For any software developers or companies selling software products, release notes are crucial for providing relevant information about a new product launch or product updates. In many cases, release notes are also used as a partial substitute for a user manual or any other form of product documentation.

Yet, release notes are often undervalued and treated as an afterthought for many companies, while in truth, they can be a valuable communication and marketing tool we can use to engage customers, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately create a better overall product experience.

While writing a proper release note can be easier said than done, fortunately, there are now various release note templates you can easily copy and paste to suit your product. 

In this guide, we will discuss what a perfect release note template looks like and how to use it for your business.

Let us begin, however, from the basics.

What Is a Release Note?

A release note, in a nutshell, is technical product documentation that is published alongside either a new software product launch or the release of an update (i.e., security patches, new features, bug fixes, etc.)

A release note should be a brief but comprehensive description of the new product’s features or the details of the changes included in a product update.

Obviously, release notes are primarily targeted at product users, but in some cases, release notes can also be used as internal documentation.

Release notes can (and should) play a vital role in your product’s overall experience, giving you an opportunity to communicate with both prospective and existing customers.

Anatomy of a Good Release Note

Before we can properly learn about release note templates and how to use them, we should discuss what should be included in a proper release note.

There’s no one-size-fits-all format for release notes, and each release note should adhere to the product’s current needs and the company’s standards. For example, a release note for a brand-new software launch may be longer and include more details than a release note accompanying a bug fix update.

With that being said, here is a general format that most release notes can follow:

Section 1: Header

  • Title
  • Product name
  • Product’s date of release
  • Release number
  • Release note version (if applicable)
  • Release note’s publication date

Section 2: Overview

A brief summary and overview of what the release note is about (i.e., a brand new product, feature update, etc.)

Section 3: Purpose

Communicating the purpose of the release note (i.e., listing what’s new in the current release.)

Section 4: Problem Summary

Short description of the bug fixed by the update or a problem tackled by a new feature.

Section 5: Steps to Resolve

Steps taken from when the bug/problem was discovered until a solution has been implemented.

Section 6: Resolution

Brief description of actions made to fix the problem/bug.

Section 7: End-User Impact

List of user functionality impacted by the changes or specific actions needed to be performed by users.

Section 8: Notes

Miscellaneous notes about specific changes to the installation, product documentation, and so on.

Section 9: Disclaimers

Disclaimers as needed by the product or company.

Section 10: Contact Information

Contact information for customer support.

Why Release Note Templates?

Why will you need a release note template?

To answer this question, we have to understand that there are two important reasons why so many companies fail to regularly and consistently publish high-quality release notes:

1. Writing high-quality release notes is time-consuming

According to a pretty recent study regarding release notes production, writing release notes takes, on average, 4 to 8 hours, which is obviously substantial. Not all companies have the luxury or the willingness to commit this time, and the more products or product updates the company is releasing; the more time will be needed to write all these release notes.

2. Keeping track of changes accurately can be extremely challenging

Virtually in any software development cycle, keeping track of what’s changed, the impact of each change, and when the change actually happens can be extremely difficult. 

Not to mention, many software developers now involve multiple teams and are demanded to work at a much faster rate than ever, exponentially increasing the magnitude of this challenge.

With that being said, changelog software like ReleasePad are available to help you tackle these challenges. ReleasePad is designed to help your team understand precisely what changes have been made, when, and which users are impacted, while also providing an easier way to write and publish great release notes for your users.

Another solution to consider in tackling these challenges is to use release note templates to streamline the release note development and save your valuable time in the process. 

A release note template can offer two core benefits:

  • Saving you hours of valuable time

With a well-designed release note template, you can basically bypass the time-consuming process of thinking about how you should format your release note, what content should be included, and other administrative (and repetitive) tasks. 

Instead, by leveraging a release note template, your team can use their valuable time focusing on just creating the best content possible, as well as improving the product further.

  • Standardizing your message

Using a proper release note template ensures you can use the same repeatable format every time. This will provide consistency and a sense of familiarity for your users, allowing them an easier time grasping the content of the release note.

Since your users (and internal team) know what to expect from your release notes, they are also more likely to read and engage with them.

Leveraging release note templates can ultimately help your business stay agile while also facilitating scalability.

Perfect Release Note Templates You Can Use

Again, no two release notes should be written the same, but each of them should cater to the actual needs of the product launch or update.

So, we can’t rely on a single release note template for every situation, but instead, here we will share ten release note templates you can use for free in different scenarios, and how to use them.

Release Note Template 1: Classic Release Note

Without further ado, let us begin with the first one.

This is a general-purpose template that is also the most common format used for product changes or updates. 

