Best Practices for Versioning | TechRepublic

Software versioning provides a way to quickly identify the state of an API, package, or software product by assigning it a unique name and/or number. Versions help stakeholders track changes to code over time. There are different types of versioning schemes, the most popular being Semantic Versioning (SemVer) proposed by Tom Preston-Werner in 2013.

Regardless of which versioning scheme you use to track your software changes, there are some versioning principles and best practices that developers can follow to make software releases as smooth as possible. In this programming tutorial we will discuss some of them.

Before reading our versioning best practices, check out the tutorial: What is versioning?

Tell users what versioning scheme you’re using

Most users know little to nothing about versioning schemes, so you should let them know what scheme you’re using, what it means, and where to find more information about it. There are several ways to do this. For example, you can include it in your documentation or share the versioning details via your mailing list or other regular company communications. In any case, if you inform your users about your versioning scheme, they can better meet their expectations and not be surprised or alarmed when the version number changes and/or increases. In contrast, failing to educate users about your versioning scheme is likely to result in many unnecessary helpdesk calls—especially when a new version is released.

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Maintain an open list of releases and changes

Think of some of the software you use on a regular basis and there’s a very good chance there’s a published release schedule that relates to it, most likely a webpage on the company’s website. For example, here is Mozilla’s release schedule for the Firefox browser:

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Clicking a version link takes you to a page with more information about that specific version, including release date, what’s new, fixes, changes, developer information, and more.

There are other relevant details that you could share with your users such as: B. Each version’s code name and planned end-of-life (EOL) date, if applicable. The latter is particularly useful for users as it can help them plan expenses and allocate time and resources to upgrading to subsequent versions.

Be consistent and predictable whenever possible

Nobody likes surprises, so the more users know what to expect and when, the better. However, if you can stick to a predefined release schedule, do so. Also, if you decide on a scheduled release schedule for your software, stick to it! You might want to think twice before releasing a release early, just because you’re ready ahead of time, or more likely, have decided to defer some upgrades to a future release. Instead of being happy, users can actually get upset and start considering other product options. The reason is that ignoring your release schedule destroys the trust you have built with your users and severely undermines the benefits of a versioning system.

Consistency and predictability also applies to your version names. While this is not a problem for semantic versioning, other naming schemes can become confusing over time. A good (bad?) example of this would be Microsoft, whose naming conventions for Windows seem to change haphazardly. First there was 1, 2 And 3but then, suddenly without warning, they switched to year for 95, 98And 2000. But for some reason there was a release in between 98 And 2000 called N.T. After 2000Microsoft mysteriously returned to proper names XP And vistabefore finally going back to numeric monikers 7, 8thAnd 10.

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If developers remember to keep their version names boring and their products exciting, they will never go wrong!

Ask your users for their opinion

Once software developers have established a versioning scheme for their organization, how do they know it’s working optimally? If you don’t ask your users, you can never know for sure. Don’t just assume that because you’re using semantic versioning and no one has complained that everything is fine. For reasons you may not be aware of, semantic versioning may not be ideal for your product or users. There may be a better option that you haven’t considered.

Even if your software versioning scheme is “right,” your users can still have a lot to say on topics like scheduling, finding version details, and probably many other concerns that you never considered. Since your software is designed for users, why not let them have their say? This can only help increase user adoption and make them feel part of the development process.

Wherever programmers include release notes, this is a good place to gather opinions and questions from users, including the release list and change pages and email communications. Don’t forget about social media either; It’s the perfect forum to start a discussion about software releases.

Final thoughts on versioning best practices

This programming tutorial has just highlighted some versioning best practices that you can follow to make your releases as smooth as possible. Essentially, it’s about communicating your goals to your users and giving them as much clarity and transparency as possible. When in doubt, more information is always preferable to less or none at all.

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