16.1.0 • Public • Published


Although release is a generic release tool, most projects use it for projects with npm packages. The recommended way to install release uses npm and adds some minimal configuration to get started:

npm init release

Alternatively, install it manually, and add the release script to package.json:

npm install -D release
  "name": "my-package",
  "version": "1.0.0",
  "scripts": {
    "release": "release"
  "devDependencies": {
    "release": "^15.10.0"


Run release from the root of the project using either npm run or npx:

npm run release
npx release

You will be prompted to select the new version, and more prompts will follow based on your configuration.

Experimental: knowledge base

You might want to ask your questions in the [Release It! knowledge base][14] (powered by OpenAI and [7-docs][15]). This is an experimental knowledge base, answers may be incorrect.


Using Yarn? Please see the [npm section on Yarn][16].


Using a monorepo? Please see this [monorepo recipe][17].

Global Installation

Per-project installation as shown above is recommended, but global installs are supported as well:

  • From npm: npm install -g release
  • From Homebrew: brew install release

Videos, articles & examples

Here's a list of interesting external resources:

  • Video: [How to use GitHub Actions & release to Easily Release Your Code][18]
  • Article: [Monorepo Semantic Releases][19] ([repo][20])

Want to add yours to the list? Just open a pull request!


Out of the box, release has sane defaults, and [plenty of options][21] to configure it. Most projects use a .release.json file in the project root, or a release property in package.json.

Here's a quick example .release.json:

  "git": {
    "commitMessage": "chore: release v${version}"
  "github": {
    "release": true

→ See [Configuration][22] for more details.

Interactive vs. CI mode

By default, release is interactive and allows you to confirm each task before execution:

By using the --ci option, the process is fully automated without prompts. The configured tasks will be executed as demonstrated in the first animation above. In a Continuous Integration (CI) environment, this non-interactive mode is activated automatically.

Use --only-version to use a prompt only to determine the version, and automate the rest.

Latest version

How does release determine the latest version?

  1. For projects with a package.json, its version will be used (see [npm][23] to skip this).
  2. Otherwise, release uses the latest Git tag to determine which version should be released.
  3. As a last resort, 0.0.0 will be used as the latest version.

Alternatively, a plugin can be used to override this (e.g. to manage a VERSION or composer.json file):

  • [@StepSec/bumper][24] to read from or bump the version in any file
  • [@StepSec/conventional-changelog][25] to get a recommended bump based on commit messages
  • [release-calver-plugin][26] to use CalVer (Calendar Versioning)

Add the --release-version flag to print the next version without releasing anything.


Git projects are supported well by release, automating the tasks to stage, commit, tag and push releases to any Git remote.

→ See [Git][27] for more details.

GitHub Releases

GitHub projects can have releases attached to Git tags, containing release notes and assets. There are two ways to add [GitHub releases][28] in your release flow:

  1. Automated (requires a GITHUB_TOKEN)
  2. Manual (using the GitHub web interface with pre-populated fields)

→ See [GitHub Releases][29] for more details.

GitLab Releases

GitLab projects can have releases attached to Git tags, containing release notes and assets. To automate [GitLab releases][30]:

  • Configure gitlab.release: true
  • Obtain a [personal access token][31] (release only needs the "api" scope).
  • Make sure the token is [available as an environment variable][32].

→ See [GitLab Releases][33] for more details.


By default, release generates a changelog, to show and help select a version for the new release. Additionally, this changelog serves as the release notes for the GitHub or GitLab release.

The [default command][21] is based on git log .... This setting (git.changelog) can be overridden. To further customize the release notes for the GitHub or GitLab release, there's github.releaseNotes or gitlab.releaseNotes. Make sure any of these commands output the changelog to stdout. Note that release by default is agnostic to commit message conventions. Plugins are available for:

  • GitHub and GitLab Releases
  • auto-changelog
  • Conventional Changelog
  • Keep A Changelog

To print the changelog without releasing anything, add the --changelog flag.

→ See [Changelog][34] for more details.

Publish to npm

With a package.json in the current directory, release will let npm bump the version in package.json (and package-lock.json if present), and publish to the npm registry.

→ See [Publish to npm][23] for more details.

Manage pre-releases

With release, it's easy to create pre-releases: a version of your software that you want to make available, while it's not in the stable semver range yet. Often "alpha", "beta", and "rc" (release candidate) are used as identifiers for pre-releases. An example pre-release version is 2.0.0-beta.0.

→ See [Manage pre-releases][35] for more details.

Update or re-run existing releases

Use --no-increment to not increment the last version, but update the last existing tag/version.

