Gutenberg Release Process Edit

This Repository is used to perform several types of releases. This document serves as a checklist for each one of these. It is helpful if you’d like to understand the different workflows.

To release a stable version of the Gutenberg plugin you need to be part of the Gutenberg development team. On top of that, you need approval from a member of the Gutenberg Core team for the final step of the release process (upload to the WordPress.org plugin repo — see below). If you aren’t a member yourself, make sure to contact one ahead of time so they’ll be around at the time of the release. You can ping in the #core-editor Slack channel.

To release WordPress’s npm packages, similar requirements apply.

Plugin Releases

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Schedule

We release a new major version approximately every two weeks. The current and next versions are tracked in GitHub milestones, along with each version’s tagging date (the day when the release candidate is to be tagged).

  • On the date of the current milestone, we publish a release candidate and make it available for plugin authors and users to test. If any regressions are found with a release candidate, a new one can be published. On this date, all remaining PRs on the milestone are moved automatically to the next release. Release candidates should be versioned incrementally, starting with -rc.1, then -rc.2, and so on. Preparation of the release post starts here and spans until the final release.

  • One week after the first release candidate, the stable version is created based on the last release candidate and any necessary regression fixes. Once the stable version is released, the release post is published, including a performance audit.

If critical bugs are discovered on stable versions of the plugin, patch versions can be released at any time.

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Release Tool

The plugin release process is entirely automated and happens solely on GitHub — i.e. it doesn’t require any steps to be run locally on your machine.

For your convenience, here’s an 11-minute video walkthrough that demonstrates the release process. It’s recommended to watch this if you’re unfamiliar with it. The process is also documented in the following paragraphs.

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Running workflow

In order to start the release process, go to Gutenberg’s GitHub repository’s Actions tab, and locate the “Build Gutenberg Plugin Zip” action. Note the blue banner that says “This workflow has a workflow_dispatch event trigger.”, and expand the “Run workflow” dropdown on its right hand side.

Run workflow dropdown for the plugin release

To release a release candidate (RC) version of the plugin, enter rc. To release a stable version, enter stable. In each case, press the green “Run workflow” button.

This will trigger a GitHub Actions (GHA) workflow that bumps the plugin version, builds the Gutenberg plugin .zip file, creates a release draft, and attaches the plugin .zip file to it. This part of the process typically takes a little under six minutes. You’ll see that workflow appear at the top of the list, right under the blue banner. Once it’s finished, it’ll change its status icon from a yellow dot to a green checkmark. You can follow along in a more detailed view by clicking on the workflow.

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View the release draft

As soon as the workflow has finished, you’ll find the release draft under https://github.com/WordPress/gutenberg/releases. The draft is pre-populated with changelog entries based on previous release candidates for this version, and any changes that have since been cherry-picked to the release branch. Thus, when releasing the first stable version of a series, make sure to delete any RC version headers (that are only there for your information) and to move the more recent changes to the correct section (see below).

The changelog draft will be at least partially pre-organized (based on GitHub label) into sections and within those into “features”. Take some time to read the generated notes and then edit them to ensure legibility and accuracy.

Don’t rush this part — it’s important to bring the release notes into a nice shape. You don’t have to do it all in one go — you can save the draft and come back to it later.

When editing the notes, you should be sure to:

  1. Delete the Various section and move anything under it to a more appropriate section.
  2. Move all features under Uncategorized bullet points to a more suitable feature.

You can find some more tips on writing the release notes and post in the section below.

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Publishing the release

Only once you’re happy with the shape of the release notes should you press the green “Publish release” button. This will create a git tag for the version, publish the release, and trigger another GHA workflow that has a twofold purpose:

  1. Use the release notes that you just edited to update changelog.txt, and
  2. Upload the new plugin version to the WordPress.org plugin repository (SVN) (only if you’re releasing a stable version).

The latter step needs approval by a member of the Gutenberg Core team. Locate the “Upload Gutenberg plugin to WordPress.org plugin repo” workflow for the new version, and have it approved.

This will cause the new version to be available to users of WordPress all over the globe! 💃
You should check that folks can install the new version from their Dashboard.

