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Written by Oleksandr Gavenko (AKA gavenkoa), compiled on 2018-02-10 from rev 9e6ad6607a9e.

Version format.

Feature set versioning.

Feature set versioning pretend to show how serious changes made according to feature availability and how compatible these versions.

Marketing versioning.

Marketing versioning schema used for marketing, advertising, branding purpose. It is usually inconsistent and can changed over the time.

Examples of marketing version schema:

Look thread for GDB:

There discussed:

Year as version name.

If year used as version some people can decide that 2005 is too old and broken if it used in 2007. So companies release product by leading year number. So in 2007 they release 2008 version.

Version name components.

Version components usually combined in such group:


Its conventional to have at least a major and minor number.

Prefixing version with a "v" seems to be less common.

Version in package/release name.

PACKAGE-MAJ.MIN.FIX.tar.gz   (Common style)
PACKAGE-MAJ.MIN.FIX-DISTROFIX.tar.gz  (Cygwin style)

From "Debian Policy Manual":

Package names must consist only of lower case letters (`a-z'), digits
(`0-9'), plus (`+') and minus (`-') signs, and periods (`.').  They
must be at least two characters long and must start with an
alphanumeric character.

If you look carefully there are no any _ (underscore) chars!! Also - is portable char in file name accoding to POSIX.

Versioning for libraries/modules/components.

Major version component.

Major number change means that fundamental change made in the architecture of the system the new version is incompatible with the old one, upgrade between versions is non-trivial, and any dependent of the prior version will require code changes to upgrade to the new package.

Major number rare changed (this can take a lot of year).

Minor version component.

Minor number change means that the new version is backward compatible with the previous version but has significant enhancements over the previous version (like new functionality or changed UI).

Functional enhancement releases. Contain new or significantly changed functionality and/or layout.

New releases are usually only published several times a year or less.

Revision, micro, bugfix version component.

Revision number is updated whenever a bugfix or security patche is applied to the build such that it doesn't bring a compatibility change or introduce newer features.

Patches are released frequently (sometimes daily).

Milestone markers.

  • a (alpha) means new development is complete and code checkins are frozen. Alpha builds should work well enough to be testable.
  • b (beta) means most severe bugs are fixed and end users can start trying the release.
  • rc (release candidate) are believed to meet all of the criteria for release and can be installed on test instances of production systems.

Compatibility formula.

Assume that app linked with new version of lib. Thus:

is_compatible_with_old(old, new) {
  if (old.major != new.major) return 0;
  if (old.minor > new.minor) return 0;
  return 1;

Assume that app linked with old version of lib. Thus:

is_compatible_with_new(old, new) {
  if (old.major != new.major) return 0;
  return 1;

Versioning for products.

Versioning for products differ from versioning for libraries.

Product is a set of conponents that stalled to some versions. Components can be switches as written for library versioning:

Product update vs upgrade.

Product update involve:

  • Replacing product executable files, resources files.
  • Config files and user data stay unchanged.

Product upgrade involve:

  • Replacing product executable files, resources files.
  • Config files and used data require modification and performed by upgrade scripts or manually by user (if this is ever possible).

Build data.

Stop your VCS hook to update version!

Don't update version without human decision.

Why do not do this on success build:

Why do not do this from pre-/post-commit hooks:

Version ordering formula.

Strongly recommend:

Debian version ordering formula.

The version number of a package. The format is:


The three components here are:


This is a single (generally small) unsigned integer. It may be omitted, in which case zero is assumed. If it is omitted then the <upstream_version> may not contain any colons.

It is provided to allow mistakes in the version numbers of older versions of a package, and also a package's previous version numbering schemes, to be left behind.


This is the main part of the version number. It is usually the version number of the original ("upstream") package from which the .deb file has been made, if this is applicable. Usually this will be in the same format as that specified by the upstream author(s); however, it may need to be reformatted to fit into the package management system's format and comparison scheme.

The comparison behavior of the package management system with respect to the <upstream_version> is described below. The <upstream_version> portion of the version number is mandatory.

The <upstream_version> may contain only alphanumerics[1] and the characters . + - : ~ (full stop, plus, hyphen, colon, tilde) and should start with a digit. If there is no <debian_revision> then hyphens are not allowed; if there is no <epoch> then colons are not allowed.


This part of the version number specifies the version of the Debian package based on the upstream version. It may contain only alphanumerics and the characters + . ~ (plus, full stop, tilde) and is compared in the same way as the <upstream_version> is.

It is optional; if it isn't present then the <upstream_version> may not contain a hyphen. This format represents the case where a piece of software was written specifically to be turned into a Debian package, and so there is only one "debianisation" of it and therefore no revision indication is required.

