All You Need To Know About Automating Release Notes

Automate Your Release Notes

Est Reading Time: 7 min

Devon Bleibtrey

Apr 11, 2020

There are many benefits from maintaining a changelog, like increasing customer feedback, condensing internal update cycles, and having a record of which changes are in what environments.

The release note space is full of articles, packages, and platforms that help you keep a changelog. There are many release note generators that serve various needs as well as many companies who maintain automatic release note creators & release pipelines internally to meet their niche requirements.

To help cut through the noise, we've compiled a list of what's out there. If you find something we don't have listed, let us know so we can update our list.

We want you to pick the right solution for your team, so if you have questions about different solutions, please ask us, we've used many of these solutions in the past and are happy to let you know what limitations and roadblocks we've seen.

If you want automatic release notes and don't want to maintain them yourself, you can get Next Release integrated for free with a few button clicks by signing up. If you'd like support with your optimizing your developer operations please pick a time to chat that works for you on our calendar.

DIY Articles on Automating Release Notes

If you're a do it yourselfer, there are plenty of articles to help you get started. Here are a few to get you on the right track to build an automatic release note generator that follows some of the industry's best practices.

Automatic Release Note Creators

Commit Guidelines

Some teams focus on making each commit message follow a style guide or specific format. There are a handful of guides and standards that you can utilize instead of implementing your own if you believe it benefits your team.

We recommend that you avoid this approach, and instead use a feature or use case level identifier such as a branch, pull request, or ticket from your project management system. We recommend against it because:

  • Tracking to the commit results in overly technical release notes that are no different than publishing a commit log (Friends don't let friends dump git logs into changelogs).
  • A single commit rarely encompasses a full bug fix, feature, or breaking change.
  • Although good commit formatting practices are important, adding commit level audits can place an undue burden on developers

Commit Level Audits

Depending on the granularity you're looking for in your release notes, there are a couple of packages to help you enforce commit level formatting. These are great if your team sees every commit as something they would like noted in a release note. However, as stated above, we'd caution against implementing these for your team without good reason.

Release Management Workflows

When building out an automatic release note generator, the workflow you use for releasing software has a significant impact on when and how you cut release notes. If you have a simple workflow such as OneFlow, you might only have a single release note feed where you generate a new release note, each new feature. If you use a more complex workflow and have multiple environments you're deploying changes to, you'll probably want to be cutting release notes each time a new version of the software deploys into any of the environment. That way, you can track what updates are where and notify the appropriate parties that need to take action on that new release.

Versioning

There are many things to weigh when selecting how to version your software. What workflow you're using, how many environments do you have, what is the standard for the language you're developing in, how do other groups in your organization version things, and many others should all factor into what you choose.

Examples of Release Notes

Lastly, here are a few examples of different release note variations. One big takeaway is to know who the audience of your release notes is. If you're targeting mainstream customers, you'll want to ensure you're focused at a high level about how this release impacts them and provide images, videos, and other flare that develops your brand. If your target audience is developers, it's better to keep it minimalistic, limiting to bullet points indicating what breaking changes, improvements, new features, and bug fixes the release includes.

If you'd like release notes like these, you can sign up for our Performance Notes, and we'll help you and your team improve the throughput and stability of your pipeline.

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