Writing Release Notes

Aaron Meurer edited this page Sep 18, 2018 · 13 revisions

Writing Release Notes

Release Notes are very important. They let users know for each release what major changes were in that release. They also alert users to potential backwards incompatibilities.

The SymPy release notes have two components, the automated parts of the release notes, and the manually written parts.

Release Notes from Pull Request Descriptions

Starting with SymPy 1.2.1, every pull request to SymPy must include the release notes entry in its description. The pull request template (the text that appears in the description automatically when the PR is created) has a block

<!-- BEGIN RELEASE NOTES -->

<!-- END RELEASE NOTES -->

You should write release notes entry between these two lines. An example release notes entry would look like

<!-- BEGIN RELEASE NOTES -->
* solvers
  * added a new solver for logarithmic equations

* functions
  * fixed a bug with log of integers
<!-- END RELEASE NOTES -->

Each header should be a submodule name and below it a Markdown list of changes for that submodule.

If there is no release notes entry, write NO ENTRY. See the text below for when a pull request should have no release notes entry.

<!-- BEGIN RELEASE NOTES -->
NO ENTRY
<!-- END RELEASE NOTES -->

There is a bot that automatically checks the PR description when a PR is opened or when it is edited to see if the release notes are valid.

The release notes should be formatted with headers for each submodule that is changed, or other if the change is unrelated to a submodule. The list of allowed submodules is in the sympy-bot repo, and it should be updated if a new submodule is added. Note that the physics module is split into submodules, like physics.quantum, physics.mechanics, and so on.

You can add multiple entries per pull request, although most pull requests should only require one entry.

Both the author of the pull request and reviewers should feel free to edit the release notes in the pull request description. Also, you should feel free to edit the release notes file on the wiki after the bot is run to make any updates (this is why we keep the release notes on the wiki).

The bot should guide you to write the release notes in the correct format. If you find any bugs, or see any ways it could be improved, open an issue. The bot is still new, so there are many ways it could still be improved.

One note about the bot: when the pull request description is edited, the bot reruns automatically and edits its existing comment, to avoid spamming the PR with comments. However, GitHub does not automatically refresh this comment on the page. You will need to reload your browser to see the latest status.

Once the pull request is merged, the bot will automatically add the entry to the release notes. If the bot fails for some reason, they will need to be added manually. The bot should write a comment indicating that it failed, but it is worth double checking the notes to see if it worked, since the bot is still new and likely has bugs.

The bot should only take a few seconds to run any operation, so if you do not see an update from it, there is likely a bug. Please open an issue and we will analyze the Heroku logs to see what is going on.

What Makes a Good Release Notes Entry?

The most important thing to remember when writing a release notes entry is that it is intended for end users of SymPy, not its developers. The 1.2 release notes provide many good examples of release notes entries. In general, the following guidelines should be followed:

  1. Changes that are very minor, such as typo fixes or fixes that do not affect end users of SymPy do not need release notes entries. In this case, just add NO ENTRY to the pull request description under <!-- BEGIN RELEASE NOTES --> to appease the bot. Examples of things that do not need release notes entries include

    • Typo fixes
    • Changes to documentation (unless they are major)
    • Changes to tests
    • Changes to "developer files" (files that are not included in the release tarball)
    • Refactorings that do not affect end-user behavior (bug fixes and performance improvements do affect end-user behavior and should have release notes entries)
  2. Release notes entries should be very short. Typically they should be no more than a single sentence. Every release notes entry automatically links back to the pull request, so you can add more in depth details to the pull request description for people who want to read more. To get an idea of how short a typical entry should be, consider making your pull request title the same as or similar to your release notes entry.

    SymPy releases tend to contain hundreds of merged pull requests, so keeping the entries short makes the release notes file manageable.

    Even so, release notes entries should be complete sentences.

  3. Do not include the pull request number or author names. The SymPy Bot will add theses to the entry automatically.

  4. Write release notes in a way that can be understood by end-users of SymPy. Do not reference implementation details that end-users would not know about. If it helps, add a small code example to the entry.

    For example,

    BAD

    * core
      * Make `AppliedUndef.is_number = False`

    GOOD

    * core
      * make `f(1).is_number` give False, where `f = Function('f')`

    If a change fixes a bug, sometimes the best release notes entry is just "fixed a bug in the X function", or something similar.

  5. Do not reference issue numbers in the release notes entry. These should be included in the pull request description, but not the release notes entry. The bot will automatically add a link to the pull request to the entry, so people will be able to find issues if they want.

  6. Only changes since the previous release should be documented. For example, if a feature is added but then subsequently removed or updated, no release notes entry should be added (and any prior entry should be edited directly on the wiki).

  7. Write release notes entries in the past tense. The entries are intended to be read after the change is already merged into master and part of the release.

  8. Phrase the release notes for the wiki. Omit phrases first person like "I have fixed", or references to the pull request like "this pull request fixes". The release notes will appear on the release notes page on the wiki, so they should be written from that point of view.

Highlights

At the top of the release notes are highlights for the release. These are written by hand. If you have a change or collection of changes that should be highlighted, feel free to edit the release notes entry. For example, a GSoC project whose changes are included in a release should be highlighted.

Backwards Compatibility Breaks and Deprecations

Any backwards incompatible changes or deprecated code should be documented under this section. This also includes deprecated code that has been removed in this release. See the Deprecating policy for more information on how to deprecate things. This section, like the previous one, needs to be edited manually (the bot will not do it for you).

Changes

This is where the bot adds release notes entries from pull requests. Feel free to edit these entries, but keep the formatting intact, or it may confuse the bot, particularly the formatting of submodule headers.

The ## Changes header is very important. It is how the bot finds the beginning of the release notes. If it is missing, the bot will fail and the release notes entry will have to be added manually.

Authors

The list of authors in the release notes is generated automatically by the release script. It is output at the very end, and can be copied to the release notes (a future version may add it automatically).

The ## Authors header is very important in the release notes file. This is how the SymPy Bot finds the end of the release notes when adding new headers. If it is missing, it will fail, and the release notes entry will have to be added manually.

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