GitHub ssh and config with multiple accounts

This process enables automatic username and email recognition for multiple GitHub/GitLab accounts based on local directory location

This post demonstrates how to simplify multiple GitHub or GitLab account management in your local computer. Using a .gitconfig conditional, git will set and based on repository location.


I often need to switch between multiple GitHub and GitLab accounts (e.g. for various personal and work applications). Using ssh keys to avoid repetitive entry of numerous username and password combinations is a must; but, even after you’ve done this, you will have to manually set your git config fields ( and for any git repositories that are not using the default account in your global git config. To avoid this manual entry, you can set up a conditional include in your main .gitconfig file so that git will know which user ID and email to use depending on local repository location.

Use the same ssh key across applications

This is a bit of a sidebar from the git config discussion, but I used to handle my ssh key pairs in an unnecessarily complicated way. For each GitHub account, I was generating a separate ssh pair, and then managing them with separate entries in my ~/.ssh/config file, like this. Then, I read this line from Happy Git with R and 🤯 🤯 🤯

You should probably have one key per computer (I do this). Some people even have one key per computer, per service (I do not do this).

The take-home message: create only one ssh key pair for your machine and your life will be so much easier. No need to make complicated ~/.ssh/config files; just give each GitHub/GitLab account the same public key and you’re done.

Use conditional logic

Now for the cool stuff. Traditionally, I’ve locally stashed GitHub repos in a single project folder; let’s say ~/Desktop/gh-repos/. This works fine for a single account: you do your work and commits will be credited to the and that you establish in your global ~/.gitconfig file (instructions to do this here). If you have multiple accounts though, you’ll have to manually set this identify when you’re working in a repo that does not use the global default. Specifically, I used to do that process like the following, which will modify a .git/config file within your working repo to override the default.

git config 'tgerke'
git config

This is fine, but is an extra step that I don’t love trying to remember (indeed I’ve forgotten and then get undesirable behavior when I commit from the wrong account).

Turns out, there’s a great workaround (credit to the conditional include answer on this SO post). In your global ~/.gitconfig file, you can set up a conditional include which will automatically set your identity, depending on where the repository is located. To get started, create dedicated directories on your local machine for each GitHub account you wish to use. For now, I’ll just create two: ~/Desktop/gh-repos/ for my personal repos (the default identity) and ~/Desktop/gh-repos-work/ for my work account repos (my secondary identity). Now, I put the following in the ~/.gitconfig file:

    name = Travis Gerke
    email =

[includeIf "gitdir:~/Desktop/gh-repos-work/"]
    path = ~/Desktop/gh-repos-work/.gitconfig

This makes my default identity Travis Gerke with email for anywhere I use a git repo on my machine, except when I’m in the ~/Desktop/gh-repos-work/ directory. When a repository is stored in this folder, git uses the separate ~/Desktop/gh-repos-work/.gitconfig file, in which I entered my work credentials like so:

    name = tgerke
    email =

Now you’re all set: just put your repos in the right directories, and let the config files do the rest. 😀

Published by on in R and tagged GitHub and tips using 597 words.