Streamlined Steps – A Guide to Running GitHub Actions Manually for Maximum Control




GitHub Actions is a powerful automation tool that allows developers to streamline their software development workflows. By automating various tasks and processes, GitHub Actions helps teams save time and effort while increasing productivity. While automatic execution of GitHub Actions is convenient and efficient, there are situations where manual execution may be required. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of running GitHub Actions manually and learn how to set up and execute them manually when necessary.

Understanding GitHub Actions

Before diving into the specifics of manual execution, let’s gain a general understanding of GitHub Actions. At its core, GitHub Actions is a workflow automation tool integrated directly into the GitHub platform. It allows developers to define custom workflows that are triggered in response to various events, such as a push to a repository or the creation of a pull request.

GitHub Actions workflows can be executed automatically or manually. Automatic execution relies on predefined triggers, while manual execution allows developers to trigger workflows on-demand, providing more flexibility when it comes to controlling the workflow execution.

Setting up GitHub Actions for Manual Execution

To enable manual execution of GitHub Actions, we need to configure workflows accordingly. Here are the steps to set up GitHub Actions for manual execution:

Configuring workflows

The first step in setting up GitHub Actions for manual execution is to create a new workflow file within your repository. This workflow file defines the steps and actions to be executed when the workflow is triggered. By defining explicit triggers, we can control when the workflow should execute manually.

Within the workflow file, we need to specify the job and step configurations. Jobs define the different tasks that make up the workflow, while steps represent the individual actions to be performed within each job. By organizing our workflow into jobs and steps, we can create more granular and manageable automation processes.

To specify manual triggers for our workflows, we use the “on” keyword followed by the desired event, using the “workflow_dispatch” event to indicate manual execution. This ensures that the workflow only executes when triggered manually, either through the GitHub web interface or via the GitHub API.

Defining required inputs

In some cases, our workflows may require specific input values to execute properly. To handle this, we can define input parameters within our workflow configurations. Input parameters allow us to pass information to our workflow at runtime, providing flexibility and customization.

When defining input parameters, it’s important to understand their purpose and provide default values when possible. Default values allow the workflow to run without requiring user input, while still allowing users to override those values when needed. It’s also a good practice to provide clear and concise instructions to users for input prompts, facilitating a smooth execution process.

Running GitHub Actions Manually

With our workflows and input configurations in place, let’s explore how to execute GitHub Actions manually. The following steps outline the process:

Navigating to the Actions tab

To start the manual execution of a GitHub Action workflow, navigate to the “Actions” tab within your repository on GitHub. This tab provides an overview of all the workflows configured for your repository, including details on their execution history.

Selecting the desired workflow

Once you’re on the Actions tab, locate and select the workflow you want to execute. This step allows you to review the workflow options and details before triggering the manual execution.

By selecting a specific workflow, you can access additional information about the workflow, such as the branch or event that triggers it. This gives you more control over the execution context and ensures that your workflow runs on the desired branch or event.

Providing input values (if applicable)

If your workflow requires input values, you will be prompted to provide them before the execution begins. Depending on the configuration, you can either enter the input values manually or use environment variables to populate them. It’s important to validate the input values and handle any potential errors that may occur during this step.

GitHub provides a user-friendly interface for entering input values, making it easier for developers to interact with and trigger the workflows. By leveraging environment variables, you can automate the input process further, eliminating the need for manual input in certain scenarios.

Monitoring and Troubleshooting

After triggering the manual execution of a GitHub Action workflow, it’s important to monitor its progress and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. Here are some tips for effective monitoring and troubleshooting:

Monitoring workflow progress

The Actions tab provides real-time updates on the progress of your workflow execution. You can track the status of each step, ensuring that all actions are completed successfully. This visibility allows you to identify potential errors or failures early on and take corrective actions promptly.

Additionally, GitHub Actions provides detailed logs and outputs for each step in the workflow. By reviewing these logs, you can gain insights into the execution process and identify any potential bottlenecks or areas for improvement.

Debugging issues and errors

In case of issues or errors during the execution of a GitHub Action workflow, it’s essential to analyze the error messages and take appropriate action. GitHub provides detailed error messages and stack traces, helping you pinpoint the root cause of the problem quickly.

To address issues, you may need to modify your workflow configurations. By iterating on your workflows and making adjustments based on the error messages, you can improve the reliability and efficiency of your automation processes.

Best Practices for Running GitHub Actions Manually

To make the most out of manual execution of GitHub Actions, consider the following best practices:

Delimiting execution scope

GitHub Actions allows you to select specific workflows or jobs for manual execution, enabling you to focus on specific tasks or processes. By delimiting the execution scope, you can avoid unnecessary execution and optimize the utilization of resources.

Additionally, you can limit the execution of workflows to specific branches or pull requests. This ensures that the workflows run in the appropriate context and reduces the risk of unintended changes to your codebase.

Complementing automated triggers

While automated triggers are a powerful feature of GitHub Actions, manual execution can be beneficial in certain scenarios. By utilizing manual execution for specific situations, such as ad hoc builds or testing on-demand, you can supplement your automated workflows and gain more control over your software development processes.

Furthermore, consider coordinating GitHub Actions with other automation tools in your tech stack. By integrating GitHub Actions with external tools, you can leverage their capabilities and create a more comprehensive and efficient automation ecosystem.

Collaborating with team members

As GitHub Actions are often used within team environments, it’s crucial to facilitate collaboration and communication. Share workflow details and usage instructions with your team members, ensuring that everyone understands how to trigger and interact with the workflows manually.

Code reviews and approvals are an integral part of the software development process. When running GitHub Actions manually, encourage your team members to review and approve the workflows, ensuring that they conform to the established standards and best practices of your organization.


In conclusion, running GitHub Actions manually provides developers with greater flexibility and control over their automation processes. By configuring workflows for manual execution, defining required inputs, and following best practices, teams can optimize their software development workflows and streamline their collaboration efforts.

If you haven’t already, give manual execution of GitHub Actions a try. Alongside the benefits of automated triggers, manual execution allows for ad hoc and on-demand automation, giving you more power and control over your development processes. Explore the resources provided by GitHub to learn more about GitHub Actions and unlock the full potential of your software development workflows.



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