Changelog entries

This guide contains instructions for when and how to generate a changelog entry file, as well as information and history about our changelog process.

Overview

Each bullet point, or entry, in our CHANGELOG.md file is generated from the subject line of a Git commit. Commits are included when they contain the Changelog Git trailer. When generating the changelog, author and merge request details are added automatically.

The Changelog trailer accepts the following values:

  • added: New feature
  • fixed: Bug fix
  • changed: Feature change
  • deprecated: New deprecation
  • removed: Feature removal
  • security: Security fix
  • performance: Performance improvement
  • other: Other

An example of a Git commit to include in the changelog is the following:

Update git vendor to gitlab

Now that we are using gitaly to compile git, the git version isn't known
from the manifest, instead we are getting the gitaly version. Update our
vendor field to be `gitlab` to avoid cve matching old versions.

Changelog: changed

Overriding the associated merge request

GitLab automatically links the merge request to the commit when generating the changelog. If you want to override the merge request to link to, you can specify an alternative merge request using the MR trailer:

Update git vendor to gitlab

Now that we are using gitaly to compile git, the git version isn't known
from the manifest, instead we are getting the gitaly version. Update our
vendor field to be `gitlab` to avoid cve matching old versions.

Changelog: changed
MR: https://gitlab.com/foo/bar/-/merge_requests/123

The value must be the full URL of the merge request.

GitLab Enterprise changes

If a change is exclusively for GitLab Enterprise Edition, you must add the trailer EE: true:

Update git vendor to gitlab

Now that we are using gitaly to compile git, the git version isn't known
from the manifest, instead we are getting the gitaly version. Update our
vendor field to be `gitlab` to avoid cve matching old versions.

Changelog: changed
MR: https://gitlab.com/foo/bar/-/merge_requests/123
EE: true

Do not add the trailer for changes that apply to both EE and CE.

What warrants a changelog entry?

  • Any change that introduces a database migration, whether it’s regular, post, or data migration, must have a changelog entry, even if it is behind a disabled feature flag.
  • Security fixes must have a changelog entry, with Changelog trailer set to security.
  • Any user-facing change must have a changelog entry. Example: “GitLab now uses system fonts for all text.”
  • Any client-facing change to our REST and GraphQL APIs must have a changelog entry. See the complete list what comprises a GraphQL breaking change.
  • Any change that introduces an Advanced Search migration must have a changelog entry.
  • A fix for a regression introduced and then fixed in the same release (such as fixing a bug introduced during a monthly release candidate) should not have a changelog entry.
  • Any developer-facing change (such as refactoring, technical debt remediation, or test suite changes) should not have a changelog entry. Example: “Reduce database records created during Cycle Analytics model spec.”
  • Any contribution from a community member, no matter how small, may have a changelog entry regardless of these guidelines if the contributor wants one.
  • Any GLEX experiment changes should not have a changelog entry.
  • Removing a feature flag, when the new code is retained.

Writing good changelog entries

A good changelog entry should be descriptive and concise. It should explain the change to a reader who has zero context about the change. If you have trouble making it both concise and descriptive, err on the side of descriptive.

  • Bad: Go to a project order.
  • Good: Show a user’s starred projects at the top of the “Go to project” dropdown.

The first example provides no context of where the change was made, or why, or how it benefits the user.

  • Bad: Copy (some text) to clipboard.
  • Good: Update the “Copy to clipboard” tooltip to indicate what’s being copied.

Again, the first example is too vague and provides no context.

  • Bad: Fixes and Improves CSS and HTML problems in mini pipeline graph and builds dropdown.
  • Good: Fix tooltips and hover states in mini pipeline graph and builds dropdown.

The first example is too focused on implementation details. The user doesn’t care that we changed CSS and HTML, they care about the end result of those changes.

  • Bad: Strip out nils in the Array of Commit objects returned from find_commits_by_message_with_elastic
  • Good: Fix 500 errors caused by Elasticsearch results referencing garbage-collected commits

The first example focuses on how we fixed something, not on what it fixes. The rewritten version clearly describes the end benefit to the user (fewer 500 errors), and when (searching commits with Elasticsearch).

Use your best judgement and try to put yourself in the mindset of someone reading the compiled changelog. Does this entry add value? Does it offer context about where and why the change was made?

How to generate a changelog entry

Git trailers are added when committing your changes. This can be done using your text editor of choice. Adding the trailer to an existing commit requires either amending to the commit (if it’s the most recent one), or an interactive rebase using git rebase -i.

To update the last commit, run the following:

git commit --amend

You can then add the Changelog trailer to the commit message. If you had already pushed prior commits to your remote branch, you have to force push the new commit:

git push -f origin your-branch-name

To edit older (or multiple commits), use git rebase -i HEAD~N where N is the last N number of commits to rebase. Let’s say you have 3 commits on your branch: A, B, and C. If you want to update commit B, you need to run:

git rebase -i HEAD~2

This starts an interactive rebase session for the last two commits. When started, Git presents you with a text editor with contents along the lines of the following:

pick B Subject of commit B
pick C Subject of commit C

To update commit B, change the word pick to reword, then save and quit the editor. Once closed, Git presents you with a new text editor instance to edit the commit message of commit B. Add the trailer, then save and quit the editor. If all went well, commit B is now updated.

For more information about interactive rebases, take a look at the Git documentation.


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