Once released, all that’s left to do is writing a release post on make.wordpress.org/core. You can find some tips on that below.

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Documenting the release with the Release Notes and Post

Documenting the release is a group effort between the release manager, Gutenberg core team developers, and designers , comprised of a series of sequential steps that, because of the amount of people involved and the coordination required, need to adhere to a timeline between the RC and stable releases. The release manager will get pinged by a core member to kick-off and coordinate this process.
  1. Curating the changelog – Wednesday after the RC release to Friday
  2. Selecting the release highlights – Friday to Monday
  3. Drafting the release post – Monday to Wednesday
  4. Running the performance tests – Wednesday right after the stable release
  5. Publishing the post – Wednesday after stable release

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1. Curating the changelog

The release notes draft is auto-generated by a script that looks for pull requests for the current milestone, and:

  1. Groups them into sections (by pull request label).
  2. Sub-groups them into “features” within each section (again by pull request label)

This is intended to be a starting point for release notes, and manually reviewing and curating the changelog entries is still required. The release candidate changelog is reused in the stable release and greatly helps select the highlights; because depending on the release it can be a very time-consuming process, it is recommended to start this process as soon as the milestone is closed and the release candidate is published.

Guidelines for proof-reading include:

  • Move all entries under the Various section to a more appropriate section.
  • Move all features listed under the Uncategorized bullet points to a more suitable feature grouping.
  • Fix spelling errors or clarify wording. Phrasing should be easy to understand where the intended audience is those who use the plugin or are keeping up with ongoing development.
  • Create new groupings as applicable, and move pull requests between.
  • When multiple pull requests relate to the same task (such as a follow-up pull request), try to combine them to a single entry.
  • If subtasks of a related set of pull requests are substantial, consider organizing as entries in a nested list.
  • If one or more pull requests revert one or more pull requests in the same release netting a zero-sum of code changes, remove them.
  • Remove all mobile app pull request entries (the only exception to this rule is if the mobile PR also updates functionality for the web).

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2. Selecting the release highlights

Once the changelog is cleaned up, the next step is to choose a few changes to highlight in the release post. These highlights usually focus on new features and enhancements, including performance and accessibility ones, but can also include important API changes or critical bug fixes.

Given the big scope of Gutenberg and the high number of pull requests merged in each milestone, it is not uncommon to overlook impactful changes worth highlighting; because of this, this step is a collaborative effort between the release manager, design, and Gutenberg Core team members.

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3. Drafting the release post

Because of the nature of the release post content, responsibilities are divided in this step. While the post can either be drafted by the release manager or delegated to another core member agreed upon in advance, visual assets are created by the design team.

When possible, the highlighted changes in the release post should include an animation (video or GIF) or a static image of them in use. Choosing between an animation or a static image will depend on the best way to showcase each highlight: while animations are better to demonstrate workflows, more direct highlights can be shown with an image; having too many video players adds a layer of friction for users to see the highlight, whereas too many simultaneous animated GIFs can distract and overwhelm the reader.

These visual assets should maintain consistency with previous release posts; using lean, white themes helps in this regard and visually integrate well with the make.wordpress.org/core blog aesthetics. Including copyrighted material should be avoided, and browser plugins that can be seen in the browser canvas (spell checkers, form fillers, etc.) disabled when capturing the assets.

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4. Running the performance tests

The post should also include a performance audit at the end, comparing the current Gutenberg release with both the previous one and the latest WordPress major version. There are GitHub worfklows in place to do this comparison as part of the Continuous Integration setup, so the performance audit results can be found at the workflow run generated by the release commit in the Performance Tests workflows page, with the job name Compare performance with current WordPress Core and previous Gutenberg versions.

If the GitHub workflow fails, the performance audit can be executed locally using bin/plugin/cli.js perf and passing the branches to run the performance suite against as parameters. In addition, the current major WP version can be passed to avoid running tests against the WP trunk. Example:

node ./bin/plugin/cli.js perf release/x.y release/x.z wp/a.b --wp-version wp.major

The performance values usually displayed in the release post are:

  • Time to the first block (test named firstBlock)
  • KeyPress Event (typing) (test named type)

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5. Publishing the post

Once the post content is ready, an author already having permissions to post in make.wordpress.org/core will create a new draft and import the content; this post should be published after the actual release, helping external media to echo and amplify the release news. Remember asking for peer review is encouraged by the make/core posting guidelines!

