What is a Release Candidate?

A release candidate is a version of a software program that is usually not in its final form. While the version is functional, it’s not quite ready to be sold to the general public. An older version of the program may already be on the market and this newer version is not ready for release, or it may be the first version of a new product.

Woman doing handstand with a computer

The terms “release candidate” and “beta version” are often used interchangeably, but the two are not technically the same thing. Both refer to working programs that have not been fully tested. A release candidate, also known as an RC, has fewer identified flaws that must be addressed before the program can be tested and marketed to a small sector of consumers. In contrast, beta versions typically have more bugs that need to be fixed before being released to consumers for more thorough testing. This, in essence, technically makes the beta a precursor to an RC.

Of course, the ultimate goal of the release candidate is to emerge as a final product that will capture consumer interest and result in widespread popularity of the new software offering. Because consumers tend to have little or no patience for software that interacts poorly with existing programs and operating systems, developers do a lot of testing and refining software products before the first consumer test is performed. This will include testing the software on many different platforms and running it alongside other popular programs to determine if there are any negative consequences.

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When bugs are discovered in a release candidate, the issue is resolved and testing continues to ensure that the fix has not created any new issues. If bugs are found in the RC stage, usually only one round of fixes is needed. If more than one round of fixes are needed, the product has likely gone to the RC stage prematurely. Once the developers are sure that the release candidate is efficient and doesn’t have any major issues, the program can move to the RTM stage. This means the product can be released for marketing or manufacturing, which means the product can now be mass produced.

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