How to Connect a Local R Project to GitHub from a Mac

How to Connect a Local R Project to GitHub from a Mac

Emily Halford 01/01/2021 8
How to Connect a Local R Project to GitHub from a Mac

It’s fairly straightforward to set up a GitHub connection when creating a new R project.

Sometimes, however, you end up with a repo that is only stored locally. Maybe you received a project from someone else who doesn’t use GitHub, or maybe you’re having an off day and simply forgot to start out with a GitHub connection.

Either way, you can easily copy this repo into GitHub and set up a connection. This step-by-step guide will show you how.

1. Download the GitHub for Mac app

First, head to the GitHub for Mac webpage:

You should see the following screen:


Click the purple “Download for macOS” button in the middle of the screen. A zip file should immediately start downloading. Once that download is complete, double click the zip file. GitHub Desktop should appear in your downloads folder as shown below:


Drag GitHub Desktop from the downloads folder into “Applications,” which is highlighted below on the left. You should see a purple GitHub Desktop icon appear (see bottom right):


2. Open GitHub Desktop and make the Connection

Double click on the GitHub Desktop icon. You may receive a warning stating that “GitHub Desktop” is an app downloaded from the Internet and asking if you want to open it. If you see this warning, select “Open”:




Once GitHub Desktop is open, select “Add Existing Repository.” Your screen may look somewhat different from this if it is your first time ever opening GitHub Desktop, but there should still be an “Add Existing Repository” option.



The following window should appear. Click the “Choose…” button and navigate to the folder that contains your R project.


Once you’ve selected the file that contains your local project, you will get the following notice: “This directory does not appear to be a Git repository. Would you like to create a repository here instead?” Click the blue “create a repository” text.



The following window should appear. Simply click the “Create Repository” button in the bottom right.



When the following screen appears, click “Publish repository.”


The following window will pop up, and you can simply click “Publish Repository.” If you wish to make your repo public, you can uncheck the box for “Keep this code private.”


Depending on the size of your project, it may take a few minutes to publish. You should be all set once the project has pushed to GitHub!

3. Verify that the Connection was Made

You can make sure that the connection was successfully established by logging into your GitHub account and verifying that you see your new repo under “Repositories.”


Additionally, when your project is open in RStudio you should now see the “Git” tab where you can push and pull any updates.



And that’s it! Typically, you will want to stick with the standard workflow of creating a GitHub repo as soon as you create your R project. This way, you will be able to take full advantage of GitHub’s version control capabilities. Your code will always be backed up, and you can access earlier versions of your work later on. When it is not possible to follow this workflow, however, GitHub Desktop provides a convenient way to connect an existing local project to a GitHub repo.

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  • Daniel Malhi

    Very helpful, thank you !!!

  • Paul Arnott

    Straight to follow, cheers.

  • Elizabeth Patterson

    Good tutorial

  • Sam Foreman

    It took me some time to understand, the screenshots were helpful. Spot on with your explanation.

  • Luke Horan


  • Simon Parker

    For someone with no experience with Github, this guide was really good.

  • Gaurav Singh


  • Kenneth VDB

    Greatly explained thanks

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Emily Halford

Data Science & Mental Health Expert

Emily is a data analyst working in psychiatric epidemiology in New York City. She is a suicide-prevention professional who is enthusiastic about taking a data-driven approach to the mental health field. Emily holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University.

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