It is conventional to restart the <debian_revision> at 1 each time the <upstream_version> is increased.

The package management system will break the version number apart at the last hyphen in the string (if there is one) to determine the <upstream_version> and <debian_revision>. The absence of a <debian_revision> compares earlier than the presence of one (but note that the <debian_revision> is the least significant part of the version number).

The <upstream_version> and <debian_revision> parts are compared by the package management system using the same algorithm:

The strings are compared from left to right.

First the initial part of each string consisting entirely of non-digit characters is determined. These two parts (one of which may be empty) are compared lexically. If a difference is found it is returned. The lexical comparison is a comparison of ASCII values modified so that all the letters sort earlier than all the non-letters and so that a tilde sorts before anything, even the end of a part. For example, the following parts are in sorted order from earliest to latest: ~~, ~~a, ~, the empty part, a.[2]

Then the initial part of the remainder of each string which consists entirely of digit characters is determined. The numerical values of these two parts are compared, and any difference found is returned as the result of the comparison. For these purposes an empty string (which can only occur at the end of one or both version strings being compared) counts as zero.

These two steps (comparing and removing initial non-digit strings and initial digit strings) are repeated until a difference is found or both strings are exhausted.

Note that the purpose of epochs is to allow us to leave behind mistakes in version numbering, and to cope with situations where the version numbering scheme changes. It is _not_ intended to cope with version numbers containing strings of letters which the package management system cannot interpret (such as ALPHA or pre-), or with silly orderings (the author of this manual has heard of a package whose versions went 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1, 2.1, 2.2, 2 and so forth).

[1] Alphanumerics are A-Za-z0-9 only.

[2] One common use of ~ is for upstream pre-releases. For example,
1.0~beta1~svn1245 sorts earlier than 1.0~beta1, which sorts earlier than 1.0.

Semver version ordering formula.

if (A.major != B.major) return A.major > B.major;
if (A.minor != B.minor) return A.minor > B.minor;
if (A.patch != B.patch) return A.patch > B.patch;
if (A.special == B.special) return 0;
if (A.special == "") return 1;
if (B.special == "") return -1;
return A.special > B.special;

NOTE Accoding to this definition 1.0.1rc1 < 1.0.1rc10 < 1.0.1rc2 which is non meaningful.

Odd/even numbering.

Who uses: GLib, GTK+, Gimp, GNOME, Kaffe.

Forms of compatibility.

Backward/forward compatibility.

Backward compatibility for library, file format, protocol means that new version of program can work with old library, file format, protocol.

Forward compatibility for library, file format, protocol means that old version of program can work with new library, file format, protocol but without using any benefits from new versions and more essentially without posibility damage any user data.

Example of backward compatibility: adding to graphic library new image format for reading/saving.

Example of forward compatibility: old browser ignore any new (unknown) HTML tags.

Source/binary compatibility.

Runtime or binary compatibility mean that binary can be swaped with another version without breaking normal program work.

Compile time or source compatibility mean that supplied header/interfaces allow successful compiling/linking.


  • Change type of argument in method to more generic take source compatibility but break binary compatibility.
  • Adding new method to abstract class take binary compatibility but break compilation (unimplement method error).

Format or protocol compatibility.

File format or protocol backward compatibility mean that new program can use old format or protocol.

In order to do that file format or protocol MUST store or provide some versioning information. Usually this done by:

  • Separate versioning field in data.
  • New prefix or name in data.
  • List of feature requirements, supported algorighm, etc.

It is essential to make code that detect unknown or possibly new format or protocol and stop working with them to avoid user data corruption.

It is essential to make file format or protocol extensible. This can be achieved by:

  • Reserving some possible names/prefixes for future use.
  • Generalising file format or protocol to envelop more cases.

Extracting version from VCS.

Including version in sources.

Don't use any $REVISION like keywords (usual practice in CVS, SVN)!

Use sed, awk, M4 or any other preprocessor for non-compiled or non-preprocessed files (like .lisp, .py, .java files):

$ cat my-version.el.in
(defvar my-major-version @VMAJOR@
  "Major version.")
(defvar my-major-version @VMAJOR@
  "Major version.")
(provide 'my-version)

$ cat Makefile
%: %.in
    sed -e 's|@VMAJOR@|$(VMAJOR)|' -e 's|@VMINOR@|$(VMINOR)|' <$< >$@

Pass version component to preprocessed file (like .c, .cxx files) through preprocessor:

$ cat my-version.c
int get_major_version() { return VMAJOR; }
int get_minor_version() { return VMINOR; }

$ cat Makefile
%.o: %.c
    $(CC) -DVMAJOR=$(VMAJOR) -DVMINOR=$(VMINOR) -o $@ $<


Semantic Versioning
Conflict resolution