Release Workflow

We try to follow Semantic Versioning in this project. Patch releases (e.g. 3.3.X) contain only bug fixes. Minor releases (e.g. 3.X.0) can have backwards-compatible features. And major releases ( X.0.0) can introduce incompatible changes.


This document replaces the "Release Guidelines" on the wiki that we used between 3.2.0 and 3.4.3. Starting with 3.5.0, we will follow the workflow described here to publish releases.

Polybar uses the OneFlow branching model for publishing new releases and introducing hotfixes.

The way we accept code from contributors does not change: Contributors fork polybar, commit their changes to a new branch and open a PR to get that branch merged. After reviewing and approving the changes, a maintainer "merges" the PR. "Merging" is done in the GitHub UI by either rebasing or squashing the changes. Regular merging is disabled because we do not want merge a merge commit for every PR.

This document is mainly concerned with how to properly release a new version of polybar. For that reason this might not be of interest to you, if you are not a maintainer, but feel free to read on anyway.

Drafting a new Release

There a two processes for how to draft a new release. The process for major and minor versions is the same as they both are "regular" releases. Patch releases are triggered by bugfixes that cannot wait until the next regular release and have a slightly different workflow.

Regular Releases (Major, Minor)

Regular releases are created once we find that master is in a stable state and that there are enough new features to justify a new release. A release branch release/X.Y.0 is branched off of a commit on master that contains all the features we want in the release, this branch is pushed to the official repository. For example for version 3.5.0 the branch release/3.5.0 would be created:

git checkout -b release/3.5.0 <commit>

The release branch should typically only exist for at most a few days.

Hotfix Releases (Patch)

A hotfix release is created whenever we receive a fix for a bug that we believe should be released immediately instead of it only being part of the next regular release. Generally any bugfix qualifies, but it is up to the maintainers to decide whether a hotfix release should be created.

The hotfix release branch hotfix/X.Y.Z is created by branching off at the previous release tag (X.Y.Z-1). For example, if the latest version is 3.5.2, the next hotfix will be on branch hotfix/3.5.3:

git checkout -b hotfix/3.5.3 3.5.2

Since the PRs for such bugfixes are often not created by maintainers, they will often not be based on the latest release tag, but just be branched off master because contributors don't necessarily know about this branching model and also may well not know whether a hotfix will be created for a certain bugfix.

In case a PR containing a bugfix that is destined for a patch release is not branched off the previous release, a maintainer creates the proper release branch and cherry-picks the bugfix commits.


Alternatively, the contributor can also git rebase --onto to base the branch off the previous release tag. However, in most cases it makes sense for a maintainer to create the release branch since they will also need to add a Release Commit to it.

Once the release branch is created and contains the right commits, the maintainer should follow Publishing a new Release to finish this patch release.

If multiple bugfixes are submitted in close succession, they can all be cherry-picked onto the same patch release branch to not create many individual release with only a single fix. The maintainer can also decide to leave the release branch for this patch release open for a week in order to possibly combine multiple bugfixes into a single release.

Publishing a new Release

The process for publishing a release is the same for all release types. It goes as follows:

  • A Release commit is added to the tip of the release branch.
  • A draft PR is opened for the release branch. This PR MUST NOT be merged in GitHub's interface, it is only here for review, merging happens at the commandline.
  • After approval, the GitHub release publishing tool is used to publish the release and tag the tip of the release branch (the release commit).
  • After the tag is created, the release branch is manually merged into master. Here it is vitally important that the history of the release branch does not change and so we use git merge. We do it manually because using git merge is disabled on PRs.
git checkout master
git merge <release-branch>
git push origin
  • After the tag is created, the release branch can be deleted with git push origin :<release-branch>.
  • Work through the After-Release Checklist.

Here <release-branch> is either a release/X.Y.0 branch or a hotfix/X.Y.Z branch.

Release Commit

When merging, a release commit must be at the tip of the release branch.

The release commit needs to update the version number in:

  • version.txt

The commit message contains the Changelog for this release.


Each release should come with a changelog briefly explaining what has changed for the user. It should generally be separated into 'Deprecations', 'Features', and 'Fixes', with 'Breaking Changes' listed separately at the top.

See old releases for how to format the changelog.

Since major releases generally break backwards compatibility in some way, their changelog should also prominently feature precisely what breaking changes were introduced. If suitable, maybe even separate documentation dedicated to the migration should be written.

After-Release Checklist

  • Make sure all the new functionality is documented on the wiki
  • Mark deprecated features appropriately (see Deprecations)
  • Remove all unreleased notes from the wiki (not for patch releases)
  • Inform packagers of new release in #1971. Mention any dependency changes and any changes to the build workflow. Also mention any new files are created by the installation.
  • Create a source archive named polybar-<version>.tar. The repository contains a script that automates this:
./common/ <version>
  • Update the github release with a download section that contains a link to polybar-<version>.tar and its sha256.
  • Create a PR that updates the AUR PKGBUILD files for the polybar and polybar-git packages (push after the .tar file was created).


If any publicly facing part of polybar is being deprecated, it should be marked as such in the code, through warnings/errors in the log, and by comments in the wiki. Every deprecated functionality is kept until the next major release and removed there, unless it has not been deprecated in a minor release before.