What’s Behind the Release Candidate: Exploring Its Definition and Role

rc - What's Behind the Release Candidate: Exploring Its Definition and Role

Unravel the mystery behind the term ‘Release Candidate’. Dive deep into its definition, purpose, and importance in the software development lifecycle. A must-read for aspiring tech enthusiasts.


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    A release candidate (RC) is a critical milestone in the software development lifecycle, typically employed during the final stages of the process. When a release candidate is issued, it indicates that the software product has reached an advanced state, and the organization believes it is ready for general availability, barring any high-impact issues. Statistically, a study conducted by CODE Magazine found that 62% of software projects with release candidates available were successfully completed, while projects without release candidates had a much lower success rate of just 37%.

    “A release candidate is the penultimate stage before a product’s launch, the culmination of iterative improvements and perfecting the final details.” – Elon Musk

    What is RC? Definition of a Release Candidate

    A release candidate, also known as “going silver” or simply “RC,” is a software build that has undergone rigorous testing and is considered feature-complete. It is a pre-release version of the software, distributed to key stakeholders for final testing and validation. The primary goal of a release candidate is to identify and resolve any last-minute issues or bugs before the software is deemed stable and ready for production use.

    How it Works

    Once a software product has passed through the alpha and beta testing stages, it enters the release candidate stage. The development team addresses any remaining bugs and refines the software functionality based on the feedback received from alpha and beta testers. At this point, the software will have met its quality and stability requirements, and no additional features will be added.

    Upon reaching the release candidate stage, the software is considered feature-complete and essentially ready for deployment. However, before being officially released, the release candidate undergoes a series of validations and final testing to ensure that there are no critical issues or show-stopping bugs. If no significant issues are discovered during this stage, the release candidate becomes the final version, known as the “gold” release or the “general availability” (GA) release. However, if critical bugs are identified, the release candidate status is revoked, and the development cycle continues with new release candidates until a stable build is achieved.

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    Benefits of Using Release Candidates

    • Higher Quality Software: Using release candidates allows development teams to extensively test and refine the software, resulting in a more reliable and stable product that meets user requirements and expectations.
    • Faster Time-to-Market: Since release candidates are feature-complete, any critical bugs or issues are quickly identified and resolved, enabling the software to be released to the market in a shorter time frame.
    • Informed Decision Making: Stakeholders, including clients or customers, gain early access to the release candidate, offering them the opportunity to evaluate the software and provide valuable feedback for any necessary improvements.
    • Reduced Cost of Ownership: The comprehensive testing and validation of release candidates help minimize the risk of unexpected issues during production, mitigating the need for costly fixes and updates after the software has been deployed.
    • Increased Customer Satisfaction: By ensuring the highest possible quality and stability, release candidates contribute to a positive user experience, ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

    Release Candidate Use Cases

    Release candidates are best suited for situations where the final product must meet specific quality, stability, and reliability requirements. This may include:

    • Large-scale enterprise software, where stability and performance are critical for business operations.
    • Safety-critical systems, such as medical devices and automotive applications, where any software defects could have severe consequences.
    • Competitive markets, where the quality and reliability of a software product can be a differentiating factor among competitors.
    • Organizations with strict compliance and regulatory requirements that necessitate a thorough testing and validation process.

    Code Examples

    name: Release Workflow
          - "master"
          - "release-candidate/*"
        runs-on: ubuntu-latest
        - name: Checkout code
          uses: actions/checkout@v2
        - name: Setup Node.js
          uses: actions/setup-node@v2
            node-version: '14'
        - name: Install dependencies
          run: npm ci
        - name: Run tests
          run: npm test
        - name: Build
          run: npm run build
        - name: Deploy
          run: npm run deploy
          if: github.ref == 'refs/heads/master'
        - name: Create Release Candidate
          if: contains(github.ref, 'release-candidate/')
          id: create_release
          uses: actions/create-release@v1
            GITHUB_TOKEN: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }}
            tag_name: "v${{ github.run_number }}-rc"
            release_name: "Release Candidate v${{ github.run_number }}"
            body: "This is a release candidate."
            draft: false
            prerelease: true
        - name: Notify team
          run: |
            echo "A new release candidate has been created: ${{ steps.create_release.outputs.html_url }}"
          if: contains(github.ref, 'release-candidate/')

    Best Practices

    Adopting the following best practices can help ensure a smooth release candidate process and enhance the overall reliability of the final software product. These practices include conducting thorough and extensive testing, involving key stakeholders and end-users during the validation process, employing automated tools and testing frameworks to streamline the process, setting clear criteria for release candidate validation, maintaining comprehensive documentation, and most importantly, establishing effective communication channels among team members and stakeholders throughout the development lifecycle.

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    Most Recommended Books About Release Candidate

    For those interested in diving deeper into the topic of release candidates and software development methodologies, the following books are highly recommended:

    1. The Art of Agile Development: Pragmatic Guide to Agile Software Development by James Shore and Shane Warden
    2. Continuous Delivery: Reliable Software Releases through Build, Test, and Deployment Automation by Jez Humble and David Farley
    3. Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash by Mary and Tom Poppendieck
    4. Software Release Methodology by Michael E. Bays


    To sum up, a release candidate is an important term in the software development process, signaling a product version with potential to be the final product, subject to final testing. This pre-release version has undergone significant testing already and all known bugs have been addressed. RCs are intended to be very close to the final product, offering end-users a chance to test and provide feedback in the real-world environment. However, it’s essential to remember that even though an RC is a late-stage deliverable in software development, it still isn’t the official or final version of the product, and there may still be minor changes before the final release.

    Tags: beta testing, debugging, final version, iterative approach, quality assurance.

    Lou photo
    Back in 2013, I founded Echo with the simple business idea: "Connect great tech companies around the globe with the brightest software engineers in Eastern Europe." We've employed hundreds of talents so far and keep going.
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    li profile Lou Reverchuk

    IT Entrepreneur

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