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Creating Release Candidate Patches (done via git cherry-pick)

If a bug is found in a release candidate and a fix is committed to trunk, we should include that fix in the stable version (or optionally in another release candidate before that). To do this you’ll need to use git cherry-pick to add these changes to the milestone’s release branch. This way only the desired fixes are added rather than all the new code that has landed on trunk since tagging:

  1. Checkout the corresponding release branch with: git checkout release/x.x.
  2. Cherry-pick fix commits (in chronological order) with git cherry-pick [SHA]. The cherry-picking process can be automated with the npm run cherry-pick script.
  3. When done, push the changes to GitHub: git push.

If you decide that the fixes deserve another release candidate before the stable version is published, create one by following the instructions above. Let other contributors know that a new release candidate has been released in the #core-editor channel.

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Creating Point Releases

Occasionally it’s necessary to create a point release (i.e. X.Y.Z) of the Plugin. This is most commonly to push fixes for regressions and/or bugs.

As you proceed with the following process, it’s worth bearing in mind that such point releases are not created as branches in their own right (e.g. release/12.5.0) but are simply tags.

The method for point releases is nearly identical to the main Plugin release process (see above) but has some notable exceptions. Please make sure to read the whole of this guide before proceeding.

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Updating the release branch

The point release should only contain the specific commits required. To do this you should checkout the previous minor stable (i.e. non-RC) release branch (e.g. release/12.5) locally and then cherry pick any commits that you require into that branch.

The cherry-picking process can be automated with the npm run cherry-pick script.

You must also ensure that all PRs being included are assigned to the Github Milestone on which the point release is based. Bear in mind, that when PRs are merged they are automatically assigned a milestone for the next stable release. Therefore you will need to go back through each PR in Github and re-assign the Milestone.

For example, if you are releasing version 12.5.4, then all PRs picked for that release must be unassigned from the 12.6 Milestone and instead assigned to the 12.5 Milestone.

Once you have the stable release branch in order and the correct Milestone assigned to your PRs you can push the branch to Github and continue with the release process using the Github website GUI.

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Running the point release

Run workflow dropdown for the plugin release

Go to Gutenberg’s GitHub repository’s Actions tab, and locate the “Build Gutenberg Plugin Zip” action. You should now carefully choose the next action based on information about the current Plugin release version:

If the previous release version was stable (X.Y.Z – e.g. 12.5.0, 12.5.1 .etc) leave the Use workflow from field as trunk and then specify stable in the text input field. The workflow will automatically create a point release, with z incremented (x.y.(z+1)) as required.

If however, the previous release was an RC (e.g. X.Y.0-rc.1) you will need to manually select the stable version’s release branch (e.g. 12.5.0) when creating the release. Failure to do this will cause the workflow to release the next major stable version (e.g. 12.6.0) which is not what you want.

To do this, when running the Workflow, select the appropriate release/ branch from the Use workflow from dropdown (e.g. release/12.5) and specify stable in the text input field.

Please note you cannot create point releases for previous stable releases once a more recent stable release has been published as this would require significant changes to how we upload plugin versions to the WP.org plugin SVN repo). Always check the latest release version before you proceed (see this Issue for more information).

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Troubleshooting

The release draft was created but it was empty/contained an error message

If you forget to assign the correct Milestone to your cherry picked PR(s) then the changelog may not be generated as you would expect.

It is important to always manually verify that the PRs shown in the changelog match up with those cherry picked to the release branch.

Moreover, if the release includes only a single PR, then failing to assign the PR to the correct Milestone will cause an error to be displayed when generating the changelog. In this case you can edit the release notes to include details of the missing PR (manually copying the format from a previous release).

If for any reason the Milestone has been closed, you may reopen it for the purposes of the release.

The draft release only contains 1 asset file. Other releases have x3.

This is expected. The draft release will contain only the plugin zip. Only once the release is published will the remaining assets be generated and added to the release.

Do I need to publish point releases to WordPress.org?

