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What is a Change Log?

Smartpedia: A change log is a change protocol in which changes to software, development or a project are documented.

Change log – a protocol of changes

A change log documents changes made to software, a website, or within a project. The term “change” stands for “modification, the term “log” means logbook or protocol. In a change log – alternatively also called Release Note, News, What’s new etc. – changes are documented or the history of a development is presented.

The content and structure of the change log

The information logged in a change log can vary. In a company-internal system, all changes and thus numerous minor details are usually documented. This can be very important to ensure traceability. However, customers are often not interested in all the details of a change, and the benefits of a change are the most important thing for them. A change log within software development is therefore also a marketing instrument. It is proof of the further development of functions and a way of emphasising individual aspects of development. In this sense, a change log would not be a complete log of changes.

The structure of a change log also varies. The following information is often presented as documentation of changes within a software development:

  • An agenda or table of contents.
  • A version number that indicates which changes were implemented with which software version.
  • New functions, ideally with an indication of the benefits for the user.
  • Improvements and/or extensions of existing versions, also here with references to the use for users.
  • Screenshots, if necessary with hints for the use of the innovations and improvements.
  • Bug fixes – in some organizations these are also communicated via bug fix log.
  • Hotfixes (as particularly urgent bug fixes).
  • Notes on the implementation of new features, improvements, bug fixes.
  • Contact possibilities for users with customer service or hotline.

The creation of a changelog for users causes a lot of effort. Many companies therefore work with a configuration management system that documents all changes and identifies the information that is later – manually or automatically – transferred to the change log.

Different formats for a change log

The way a change log is displayed varies: it can be

  • a flat or nested list,
  • a table,
  • or a document of changes.

The form depends on the objective of the logging: If it is a company internal logging, changes are often managed in lists and/or tables. If it is information that informs users about new features, improvements or bug fixes, it is usually made available as a document. The publication of changes on websites or in wikis is also widespread, as this saves organisations the effort of distributing each new change log back to the users. Instead of this distribution, publication takes place under a constant URL.

Change Log - a protocol of changes

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Impulse to discuss:

Should a change log be considered as a promotional tool?


Here you can download a change log template.

Here you can find exemplary change logs from AppleMicrosoft and microTOOL.

And here you will find additional information from our Smartpedia section:

Smartpedia: What is a Bug Fix?

What is a Bug Fix?

Smartpedia: What is Traceability?

What is Traceability?