Using the GitHub API and PHP to Get Repository Information

By on  

GitHub is an awesome place to host your open source project code. MooTools, Prototype, and jQuery all use GitHub. As you probably know, the MooTools Forge requires your plugins be hosted on GitHub. The only problem with hosting all my MooTools plugins is that I lose traffic when I want people to see my code. Problem solved: use PHP, the GitHub API, and PHP Markdown to display files of my choice on my website.

Our goals with this code will be to:

  • Connect to GitHub via the API to retrieve repository information.
  • Retrieve the content of two files from the repository: a source file and the Markdown file.
  • Cache the information for a given period of time to reduce the load on GitHub.
  • Use PHP Markdown to output a formatted file.

I know that seems like a lot of work but you'll be amazed at how easy the process is.

PHP MarkDown

You may download PHP Markdown at Michel Fortin's website. It's simple and full of features.


The first step is to build a PHP function that will connect to GitHub using cURL:

/* gets url */
function get_content_from_github($url) {
	$ch = curl_init();
	$content = curl_exec($ch);
	return $content;

Next we need to define a few settings:

/* static settings */
$plugin = 'Overlay';
$cache_path = $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'].'/plugin-cache/';
$cache_file = $plugin.'-github.txt';
$github_json = get_repo_json($cache_path.$cache_file,$plugin);

The next step is to create another PHP function that grabs the repository information (JSON-encoded, because I love JSON) -- either fresh from GitHub (by first grabbing the most recent commit hash, then grabbing the contents of the two files) or our local cached information:

/* gets the contents of a file if it exists, otherwise grabs and caches */
function get_repo_json($file,$plugin) {
	$current_time = time(); $expire_time = 24 * 60 * 60; $file_time = filemtime($file);
	//decisions, decisions
	if(file_exists($file) && ($current_time - $expire_time < $file_time)) {
		//echo 'returning from cached file';
		return json_decode(file_get_contents($file));
	else {
		$json = array();
		$json['repo'] = json_decode(get_content_from_github(''.$plugin),true);
		$json['commit'] = json_decode(get_content_from_github(''.$plugin.'/master'),true);
		$json['readme'] = json_decode(get_content_from_github(''.$plugin.'/'.$json['commit']['commits'][0]['parents'][0]['id'].'/Docs/'.$plugin.'.md'),true);
		$json['js'] = json_decode(get_content_from_github(''.$plugin.'/'.$json['commit']['commits'][0]['parents'][0]['id'].'/Source/'.$plugin.'.js'),true);
		return $content;

Once we've acquired the appropriate information, we output the information to screen:

/* build json */
if($github_json) {
	//get markdown
	//build content
	$content = '


'; $content.= '

MooTools JavaScript Class


'; $content.= trim(str_replace(array('',''),'',Markdown($github_json['readme']['blob']['data']))); }

That's all! Now I get the benefit of hosting my code on GitHub but displaying it on my own website. I've created a special WordPress template page to do so and recommend you do too!


Visit my Projects page and click on the "Docs" link for any project. All of the information that comes up on individual project pages comes from GitHub. No more manual page creation!


Recent Features

  • 5 More HTML5 APIs You Didn’t Know Existed

    The HTML5 revolution has provided us some awesome JavaScript and HTML APIs.  Some are APIs we knew we've needed for years, others are cutting edge mobile and desktop helpers.  Regardless of API strength or purpose, anything to help us better do our job is a...

  • CSS Gradients

    With CSS border-radius, I showed you how CSS can bridge the gap between design and development by adding rounded corners to elements.  CSS gradients are another step in that direction.  Now that CSS gradients are supported in Internet Explorer 8+, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome,...

Incredible Demos

  • Create a Download Package Using MooTools Moousture

    Zohaib Sibt-e-Hassan recently released a great mouse gestures library for MooTools called Moousture. Moousture allows you to trigger functionality by moving your mouse in specified custom patterns. Too illustrate Moousture's value, I've created an image download builder using Mooustures and PHP. The XHTML We provide...

  • Event Delegation with MooTools

    Events play a huge role in JavaScript. I can't name one website I've created in the past two years that hasn't used JavaScript event handling on some level. Ask yourself: how often do I inject elements into the DOM and not add an...


  1. Roy Sutton

    Very nice, exactly what I was looking for. I did notice that the last line of get_repo_json() should be return $json instead of return $content.

  2. Hi, nice article.
    I would love to try it, but your demo seems to fail.

  3. […] Github API has a method to render Markdown (PHP example), and DocumentUp can automatically generate  documentation pages/sites from Markdown, so some of […]

  4. […] Using the GitHub API and PHP to Get Repository Information […]

Wrap your code in <pre class="{language}"></pre> tags, link to a GitHub gist, JSFiddle fiddle, or CodePen pen to embed!