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A software release life cycle is the sum of the stages of development and maturity for a piece of computer software. Cycles range from its initial development to its eventual release, and include updated versions of the released version to help improve software or fix software bugs still present in the software.
Computer users are most likely to be familiar with the beta phase, as software products are sometimes publicly advertised as being beta in order to reduce users' expectations of their reliability.
Usage of the "alpha/beta" test terminology originated at IBM. Similar terminologies for IBM's software development were used by people involved with IBM from at least the 1950s (and probably earlier). "A" test was the verification of a new product before the public announcement. "B" test was the verification before releasing the product to be manufactured. "C" test was the final test before the general availability of the product. As software became a significant part of IBM's offerings, the alpha test terminology was used to denote the pre-announcement test and the beta test was used to show product readiness for general availability. Martin Belsky, a manager on some of IBM's earlier software projects claimed to have invented the terminology. IBM dropped the alpha/beta terminology during the 1960s, but by then it had received fairly wide notice. The usage of "beta test" to refer to testing done by customers was not done in IBM. Rather, IBM used the term "field test".
Pre-alpha refers to all activities performed during the software project before formal testing. These activities can include requirements analysis, software design, software development, and unit testing. In typical open source development, there are several types of pre-alpha versions. Milestone versions include specific sets of functions and are released as soon as the feature is complete.
The alpha phase of the release life cycle is the first phase of software testing (alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, used as the number 1). In this phase, developers generally test the software using white-box techniques. Additional validation is then performed using black-box or gray-box techniques, by another testing team. Moving to black-box testing inside the organization is known as alpha release. [ better source needed ]
Alpha software is not thoroughly tested by the developer before it is released to customers. Alpha software may contain serious errors, and any resulting instability could cause crashes or data loss.Alpha software may not contain all of the features that are planned for the final version. In general, external availability of alpha software is uncommon in proprietary software, while open source software often has publicly available alpha versions. The alpha phase usually ends with a feature freeze, indicating that no more features will be added to the software. At this time, the software is said to be feature complete. A beta test is carried out following acceptance testing at the supplier's site (alpha test) and immediately prior to general release of the software as a product.
Beta, named after the second letter of the Greek alphabet, is the software development phase following alpha. Software in the beta stage is also known as betaware.A beta phase generally begins when the software is feature complete but likely to contain a number of known or unknown bugs. Software in the beta phase will generally have many more bugs in it than completed software and speed or performance issues, and may still cause crashes or data loss. The focus of beta testing is reducing impacts to users, often incorporating usability testing. The process of delivering a beta version to the users is called beta release and is typically the first time that the software is available outside of the organization that developed it. Software beta releases can be either public or private, depending on whether they are openly available or only available to a limited audience. Beta version software is often useful for demonstrations and previews within an organization and to prospective customers. Some developers refer to this stage as a preview, preview release, prototype, technical preview or technology preview (TP), or early access . Since the introduction of Windows 8, Microsoft has called pre-release software a preview rather than beta. All pre-release builds released through the Windows Insider Program launched in 2014 are termed "Insider Preview builds". "Beta" may also indicate something more like a release candidate, or as a form of time-limited demo, or marketing technique.
Beta testers are people who actively report issues of beta software. They are usually customers or representatives of prospective customers of the organization that develops the software. Beta testers tend to volunteer their services free of charge but often receive versions of the product they test, discounts on the release version, or other incentives.[ citation needed ]
Some software is kept in so-called perpetual beta, where new features are continually added to the software without establishing a final "stable" release. As the Internet has facilitated rapid and inexpensive distribution of software, companies have begun to take a looser approach to use of the word beta.In February 2005, ZDNet published an article about the phenomenon of a beta version often staying for years and being used as if it were in production level. It noted that Gmail and Google News, for example, had been in beta for a long time although widely used; Google News left beta in January 2006, followed by Google Apps (now named Google Workspace), including Gmail, in July 2009.
Developers may release either a closed beta, also called private beta, or an open beta, also called public beta; closed beta versions are released to a restricted group of individuals for a user test by invitation, while open beta testers are from a larger group, or anyone interested. Private beta could be suitable for the software that is capable of delivering value, but is not ready to be used by everyone either due to scaling issues, lack of documentation or still missing vital features. The testers report any bugs that they find, and sometimes suggest additional features they think should be available in the final version.
Examples of a major public beta:
Open betas serve the dual purpose of demonstrating a product to potential consumers, and testing among a wide user base likely to bring to light obscure errors that a much smaller testing team might not find.[ citation needed ]
A release candidate (RC), also known as "going silver", is a beta version with potential to be a stable product, which is ready to release unless significant bugs emerge. In this stage of product stabilization, all product features have been designed, coded and tested through one or more beta cycles with no known showstopper-class bugs. A release is called code complete when the development team agrees that no entirely new source code will be added to this release. There could still be source code changes to fix defects, changes to documentation and data files, and peripheral code for test cases or utilities. Beta testers, if privately selected, will often be credited for using the release candidate as though it were a finished product. Beta testing is conducted in a client's or customer's location and to test the software from a user's perspective.
