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20 April 2024 - 7 minutes

What is Copilot: How to Level Up with AI

Copilot could transform your life as a web developer. 

Ironhack - Changing The Future of Tech Education

Artificial Intelligence

AI is revolutionizing the tech industry. And for those already in tech, understanding AI’s impact is crucial in order to be able to thrive and survive in this new paradigm. Tools like Copilot are a prime example of the AI transformation currently happening in the industry: Copilot empowers developers by providing them with intelligent code suggestions whenever they need it. 

It’s a tool that exemplifies how AI can be used not to replace workers, but to make them more productive and creative than ever before. To embrace AI is to understand that the current technologies available to us are but a small step forward towards a future where our efficiency, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities are elevated to new heights, propelling humanity towards new frontiers of innovation and achievement.

What is Copilot?

Copilot is an AI coding assistant developed by GitHub and like many groundbreaking AI tools you may have heard about recently, it’s powered by a generative AI model. In fact, the engineers at GitHub worked directly with the engineers at OpenAI to assess and customize different models until they created one that fit their needs. 

There is always room for improvement with AI models and the teams at GitHub and OpenAI are still working on tweaking existing models and testing new models as they come out in order to provide developers with the best possible coding assistant (and stay ahead of the competition!). 

Copilot & artificial intelligence

GitHub has a team of researchers and engineers whose job it is to improve developer experience. In the past, they’ve worked on features such as automatically alerting developers when their code contained a vulnerability, creating a CI/CD platform in the form of GitHub Actions, or the “releases” feature, which allowed developers to track a project history better than ever before. 

As a company that builds tools for developers, GitHub has a vested interest in providing services that improve developer productivity. At one point or another, every developer has wanted a coding assistant—but never before has it been possible to create one. In lieu of a coding assistant, developers have thought up different ways of improving their productivity and overcoming writer’s block, bettering the code quality of a project:

  • Rubberducking: this is exactly what it sounds like! With this method, a developer talks through a problem with a rubber ducky. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a rubber ducky—the object is only a tool to facilitate thinking and talking through a problem out loud.

  • Pair programming: with this method, two developers code together on the same computer at the same time. The developers can bounce ideas off one another as well as learn new things from each other, especially when a senior developer pairs with a junior developer.

  • Code review: sometimes called a peer review, this technique involves developers who were not involved in authoring the code inspecting any new additions and how they interact with the existing code base. Nowadays, this is mostly done inside software like GitLab or GitHub, but it can also be done by hand, line-by-line.

While all these methods have helped countless developers work through all kinds of problems, what they really wanted was a coding assistant who they could call on at any moment and who never ran out of new ideas—what they wanted was Copilot.

Uses of copilot for techies

Copilot can be used in a variety of different editors, including Visual Studio Code and JetBrains IDEs such as IntelliJ or PyCharm. And while it’s very helpful in making additions to your existing codebase since it can analyze what has already been created and suggest changes that make sense in context, it can also be used to create boilerplate code to help you get started quickly! Here’s how those in different roles and fields are using Copilot today:

  • Data scientist: the role of a data scientist is to collect, analyze, and interpret data—it just so happens that Python is usually the best way of performing such a task. However, a data scientist is not usually a coding expert. Now, with Copilot, a data scientist can type a comment such as “what is the average cost of the items in this dataset” and the code for performing that analysis is generated in real-time!

  • Frontend web developer: the world of frontend web development is changing by the minute! There is always a new technology or library to learn and it can be hard to keep up. Now, with Copilot, a frontend developer can simply ask, “What’s the most popular library for fetching data from a GraphQL server?” Copilot will then give library suggestions and provide code that actually performs the request.

  • CS student: when you’re first learning how to program, it can be quite difficult to know where to start! With Copilot, you can simply give a class a descriptive name, such as “” and get code showing you exactly how to generate a fibonacci sequence in Python. No longer will you have to spend countless hours doing research on a new language before you can start using it to solve real problems! With that said, there’s no better learning tool than hands-on practice—Copilot is meant to enhance learning, not replace it.

Get Your Copilot Doubts Answered

Still have some burning questions? Not for long:

Is Copilot the same as ChatGPT?

No, however, both are powered by a large language model (LLM). They are similar in the sense that they are both generative AIs: they can create novel responses to a user’s prompt. However, they were trained on different sets of data and are good at different things. Copilot is a great coding assistant while ChatGPT is a fantastic assistant for more general tasks.

Is Copilot free?

Copilot is free for students, teachers, and maintainers of popular open source projects. Otherwise, developers can sign up for a 30-day free trial, after which they can purchase a subscription to Copilot for $10 per month or $100 per year (current as of March 2024).

What programming languages does Copilot support?

Copilot supports a wide range of languages, including Python, Javascript, Ruby, Go, and many more. With that said, users should be aware that Copilot is an LLM and therefore is better at things for which it has more data. This means that Copilot may give better, more detailed solutions for problems in popular languages like Java than for lesser-used languages like Erlang.

How do I start learning how to use Copilot? 

There are so many ways to learn how to use Copilot! Like many tools, a good way of learning is simply by doing! Try starting a free trial and using the Copilot plugin in your favorite IDE. If you are looking for more personalized and direct instructions, however, there are quite a few resources online that can help guide you through your first days using Copilot.

For those ready to take the next step towards advancing their artificial intelligence skill set and mastering tools such as Copilot, consider Ironhack’s brand-new AI school, designed specifically for techies who are looking to capitalize on all that artificial intelligence has to offer and make them even more competitive candidates. 

Ready to use AI to take your skills to the next level? Ironhack is waiting for you. 

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