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Getting Started with Web Programming

TODO: Double check MAMP settings TODO: Double check GitHub desktop app settings. Same for Clone GitHub Repo.

This page describes the steps you need to take to get started with web programming.

If you just want to run programs locally on your computer, you need to:

If you also want to edit and host programs, you also need to:


MAMP is a tool that lets you run a local server on your computer. You will need to use MAMP to run programs locally on a computer.

  • Download and install MAMP:
  • After installing, open MAMP and click Preferences. Select the Ports tab and put "8888" in the box next to Apache and "3306" in the port next to MySQL.
  • To run the local server, simply click Start Servers.

Get a GitHub Account

GitHub is a repository hosting service. It allows you to create repositories, where code is stored, and share code with multiple users. Think of it as Dropbox for code.

  • Go to and create an account
  • Have someone in the lab add you to the lab's account ( or to a particular repository (which will be something like
  • Download the GitHub app from
  • During installation, you will be asked to set a default folder
  • On a Mac, set the default folder to Applications/MAMP/htdocs
  • On a Windows PC, set the default folder to C:\MAMP\htdocs
  • Setting the default folder to "htdocs" will ensure that your GitHub repositories are cloned in the default folder in MAMP

Clone a GitHub Repository

Cloning makes a copy of a GitHub repository locally on your computer. These instructions are for cloning an existing repository. If you are starting a new project, you will need to Create a New Repository.

Via Github Desktop

  • On GitHub, go to the repository you want to clone (e.g.,
  • Click the "Clone or download" button on the right side of the screen. Then click "Open in Desktop". This will launch the GitHub app.
  • Click "Clone" to save the repository in your "htdocs" folder.
  • In the GitHub app, there is a "Sync" button in the top right. Clicking Sync pulls the most recent code from GitHub and pushes any changes you have made locally.

Via Command Line

  • First you need to have git set up.

  • Then you can use git clone.

    git clone <whatever link from github>

  • For more detailed information, check the Github documentation or your search engine of choice.

Run a Program Locally on Your Computer

To run a program locally:

  • Open MAMP and click Start Servers
  • Make sure you have the most recent version of your program by syncing with GitHub
  • Go to the local URL to run the program
  • The URL for a given repository will be http://localhost:8888/RepositoryName/
  • The URL for your particular experiment may be something like the following: http://localhost:8888/RepositoryName/experiment.html
  • If you have multiple experiment folders within a repository, your URL may be something like: http://localhost:8888/RepositoryName/E1/experiment.html

Command Line Based Alternative

If you have node and npm set up already, you may find it easier to use an package like http-server to quickly get an experiment running locally.

# install it globally with npm or yarn etc
npm  i -g http-server

# then run it where experiment.html is located

# if changes aren't updating on refresh, use -c-1 to disable caching
http-server -c-1

# or use npx to avoid a global installation (if you know what you're doing)
npx http-server

Get a Text Editor

You will need a text editor to write and edit code. Popular ones are:

More Technical Stuff

For more information about developing plugins, maintaining websites, and really niche things, check out