Also called production release, the stable release is the last release candidate (RC) which has passed all verifications / tests. The remaining bugs are considered as acceptable. This release goes to production. Some domains (for example, Linux distributions), have two types of stable releases: normal, or stable releases and long-term support (LTS) releases which are maintained for a longer period of time.
Once released, the software is generally known as a "stable release". The formal term often depends on the method of release: physical media, online release or a web application.
The term release to manufacturing (RTM), also known as "going gold", is a term used when a software product is ready to be delivered. This build may be digitally signed, allowing the end user to verify the integrity and authenticity of the software purchase. A copy of the RTM build known as the "gold master" or GMis sent for mass duplication or disc replication if applicable. This terminology is taken from the audio record making industry, specifically the process of mastering. RTM precedes general availability (GA) when the product is released to the public. A golden master build (GM) is typically the final build of a piece of software in the beta stages for developers. Typically, for iOS, it is the final build before a major release, however, there have been a few exceptions.
It is typically used in certain retail mass-production software contexts—as opposed to a specialized software production or project in a commercial or government production and distribution—where the software is sold as part of a bundle in a related computer hardware sale and typically where the software and related hardware is ultimately to be available and sold on mass/public basis at retail stores to indicate that the software has met a defined quality level and is ready for mass retail distribution. RTM could also mean in other contexts that the software has been delivered or released to a client or customer for installation or distribution to the related hardware end user computers or machines. The term does not define the delivery mechanism or volume; it only states that the quality is sufficient for mass distribution. The deliverable from the engineering organization is frequently in the form of a golden master media used for duplication or to produce the image for the web.
General availability (GA) is the marketing stage at which all necessary commercialization activities have been completed and a software product is available for purchase, depending, however, on language, region, electronic vs. media availability.Commercialization activities could include security and compliance tests, as well as localization and worldwide availability. The time between RTM and GA can be from a week to months in some cases before a generally available release can be declared because of the time needed to complete all commercialization activities required by GA. At this stage, the software has "gone live".
Release to the Web (RTW) or Web release is a means of software delivery that utilizes the Internet for distribution. No physical media are produced in this type of release mechanism by the manufacturer. Web releases are becoming more common as Internet usage grows.
During its supported lifetime, software is sometimes subjected to service releases, patches or service packs, sometimes also called "interim releases" or "maintenance release" (MR). For example, Microsoft released three major service packs for the 32-bit editions of Windows XP and two service packs for the 64-bit editions. Such service releases contain a collection of updates, fixes, and enhancements, delivered in the form of a single installable package. They may also implement new features. Some software is released with the expectation of regular support. Classes of software that generally involve protracted support as the norm include anti-virus suites and massively multiplayer online games. Continuing with this Windows XP example, Microsoft did offer paid updates for five more years after the end of extended support. This means that support ended April 8, 2019.
When software is no longer sold or supported, the product is said to have reached end-of-life, to be discontinued, retired, deprecated, abandoned, or obsolete, but user loyalty may continue its existence for some time, even long after its platform is obsolete—e.g., the Atari ST and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
After the end-of-life date, the developer will usually not implement any new features, fix existing defects, bugs or vulnerabilities (whether known before that date or not) or provide any support for the product. If the developer wishes, they may release the source code, so the platform will live again, and be maintained by volunteers.
Software testing is an investigation conducted to provide stakeholders with information about the quality of the software product or service under test. Software testing can also provide an objective, independent view of the software to allow the business to appreciate and understand the risks of software implementation. Test techniques include the process of executing a program or application with the intent of finding failures, and verifying that the software product is fit for use.
Windows Millennium Edition, or Windows Me, is an operating system produced by Microsoft as part of the Windows 9x family of Microsoft Windows operating systems. It was the direct successor to Windows 98, and was released to manufacturing on June 19, 2000, with retail sales beginning on September 14, 2000. It was Microsoft's operating system for home users until the introduction of Windows XP in 2001.
A software company is a company whose primary products are various forms of software, software technology, distribution, and software product development. They make up the software industry.