Yes. The method for this is identical to the main Plugin release process. You will need a Gutenberg Core team member to approve the release workflow.

The release process failed to cherry-pick version bump commit to the trunk branch.

First, confirm that the step failed by checking the latest commits on trunk do not include the version bump commit. Then revert the version bump commit on the release branch – git revert --no-edit {commitHash}. Finally, push the changes and start the release process again.

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Packages Releases to npm and WordPress Core Updates

The Gutenberg repository follows the WordPress SVN repository’s branching strategy for every major WordPress release. In addition to that, it also contains two other special branches that control npm publishing workflows:

  • The wp/latest branch contains the same version of packages as those published to npm with the latest distribution tag. The goal here is to have this branch synchronized with the last Gutenberg plugin release, and the only exception would be an unplanned bugfix release.
  • The wp/next branch contains the same version of packages as those published to npm with the next distribution tag. It always gets synchronized with the trunk branch. Projects should use those packages for development or testing purposes only.
  • A Gutenberg branch wp/* (example wp/6.0) targeting a specific WordPress major release (including its further minor increments) gets created based on the wp/latest Gutenberg branch just after the last Gutenberg release planned for inclusion in the next major WordPress release.

Release types and their schedule:

  • Synchronizing Gutenberg Plugin (latest dist tag) – publishing happens automatically every two weeks based on the newly created release/* (example release/12.8) branch with the RC1 version of the Gutenberg plugin.
  • WordPress Releases (patch dist tag) – publishing gets triggered manually from the wp/* (example wp/6.0) branch. Once we reach the point in the WordPress major release cycle (usually after Beta 1) where we only cherry-pick commits from the Gutenberg repository to the WordPress core, we use wp/* branch (created from wp/latest) for npm publishing with the patch dist-tag. It’s also possible to use older branches to backport bug or security fixes to the corresponding older versions of WordPress Core.
  • Development Releases (next dist tag) – it is also possible to perform development releases at any time when there is a need to test the upcoming changes.

There is also an option to perform Standalone Bugfix Package Releases at will. It should be reserved only for critical bug fixes or security releases that must be published to npm outside of regular cycles.

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Synchronizing Gutenberg Plugin

For each Gutenberg plugin release, we also publish to npm an updated version of WordPress packages. This is automated with the Release Tool that handles releases for the Gutenberg plugin. A successful RC1 release triggers the npm publishing job, and this needs to be approved by a Gutenberg Core team member. Locate the “Build Gutenberg Plugin Zip” workflow for the new version, and have it approved.

We deliberately update the wp/latest branch within the Gutenberg repo with the content from the Gutenberg release release/* (example release/12.7) branch at the time of the Gutenberg RC1 release. This is done to ensure that the wp/latest branch is as close as possible to the latest version of the Gutenberg plugin. It also practically removes the chances of conflicts while backporting to trunk commits with updates applied during publishing to package.json and CHANGELOG.md files. In the past, we had many issues in that aspect when doing npm publishing after the regular Gutenberg release a week later. When publishing the new package versions to npm, we pick at least the minor version bump to account for future bugfix or security releases.

Behind the scenes, all steps are automated via ./bin/plugin/cli.js npm-latest command. For the record, the manual process would look very close to the following steps:

  1. Ensure the WordPress trunk branch is open for enhancements.
  2. Get the last published Gutenberg release branch with git fetch.
  3. Check out the wp/latest branch.
  4. Remove all files from the current branch: git rm -r ..
  5. Check out all the files from the release branch: git checkout release/x.x -- ..
  6. Commit all changes to the wp/latest branch with git commit -m "Merge changes published in the Gutenberg plugin vX.X release" and push to the repository.
  7. Update the CHANGELOG.md files of the packages with the new publish version calculated and commit to the wp/latest branch. Assuming the package versions are written using this format major.minor.patch, make sure to bump at least the minor version bumps gets applied. For example, if the CHANGELOG of the package to be released indicates that the next unreleased version is 5.6.1, choose 5.7.0 as a version in case of minor version. This is important as the patch version numbers should be reserved in case bug fixes are needed for a minor WordPress release (see below).
  8. Log-in to npm via the console: npm login. Note that you should have 2FA enabled.
  9. From the wp/latest branch, install npm dependencies with npm ci.
  10. Run the script npm run publish:latest.
    • When asked for the version numbers to choose for each package pick the values of the updated CHANGELOG files.
    • You’ll be asked for your One-Time Password (OTP) a couple of times. This is the code from the 2FA authenticator app you use. Depending on how many packages are to be released you may be asked for more than one OTP, as they tend to expire before all packages are released.
    • If the publishing process ends up incomplete (perhaps because it timed-out or an bad OTP was introduce) you can resume it via lerna publish from-package.
  11. Finally, now that the npm packages are published, cherry-pick the commits created by lerna (“Publish” and the CHANGELOG update) into the trunk branch of Gutenberg.

