The Cloud

Getting started with GitHub Actions

This November, GitHub Actions moved to General Availability making another mark of GitHubs push towards eating more of the CI/CD ecosystem.

In this article I'll show you how you can start testing your code directly in GitHub.

2 min read


By Andreas Heim


December 4, 2019

First off, let's talk a little bit about what GitHub Actions actually is! GitHub describes it like this:

"GitHub Actions makes it easy to automate all your software workflows, now with world-class CI/CD. Build, test, and deploy your code right from GitHub. Make code reviews, branch management, and issue triaging work the way you want"

Pretty sweet, right? The things that I'm usually using it for is build and deploy, and today we're going to focus on how to start testing your app with GitHub Actions.

First off, we need an app. The app we're looking at today is a basic Hello World Java app, that we're building with Gradle.

You can follow along with the code in this repo.

Take action

To get your app tested with GitHub Actions is actually quite simple. You need to place a YAML-file in the .github/workflows directory in your app, and then push your code and GitHub will run your workflow automatically on your event of choice. For our example, we will trigger the workflow on the push event.

For our example app, there is only a few steps that need to be run.

First we must tell GitHub Actions to check out our source code, then we must set up Java, and finally we can run our tests with Gradle. Luckily GitHub provides us with some helpful tools, and the runners contain a healthy list of pre-installed software.

name: Test
on: [push]
    name: Run tests with Gradle
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    - uses: actions/checkout@v1
    - name: Set up JDK 12
      uses: actions/setup-java@v1
        java-version: 12
    - name: Test
      run: ./gradlew --no-daemon test

That's actually all that is to it!

When you now push code to your repo, you can track the status of your workflow under the "Actions" tab. You'll also get the results directly in a related Pull Request, and even your commits will contain the status of the workflow. Pretty awesome, right?

What's in it for me?

So you might ask yourself why you should care about GitHub Actions? I find that the most useful thing about it is to gather all of your building, testing and deployment within the same tool. GitHub Actions doesn't provide the polished user experience and speedy builds that for instance CircleCI can give you, but in return it is tightly integrated with the different events that is triggered when you push, deploy, open issues, close pull requests, etc.

All in all, I think that GitHub Actions is a promising addition to the GitHub product suite, that will challenge the competitors in the CI/CD landscape in the years to come.