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James Lau
James Lau

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Understanding What Point Release Means Within A Development Cycle


A point release (also a dot release, or hotfix) is a patch release of a software project, especially one intended to fix bugs or do small cleanups rather than add significant features. Often, there are too many bugs to be fixed in a single major or minor release, creating a need for a point release.

The first time I've ever heard of this terminology was during a WordPress Meetup event. Developers were discussing the upcoming changes with WordPress 6.3, five days before the initial release. New tools, new user interfaces, and security enhancements that may or may not make it into the production release. I, however, was Googling "point release."

Turns out I knew what point release meant, I didn't know there was a technical term for this phase of the software product cycle.


When I used to work at Red Hat, I spent every three to four weeks sitting in "release cycle" meetings with the product team to discuss sweeping user interface changes to the open-source products. These were major milestone changes to the software after the latest GitHub pushes to staging. But never did they mention "point release." Could it just be because we're on the product side? We don't use those terms because we're not the end users. Or perhaps these technical terms were only used amongst the user interface and user experience designers.

Being part of Red Hat's Research and Development Group meant that you had to work outside of the product space and improve product extensions. One such extension was PatternFly. "Bug fixing" and "continuous release improvements" were terms being used often to describe post-production release cycles.

Brand-agnostic components were designed and built during PatternFly's release cycles. All product teams were notified of new user interface changes and told to download and apply them to existing software interfaces.

Product developers would install new components based on updated product versions but it would also include bug fixes.


Like every new product out there, whether it is a new Android and Apple phone, cars, clothing, food, software, furniture, etc. there are always improvements to the products after launch. There will always be "early adopters" who will poke and prod the product. For some products, such as clothing, food, and furniture, changes are slipped in probably in the later production model runs.

The worst-case scenario is when the trouble starts after a company issues a product recall. Bad PR arise and panic ensues from poorly manufactured steering wheels to exploding cellphones.


Now, back to the WordPress Meetup on software updates. Developers are usually notified. Possible changes that end users and developers may have found. A ticket is generated and tagged with a specific priority. Code is either kept through GitHub, GitLab, or another repo system. In the open-source community, everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the cause.

I'm actively looking to start contributing to the WordPress open-source community very soon. Perhaps this is the best way to understand a point release cycle.

This was initially published on my site at Please come by and check out more of my writing and other works!

Thanks for reading!

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