GitHub Copilot Chat Beta Opens Up for Everybody

GitHub Copilot Chat has taken another step toward general availability, as GitHub announced a beta offering previously accessible only by team/business customers is now available to individuals.

The tool is an evolution of the original AI-powered "AI pair programmer" that debuted back in 2021 from Microsoft-owned GitHub and started Microsoft's huge Copilot-themed AI assistant push throughout its software. It also helped jump-start the industry forward along with advanced generative AI constructs like ChatGPT from Microsoft partner OpenAI.

GitHub Copilot Chat basically brings together the tech of the original Copilot coding assistant and ChatGPT.

Working in both Visual Studio Code and the Visual Studio 2022 via extensions, it leverages advanced natural language processing (NLP) 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. It also can suggest code snippets, tips and solutions tailored to specific coding challenges.

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

GitHub in March offered a private preview for Visual Studio 2022 and a beta to GitHub Copilot for Business users in July.

Today (Sept. 20), it announced the beta for individual users.

"Integrated together, GitHub Copilot Chat and the GitHub Copilot pair programmer form a powerful AI-assistant capable of helping every developer build at the speed of their minds in the natural language of their choice," GitHub said. "We believe this cohesion will form the new centerpiece of the software development experience, fundamentally reducing boilerplate work and designating natural language as a new universal programming language for every developer on the planet."

In the age of rampant ransomware and other cyber threats, one benefit of the tool is the ability to suggest security patches in order to enhance the overall security of open source projects, which GitHub dubbed "pretty exciting news for the developer community."

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.

To put the tool through its beta paces, users must have an active GitHub Copilot subscription, and VS Code users must have the latest addition and be signed into VS Code with the same GitHub ID that has access to GitHub Copilot.

At this point, the VS Code tool (950K downloads) is being used much more than the Visual Studio 2022 tool, downloaded about 92,600 times.

More information is available in GitHub's "Using GitHub Copilot Chat" documentation.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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