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Is Github CoPilot your best coding friend in 2024? A no-nonsense guide to decide

Github CoPilot

Image credit: Github

Software development is becoming a valuable experience in the workplace and to simplify your daily life, but learning it from scratch can be difficult and overwhelming. Thankfully, there’s online tools to help you write and fix your code. In this article, we’ll explore your options, price options, student advantages, features, and more!

First off, what are your options out there? At first glance, we have Github Copilot, ChatGPT, and other less famous options like AWS Code Whisperer or AskCodi. Today we’ll explore Github Copilot and see what its made of!

Key Takeaways

  • AI tools can help you code better and faster. Tools like GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT understand your instructions and can write code for you.
  • GitHub Copilot is made for coding. It’s designed specifically for coding projects and works right inside your code editor.
  • ChatGPT is more like a helpful friend. It’s great for chatting about code but not as reliable for creating perfect code by itself.
  • Try the free trials! You can see if you like GitHub Copilot before paying. Students might even get it for free.
  • AI and coding are a powerful combo. They can help you learn to code, get projects done faster, and even fix errors in your code.
  • This is just the beginning. AI coding tools are still new, so expect even more amazing things in the future!

GitHub Copilot

Github Copilot was developed by Github and OpenAI, so, pretty much by Microsoft, as both companies are partially or totally owned by the Bill Gates empire. It was released over two years ago, and its goal is to help people to code with Python, JavaScript, TypeScript, Ruby and Go (it supports other languages but is mostly efficient with those). As you see, there’s no need to take sides here, as both ChatGPT and Github Copilot work hand in hand with OpenAI resources, mainly the OpenAI Codex. The OpenAI codex uses ChatGPT features to be able to understand what the user wants. That’s how it manages to code stuff even if you’re not so clear about what you want.

The strengths and limitations of GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT

GitHub Copilot VS ChatGPT

Image credit: OpenRelay

If we compare Github Copilot to ChatGPT, there are some obvious differences:

ChatGPT is a general-purpose language model designed to assist with a wide range of language tasks, including but not limited to coding. GitHub Copilot is specifically focused on assisting developers with coding tasks. It provides code completions, suggestions, and snippets directly within the development environment.

The training data is also different. ChatGPT was trained on a diverse dataset that includes a broad range of text from the internet, books, articles, and more. It’s not specifically tailored to code. GitHub Copilot is trained on a vast amount of code repositories, along with natural language data related to programming. Its training is specifically focused on understanding and generating code.

The user interface of ChatGPT isn’t optimized to work with code, but it’s great for regular text conversations. In an ideal world of software development, we would have something that looks like GitHub Copilot, talks like ChatGPT, and can manage projects as well.

Now that we have that in mind, let’s see what Github Copilot is good at.

Copilot can either be used for solo coders or for bigger companies, and you can have different features based on your needs and the subscription you take monthly. Don’t worry, we will talk about prices later. The main features of Github Copilot are the following:

  • Code creation and improvement (length, security, etc)
  • Helping you 24/7 (You can ask anything coding-related to GitHub Copilot, like a colleague who’s always around)
  • AI-based suggestions to make your code better as you’re writing it
  • Creation of coding documentation (Enterprise subscription only)
  • Work tracking (Github Copilot can see what you worked on, suggest descriptions, testing steps, and more)
  • Integration in other editors (like VS Code, Neovim, Visual Studio or even JetBrains IDE’s)

As you can see, Gthub Copilot has enough features to help you from the beginning to the end of your project. With the Copilot Enterprise subscription, you’ll even have enough features to implement Github Copilot into your company’s workflow.

ChatGPT

If we look at ChatGPT, it’s definitely not as good as helping us code as GitHub Copilot, as we explained earlier. It is still a valuable tool for anyone who wants to learn coding while talking and practicing in the same chat window. ChatGPT is a language model, which means that if you ask it to generate code, it will do so, but it might contain errors, as its main goal is to generate the format you requested, without really checking the output. Even better, if you tell ChatGPT to find a mistake in the code it wrote, it will find one to make you happy, even though the code might actually be correct. As you see here, ChatGPT found a mistake to make the user happy, even though there was initially no mistake.

As you see, ChatGPT isn’t the best with coding. If it finds mistakes that aren’t there, how can you trust it to find real mistakes in the code?

Use cases in real-world scenarios

Let’s look at some specific examples where developers can use the language understanding powers of GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT to make their code better and work together:

Making code automatically

GitHub Copilot can create basic code, complex processes, or even whole sections of code based on how you describe it in everyday language. If you explain what you want, GitHub Copilot can make the code for you, which saves you time and effort.

Help with checking the code

During code checks, Github Copilot can look at pieces of code and give helpful advice to developers. It can find possible mistakes, suggest ways to make the code better, or offer different ideas. This helps make sure the code is of good quality.

Creating instructions

Writing clear instructions is important to keep projects running smoothly. GitHub Copilot can help make instructions by explaining what the code does, giving examples, or making complex ideas easy to understand.

Talking naturally

ChatGPT can act like a regular conversation partner for working with GitHub projects. Developers can ask ChatGPT Plus to do things like search for code, track issues, or manage projects. This makes it easier to work and gets more done.

Using other tools and smarter language systems

To make GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT even better, developers can connect them with other tools and smarter language systems. These tools help GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT understand code better and make even smarter suggestions. By improving these tools over time with more specialized information and feedback, they become more accurate and useful. This makes it easier for developers to handle more complex problems in coding.

Pricing Models

Github Copilot has three different subscription models, Individual, Business and Enterprise, which can be found here: https://github.com/features/copilot. We also added a screenshot here:

Github copilot pricing model

Comparing it to ChatGPT pricing (that you can find here: https://openai.com/chatgpt/pricing) , we can see some differences:

ChatGPT has a free version with unlimited messages (on the 3.5 model), it’s not the case with Github Copilot (there’s a free trial but it requires payment details to be entered). 

ChatGPT has a “Plus” subscription ($20, same as Copilot Business) that includes access to GPT-4, GPT’s creations, and tools like DALL-E, online browsing, voice input and output, and advanced data analysis.

ChatGPT offers a middle option for $25-$30 a month, which includes higher message caps, possibility to create and share GPT’s to your workspace, an admin console, and the right for your chat data to NOT be used to train ChatGPT.

The final option is Enterprise (available through contacting the sales team), and it gives you the following features: Unlimited high speed access to GPT 4, domain verification, analytics, priority support, security and administration features and customer service tools to help you faster.

Now back to Copilot, is there a free option? Yes, for verified students, teachers, and “maintainers of popular open source projects”. As we can find on the website: If you are not a student, teacher, or maintainer of a popular open source project, you can try GitHub Copilot for free with a one-time 30-day trial. After the free trial, you will need a paid subscription for continued use.

The big question now, is it worth it?

Considering that the price for solo use of Github Copilot is about two takeaway coffees a month, and it could help you save a huge amount of time daily, the answer seems pretty obvious here. You can’t get time back, but you can use Github Copilot to get more done, finish your day early, and go do whatever you want with your free time. 

Final thought

In summary, using AI coding tools like GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT has a lot of potential to change how developers write code and work together on GitHub projects. By using these tools to understand language, developers can save time, write better code, and come up with new ideas. And by connecting them with other tools and improving them over time, developers can keep finding new ways to solve problems and make progress in coding. While the technology is “only” a couple years old, there are certainly better things to come and be excited for in the future. And of course, we’ll be here to tell you more about it when it happens!

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