Release notes/Changelog

Posted on October 17, 2023

Open source software has bought me joys and learnings over the years since I first got introduced to it in the form of Ubuntu back in 2007. I have enjoyed tinkering with various Linux based distributions over the years and learned the power of cli based tools and applications. I kind of became a terminal guy trying to do pretty live in the terminal.

One of the things that I have come to appreciate and like is release notes/changelog. Yes, I know right! what an odd thing to like.

But a simple text file can make the life easy to a large extent for the end user. And in the open source world I view this as a necessity.

To illustrate my point, one of the software that I depend on and use on daily basis is tmux. Tmux is actively developed and best way to know about the new features or to keep up with any breaking change is the changelog/release notes.

I remember a release where there was a config breaking change, which google-ing or stackoverflow either of which could help with. And the solution to my problem was simply going through the changelog of the release.

Open source software don’t have the privilege of great marketing to lament the latest and greatest of the relase. And this where the changelog/release notes shines. Lot of times I also discover new features in software that I use by going through the release notes.

Using tmux as an example, there aren’t a lot of posts out that talk about pop window in tmux. You can think of it as scratchpad for those who are familiar with that concept from xmonad. And for those who are unfamiliar, it is a shortcut to open a mini tmux pane in the existing pane for when you want a short lived pane. I discovered about this feature, by going through the changelog and learning how to set it up in my config. This particular feature has now become part of my tmux workflow.

Now I have gotten into the habit of going through the changelog/release notes for the softwares that use (Especially open source ones). And appreciate it when I come across good release notes/change logs.

In case you are curious here is the change log for tmux: link

Flavors of change log/release notes I have encountered

  1. List of all the commit messages between the current and previous release.
  2. High level list of changes
  3. Splitting the notes into features and bug fixes sections.
  4. Going in depth about new features and how to leverage them.