What are Release Notes?

Release notes are documents which are distributed along with software products, often when the product is still in the development or test state (e.g., a beta release).  For products that have already been in use by clients, the release note is a supplementary document that is delivered to the customer every time a bug is fixed or an enhancement is made on the product.

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A release notes usually includes the following sections:
1. Header – Document name (i.e. Release Notes), product name, release number, release date, notes’ date, notes version, etc.
2. Overview – A brief overview of the product and changes, in the absence of other formal documentation.
3. Purpose – A brief overview of the purpose of the release note with a listing of what is new in this release, including bug fixes and new features.
4. Issue Summary – A short description of the bug or the enhancement in the release.
5. Steps to Reproduce – The steps that were followed when the bug was encountered.
6. Resolution – A short description of the modification/enhancement that was made to fix the bug.
7. End-User Impact – What different actions are needed by the end-users of the application. This should include what other functionality is impacted by these changes.
8. Support Impacts – Changes required in the daily processes of administering the software.
9. Notes – Notes about software or hardware installation, upgrades and product documentation (including documentation updates)
10. Disclaimers – Company and standard product related messages. e.g.; freeware, anti-piracy, duplication etc.
11. Contact – Support contact information.
A release note is usually a terse summary of recent changes, enhancements and bug fixes in a particular software release. It is not a substitute for user guides. Release notes are frequently written in the present tense and provide information that is clear, correct, and complete. They may be written by a technical writer or any other member of the development or test team.

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Release notes can also contain test results and information about the test procedure, this kind of information provide readers of the release note more confidence in the fix/change done; this information also facilitates implementers of the change to conduct rudimentary tests after implementing the change.
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