This may be helpful in cases where the version was already incremented. Here are a few example scenarios:

  • To update or publish a (draft) GitHub Release for an existing Git tag.
  • Publishing to npm succeeded, but pushing the Git tag to the remote failed. Then use release --no-increment --no-npm to skip the npm publish and try pushing the same Git tag again.


Use script hooks to run shell commands at any moment during the release process (such as before:init or after:release).

The format is [prefix]:[hook] or [prefix]:[plugin]:[hook]:

part value
prefix before or after
plugin version, git, npm, github, gitlab
hook init, bump, release

Use the optional :plugin part in the middle to hook into a life cycle method exactly before or after any plugin.

The core plugins include version, git, npm, github, gitlab.

Note that hooks like after:git:release will not run when either the git push failed, or when it is configured not to be executed (e.g. git.push: false). See [execution order][36] for more details on execution order of plugin lifecycle methods.

All commands can use configuration variables (like template strings). An array of commands can also be provided, they will run one after another. Some example release configuration:

  "hooks": {
    "before:init": ["npm run lint", "npm test"],
    "after:my-plugin:bump": "./bin/my-script.sh",
    "after:bump": "npm run build",
    "after:git:release": "echo After git push, before github release",
    "after:release": "echo Successfully released ${name} v${version} to ${repo.repository}."

The variables can be found in the [default configuration][21]. Additionally, the following variables are exposed:

repo.remote, repo.protocol, repo.host, repo.owner, repo.repository, repo.project

All variables are available in all hooks. The only exception is that the additional variables listed above are not yet available in the init hook.

Use --verbose to log the output of the commands.

For the sake of verbosity, the full list of hooks is actually: init, beforeBump, bump, beforeRelease, release or afterRelease. However, hooks like before:beforeRelease look weird and are usually not useful in practice.

Note that arguments need to be quoted properly when used from the command line:

release --'hooks.after:release="echo Successfully released ${name} v${version} to ${repo.repository}."'

Using Inquirer.js inside custom hook scripts might cause issues (since release also uses this itself).

Dry Runs

Use --dry-run to show the interactivity and the commands it would execute.

→ See [Dry Runs][37] for more details.

Troubleshooting & debugging

  • With release --verbose (or -V), release prints the output of every user-defined [hook][2].
  • With release -VV, release also prints the output of every internal command.
  • Use NODE_DEBUG=release:* release [...] to print configuration and more error details.

Use verbose: 2 in a configuration file to have the equivalent of -VV on the command line.


Since v11, release can be extended in many, many ways. Here are some plugins:

Plugin Description
[@StepSec/bumper][24] Read & write the version from/to any file
[@StepSec/conventional-changelog][25] Provides recommended bump, conventional-changelog, and updates CHANGELOG.md
[@StepSec/keep-a-changelog][38] Maintain CHANGELOG.md using the Keep a Changelog standards
[@grupoboticario/news-fragments][41] An easy way to generate your changelog file
[@j-ulrich/release-regex-bumper][42] Regular expression based version read/write plugin for release

Internally, release uses its own plugin architecture (for Git, GitHub, GitLab, npm).

→ See all [release plugins on npm][43].

→ See [plugins][44] for documentation to write plugins.

Use release programmatically

While mostly used as a CLI tool, release can be used as a dependency to integrate in your own scripts. See [use release programmatically][45] for example code.

Example projects using release

  • [axios/axios][46]
  • [blockchain/blockchain-wallet-v4-frontend][47]
  • [callstack/react-native-paper][48]
  • [ember-cli/ember-cli][49]
  • [js-cookie/js-cookie][50]
  • [metalsmith/metalsmith][51]
  • [mozilla/readability][52]
  • [pahen/madge][53]
  • [redis/node-redis][54]
  • [reduxjs/redux][55]
  • [saleor/saleor][56]
  • [Semantic-Org/Semantic-UI-React][57]
  • [shipshapecode/shepherd][58]
  • [StevenBlack/hosts][59]
  • [swagger-api/swagger-ui][60] + [swagger-editor][61]
  • [tabler/tabler][62] + [tabler-icons][63]
  • [youzan/vant][64]
  • [Repositories that depend on release][65]
  • GitHub search for [path:**/.release.json][66]

Legacy Node.js

The latest major version is v16, supporting Node.js 16 and up (as Node.js v14 is EOL). Use release v15 for environments running Node.js v14. Also see [CHANGELOG.md][67].


  • See [CHANGELOG.md][67] for major/breaking updates, and [releases][68] for a detailed version history.
  • To contribute, please read [CONTRIBUTING.md][69] first.
  • Please [open an issue][70] if anything is missing or unclear in this documentation.

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