There is more to open source than a licence. It is also a development methodology. This page links to various resources about different aspects of open source development.




Documentation is key to the success of your project. If your users can't use the software then they will simply leave. If your potential developers do not know how to contribute they simply won't bother.

Mailing Lists

Code Development

["SVN Commit Messages"] - SVN can send out emails on every commit, great for peer review and keeping up to date

SoftwarePatch - Working with patches

IPR Management

ContributorLicenceAgreements - a contributor licence agreement helps ensure that all contributions to the project can legally be included

Build Automation

Dependency Management


Issue/Bug/Patch Tracking


Quality is key. This does not mean shipping without bugs, that is close to impossible, what it does mean is shipping with no known bugs (actually shipping early releases with known. but manageable bugs can be ok too). Testing is the way to ensure you are shipping (near) bug free code. Testing falls into two camps, user testing and automated testing. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

User Testing

Automated Testing

[ EMMA] code coverage plugin for Eclipse

Release Early, Release Often

An important part of open source development is the creation of a release for users of the software. Whilst the source code is freely available and usually developed in an open manner, potential developers and users will usually want to be able to evaluate the code quickly and easily. Therefore, projects should frequently release their software in a form that is easily accessible.

"Release early, release often" is a well known mantra of open source development. There are many reasons why it is important to release early and release often. Some of the more important ones are:

Release Early, Release Often is part of building a sustainable open source project, releases produce users, users sometimes become contributors, contributors make the project stronger. The downside of releasing early and often is that you need to manage your user expectations. Be clear about the true status of your release and make any known bugs clear in your documentation.

Release Management

["Release Management"]

[wiki:ReleasingOpenSourceSoftware Releasing Open Source Software]

[ Wikipedia on Release Management Method]

[ Release Management Within Open Source Projects by Justin R. Erenkrantz]

[ Software Release Practice HOWTO by Eric Steven Raymond]

Release Packaging

You should make the installation of your software as easy as possible, ideally users should be able to download and install from a binary, whilst developers should have a clear document describing how to configure their environment.


IzPack - an installer generator for the Java platform.

Related Documents

OpenSourceDevelopmentInAction - a few examples of how doing it right saves time and effort later

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OSS Watch is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and is situated within the Research Technologies Service (RTS) of the University of Oxford.