Windows 7 is a major release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft. It was released to manufacturing on July 22, 2009, and became generally available on October 22, 2009. It is the successor to Windows Vista, released nearly three years earlier. It remained an operating system for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs and media center PCs, and itself was replaced in November 2012 by Windows 8, the name spanning more than three years of the product. Until April 9, 2013, Windows 7 RTM provided content such as security updates, software updates, PC driver updates and technical support, after which installation of Service Pack 1 is required for users to receive support and updates. Windows 7's server counterpart, Windows Server 2008 R2, was released at the same time. The last supported version of Windows based on this operating system was released on July 1, 2011, entitled Windows Embedded POSReady 7. On January 12, 2016, Microsoft ended support for Internet Explorer versions older than Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 7. Extended support ended on January 14, 2020, over ten years after the release of Windows 7, after which the operating system ceased receiving further support or security updates to most users, and all PCs that blocks Windows Update on Windows 7 versions newer than KB4499164 released in May 2019 displays a full-screen upgrade warning notification with an information page link starting from January 15, 2020. A support program is currently available for enterprises, providing security updates for Windows 7 for up to four years since the official end of life. However, Windows Embedded POSReady 7, the last Windows 7 variant, continues to receive security updates until October 2021.
A patch is a set of changes to a computer program or its supporting data designed to update, fix, or improve it. This includes fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, with such patches usually being called bugfixes or bug fixes. Patches are often written to improve the functionality, usability, or performance of a program.
Eating your own dog food or “dogfooding” is the practice of using one's own products or services. This can be a way for an organization to test its products in real-world usage using product management techniques. Hence dogfooding can act as quality control, and eventually a kind of testimonial advertising. Once in the market, dogfooding can demonstrate developers confidence in their own products.
Software versioning is the process of assigning either unique version names or unique version numbers to unique states of computer software. Within a given version number category, these numbers are generally assigned in increasing order and correspond to new developments in the software. At a fine-grained level, revision control is often used for keeping track of incrementally different versions of information, whether or not this information is computer software.
Windows NT 3.51 is a major release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft and oriented towards businesses. It was released on May 30, 1995, nine months after the release of Windows NT 3.5, and three months before the release of Windows 95. The most significant enhancement offered in this release was that it provides client/server support for inter-operating with Windows 95, which was released three months after NT 3.51. Windows NT 4.0 became its successor a year later. Support for NT 3.51 ended in 2001 and 2002 for the Workstation and Server editions, respectively.
Windows Vista is a major release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft. It was the direct successor to Windows XP, which was released five years prior, at the time being the longest time span between successive releases of Microsoft Windows desktop operating systems. Development was completed on November 8, 2006, and over the following three months, it was released in stages to computer hardware and software manufacturers, business customers and retail channels. On January 30, 2007, it was released internationally and was made available for purchase and download from the Windows Marketplace; it is the first release of Windows to be made available through a digital distribution platform.
Game testing, a subset of game development, is a software testing process for quality control of video games. The primary function of game testing is the discovery and documentation of software defects. Interactive entertainment software testing is a highly technical field requiring computing expertise, analytic competence, critical evaluation skills, and endurance. In recent years the field of game testing has come under fire for being extremely strenuous and unrewarding, both financially and emotionally.
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The history of the Opera web browser began in 1994 when it was started as a research project at Telenor, the largest Norwegian telecommunications company. In 1995, the project branched out into a separate company named Opera Software ASA, with the first publicly available version released in 1996. Opera has undergone extensive changes and improvements, and introduced notable features such as Speed Dial.
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Internet Explorer 9 or IE9 is the ninth version of the Internet Explorer web browser from Microsoft. It was released to the public on March 14, 2011. Microsoft released Internet Explorer 9 as a major out-of-band version that was not tied to the release schedule of any particular version of Windows, unlike previous versions. It is the first version since Internet Explorer 2 not to be bundled with a Windows operating system, although some OEMs have installed it with Windows 7 on their PCs, as well as new Windows 7 laptops.
Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is an antivirus software (AV) product that provides protection against different types of malicious software, such as computer viruses, spyware, rootkits, and trojan horses. Prior to version 4.5, MSE ran on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, but not on Windows 8 and later versions, which have built-in AV components known as Windows Defender. MSE 4.5 and later versions do not run on Windows XP. The license agreement allows home users and small businesses to install and use the product free-of-charge. It replaces Windows Live OneCare, a discontinued commercial subscription-based AV service, and the free Windows Defender, which only protected users from spyware until Windows 8.
Windows 8 is a major release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft. The product was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, and generally to retail on October 26, 2012. Windows 8 was made available for download via MSDN and TechNet and available as a replacement to all Windows 7 users via Windows Update.
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Windows Insider is an open software testing program by Microsoft that allows users who own a valid license of Windows 10 or Windows Server to register for pre-release builds of the operating system previously only accessible to software developers.
This article discusses a set of tactics useful in software testing. It is intended as a comprehensive list of tactical approaches to Software Quality Assurance (more widely colloquially known as Quality Assurance and general application of the test method.
Alpha software generally barely runs and is missing major features like gameplay and complete levels.