GitHub Codespaces

Kenny DuMez
Kenny DuMez
Graphite software engineer

GitHub Codespaces provides a fully-featured, cloud-based development environment that can be configured to closely match your local development setup. It allows developers to quickly spin up a development environment from any branch, commit, or pull request on GitHub. The service integrates seamlessly with GitHub, facilitating immediate access to repositories and automated setup processes that replicate your local environment.

GitHub Codespaces runs on virtual environments hosted in the cloud. When you open a codespace, it automatically clones the repo, sets up the environment with dependencies and extensions based on the project's configuration (typically defined in a .devcontainer file), and provides a powerful editor with a Visual Studio Code interface. This environment is accessible through a web browser or through the VS Code editor via an extension.

GitHub Codespaces pricing varies based on several factors:

  • Computing power: The cost depends on the type of virtual machine (VM) and the resources like CPU and RAM allocated to your codespace.
  • Usage time: Charges are based on how long the codespace is active, billed per-minute. This includes the time when the codespace is open and running, even if it's idle.

As of the latest update:

  • The cost starts at approximately $0.18 per hour for the smallest instance, equipped with 2 cores and 4 GB RAM.
  • Prices increase with more powerful machines, going up to about $2.88 per hour for 32 cores.

GitHub Codespaces is not entirely free. While it offers free hours to users on specific GitHub plans (Teams and Enterprise), users on free or individual plans must pay for the service based on usage and compute needs.

GitHub offers limited free usage of Codespaces for GitHub Team and GitHub Enterprise Cloud plans. Each user on these plans gets a certain amount of free usage hours per month.

For those looking for alternatives to GitHub Codespaces, whether for cost reasons, feature preferences, or integration needs, there are several notable options:

  1. Gitpod: An alternative with a free plan for open-source projects that provides a similar automated, cloud-based development environment. Gitpod integrates well with GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket, offering prebuilt environments that help speed up the coding process.

  2. Amazon Cloud9: A cloud-based IDE that supports several programming languages including Python, JavaScript, and PHP. Amazon Cloud9 provides a direct integration with AWS services, making it a good choice for developers working in the AWS ecosystem.

  3. Codeanywhere: A cross-platform cloud IDE supporting a wide array of programming languages and a Docker-powered environment, Codeanywhere can be a cost-effective solution for developers.

For more details on GitHub codespaces pricing, see the official GitHub Codespaces billing page.

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