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WordPress Releases

The following workflow is needed when bug or security fixes need to be backported into WordPress Core. This can happen in a few use-cases:

  • During the beta and RC periods of the WordPress release cycle when wp/X.Y (example wp/5.7) branch for the release is already present.
  • For WordPress minor releases and WordPress security releases (example 5.1.1).
  1. Check out the relevant WordPress major branch (If the minor release is 5.2.1, check out wp/5.2).
  2. Create a feature branch from that branch, and cherry-pick the merge commits for the needed bug fixes onto it. The cherry-picking process can be automated with the npm run cherry-pick script.
  3. Create a Pull Request from this branch targeting the WordPress major branch used above.
  4. Merge the Pull Request using the “Rebase and Merge” button to keep the history of the commits.

Now, the wp/X.Y branch is ready for publishing npm packages. In order to start the process, go to Gutenberg’s GitHub repository’s Actions tab, and locate the “Publish npm packages” action. Note the blue banner that says “This workflow has a workflow_dispatch event trigger.”, and expand the “Run workflow” dropdown on its right hand side.

Run workflow dropdown for npm publishing

To publish packages to npm for the WordPress major release, select wp from the “Release type” dropdown and enter X.Y (example 5.2) in the “WordPress major release” input field. Finally, press the green “Run workflow” button. It triggers the npm publishing job, and this needs to be approved by a Gutenberg Core team member. Locate the “Publish npm packages” action for the current publishing, and have it approved.

For the record, the manual process would look like the following:

  1. Check out the WordPress branch used before (example wp/5.2).
  2. git pull.
  3. Run the npm run publish:patch command (see more in package release process) but when asked for the version numbers to choose for each package, (assuming the package versions are written using this format major.minor.patch) make sure to bump only the patch version number. For example, if the last published package version for this WordPress branch was 5.6.0, choose 5.6.1 as a version.

Note: For WordPress 5.0 and WordPress 5.1, a different release process was used. This means that when choosing npm package versions targeting these two releases, you won’t be able to use the next patch version number as it may have been already used. You should use the “metadata” modifier for these. For example, if the last published package version for this WordPress branch was 5.6.1, choose 5.6.1+patch.1 as a version.

  1. Optionally update the CHANGELOG.md files of the published packages with the new released versions and commit to the corresponding branch (Example wp/5.2).
  2. Cherry-pick the CHANGELOG update commits, if any, into the trunk branch of Gutenberg.

Now, the npm packages should be ready and a patch can be created and committed into the corresponding WordPress SVN branch.

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Standalone Bugfix Package Releases

The following workflow is needed when packages require bug fixes or security releases to be published to npm outside of a regular release cycle.

Note: Both the trunk and wp/latest branches are restricted and can only be pushed to by the Gutenberg Core team.

Identify the commit hashes from the pull requests that need to be ported from the repo trunk branch to wp/latest

The wp/latest branch now needs to be prepared to release and publish the packages to npm.

