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9.4 Test Releases

When you release a greatly changed new major version of a program, you might want to do so as a pretest. This means that you make a tar file, but send it only to a group of volunteers that you have recruited. (Use a suitable GNU mailing list/newsgroup to recruit them.) We normally use the FTP server alpha.gnu.org for pretests and prerelease versions. You can place items on alpha.gnu.org by putting them in the `~ftp/gnu' directory on fencepost.gnu.org.

Once a program gets to be widely used and people expect it to work solidly, it is a good idea to do pretest releases before each "real" release.

If you are about to release version 4.6 but you want to do a pretest first, call it 4.5.90. If you need a second pretest, call it 4.5.91, and so on. If you are really unlucky and ten pretests are not enough, after 4.5.99 you could advance to 4.5.990 and so on.

One thing that you should never do is to release a pretest with the same version number as the planned real release. Many people will look only at the version number (in the tar file name, in the directory name that it unpacks into, or wherever they can find it) to determine whether a tar file is the latest version. People might look at the test release in this way and mistake it for the real release. Therefore, always change the number when you release changed code.

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