GitHub Search Tips: 11 Hacks to Help You Become a GitHub Ninja

  • 8 mins read

GitHub Search Tips: 11 Hacks to Help You Become a GitHub Ninja

Its tiring, right? Scrolling through countless repositories on GitHub and still not finding what you need? As a developer, I know the pain and agony of searching for a specific project on Github,  only to be bombarded with thousands of irrelevant results. 

I mean, just look at what happens when you search for “JavaScript Open Source” on GitHub:

Thousands of repos! Hundreds of thousands of issues! Where do you even begin? If you’re trying to find an open-source project to dig into, you’ll be picking through the results for hours.

As a former pro at spending hours at the computer screen searching through GitHub, I can tell you that there’s actually a lot more to the search functionality than meets the eye. By mastering some simple GitHub search tips, you can drastically improve your search results and save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

Why do we need GitHub search tips anyway?

Shouldn’t it just be as simple as typing what you want and you shall receive? Well, not exactly. And here’s why.

If you’ve been in the web development or software engineering field for any length of time, there is a solid chance that you use GitHub in your day-to-day. But let’s just introduce it one more time.

GitHub is a web-based platform designed to facilitate collaboration between developers and enable the sharing of code. It’s like a social media network for developers, allowing users to connect with others in their field and showcase their work while contributing to existing open-source platforms.

At the heart of GitHub are repositories, which can be thought of as digital folders that contain code and documentation. Users can create their own repositories for their projects or fork someone else’s repository and build upon it.

One of the biggest advantages of using GitHub is its integration with the Git version control system. Whenever changes are made to a file in a repository, GitHub keeps track of all of these changes, creating a history of the project over time. This means that you can easily roll back to a previous version of your code if something goes wrong or compare different versions to see how the project has evolved. 

This version control system is a crucial feature for developers working on complex projects with many contributors, as it allows for seamless collaboration and avoids conflicts.

However, despite the collaborative benefits of GitHub, finding relevant repositories, code, commits, issues, and open-source projects to contribute to can be a daunting task. With millions of projects and contributors on the platform, it can be overwhelming to sift through and find the right fit for your skills and interests. 

Best Github Search Tips

1. Search By Name

Simply add “in:name” to your search term, and GitHub will return a list of repositories with that name.  For example, if you’re looking for a repository called “Python-Projects,” simply search “Python-Projects in:name” and BOOM! GitHub will return a list of repositories with that exact name.

2. Search By Description

To use in:description to filter out searches, you can simply add “in:description” to your search term, and voila! GitHub will return a list of repositories with that term in their description. For instance, if you’re searching for data science repositories, simply search “data science in:description” and watch as GitHub pulls up a list of repositories with that term in their description. This is more likely to turn up results than in:name because many developers beef up their descriptions a bit more, so you’re more likely to find a match.

3. Search By Readme

This one can be even better, depending on the context. If you’re just getting started learning to code, you might want to look for repositories that will help you. Looking through the readme is a great way to narrow down the results to find the most educational material. Search “learn javascript in:readme” and GitHub will return a list of repositories with that term in their README file. Check it out:

github search tips for learning javascript

4. Search By Topic

Here’s another one of my favorites. What if you want repos that contain some helpful web development resources? Searching by topic is a good way to get there. Simply search “web development in:topic” and GitHub will return a list of repositories with that topic.

5. Search By Organization

If you’re searching for repositories from a specific organization, you can use the “org:” to do so. All you have to do is add “org:” to your search term, followed by the name of the organization, and voila! GitHub will return a list of repositories exclusively from that organization. No more wasting time scrolling through irrelevant repos. For example, if you’re looking for repositories from “Google,” simply search “org:Google”.

6. Search By License

You can also use the license operator to look for open-source repositories that match a certain license. For example, if you want to search for all repositories under the MIT license, you can use “license:MIT“. This will filter your search results to show only repositories with the MIT license.

Check it out:

7. Search By Stars

If you want to look for repos everyone LOVES, you can simply use the “Stars” filter to sort them by the number of stars they have. This can be quite useful if you’re searching for a high-quality repository with a lot of support from the community.

To use this hack, simply add “stars:>” followed by a number to your search term, and GitHub will return a list of repositories with that number of stars or more. For example, suppose you’re looking for repositories with 500 or more stars. In that case, you can search for “stars:>500.”

8. Search By Date

If you’re looking for repositories that have been created or updated after a certain date, you can use the “Created” or “Updated” filter. Simply add “Created” or “Updated” followed by a date in the format “YYYY-MM-DD” to your search term, and GitHub will return a list of repositories that match your criteria.

For example, “in:date created:>2023-01-21” will show all repositories created after Jan 21, 2023. Similarly, “in:date updated:>2023-01-21” will show all repositories updated after Jan 21, 2023.

This is great if you only want to look at repositories that people are currently using and haven’t forgotten about. Check it out:

9. Search By Forks

If you’re curious about which repositories are popular among developers, you might want to check out the “forks:” search filter. This cool feature allows you to search for forked repositories, giving you an idea of how many people have found the repository useful or interesting.

For example, if you want to find repositories that have been forked at least 500 times, simply search for “forks:>500″/ This will give you a list of repositories that have been forked 500 times or more, which are likely to be high-quality projects with a large user base. So whether you’re looking for inspiration or want to contribute to a popular project, the “forks:” search filter is a great way to discover interesting repositories on GitHub.

10. Search  By Language

Are you a fan of tons of different programming languages? Or do you prefer to narrow your focus down to a specific one? If so, you’ll love this hack! Using the “language:” search operator, you can filter out all the repositories in a specific programming language.

For instance, if you’re interested in finding all the repositories written in Python, simply type “language:python” in the search bar, and GitHub will return a list of repositories written in Python. This hack lets you easily find all the repositories using your favorite programming language and closely examine their code.

11. Search by Last Push

Here’s a bonus GitHub search hack for you. When choosing a project you want to work on, you want to make sure it’s actively maintained, right? Let’s face it, relying on a project that hasn’t been updated in 7 years is going to lead you down a lot of dead ends.

To find actively maintained projects, you need to add the last push time to your search term.

For example, if you want to search for projects that have been updated in the last two weeks, you can use the following search term: “pushed:>2023-02-04 spring cloud”

This will give you a list of repositories that have been updated within the last two weeks. You can also search for repositories created before or after a certain time using “created” instead of “push.”

GitHub Search Tips: Final Thoughts

With these 11 GitHub search tips, you can quickly and easily find the repositories you need to complete your work. Whether you’re looking for repositories from a specific organization, searching for repositories with a certain number of stars, or looking for repositories that have been updated recently, these search tips will help you save time and find exactly what you need.

So go ahead and give them a try! And remember, searching for repositories doesn’t have to be tedious. With a few simple GitHub search tips, you can turn it into a fun and productive experience. Happy searching, and leave a comment below if you have any questions!