Development Process

How we get things done.

In this page we document the process by which the developers of the project collaborate and get things done. If you're interested in contributing or getting involved please consider the guidelines and tips that are outlined in this page. Please check-in often as we flesh out this document further.

The first thing contributors and developers have to do is introduce themselves to the community. We'd like to have all contributors involved in the decision making process with regards to the development of both the community and the library. We value individuals and their personal styles, so the more everyone knows about everyone the better we can work together to achieve the same goal.

If you haven't yet, please subscribe to the developers mailing list and introduce yourself before proceeding.


The maintainers of the project review and merge Pull Requests (from here on out referred to as PR's) from contributors using the GitHub Pull Request feature. This allows the project to move forward using the Git distributed development workflow. If you need an introduction to git, please refer to the following links for git-specific information.

  • ProGit — a website dedicated to basic and advanced git usage.
  • GitHub Git Setup — the GitHub help pages on setting up git to work with GitHub.

What follows in this section assumes that you're already familiar with the basic git workflow.

Forking the Repo

Forking requires that you already have a GitHub account. Before continuing, please make sure that you've signed up for a GitHub account (it's free to develop for open source projects) and have familiarized yourself with the different development workflows. It's important that you understand the GitHub workflow before continuing.

The official repository is located in GitHub at Before you can submit PR's you should first create your own fork of the repository on GitHub. You can fork the repository by clicking on Fork at the upper right portion of the page.

Preparing a PR

Once you have a fork of the repo, determine to which branch you'd like to send a PR to. In the next section we describe the various branches we'll be dealing with in the course of development of a release.

When you've determined the branch to which you'd like to send a PR to you can follow these steps to prepare your change for inclusion in the library.

  1. Create an integration branch. This integration branch should be rooted off the branch you intend to send a PR to. For example, if you're sending a PR to cpp-netlib/master and your fork is user/master, you should create a user/master-integration branch.
  2. Create a topic branch. From the integration branch, you can then create as many topic branches as you want. It's recommended that you isolate all experimentation to branches — once you're resonably sure that your work is good to go, merge your topic branch into the integration branch in your local repo, then push the changes to your GitHub repo.
  3. Make sure your integration branch is up to date. To do this you should first pull changes to your local master (assuming that's where you'd like to send a pull request to), rebase your integration branch to the tip of master, then make sure all merge conflicts are dealt with. Proceed only when your integration branch is up-to-date with the official branch you're going to send your PR to.
  4. Send the PR. Once you're reasonably happy with the state of your integration branch, send off a PR to the official repo and set the destination branch as the branch you intend to send the change to.
  5. Address Comments The maintainers will be reviewing your changes, and sometimes they may have comments they will ask you to address in your PR. You can do this by going back to the second step of this process, but you don't need to send another PR -- all you have to do is push your changes to your GitHub hosted integration branch and your PR will be updated automatically. That said, don't forget to update the discussion on the PR that you're ready for the PR to be reviewed again.
  6. Your PR is merged. If you've done everything correctly up to this point, your PR should be cleanly merge-able into the branch you sent the PR to. A maintiner will merge you change into the project and you're now officially a contributor to the project!

In case you have multiple PR's in flight, you may want to have multiple integration branches — that is, one integration branch per PR should be good to keep.

Working Branches

The project always has the latest bleeding edge versions of the library under development in the master branch. This version is explicitly unstable and subject to (potentially massive) changes over time.

Once the state of master has stabilized and a release process is initiated by the project maintainers (it will be announced on the mailing list) a version-devel branch is started from master and a release candidate is prepared. For example, if a 1.0 release is initiated, a branch 1.0-devel is started off master.

A release candidate is tagged off of the version-devel branch on a regular basis, and is publicized as widely as possible. The tag name should be of the form version-rcN. Again as an example, the first release candidate for a 1.0 release will be tagged as 1.0.0-rc0.

All PR's for the upcoming version should go directly to the version-devel branch.

During the stabilization of the version-devel branch, master remains open for PR's for new functionality, new accepted libraries, and API breaking changes.

Once a release candidate is deemed "good to go" by the maintainers we tag the library (and submodules appropriately) with a tag of the form version-final. As with earlier examples, the tag for the 1.0 release would be 1.0.0-final.

Patch Releases

Critical bug fixes go into the version-devel branch after a final release has been packaged. In case there's a need for update releases, the release candidate process is followed until another final version of the patch release is tagged.

In our on-going example, this will be of the form 1.0.1-rc0, 1.0.1-rc1, and so on until it's stabilized — at which time a 1.0.1-final is tagged and packaged.