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7.3 Making Releases

You should identify each release with a pair of version numbers, a major version and a minor. We have no objection to using more than two numbers, but it is very unlikely that you really need them.

Package the distribution of Foo version 69.96 up in a gzipped tar file with the name foo-69.96.tar.gz. It should unpack into a subdirectory named foo-69.96.

Building and installing the program should never modify any of the files contained in the distribution. This means that all the files that form part of the program in any way must be classified into source files and non-source files. Source files are written by humans and never changed automatically; non-source files are produced from source files by programs under the control of the Makefile.

The distribution should contain a file named README with a general overview of the package:

Naturally, all the source files must be in the distribution. It is okay to include non-source files in the distribution along with the source files they are generated from, provided they are up-to-date with the source they are made from, and machine-independent, so that normal building of the distribution will never modify them. We commonly include non-source files produced by Autoconf, Automake, Bison, flex, TeX, and makeinfo; this helps avoid unnecessary dependencies between our distributions, so that users can install whichever versions of whichever packages they like. Do not induce new dependencies on other software lightly.

Non-source files that might actually be modified by building and installing the program should never be included in the distribution. So if you do distribute non-source files, always make sure they are up to date when you make a new distribution.

Make sure that all the files in the distribution are world-readable, and that directories are world-readable and world-searchable (octal mode 755). We used to recommend that all directories in the distribution also be world-writable (octal mode 777), because ancient versions of tar would otherwise not cope when extracting the archive as an unprivileged user. That can easily lead to security issues when creating the archive, however, so now we recommend against that.

Don’t include any symbolic links in the distribution itself. If the tar file contains symbolic links, then people cannot even unpack it on systems that don’t support symbolic links. Also, don’t use multiple names for one file in different directories, because certain file systems cannot handle this and that prevents unpacking the distribution.

Try to make sure that all the file names will be unique on MS-DOS. A name on MS-DOS consists of up to 8 characters, optionally followed by a period and up to three characters. MS-DOS will truncate extra characters both before and after the period. Thus, foobarhacker.c and foobarhacker.o are not ambiguous; they are truncated to foobarha.c and foobarha.o, which are distinct.

Include in your distribution a copy of the texinfo.tex you used to test print any *.texinfo or *.texi files.

Likewise, if your program uses small GNU software packages like regex, getopt, obstack, or termcap, include them in the distribution file. Leaving them out would make the distribution file a little smaller at the expense of possible inconvenience to a user who doesn’t know what other files to get.

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