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Benefits of Using Pull Requests for Collaboration and Code Review

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Software teams comprise a broad range of professionals, from software engineers and data scientists to project managers and technical writers. Sharing code with…

Software teams comprise a broad range of professionals, from software engineers and data scientists to project managers and technical writers. Sharing code with other team members is common when working on a project, and it is important to track all changes. This is where pull requests come in.

In software development, a pull request is used to push local changes into a shared repository (Figure 1). It is a way for you to request code review from other collaborators before pushing an approved update to the central server. This helps maintain version control.

Figure 1. A pull request is used to push local changes into a shared repository

This post discusses the benefits of pull requests and shares tips for creating and handling pull requests when working on software projects. Using this information, you will be better equipped to work with many collaborators on major projects.

The steps of a pull request

To create a pull request, follow the steps outlined below.

  • Create a new git branch to work locally using the following command:
    git -b BRANCH_NAME
  • Implement changes and push them frequently (so that they do not get lost) using the following command:
    git add NAME_OF_THE_FILE
    git commit -m "DESCRIBE YOUR RECENT CHANGES"
  • After you have finished the implementation and committed your changes locally, you should get the latest changes from the shared repository to ensure there are no conflicting changes. You can get the latest changes using the following command:
    git pull origin BRANCH_NAME
  • Push your changes to the remote repository using the following command:
    git push --set-upstream-to origin REMOTE_BRANCH_NAME
  • Navigate to the user interface of the platform where your shared repository is located (GitLab, GitHub, BitBucket). There you are asked to write the name of the pull request and a short description. You also have the option to assign it to someone from your team to review it.
  • For a more detailed introduction to pull requests, see Making a Pull Request.

    Key benefits of using pull requests 

    Whether you are working on the frontend or backend of a project, pull requests can help with the code review process when working with a team. This section details the key benefits of using pull requests in your work.

    Facilitate collaboration 

    When it comes to collaboration, there are a few things that can make or break a team. One of those things is the ability to work together, even if members are responsible for different parts of the project.

    Using pull requests, changes can be made without impacting the work of others. They are a great way to gather tips or code improvements from team members.

    If you are unsure about a code change, submit a pull request for feedback. Other team members may have suggestions that you had not considered, and this can help you make better decisions about your code.

    In any project, it is important to have experienced engineers review and accept or reject changes since you may miss some things that they can see from a fresh perspective. 

    However, it is equally important to avoid bottlenecks when multiple team members are submitting changes to the project codebase. For those working on pull requests, it is critical to set expectations for expected review times. This ensures the project continues to move forward. 

    Build features faster

    Pull requests are a powerful tool that can help teams build features faster. Because pull requests can be reviewed with comments added, they provide an excellent way to communicate code changes.

    First, they enable developers to submit changes to a project without having to wait for the project maintainer to merge the changes. This enables team members to work on code changes in parallel, which can speed up development.

    Second, pull requests can be reviewed and comments can be added. Developers reviewing pull requests may need to ask questions or clarify potential errors. You can also use comments to share resources. 

    Third, pull requests can be merged, so that changes can be integrated into the project quickly and easily when building new features.

    Reduce risks associated with adding new code

    There is no doubt that programming code comes with a degree of risk. After all, every time you add something new to your codebase, you are potentially introducing new bugs and vulnerabilities that affect the end user. 

    Before a pull request is merged into the main codebase, other team members have the opportunity to review the changes to ensure compliance with the team’s coding standards. Bugs and errors can be addressed before they cause any problems in the live code.

    With pull requests, you can always roll back to a previous version in case things go wrong. Pull requests become your safety net.

    Improve code quality and performance

    When you create a pull request, you are essentially asking for someone else to review your code and give feedback. By engaging a colleague, you can improve the quality of your code based on that feedback.

    You can help reviewers understand your changes by writing descriptive commit messages and explanations in the description section of the pull request. 

    You can also avoid potential problems if you make a change that someone else does not agree with. They can simply raise an issue with your pull request. This gives you the opportunity to fix the problem before it becomes a bigger issue. This is a powerful way to improve the quality of your code. 

    Takeaways

    Maintaining version control through pull requests is important for software teams. This approach enables team members to collaborate while tracking and managing changes to software systems. By using pull requests, teams can work on different parts of a system at the same time and then easily merge their changes together. This boosts team efficiency and prevents conflicts.

    When used correctly, pull requests provide a clear and concise way to view changes that have been made to the code or file, facilitating discussion and feedback.

    The importance of pull requests cannot be overstated. They are an essential part of the software development process, helping to ensure that relevant parties review code changes before they are merged into the main codebase. This helps to avoid bugs and other problems that could potentially cause serious issues. 

    Source:: NVIDIA