Software Version Conventions

Programs are constantly being patched and improved. How do we keep track of all this new code?

Nobody writes perfect complete software the first time they sit down to code. Many times, the best results happen when you design and code an application then put your work aside and do it all over again. Coding an application two times gives programmers more insight into the problems they’re trying to solve with code.

Whatever the reasons, adding features and fixing software bugs results in multiple versions of a software application. Tracking which version a person has a problem with is important. You also don’t want to put out a version of your software that has problems fixed earlier.

Software, therefore, uses numbers to keep track of versions. There are different ways to ensure code is the latest and best version.

What’s a version number? If you use the Google Chrome web browser, go to chrome://settings/help or click the three stacked dots at the far right of the URL bar in Google Chrome then click Help then click About Google Chrome. This displays Settings page with the software version number. Doing this on my browser shows Version 78.0.3904.108 (Official Build) (64-bit). What does that mean?

Using a method called semantic versioning, the 78, 0, 3904, and 108 tell alot about when this browser version was created and how this version relates to past (and future) versions.

This is an example of MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH pattern used to track versions of most major software. A major version is one that doesn’t work with past versions, in whole or part, for example how users access the software. A release with backwards compatible changes is a minor release. And a release with backwards compatible bug fixes is a patch release.

Therefore, my Google Chrome browser version 78.0.3904.108 translates to the 78th major release of the browser, with no minor releases so far and 108 patch releases to the 3904th patch release.

While semantic versioning makes sense, not every company uses this method. Microsoft, for example, created Windows 3, 95, 98, 7, 8, and 10, among other versions. Using versions for your software projects is good practice and helps people who use your software. They want to know they have the latest version.

Learn More

Software update vs upgrade

Understanding software version conventions

Software versioning

What is a version number

Into to semantic versioning


  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

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