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GitHub rolls out a preview of substantial platform changes

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Fri 10 Dec 2021

GitHub has announced the rollout of a technology preview with substantial code searching improvements. 

"We want to give customers an early look at our efforts and get their feedback as we iterate on helping them explore and discover CodeAll while saving time and maintaining focus," says GitHub senior director of Software Engineering, Pavel Avgustinov.

"Initially we're creating a separate interface for the new code search as we build it out, but once we're happy with the feedback and are ready for wider adoption, we'll integrate it into the main github.com experience."

Currently, the search index covers more than five million of the most popular public repositories, and it's also possible to search private repositories you can access.

The company says they're excited to share the technology preview while it iterates and works with customers to find unique, novel use cases and workflows. 

"We have no shortage of ideas for what to focus on next," says Avgustinov. "We'll be growing the index until it covers every repository you can access on GitHub. We'll experiment with scoring and ranking heuristics to see what works best, and we'll explore what APIs and integrations would be most impactful. 

"We will keep adding support for more languages to the language-specific features. But most of all, we want to listen to customer feedback and build the tools they didn't even know they needed."

Staying in a flow state can be hard as a developer. Interruptions can arise whenever there's a need to look up how to use a library or have a test fail because the developer environment has diverged from CI, or need to know how an error message can arise. The longer it takes to resolve the interruption, the more context is lost.

"Earlier this year, we launched GitHub Copilot as a technical preview, leveraging the power of AI to let you code confidently even in unfamiliar territory," Avgustinov says.

"We also released Codespaces and shared how adopting them internally boosted GitHub's own productivity. We see our improvements to code search and navigation in the context of these broader initiatives around developer productivity, as part of a unified solution."

He says for code search, the company's vision is to help every developer search, discover, navigate, and understand code quickly and intuitively. 

"We plan to share more updates on our progress soon, including deep-dives on the engineering work behind code search and the developers, open-source projects, and communities we rely on."

Some of the new features include:

  • Easily find what you're looking for among the top results, with smart ranking and an index optimised for code.
  • Search for an exact string with support for substring matches and special characters, or use regular expressions (enclosed in / separators).
  • Scope your searches with org: or repo: qualifiers, with auto-completion suggestions in the search box.
  • Refine your results using filters like language:, path:, extension:, and Boolean operators (OR, NOT). Search for definitions of a symbol with symbol:.
  • Get your bearings quickly with additional features, like a directory tree view, symbol information for the active scope, jump-to-definition, select-to-search, and more.
     
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