R Package Versioning

Yihui Xie 2013-06-27

This should be what it feels like to bump the major version of your software:

bump the major version

For me, the main reason for package versioning is to indicate the (slight or significant) differences among different versions of the same package, otherwise we can keep on releasing the version 1.0.

That seems to be a very obvious fact, so here are my own versioning rules, with some ideas borrowed from Semantic Versioning:

  1. a version number is of the form major.minor.patch (x.y.z), e.g., 0.1.7
  2. only the version x.y is released to CRAN
  3. x.y.z is always the development version, and each time a new feature or a bug fix or a change is introduced, bump the patch version, e.g., from 0.1.3 to 0.1.4
  4. when one feels it is time to release to CRAN, bump the minor version, e.g., from 0.1 to 0.2
  5. when a change is crazy enough that many users are presumably going to yell at you (see the illustration above), it is time to bump the major version, e.g., from 0.18 to 1.0
  6. the version 1.0 does not imply maturity; it is just because it is potentially very different from 0.x (such as API changes); same thing applies to 2.0 vs 1.0

I learned the rule #3 from Michael Lawrence (author of RGtk2) and I think it is a good idea. In particular, it is important for brave users who dare install the development versions. When you ask them for their sessionInfo(), you will be aware of which stage they are at.

Rule #2 saves us a little bit energy in the sense that we do not need to write or talk about the foo package 1.3.548, which is boring to type or speak. Normally we say foo 1.3. As a person whose first language is not English, speaking the patch version does consume my brain memory and slows down my thinking while I’m talking. When I say it in Chinese, I feel boring and unnecessarily geeky. Yes, I know I always have weird opinions.