Complete Newb... probably the dumbest question of the day

I have never used GitHub and I only really know a small bit about Java programming. I would like to start learning to code so I can make a branch (I hope the terminology is right) of this open source software (Celtx). I really liked the program and don’t really like the online version at all. 

My question is what compiler do I use to open it / modify it? I have used Netbeans for the small projects like hello world and variable introductions; but when I open this it doesn’t do anything correctly. Am I even using the correct program to code with?

You have to use an IDE for big project like that, there is an high number of IDE (my preferred to code in java is Eclipse).

The project that you linked is an ensemble of language:

this is not easy to start coding from here.

If you have never used git (and platform GitHub), I suggest you to start from small projects even alone.

Some usefull link for newbie of git and github:

and if you use linux

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You can start here if you like here I’m also learning about git and java, so I think we can match up to learn how to develop software. I’ts a Java project implementing MVC pattern, JavaFX, Maven, JDBC, you might find this a little complicated but is not give it a try. Use Eclipse as IDE and you will be fine.