Imagine this: you’re building a house, and every time you pick up a hammer, a super-smart assistant appears and hands you the exact nail you need next. Now, let’s say this assistant always knows the best way to frame a wall, run electrical, or lay down a tile. Think of how much faster and better you’d build that house! That’s kind of what GitHub Copilot is like for anyone writing computer software.

GitHub is the world’s largest cloud platform for software development. More than 100 million developers use GitHub to work on projects together, track changes, and manage all the messy details of software development. 

GitHub Copilot is an artificial intelligence (AI) tool within GitHub that works alongside programmers. As you write code, GitHub Copilot analyzes what you’re trying to achieve and suggests ways to do it, sometimes offering entire blocks of code. 

It’s a highly knowledgeable assistant that not only helps you type code but suggests ways to improve it, making the whole coding process a lot smoother and less error-prone. GitHub Copilot can also be thought of as an AI-powered “pair programmer” that lives right inside GitHub, a powerful software development platform.

Here’s how GitHub Copilot improves the developer experience (DevEx) to help organizations build better software more efficiently.

Improving DevEx

Happier developers lead to less turnover and better products. GitHub Copilot is focused on improving the developer experience (DevEx).

Copilot helps reduce cognitive load by streamlining repetitive tasks and boilerplate code, allowing developers to focus their time on crucial, in-depth problems that are the most rewarding to solve. Copilot also helps solve these super difficult puzzles by suggesting solutions that spark ideas or can be used as-is. This kind of brainstorming allows programmers to stay in the zone and have good flow, generating robust solutions. 

GitHub Copilot can now be customized to your organization’s code and processes. GitHub Copilot Enterprise provides your Devs with access to the standards and work that your teams have previously implemented. This helps build institutional knowledge quicker, allowing your development team (especially junior developers) to spend less time learning and more time fully exercising their creativity, solving interesting problems, and delivering more high-quality software faster. It also ensures consistency across engineering teams. 

A recent survey of developers who used Copilot highlights its impact. Ninety-four percent of developers reported staying in the flow, 94% reported writing better code, and 90% reported being more fulfilled as a result of using Copilot.

Here are some new key features in Copilot that are helping to reduce cognitive load and improve DevEx:

Slash Commands (/) and Variables (#)

The latest Visual Studio Copilot Chat extension now includes slash commands (/) that allow you to direct Copilot to perform specific tasks and context Variables (#) to specify a file for GitHub Copilot to focus its answer on. 

The slash commands are special commands that you can use in chat to receive targeted assistance, including explanations, documentation, test creation, and various other forms of support related to your code. For example, /doc will add a documentation comment, /explain will explain the code, /fix will propose a fix for the problems in the selected code, /generate will generate code to answer your question, /optimize will analyze and improve the running time of the selected code, and /tests will create unit tests for the selected code. This allows your developers to interact with GitHub Copilot in a manner that minimizes disruption and keeps them in their deep-thinking flow.

Context variables enable you to add files from your solution to your questions using the # symbol. GitHub Copilot can then access the content of the file and provide more targeted answers about it. More than one file can be added to a question. For example, you can ask “How does the #file:’driver.cs’ file work?” and get relevant answers from GitHub Copilot Chat.

GitHub Copilot Chat

GitHub Copilot Chat is a chat interface that lets you interact with GitHub Copilot. The chat interface minimizes interruption to help developers remain in their flow. It provides answers to coding-related questions in supported IDEs, including Visual Studio Code, Visual Studio, Neovim, Azure Data Center, and the JetBrains suite of IDEs. 

GitHub Copilot Chat can help explain code, suggest improvements, outline related documentation, propose bug fixes, identify the root cause of an error, and suggest changes to variables, control structures, or function calls that might resolve the issue. It can also generate code snippets that can be incorporated into the codebase, ask questions for help or clarification on specific coding problems, and receive responses in natural language format or code snippet format.

Unit Tests and Comments

GitHub Copilot can also write unit tests and comments. It suggests test cases and comments after analyzing your code, creating a more robust and reliable application. By analyzing your codebase and leveraging its extensive knowledge, Copilot suggests test cases that cover different scenarios and validate your code’s functionality. This functionality streamlines the testing process and ensures more robust, reliable, and well-documented code. Writing unit tests and documenting code can often be laborious for developers. Removing these tasks from your team’s plate drives towards a great developer experience (DevEx).

Taking this line of thought further, you can build an entire app with GitHub Copilot’s assistance, starting from square one. For proof-of-concepts and prototypes, GitHub Copilot can quickly and effectively provide all the underlying scaffolding, allowing you to rapidly review, update, and iterate on the suggested code to meet your custom requirements.

Optimizing Data Structures

One area that GitHub Copilot can help with is data structures. This means that it can suggest code that will help optimize data structures and that will result in faster and more accurate data retrieval.

Understanding Various Languages

GitHub Copilot can understand comments in a variety of languages, allowing it to make appropriate code suggestions with full context. This means your team can work in their native language while still gaining GitHub Copilot’s full benefit.

Streamlining Regex Implementations

Regex implementations can be filled with frustration and error as they are complex to understand and write. Updating them can be more difficult than writing the original. GitHub Copilot can suggest regex patterns that meet your needs. Your custom patterns will then parse data and validate input correctly.

Copilot not autopilot

While GitHub Copilot is empowering developers to build better quality code faster, it’s important to note that Copilot is simply a tool. 

GitHub Copilot is not magic. It is called GitHub Copilot because it is just that. While it is a valuable resource, your critical analysis is always needed. GitHub Copilot is not a replacement for your expertise. Further, feedback and iteration are key to this process. Review proposed code and solutions. Get where you need to go faster while reviewing the map suggested, the course proposed, and the vehicle recommended. That review requires that you apply your knowledge.

In other words, there’s a reason Copilot is called Copilot and not autopilot. Human input is essential to its successful use.

Businesses today run on software, and that software is becoming more and more complex. 

GitHub Copilot is a tool that helps your team build better, faster, and more secure hight quality software. That translates into more satisfied customers, faster time to market, and a competitive edge that helps your business thrive.

Need Help Implementing or Perfecting Your Use of GitHub Copilot?

Coveros is a premier services partner of GitHub, providing consulting, training, and coaching services to help you implement or enhance your use of Copilot and other crucial GitHub tools. Click the button below to talk to an expert about your challenges and how Coveros can help.

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