This template includes five basic sections:

  1. The change(s)
  2. When the change(s) are implemented
  3. The important/valuable highlight of the change
  4. (Optional) tutorial on how to use the change
  5. How users can learn more or get help

Release Note Template 2: Monthly Updates Recap

This template can be used to provide a recap of what’s changed throughout the month. Perfect for software development teams that want to be consistently communicating with their users but are not yet ready to publish weekly updates (or if the development cycle is not that fast yet.)

This template has five basic sections:

  1. The top three most significant changes this month
  2. Notable mentions of other changes that occurred this month
  3. The most important or valuable highlights of these top changes
  4. (Optional) tutorial on how to use the change
  5. How users can learn more or get help

Release Note Template 3: Weekly Update Recap

An ‘upgrade’ to the monthly update recap template discussed above. Great for teams with faster development cycles that are looking to have a more frequent engagement with their users.

Also great for companies with multiple software products (so you can recap weekly changes for different products in a single release note) and those competing in highly competitive niches. Teams that implement CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment) may also consider this format.

This template has five basic sections:

  1. The top three most significant changes this week
  2. Notable mentions of other changes that occurred this week
  3. The most important or valuable highlights of these top changes
  4. (Optional) tutorial on how to use the change
  5. How users can learn more or get help

Release Note Template 4: Quarterly Roundup

If monthly or weekly recap formats are too “fast” for you, then another option is the more traditional quarterly roundup format. Ideal for companies that released updates less frequently (i.e., once or twice a month.).

This template includes five basic sections:

  1. The top three most significant changes this quarter
  2. Notable mentions of other changes that occurred this quarter
  3. The most important or valuable highlights of these top changes
  4. (Optional) tutorial on how to use the change
  5. How users can learn more or get help

Release Note Template 5: Product Tiering Template

Ideal for companies that deliver updates infrequently, for example, only when new problems are identified. Instead of using time-based release note formats (as discussed above), the company can use formats based on the potential impact of the changes implemented. 

The basic structure of a tiered release note is as follows:

  1. Tier 1 changes/product releases: have a major impact on brand new users.
  2. Tier 2 changes/product releases: have a major impact on existing users.
  3. Tier 2 changes/product releases: have a minor impact on existing users (won’t significantly affect their user experience.

Tier 1 Changes/New Product Launch Template

Tier 1 changes should be the most significant and impactful, and you should use this format when launching major updates or significant changes/improvements. You can also use this template for new product launches.

In these scenarios, you will need a more comprehensive release note, which should include six sections:

  1. The new product or key features/changes you are introducing in this release note
  2. Additional new features that are also introduced (or key features of the new product)
  3. The most important or valuable highlights of this release
  4. (Optional) what else went live with this release?
  5. (Optional) tutorial on how to use the change
  6. How users can learn more or get help

Tier 2 Changes Template

This is the release note you should publish to accompany major (but not game-changing) updates, and the release note should include six sections:

  1. The new feature or functionality you are introducing
  2. (Optional) Additional new features that are also introduced
  3. The most important or valuable highlights of this release
  4. (Optional) what else went live with this release?
  5. (Optional) tutorial on how to use the change
  6. How users can learn more or get help

Tier 3 Changes Template

Tier 3 changes are improvements or changes that are only relevant to existing users and won’t significantly impact user experience. Although these changes are minor, they shouldn’t be underestimated, and you should still publish a well-written release note with five basic sections:

  1. The changes or improvements introduced.
  2. When did the changes happen.
  3. The most important or valuable highlights of this release.
  4. (Optional) tutorial on how to use the change.
  5. How users can learn more or get help.

Example: Using The Release Note Template

Below is an example of a release note developed using the classic release note template (template 1) discussed above.

This template includes five basic sections:

  1. The change(s)
  2. When the change(s) are implemented
  3. The important/valuable highlight of the change
  4. (Optional) tutorial on how to use the change
  5. How users can learn more or get help

1. The Change

H2: Automation triggers are now available

After a month, we’re happy to share that one of the most requested features, automation triggers, is now available……

2. When the change is implemented

H3: Upgrade to the latest version for immediate access to this feature

We released version 0.71b of the app today. For those without auto-updates turned on, you can download the update manually here…..

3. The important/valuable highlight of the change

H3: We’ve added a new library of automation triggers

Automation triggers add another layer of power to the app, unlocking the ability to set and customize automation according to your needs….

4. How users can learn more or get help

H3: Visit the resource center to learn more

Have additional questions about the automation triggers or other features? Visit the resource center here….

Wrapping Up

A well-written release note can be a very effective tool in converting prospective users, as well as in retaining existing users. So, don’t underestimate its importance. 

ReleasePad allows software owners to easily release in-product alerts to distribute release notes. You can use this feature to deploy the widget when a user first start-up the app or when they access a specific feature that has experienced recent change.