GitHub Actions Cheat Sheet


GitHub Actions is a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) platform that enables automated build, test and deployment pipelines. GitHub Actions also enables the execution of non-CI/CD type automation on a repository, like adding a label when someone creates a new issue on the repository. GitHub Actions supports Linux, Windows and macOS operating systems



Event(s) - A specific activity in a repository that triggers a workflow execution

Workflow(s) - A configurable automated process

  • Made up of one or more jobs
    • Defined by a YAML associated to a repository

      • Found in .github/workflows
      • A given repo can have multiple workflows
    • Runs when:

      • Triggered by an event in a repository
      • Triggered manually
      • Triggered via another workflow (workflows can reference other workflows)
      • Posting to a REST API
      • Per a defined schedule


      • A workflow to build and test pull requests
      • A workflow to deploy your application every time a release is created
      • A workflow to add a label every time someone opens a new issue

Runner(s) - A server that runs your workflows when they are triggered

  • A given runner can execute a single job at a time
  • Ubuntu Linux, Windows and macOS provided (hosted) by GitHub
  • Each workflow runs on a fresh, newly-[provisioned virtual machine
  • Runners come in different configurations to meet specific needs
  • Users can leverage GitHub hosted or self-hosted runners

Job(s) - A set of steps in a workflow that execute on the same runner

  • Each job runs within a virtual machine (runner) OR container

  • Jobs can be configured to depend upon one another

  • Each job contains one or more step(s)

  • Runs when:

    • Invoked within a workflow
    • When the prior / dependent job within the workflow finishes
    • Simultaneously with another job within the workflow
    • In the context of a matrix


    • Separate, unique build jobs for different architectures
    • A packaging job
    • A deployment job

Step(s) - Granular execution of a job

  • Steps can be either a shell script or an Action
  • Data can be shared from one step to another
  • Runs when:
    • Invoked within a job
    • When the prior step finishes Examples:
    • A step that builds your application
    • A step that pushes an artifact to the artifact repository

Action(s) - A custom application for the GitHub Actions platform that performs a complex but frequently repeated task

  • Reduces the amount of repetitive code written in Workflow files
  • Actions can be self-created / customized, or provisioned from the GitHub Marketplace. Examples:
    • Pull a given git repository for GitHub
    • Set up the correct toolchain for a build environment
    • Establish authentication to a cloud provider

That’s all for now. Consider “Intro to GitHub Actions” complete, but there’s a long ways to go and lots more to learn.

Further Read

Understanding GitHub Actions