If you have yet to hear of it, Copilot received a lot of hype immediately after its launch. Many devs were wild about how easy it was to use and solve their daily struggle: repetitive tasks. Over the last few months, many discovered that it offered much more and could help speed up processes. But with the conclusion of the free trial, many people are asking themselves: is it worth paying for this service? This article will review some advantages and why you should think twice before pulling your credit card out.
How Copilot works
Specifically, the cloud-based artificial intelligence tool suggests individual lines and entire functions instantly from the context of your comments and code. It’s an in-editor extension that makes suggestions to you, finishes lines, and even suggests entire blocks of code.
It helps you quickly discover other ways to solve problems, write tests, and experiment with new APIs without having to customize an internet search for answers. As you type, it adjusts to how you write code to help you finish your work faster.
Convert comments to code
According to the companies behind this artificial intelligence, the GitHub Copilot algorithm has been trained on billions of lines of code, many of which are also hosted and available on GitHub. The principle of this tool is simple: when you write code to develop a website, GitHub Copilot offers you the following by suggesting code as you type. Of course, you can browse the suggestions to decide whether to accept or reject them.
Here are a few different examples of the uses of the tool. These examples will give you an idea of its versatility:
Autofill repetitive code
GitHub Copilot is an effective way for developers to write repetitive code more quickly. For example, if you’re used to writing copious amounts of boilerplate code, all you need to do is input several examples of the pattern and let the AI tool do the rest.
Here’s a straightforward example to demonstrate how it works:
If you have an array of months, you can set it up, and it immediately fills it in. You may want to alter the full month name to Dec. – it will autofill the pattern for you.
In another example, the constant variable starts with seconds. Once the second line shows the constant as minutes multiplied by seconds, Copilot recognizes the pattern and auto-completes the code for hours, days, weeks, months, and years.
As long as your pattern is predictable, i.e. addresses, time, or age, the suggestion will probably be correct.
At scale, this will shave a ton of time off your programming, especially for larger blocks.
Run tests automatically
Writing tests is a crucial yet dull stage in software development. As we have seen, the AI tool is excellent in pattern recognition and completion and can speed up the process of writing unit tests and more.
Read the last section of this blog to find out more about CoPilot unit testing:
Writing Better Tests with AI and GitHub Copilot – A CodeCov blog post
Is Github Copilot the solution to devs’ repetitive tasks?
In its current state, devs should see Copilot as an intelligent assistant that allows them to lighten their daily life with the coding of basic and repetitive functionalities, quick access to databases via APIs without having to revisit each time documentation, or the automation of certain time-consuming tasks, such as setting up unit tests.
These tools can significantly reduce the cost of IT projects and software development time. They also make it possible to accelerate further the digital transformation we are currently carrying out in all sectors and industries and guarantee the code quality necessary for the continuity and evolution of software projects.
Has Github Copilot shown that code is simpler than we thought?
GitHub Copilot won’t replace you
Indeed, artificial intelligence technologies help developers write code faster, but that’s also without counting all the problems they can introduce. A recent study suggests that 40% of the code offered by GitHub CoPilot contains vulnerabilities and could expose developers using it to produce vulnerable code. Other issues were raised, specifically legal issues or developers working in companies (and writing proprietary code) could introduce code suggested by the AI tool released under an open-source license.
GitHub CoPilot and its competitors provide better developer support and suggestions beyond a single line of code. However, the wizard does not help in the definition of software architecture, in the creation of tests or even in the deployment of an application. These professions are still specific, difficult to automate and require particular skills. And even before automating them, new technologies must emerge (such as software architecture specification, the formalization of specifications and business needs in a form other than natural language).
Use cases in which Copilot is fundamental
Once you’ve installed the extension, code will be suggested as you type, but are there other appealing features? How can you get the most out of GitHub’s extension?
Benefiting non-English speakers
Trained on billions of LOCs, GitHub Copilot transcribes natural language prompts into coding suggestions across many different languages.
If you are learning a new language, or even if you are used to using no-code or low-code tools, this kind of artificial intelligence will be beneficial to you. In other words, even if you are not an expert in web development, if the code is not your primary task, GitHub Copilot can be your best ally and save you time.
It is also a powerful aid when working with unfamiliar frameworks with less API knowledge. Your autonomy grows even if you need to control what is written and still have to read the doc. In short, tedious tasks tend to disappear, and devs can focus on what is valuable.
How can I get a free license for Copilot?
GitHub recently announced that Copilot is now available to all developers and will cost $10/month after a free trial. There are several ways you can get a free licence.
If you’re heavily contributing to open-source by creating libraries or fixing bugs in existing commonly used libraries, you will already be familiar with GitHub, and if you try to select the subscription, it should be free of charge for you.
If you’re a student enrolled in a high school, college, or university, you can also access GitHub Copilot free of charge. The company will validate your education details so if you provide the correct information, you will get free access.
You might be eligible to apply for a free licence under the student category if you’re enrolled in a part-time course.
Finally, if any of the steps are not appropriate for you, there are multiple open-source alternatives to GitHub Co-pilot,
As a developer, you always meet deadlines, and what better than a coding buddy that suggests LOCs and auto-fills repetitive code to get your work done on time?
Copilot shows initial promise in its early stages, but even its developers are cautious about its applicability. It admits that sometimes Copilot’s suggestions may need to be clarified or benefit your program. You should always check, test and review any coding suggestions you get from any other AI tool.
Because nothing is perfect, there is always the possibility that Copilot will make a mistake. However, the AI learning tool will make coding much easier for developers. It’s very early to comment on how this will affect the developer community in the long run but in the meantime, it has plenty to offer developers keen to save time on boring and repetitive tasks.