RubyGems Navigation menu

A runbook for making RubyGems releases.

RubyGems has a more complicated release process than most gems do. RubyGems updates are shipped in a wrapper gem that the gem update --system command downloads, and then runs setup.rb.

RubyGems adheres to semantic versioning in its version numbering.

Note: In the documentation listed below, the *current* minor version number is 2.7 and the *next* minor version number is 2.8

Regardless of the version, all releases must update the History.txt and lib/rubygems.rb files. The changelog for the first stable minor release (2.7.0) is a sum of all the preceding pre-release versions (2.7.pre.1, 1.12.pre.2, etc) for that minor version. The changelog for the first stable minor release is left blank unless there are fixes included since the last pre/rc release.


In general, master will accept PRs for:

  • feature merges for the next minor version (2.8)
  • regression fix merges for a patch release on the current minor version (2.7)

Breaking releases

RubyGems cares a lot about preserving compatibility. As a result, changes that break backwards compatibility should (whenever this is possible) include a feature release that is backwards compatible, and issue warnings for all options and behaviors that will change.

We try very hard to only release breaking changes when incrementing the major version of RubyGems.

Cherry picking

Patch releases are made by cherry-picking bug fixes from master.

When we cherry-pick, we cherry-pick the merge commits using the following command:

$ git cherry-pick -m 1 MERGE_COMMIT_SHAS

The ./util/patch_with_prs.rb utility will automatically handle cherry-picking, and is further detailed below.


RubyGems maintains a list of changes present in each version in the History.txt file. Entries are added immediately before making a release by using the ./util/update_changelog.rb utility. Generally, each PR that’s included in the release will get an entry.


Minor releases

While pushing a gem version to is as simple as rake release, releasing a new version of RubyGems includes a lot of communication: team consensus, git branching, changelog writing, documentation site updates, and a blog post.

Dizzy yet? Us too.

Here’s the checklist for releasing new minor versions:

  • Check with the core team to ensure that there is consensus around shipping a feature release. As a general rule, this should always be okay, since features should never break backwards compatibility
  • Create a new stable branch from master (see Branching below)
  • Update the VERSION constant in lib/rubygems.rb to the new version number
  • Update History.txt to include all of the changes in the release
  • Run rake release, tweet, blog, let people know about the prerelease!

At this point, you’re a release manager! Pour yourself several tasty drinks and think about taking a vacation in the tropics.

Beware, the first couple of days after the first version in a minor version series can often yield a lot of bug reports. This is normal, and doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong as the release manager.


Minor releases of the next version start with a new release branch from the current state of master: 2.7.

Once that stable branch has been cut from master, changes for that minor release series (2.7) will only be made intentionally, via patch releases. That is to say, changes to master by default won’t make their way into any 2.7 version, and development on master will be targeting the next minor or major release.

Patch releases (bug fixes!)

Releasing new bugfix versions is really straightforward. Increment the tiny version number in lib/rubygems.rb, and in History.txt add one bullet point per bug fixed. Then run rake release from the 2.7 (stable) branch, and pour yourself a tasty drink!

PRs containing regression fixes for a patch release of the current minor version are merged to master. These commits are then cherry-picked from master onto the minor branch (2.7).

There is a ./util/patch_with_prs.rb utility that automates creating a patch release. It takes a single option, the exact patch release being made (e.g. --version=2.7.8), and all other arguments are the PR numbers to be included in the patch release. The utility checks out the appropriate stable branch (2.7), and then cherry-picks those changes (and only those changes) to the stable branch. The task then bumps the version in the version file, prompts you to update the History.txt, then will commit those changes and run rake release!