Open a terminal and perform the following steps:

  1. git checkout trunk
  2. git pull
  3. git checkout wp/latest
  4. git pull

Before porting commits check that the wp/latest branch does not have any outstanding packages waiting to be published:

  1. git checkout wp/latest
  2. npm run publish:check

Now cherry-pick the commits from trunk to wp/latest, use -m 1 commithash if the commit was a pull request merge commit:

  1. git cherry-pick -m 1 cb150a2
  2. git push

Whilst waiting for the GitHub actions build for wp/latestbranch to pass, identify and begin updating the CHANGELOG.md files:

  1. git checkout wp/latest
  2. npm run publish:check
    > Example
    >
    > shell
    > npm run publish:check
    > @wordpress/e2e-tests
    > @wordpress/jest-preset-default
    > @wordpress/scripts
    > lerna success found 3 packages ready to publish
    >

Check the versions listed in the current CHANGELOG.md file, looking through the commit history of a package e.g @wordpress/scripts and look out for “chore(release): publish” and “Update changelogs” commits to determine recent version bumps, then looking at the commits since the most recent release should aid with discovering what changes have occurred since the last release.

Note: You may discover the current version of each package is not up to date, if so updating the previously released versions would be appreciated.

Now, the wp/latest branch is ready for publishing npm packages. In order to start the process, go to Gutenberg’s GitHub repository’s Actions tab, and locate the “Publish npm packages” action. Note the blue banner that says “This workflow has a workflow_dispatch event trigger.”, and expand the “Run workflow” dropdown on its right hand side.

Run workflow dropdown for npm publishing

To publish packages to npm with bugfixes, select bugfix from the “Release type” dropdown and leave empty “WordPress major release” input field. Finally, press the green “Run workflow” button. It triggers the npm publishing job, and this needs to be approved by a Gutenberg Core team member. Locate the “Publish npm packages” action for the current publishing, and have it approved.

Behind the scenes, the rest of the process is automated with ./bin/plugin/cli.js npm-bugfix command. For the record, the manual process would look very close to the following steps:

  1. Check out the wp/latest branch.
  2. Update the CHANGELOG.md files of the packages with the new publish version calculated and commit to the wp/latest branch.
  3. Log-in to npm via the console: npm login. Note that you should have 2FA enabled.
  4. From the wp/latest branch, install npm dependencies with npm ci.
  5. Run the script npm run publish:latest.
    • When asked for the version numbers to choose for each package pick the values of the updated CHANGELOG files.
    • You’ll be asked for your One-Time Password (OTP) a couple of times. This is the code from the 2FA authenticator app you use. Depending on how many packages are to be released you may be asked for more than one OTP, as they tend to expire before all packages are released.
    • If the publishing process ends up incomplete (perhaps because it timed-out or an bad OTP was introduce) you can resume it via lerna publish from-package.
  6. Finally, now that the npm packages are published, cherry-pick the commits created by lerna (“Publish” and the CHANGELOG update) into the trunk branch of Gutenberg.

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Development Releases

As noted in the Synchronizing Gutenberg Plugin section, packages publishing happens every two weeks from the wp/latest branch. It’s also possible to use the development release to test the upcoming changes present in the trunk branch at any time. We are taking advantage of package distribution tags that make it possible to consume the future version of the codebase according to npm guidelines:

By default, the latest tag is used by npm to identify the current version of a package, and npm install <pkg> (without any @<version> or @<tag> specifier) installs the latest tag. Typically, projects only use the latest tag for stable release versions, and use other tags for unstable versions such as prereleases.

In our case, we use the next distribution tag for code. Developers that want to install such a version of the package need to type:

npm install @wordpress/components@next

In order to start the publishing process for development version of npm packages, go to Gutenberg’s GitHub repository’s Actions tab, and locate the “Publish npm packages” action. Note the blue banner that says “This workflow has a workflow_dispatch event trigger.”, and expand the “Run workflow” dropdown on its right hand side.

Run workflow dropdown for npm publishing

To publish development packages to npm, select development from the “Release type” dropdown and leave empty “WordPress major release” input field. Finally, press the green “Run workflow” button. It triggers the npm publishing job, and this needs to be approved by a Gutenberg Core team member. Locate the “Publish npm packages” action for the current publishing, and have it approved.

Behind the scenes, the release process is fully automated via ./bin/plugin/cli.js npm-next command. It ensures
the wp/next branch is synchronized with the latest release branch (release/*) created for the Gutenberg plugin. To avoid collisions in the versioning of packages, we always include the newest commit’s sha, for example, @wordpress/block-editor@5.2.10-next.645224df70.0.