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 create a Release PR for 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 PR is created for the release. This PR MUST NOT be merged in GitHub's interface, it is only here for review, merging happens at the commandline.

  • After approval, a signed git tag without message is created locally at the tip of the release branch and pushed:

git tag -m "" -s X.Y.Z <release-branch>
git push --tags
  • A draft release targetting the new tag is created in GitHub's release publishing tools and published.

  • 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 PR

The final state of the release branch is prepared as a draft PR on GitHub. That PR is not merged from the GitHub interface though.

The release PR must do the following things:

  • Write any missing migration guides for:

    • Deprecated or removed options

    • New features that it might be worth migrating to

  • Have a release commit at its tip with the message Version X.Y.Z and the following changes

    • Finalizes the Changelog for this release

    • Updates the version number in version.txt


The file at the root of the repo should already contain all the changes for the upcoming release in a format based on keep a changelog. For each release those changes should be checked to make sure we did not miss anything.

For all releases, a new section of the following form should be created below the Unreleased section:

## [X.Y.Z] - YYYY-MM-DD

In addition, the reference link for the release should be added and the reference link for the unreleased section should be updated at the bottom of the document:


Since the release tag doesn't exist yet, both of these links will be invalid until the release is published.

All changes from the Unreleased section that apply to this release should be moved into the new release section. For regular releases this is generally the entire Unreleased section, while for patch releases it will only be a few entries.

The contents of the release section can be copied into the draft release in GitHub's release tool with a heading named ## 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.

Draft Release

On GitHub a new release should be drafted. The release targets the git tag that was just pushed, the name of the release and the tag is simply the release number.

The content of the release message should contain the changelog copied from under the heading ## Changelog. In addition using GitHub's "Auto-generate release notes" feature, the list of new contributors should be generated and put at the end of the release notes. The generated list of PRs can be removed.

For minor and major releases, add a link to the migration guide directly under the ## Changelog header:

**[Migration Guide](**

At the bottom, check the two boxes "Set as the latest release" and "Create a discussion for this release" (select the category "Announcements").

After-Release Checklist

  • Verify the release archive (see Verify Release)

  • Update the Wiki

    • Make sure all the new functionality is documented

    • Mark deprecated features appropriately (see Deprecations)

    • Remove all "unreleased" notes (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 PR that updates the AUR PKGBUILD file for the polybar-git package (push after the release archive is uploaded).

  • Close the GitHub Milestone for the new release and move open issues (if any) to a later release.

  • Activate the version on Read the Docs and deactivate all previous versions for the same minor release (e.g. for 3.5.4, deactivate all other 3.5.X versions).

Verify Release

Confirm that the release archive was added to the release. We have a GitHub action workflow called 'Release Workflow' that on every release automatically creates a release archive, uploads it to the release, and adds a 'Download' section to the release body. If this fails for some reason, it should be triggered manually.

Afterwards, download the archive, verify its hash, and sign it:

gpg --armor --detach-sign polybar-X.Y.Z.tar.gz

Finally, upload the generated polybar-X.Y.Z.tar.gz.asc to the GitHub release.


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.