How We Release A New Version

List & Label 20 is quickly hitting the final milestones. I've been blogging about the new features since spring. This time, however, I'd like to share some insights into what happens as we shift near RTM.

The first stage of our release cycle is the release of our Alpha version used by some key partners and customers to adapt their additions to List & Label. The Alpha provides a first metric for the stability of the coming version. This milestone was hit by the end of July. Based on the Alpha feedback we were able to fine-tune some of the features and make it to the public Beta program in early September.

By that time, we already had fixed some 600 tickets in the Redmine ticketing system we’re using as bug management tool. BTW – if you’re also using Redmine make sure to check out the free reporting solution for Redmine we’ve donated to the community a while ago.

During the beta phase we’ve hit the code freeze for UI resources. Translation takes some time and we’re releasing List & Label in a number of languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Chinese). These “core” languages are being translated by a professional translation service – actually it’s the same service provider Microsoft used for Windows 7. Other languages are provided by selected partners and customers and may become available shortly after release.

Of course we run an intense and thorough in-house beta test in addition to our external Beta program. This internal process is repeated for each sprint in our agile planning process to enable incremental releases at any stage.

Manual testing is complemented by automated tests. Both UI and reporting engine are subject to automated testing for most of our nightly builds. We use commercial tools as well as validation tools we’ve created just for this purpose. The main reporting engine tests consist of several hundred reports which are run by the engine and validated against references. Each deviation from the reference files is automatically reported and raises yet another ticket in Redmine. The QA process also includes performance tests to make sure there are no latencies induced by accident. This way we have been able to provide high quality releases with the most recent versions.

The final weeks before release also offer the final chance for any feature additions. Everything has to be polished four weeks before release the latest in order to allow for thorough testing. Some of the last minute features that made it to the product:

  • Support for RAD Studio XE7
  • Support for Windows 10 Technical Preview
  • The editor font for the formula editor can now be selected in the project options
  • Auto-scroll in the Designer when the view is zoomed and objects are moved out of the workspace
  • Better resizing UI in the Designer
  • A couple of new or enhanced Designer functions (HTMLToPlainText$ and vice versa, SetVar can be used without any output)
  • Full project path can be copied to clipboard by right clicking the project node
  • Commenting/uncommenting buttons in the formula editor
  • Finally, you can copy/paste product keys in the setup routine. This has been the no. 1 request for the product setup. We really had to write our custom keyboard hook DLL to achieve this <g>.

This list could be extended quite a bit. These final touches are very important to us and make sure everyone finds true value in the new version.

combit team annual outing

So this is how we’re heading towards our 20th version already. We’ve come a long way since the initial release of List & Label back in 1992 when the tool was born out of the need for a professional reporting component to use with combit’s CRM applications. Our great team has grown through the years to offer professional services you’ve come to expect from us. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in-house as well as all of our faithful customers. It’s been a pleasure to work with you through the last 20 versions, and I’m looking forward to yet another great release very soon.

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