Comparing Confusing Terms in GitHub, Bitbucket, and GitLab

Heather McNamee ·
Jan 27, 2016 · 3 min read

Please read the up-to-date version of this article!

Developers rely on multiple platforms to manage repositories, depending on client and project needs. They might contribute to a community project on GitHub, while working on one client's on premises GitLab instance and another client's project in Mercurial on Bitbucket. Confusion can arise when you switch between platforms. In this post, we have a handy reference guide to explain some potentially confusing terms, especially if you're new to GitLab.

With the 8.4 Release, GitLab has improved migration support for those coming from GitHub to GitLab. GitLab now imports your repositories, wikis, issues and pull requests from GitHub. While most terminology is shared between the platforms, some differences lead to confusion for users. Git-specific terms like commits, push, and so forth are the same. Common features most repository managers have are also the same: such as users, issues, webhooks, etc.

However some features have different names. For example a “pull request” in GitHub and Bitbucket is called a “merge request” in GitLab. We figured since you're often making a request to merge a feature branch into the master branch, we call this a "merge request" and you'll hear us talk about MRs and not PRs.

If you’re brand new to GitLab, we’ve made this handy cheat-sheet to help you orient yourself and clear things up.

The Import Project UI in GitLab showing you can import from GitHub, Bitbucket, etc

Teams, Repositories, Organizations?

From teams to repositories to organizations, there’s a potential for fresh confusion. In GitHub, repositories contain the Git/SVN repository, and the project assets such as issues, contribution metrics, etc. However users often refer to repos as projects interchangeably.

So in GitLab, we call that container a Project. That includes the Git repository, issues, MRs, etc. When you configure a project, you can;

It's important to make this distinction because you import project in GitLab, regardless of whether that is called a repository elsewhere.

The Import Project UI in GitLab showing you can import from GitHub, Bitbucket, etc

This is where it could get confusing. Now Bitbucket groups multiple repositories into Projects, multiple projects into teams, and teams in Bitbucket are analogous to an Organization in GitHub.

In GitLab, we call this a Group. This allows you to collect several projects together and also have members. Those members can then configure their own group-level notifications. Projects can be stored in only one group at once. However you can share a project with other groups in GitLab Enterprise Edition (available in GitLab Community Edition from 8.5 onward). And even those settings can be locked at the group level so you can avoid someone sharing a private project to other groups, for example.

The confusion is understandable, especially if like many developers, you work with a number of clients each on different platforms.

I hope this has cleared up confusion. If you have any questions, you can join us for a live Q & A in our webcast Thursday, January 28, 5pm (17:00) UTC; 12pm EST; 9am PST.

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