GitKraken (Beta) - First impressions

The fine folks at Axosoft were kind enough to give me a beta access to their new and upcoming product (?) GitKraken. Since they’re being pretty rad, I decided to go ahead, try it out and whip out a quick article with my first impressions.

GitKraken is a graphical git client based on web technologies. The blog announcement claims that this client is “an app that was made for devs—with efficiency, elegance, simplicity and reliability at the core”. In my opinion that’s a bold statement that needs to be examined so let’s give it a try.

Quick overview

Right off the bat, GitKraken wins a lot of points for being cross-platform. Being able to use the same tool on multiple OS’s is pretty important, especially if your workflow involves cross-platform development.

As of now, the software is provided as a Mac OS X .dmg, a Windows installer (an .exe surprisingly, not a .msi), a debian package and a tarball (.tar.gz). Both linux builds are in 64 bit with 32 bit builds and .rpm packages coming soon.

Since I’m running Arch Linux, I extracted the tarball, ran the the gitkraken executable and here we go…

So right away it’s phoning home. To be fair that’s almost expected, I remember Atom doing pretty much the same thing when it was still in beta as well. I hope this goes away as soon as it hits its first major release.

Once you’re authenticated, GitKraken will take you on a little tour showing you all the interesting features it offers at the moment. This is a nifty feature that more GUI clients should take some inspiration off.

As expected, you’ll find the possibility to use your GitHub and BitBucket accounts to get a full list of the repos you can clone.

A pretty cool aspect of the configuration process is that on linux (and I assume on Mac OS X) it uses your local ssh and git configuration. I do enjoy that approach and I love the fact that you can turn it off too.

Overall, the interface is beautiful. The promise of a “responsive” UI is kept and well executed. The layout of the main view will adapt itself to the size of the containing window.

The most important actions are easily accessible and some commands are sometimes grouped together for efficiency, the undo button is pretty cool too.

By default, GitKraken uses a dark theme and you can enable a lighter theme if you want to. I expect these themes to be customizable.

When creating a new repository, you also have the possibility to pick a license. That’s pretty nifty for open source projects even though it lacks the wizard license.


Now while I understand that this is still beta quality, there is one thing I really miss for my usual workflow: Submodules.

That’s something I really need and will miss if I decided to move to GitKraken. Other GUI clients support it and by not having it, GitKraken fails at “having all the things”.

Being essentially a webapp, GitKraken seems to react quite poorly to my tiling window manager. ctrl + R seemed to “refresh” the window. This is kind of a weird behavior for a desktop application. Then again, maybe it’s due to the fact that this is still in beta.

Parting thoughts

Overall, I’d say that GitKraken is off to a good start. While it is by no means completed, I’m curious to see it grow. As of now, I don’t think I can consider it as a real contender with other clients until it supports submodules.

It’s especially impressive to see the quantity of features present for what is essentially a bundled webapp. To me that’s as impressive as Atom and Visual Studio Code even if I’m not exactly sure these particular examples are relevant.

While I understand that, as of now, this software is in closed beta, I’m also concerned by the licensing aspect of the project. Being developed by Axosoft I guess this software will end up as a literal product, I just hope that the pricing will be competitive compared to insanely expensive clients like Tower or SmartGit.

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