Software Developers: please make change logs available during updates

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 25, 2012

When it comes to software updates, you usually either do not get any information about the changes in the update that is just installed on your computer, or only after you have run the update. The majority of software companies do not include release notes or change logs in the update process which is a big issue for a number of reasons.

First, you do not really know why you are updating. Even the information that an update is critical for security is better than no information about the update at all. Would not you want to know if a company decided to make fundamental changes to a program before you update? Say a new interface, the removal of features, or the addition of features that you may not be interested in or dislike completely. If no update information are displayed, it is like playing Russian roulette hoping that everything turns out fine.

Second, as someone who writes about software updates, I find it irritating when companies release updates without mentioning what has changed.  I can't and won't write about updates where I do not know anything about the changes. That's bad for the company as they do not get free publicity, and bad for me as I can't inform my readers about the update.

Some companies, like Mozilla or Microsoft, do a good job at keeping users informed about updates. While you still have to visit the websites to get the information, it is usually not a problem to do so. Others only post partial update information, none at all, or hide the update log in a forum post somewhere on the program website.

Providing customers with update information is essential, not only in business environments but also for home computer users. It is essential to build trust and is at the same time a customer service that keeps the customer information and helps them make an educated decision.

You may install updates from a list of companies that you trust without further research. Microsoft security updates come to min, but Microsoft not only displays a short description on the Windows Update page, but also links to Microsoft Knowledge Base articles that offer further information about the update. But not every company is that forthcoming, and often your only option to find out more about an update is to go change log hunting on the Internet.

Am I the only one who thinks that software developers should provide their users with information about updates before they gets installed on the system? What's your take on this?


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  1. Bob said on July 26, 2012 at 3:44 am

    What’s even worse is like earlier this month Cisco automatically updated everyone’s router so that everyone was required to sign up to their Cisco Connect Cloud service. No warning, no write up, nothing.

    I like to see what’s updated too. Ccleaner likes to post update logs. I like it when they do this because I can determine whether or not it affects my browser amongst other apps.

  2. jay said on July 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Some of the updates without change log i have come across was mostly for blocking pirated license keys and styff like that all they say was ‘improve software something’

  3. Midnight said on July 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Good article, Martin and makes total sense!
    While some software developers will provide a changelog, many still don’t, although they should.

    It would be nice to know just what changes/improvements were made during the update, so yea, every developer should provide a changelog, with their warez!

  4. kktkkr said on July 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    What the changelog says: “some general tweaks”, “improve support for mobile devices”

    What I read: “Feature: Add a bunch of new, useless, resource-heavy, potentially privacy-invading components and make them enabled by default so we earn money”

    Specificity is quite important.

    1. cezi said on July 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm

      It’s true.
      Always do custom install/advanced= this word is intended to scare off “standard” users = and make them happy with toolbars and so on…

      The funniest are “some improvement in x locale ” causing auto-updates/reinstallations to ppl all over the world .

      Apart that – they can brag “our software was downloaded x times ” thanks to methods like that.
      Maybe also some download sites have the same reason for not showing changelogs (majorgeeks unfortunatelly).

  5. kalmly said on July 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Amen. I’ve had updates that took out things I loved and/or added the Ribbon. Then I had to scramble around, uninstall the @#$& thing and install the version they’d wiped out. Infuriating.

  6. Anomaly said on July 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I agree with you completely. I would also like to see all software come with a thorough user guide. I can’t stand it when I want to try out a program and the thing has no help/user guide to point out all its features. I am left to stumble thorough and I refuse to do it any more. When deciding which program to go with good documentation is a major factor for me now and I have passed on many good programs because of a lack of good documentation.

    I blame a lack of good documentation on two things. Arrogance from the developers and stupidity of the users.

    The developers think people should just know what the program can do and what changes have been made. That’s annoyingly arrogant.

    The users for the most part don’t even bother to read the documents eve if it is provided. Most people I know are still discovering features and tricks of the programs they use even after using the program for several years. This is because they didn’t bother to read the docs in the first place.

  7. Daniel Giles said on July 25, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Hey that is a good post & a good set of conversations too. Keep sharing, that is good…

  8. ilev said on July 25, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Software Developers: please make all software portable. There is not even one benefit in
    installing software.

    1. Taco said on July 25, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      Separating write and execute locations is a HUGE reason not to use portable apps! It’s the foundation of security…. noob

      1. Taco said on July 26, 2012 at 12:11 am

        ilev, please explain?

        The NSA suggests running SUA + Applocker or LUA + SRP on Windows. Effectively Linux like behavior. Not allowing a location to both write and execute without user elevation IS REAL SECURITY.

        It’s also the concept behind UAC and Integrity Levels which was a huge step forward as a Windows security default (albeit not good enough IMO). In fact targets against the Windows OS are rare these days. It’s mostly plugins that hackers are targeting. Which are also nullified by LUA + SRP.

        In the 11 years that XP has offered SRP protection, NOT 1 exploit found in the wild is capable of penetrating it. REAL SECURITY.

        PLEASE EXPLAIN ilev!!!!

      2. ilev said on July 25, 2012 at 8:41 pm

        Separating write and execute locations is the foundation of the never-to-be-secure Windows OS.

    2. Mushaf said on July 25, 2012 at 6:00 pm


  9. Martin said on July 25, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I can nothing but agree with you.

  10. Roebie said on July 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I totally agree with you!
    There’s only one thing worse than releasing updates without change log: installing the update next to the old version instead of over it. (eg Java)

    1. ilev said on July 25, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Wrong. Java install over old version.

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