An ode to releasing software

There is one particular moment in every Free and Open Source Software project: it’s the time when the software is about to get released. The software has been totally frozen of course, QA tests have been made, all the lights are green; the website still needs to be updated with the release notes, perhaps some new content and of course the stable builds have to be uploaded. The release time is always a special one.

The very day of the release, there is some excitement and often a bit of stress. The release manager(s), as well as everyone working on the project’s infrastructure are busy making sure everything is ready when the upload of the stable version of the software, binaries and source, has been completed. In many cases, some attention is paid to the main project’s mirror servers so that the downloads are fluid and work (mostly) flawlessly as soon as the release has been pushed and published.

The LibreOffice project has released it’s latest incarnation from its Fresh branch, the 5.2.3 somewhat recently and it is amazing to see the pace of improvements and changes that have been taking place not just since the beginning of the project in 2010, but from one major release to another. Needless to say, there’s always much excitement going on on a LibreOffice release day. Recently the project decided to communicate more about the upcoming changes and features in its next majro branch, the 5.3.x. It is a smart move, and it will be useful as it seems that we need to reinforce our message about new features and changes in user interface.

Here again, one is amazed by looking at the sheer amount of changes and improvements brought by one major version to another. It is not only new features, interface changes, it is also an important number of bugs that have been squashed. On a more human point of view, this is also the collective adventure of a community of contributors that culminates the day of a release. To experience such a day is quite unique.

Yet the joys and excitement of releasing a new version are not confined to the LibreOffice project. It really is a shared experience across the Free and Open Source world. This week for instance, the mu email “client” and indexer have been released in a new stable version. Many improvements both in the search and indexing capabilities as well as the interface have been integrated. The release is technically easier than LibreOffice. There is less code and disk space of course, but everything pretty much happens on GitHub. Then it is a matter of publishing the news and the release notes. But the excitement is stil there, still the same for the contributors. And to make before Christmas does also add something special to the season.

“The Release date is coming, let it snow let it snow let it snow!”

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