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Understanding GitHub Codespaces

What is GitHub Codespaces?🔗

Codespaces is a coding environment hosted online by GitHub. Codespaces can be accessed via your web browser without any additional installation.

A codespace provides:

  • a "virtual machine" — a computer running as software inside another computer — that is hosted by GitHub
  • a Visual Studio Code environment for editing your project and running commands

When you open a codespace in browser, you get access to the Visual Studio Code environment. Through that interface, you can run commands inside the codespace's virtual machine. This is just as if it were a real desktop or laptop that you were working on, except this virtual machines has been configured for OpenSAFELY use.

The OpenSAFELY research template contains a GitHub Codespaces configuration to allow you to run OpenSAFELY without any installation required on your own computer.

This removes the need to have anything other than a web browser installed to work on OpenSAFELY projects.

GitHub provide users with a free monthly quota of Codespaces use.

Understanding GitHub Codespaces billing🔗

GitHub gives all users a free and decent-sized monthly quota for Codespaces. This is accessible without a paid account. See GitHub's pricing details.


You will not get billed for using Codespaces, unless you both:

  • set a Codespaces spending limit
  • and add a payment method

Without billing configured, you will not get invoiced or charged.

If you run out of free quota, GitHub can only block you from using Codespaces until the next monthly cycle starts.


Approved OpenSAFELY users working on projects in the GitHub opensafely organization can request to use Codespaces for those projects.