, press the Reset button.

If the repo you are working on is a fork you probably want to make sure it is up to date and merge any changes into the version you are working on locally. The first step is to ensure that git knows about the upstream repo you forked from. Copy the HTTPS link to clone the original repo into the Sync repo with remote it was forked from input in the Sync tab and then press Sync. The repo you forked will now be added as a remote. Click Merge to update your local version with any changes to the original remote repo. Fix merge conflicts if they pop up and proceed to work on the local repo. To undo a merge with merge conflicts click the Abort merge button.

Collect (GitLab only)

Collect assignments from students/teams using Merge Requests (MR) on GitLab. Inputs will only be shown if the user type in the Introduce tab is set to faculty.

First, provide User name, Token, and the GitLab Group name. Then click the List button to show available assignments. Select the desired assignment name from the dropdown and the load the user file with student GitLab tokens and press the Collect button to generate Merge Requests for all students (or team leads). Once this step is completed you can review and comment on the MRs using the GitLab UI.

To view, run, and edit the MRs locally press the Fetch button. After fetching all MRs they are converted to branches using the student-id as the branch name and pushed back up to the server. Switch between branches to test code and provide comments and/or fixes. Use the Git tab in R-studio or the Sync tab in gitgadget to push local changes to the remote branch. Notify students of the comments/fixes by providing a link to the branch in the comments on the original MR.

If students update their assignment repo and you want to Fetch the updates for local review you should first delete the existing branches for one or more students. This can be done through the Branch tab by selecting all branches you want to delete and clicking the Delete local button.

Assignment management

Key functions in git.R that can be accessed through the gitgadget interface are:


Used to create a group for a course. The Group name variable should be set to something like “school-courseid-year”. This creates the group and adds students as reporters with read-only access on GitLab. Access this functionality through the Create tab in gitgadget. Creating a group requires an input file of the following form:

userid team email token
id1 team1 px…….
id2 team1 n9…….
id3 team2 VR…….

Note: Markdown for the table above was generated using


To create an assignment repo set Local directory to the directory with the assignment files. A Prefix should be added to avoid conflicts across courses that might use the same assignment name (e.g., assignment1). Access this functionality through the Create tab in gitgadget.


Forks the assignment repo uploaded by a faculty member or TA for each student/team and creates the appropriate groups for team work. Requires a csv file with the structure shown above, including the students’ (GitLab) private token. Getting access to these tokens will most likely require that student accounts are created centrally for the class/program.


Generates Merge Requests for all students or teams. Requires a csv file with the structure shown above.


Fetch Merge Requests for all students or teams from the GitLab server. After fetching all MRs they are converted to branches using the student-id as the branch name and pushed back up to the server. Switch between branches to test code and provide comments. Push to update the remote branch with the local changes.

Initial settings

Gitgadget supports the following input from an .Renviron file in your home directory (e.g., “C:/Users/username/.Renviron”). The easiest way to edit .Renviron is to use usethis::edit_r_environ() in Rstudio.

git.user = "your-gitlab-id" = ""
git.token = "abc123"
git.home = "~/git"
git.server = "" = "school-courseid-2017"
git.prefix = "school-courseid-2017-"
git.userfile = "path-to-user-file.csv"
git.user.type = "faculty"