GitHub Copilot Chat Heralds Speech as 'New Universal Programming Language'

According to GitHub, last week's general availability launch of its Copilot Chat tool heralds the rise of human speech as the new universal programming language.

Copilot debuted in 2021 at the vanguard of the generative AI craze that is changing software development, IT in general and much of the rest of the world. It followed on the heels of OpenAI's breakthrough ChatGPT chatbot. Copilots are now everywhere in Microsoft's and Microsoft-owned GitHub's software offerings, including mainstream applications and even the Windows OS. The "Chat" offering improves on natural language processing (NLP) functionality that lets developers more easily interact with the "AI pair programmer" for a multitude of tasks simply through ordinary human speech.

On Dec. 29, as promised, GitHub Copilot Chat reached GA following November's proclamation during the GitHub Universe event that, "Just as GitHub was founded on Git, today we are re-founded on Copilot."

In last week's announcement, after touting the AI-powered expansion of the company's signature dev platform/code repository, GitHub said, "A core piece of our AI-powered developer platform is GitHub Copilot Chat, which enables the rise of natural language as the new universal programming language."

GitHub Copilot Chat is delivered as extensions for Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio, with the VS Code tool much more popular (nearly 6 million installs compared with 191,183 for the IDE version).

VS Code GitHub Copilot Chat
[Click on image for larger view.] VS Code GitHub Copilot Chat (source: GitHub).
VVisual Studio GitHub Copilot Chat
[Click on image for larger view.] Visual Studio GitHub Copilot Chat (source: GitHub).

It's now included in all GitHub Copilot plans alongside the original tool, and while individual developers and organizations need to pay for the service, it's available for free to verified teachers, students and maintainers of popular open source projects.

GitHub Copilot Chat in Animated Action
[Click on image for larger view.] GitHub Copilot Chat in Animated Action (source: GitHub).

The new Chat offering can be seen as a melding of the tech powering the original Copilot coding assistant and ChatGPT, able to provide answers and support in natural language from supported editors/IDEs without requiring developers to navigate documentation or search online forums. Eliminating such context switching, GitHub said, streamlines the development process and helps developers maintain their focus and momentum. GitHub Copilot Chat also can suggest code snippets, tips and solutions tailored to specific coding challenges.

Other features detailed by GitHub include:

  • Real-time guidance. GitHub Copilot Chat can suggest best practices, tips, and solutions tailored to specific coding challenges -- all in real time. Developers can use GitHub Copilot Chat to learn a new language or upskill at speed.
  • Code analysis. With GitHub Copilot Chat, you can break down complex concepts and get explanations of code snippets.
  • Fixing security issues. GitHub Copilot Chat can make suggestions for remediation and help reduce the number of vulnerabilities found during security scans.
  • Simple troubleshooting. Trying to debug code? GitHub Copilot Chat not only identifies issues, but also offers suggestions, explanations, and alternative approaches.

"Powered by GPT-4, GitHub Copilot Chat is a contextually-aware AI assistant designed specifically for developer scenarios," GitHub said in announcing GA status. "Teams of developers and individuals alike can prompt Copilot Chat in the natural language of their choice -- from German to Portuguese and beyond -- and receive real-time guidance without ever leaving the IDE. From explaining complex coding concepts to detecting security vulnerabilities and writing unit tests, Copilot Chat can help every developer innovate at the speed of thought."

The announcement further details how GitHub developers are using the tool for tasks such as:

  • Seamless translation between programming languages
  • Getting real-time answers to coding questions
  • Instant refreshers on coding practices to free up time for bigger thinking

More information can be found in documentation including "Using GitHub Copilot Chat in your IDE and "About GitHub Copilot Chat."

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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