I know I can log in to GitHub and edit code directly on the site, without cloning the repository.

Is there a way to do something similar via SSH, so that I can edit files using just a console?

Please assume I cannot just clone the code onto my own server.


Git relies on the fact that SSH allows you to execute commands on a remote server.

If you run a command like git clone tom@github.com:username/repo, what Git is doing behind the scenes is SSHing to github.com, authenticating as the tom user, and then remotely executing git upload-pack username/repo. Now your client can talk to that process on the remote server by simply reading and writing over the SSH connection.

Of course, allowing arbitrary execution of commands is unsafe, so SSH includes the ability to restrict what commands can be executed. In a very simple case, you can restrict execution to git-shell which is included with Git. All this script does is check the command that you’re trying to execute and ensure that it’s one of git upload-pack, git receive-pack, or git upload-archive.

So the syntax is:

ssh git@<route> <command> <arg>

For instance:

$ ssh git@github.com "git-upload-pack username/repo.git"
$ ssh git@github.com "git-receive-pack username/repo.git"

So to answer to your question, you can't edit the code over ssh, but you can upload your changes if you know the right syntax.


If you would like to trace which commands are sent to the git server, follow your git command by GIT_TRACE=1 i.e.:

GIT_TRACE=1 git clone git@github.com:username/repo.git

or (Git 2.3.0+):

GIT_SSH_COMMAND="ssh -vv" git clone git@github.com:username/repo.git

Or for the hardcode mode, use strace like:

strace -f -s200 -e execve git clone git@github.com:username/repo.git


See also the following articles:


No, GitHub does not provide interactive SSH access.

$ ssh git@github.com
PTY allocation request failed on channel 0
Hi grawity! You've successfully authenticated, but GitHub does not provide shell access.
Connection to github.com closed.
  • Is there a reference link?
    – phwd
    Nov 23 '11 at 17:34
  • @phwd: Couldn't find any, but that's what the server itself tells you. ssh git@github.com
    – user1686
    Nov 23 '11 at 18:39

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