top of page

Your Guide to GitLab Desktop: Everything You Need to Know in 2024

Introduction to GitLab Desktop

GitLab Desktop is the client application that integrates with GitLab, a web-based Git repository manager. It enhances the Git workflow by providing a graphical interface for managing repositories, branches, commits, and merges. This desktop application is designed to simplify the interaction with Git repositories, making version control more accessible to developers of all skill levels.

Key Features and Benefits

GitLab Desktop offers several features that distinguish it from other Git clients:

  1. Graphical Interface: Unlike command-line Git, GitLab Desktop provides a visual representation of repositories and branches, making it easier to navigate and manage projects.

  2. Repository Management: Users can clone, create, and delete repositories directly from the desktop application, streamlining the setup process for new projects.

  3. Branching and Merging: Handling branches and merging changes is simplified with intuitive tools, reducing the complexity of collaborative development.

  4. Commit History: Visualize commit history, compare changes, and revert to previous versions effortlessly, enhancing project traceability and stability.

  5. Integration with GitLab: Seamless integration with GitLab's web interface ensures synchronization between desktop and web versions, enabling consistent project management.

  6. Cross-Platform Compatibility: GitLab Desktop supports Windows, macOS, and Linux platforms, catering to diverse development environments.

Getting Started with GitLab Desktop

To begin using GitLab Desktop, follow these simple steps:

Git Lab

  1. Download and Install: Visit the GitLab website to download the desktop application compatible with your operating system. Install the application following the setup instructions provided.

  2. Authenticate with GitLab: Upon launching GitLab Desktop, log in to your GitLab account to synchronize your repositories and access project data.

  3. Clone a Repository: Clone an existing repository from GitLab or create a new one directly from the desktop interface. This step initializes your local copy of the project.

  4. Branching and Committing: Create branches to work on specific features or fixes. Make changes to files, commit them with descriptive messages, and push your commits to the remote repository.

  5. Collaborate and Merge: Collaborate with team members by pulling their changes, reviewing merge requests, and resolving conflicts using GitLab Desktop's integrated tools.

Installation Methods for GitLab: Official and Unofficial Approaches

GitLab, a comprehensive DevOps platform, offers various installation methods tailored to different environments and needs. These methods are divided into official, supported installations and unofficial, unsupported installations. Understanding the nuances of these approaches helps users choose the best option for their specific use cases.

Official, Supported Installation Methods

  1. DockerDocker provides a streamlined way to deploy GitLab using containerization technology. Official GitLab Docker images are maintained to ensure compatibility and ease of use. Docker allows for quick setup, scaling, and management of GitLab instances, making it a popular choice for those familiar with container orchestration. Users can follow the detailed install instructions provided by GitLab to deploy and manage their GitLab instances via Docker effectively.

  2. Reference ArchitecturesGitLab’s reference architectures offer recommended deployment topologies that cater to different scales and needs. These architectures are designed to provide optimal performance, reliability, and scalability for GitLab deployments. By following these architected guidelines, users can ensure that their GitLab instance is deployed in a manner consistent with best practices. Detailed installation instructions help users implement these recommended topologies efficiently.

  3. Installation from SourceFor users who prefer or require direct access to the source files, GitLab provides instructions for installing from source on Debian/Ubuntu systems. This method offers greater control and customization, allowing users to tailor the GitLab installation to their specific requirements. While this approach may be more complex and time-consuming, it provides flexibility for advanced configurations.

  4. GitLab Environment Toolkit (GET)The GitLab Environment Toolkit automates the deployment of GitLab reference architectures using Terraform and Ansible. This toolkit simplifies the process of setting up a robust and scalable GitLab environment by leveraging infrastructure as code (IaC) principles. By following the provided install instructions, users can efficiently deploy GitLab with minimal manual intervention.

Unofficial, Unsupported Installation Methods

  1. Debian Native PackageMaintained by Pirate Praveen, this method involves installing GitLab as a native Debian package. While not officially supported by GitLab, this approach may be suitable for users who prefer using Debian's package management system. Detailed instructions guide users through the installation process.

  2. FreeBSD PackageTorsten Zühlsdorff maintains an unofficial FreeBSD package for GitLab. This method caters to users running FreeBSD systems, providing them with a way to deploy GitLab within their preferred operating environment. Installation instructions are available to assist users in setting up GitLab on FreeBSD.

  3. Arch Linux PackageThe Arch Linux community maintains an unofficial package for installing GitLab on Arch Linux. This method is ideal for Arch Linux enthusiasts who want to integrate GitLab into their system. The community-provided instructions help users navigate the installation process.

  4. Puppet ModuleVox Pupuli offers an unofficial Puppet module for GitLab installation. This approach is useful for users who use Puppet for configuration management and want to deploy GitLab using this tool. Installation instructions provided by Vox Pupuli assist in setting up GitLab with Puppet.

  5. Ansible PlaybookJeff Geerling maintains an unofficial Ansible playbook for GitLab installation. This method is suitable for users who prefer using Ansible for automation and configuration management. The provided instructions guide users through deploying GitLab using this playbook.

  6. GitLab Virtual Appliance (KVM)OpenNebula provides an unofficial GitLab virtual appliance for KVM environments. This method is designed for users who prefer deploying GitLab as a virtual appliance within their KVM infrastructure. Detailed installation instructions assist users in setting up GitLab as a virtual appliance.

  7. GitLab on CloudronCloudron offers an unofficial method for deploying GitLab via the Cloudron App Library. This approach is convenient for users who manage applications using Cloudron. The provided instructions help users install and manage GitLab within the Cloudron environment.

Advanced Features and Tips

Explore these advanced features to maximize your GitLab Desktop experience:

  • Issue Tracking: Link commits to GitLab issues directly from the desktop, improving project management and traceability.

  • Extensions and Customizations: Customize GitLab Desktop with extensions and plugins to enhance functionality tailored to your workflow requirements.

  • Automation and CI/CD Integration: Integrate GitLab Desktop with GitLab CI/CD pipelines for automated testing, deployment, and continuous integration workflows.

Key Takeaway

  • User-Friendly Interface: GitLab Desktop offers a graphical interface that simplifies Git repository management compared to command-line tools.

  • Seamless Integration: It integrates smoothly with GitLab's web interface, ensuring synchronization and consistency in project management.

  • Cross-Platform Support: Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux, catering to diverse developer environments.

  • Enhanced Collaboration: Facilitates efficient teamwork through features like branching, merging, and integrated issue tracking.

  • Free and Open-Source: Available for free, aligning with GitLab's commitment to open-source collaboration tools.


GitLab Desktop stands out as a powerful tool for version control, offering a user-friendly interface coupled with robust Git capabilities. Whether you're a solo developer or part of a large team, GitLab Desktop enhances productivity and facilitates efficient collaboration through seamless integration with GitLab repositories. Embrace the future of software development with GitLab Desktop and streamline your workflow today.


Q1: Can I use GitLab Desktop with and self-hosted GitLab instances?

Yes, GitLab Desktop supports both and self-hosted GitLab instances, providing flexibility based on your hosting preferences.

Q2: Does GitLab Desktop support SSH authentication for secure repository access?

Yes, GitLab Desktop supports SSH authentication, ensuring secure communication between the desktop client and GitLab repositories.

Q3: Is GitLab Desktop free to use?

Yes, GitLab Desktop is available for free, aligning with GitLab's commitment to open-source collaboration tools.

Article Sources


bottom of page