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Release log parser.

Project description

Release Log Parser

Software packages usually include textual files describing noteworthy changes in each subsequent release. There exist several variants (or formats) of such files.

This package provides Python framework for parsing the most often used formats of such release log files. Support for any new format can be easily added.

Release Logs

Release Log is a textual file included in a software package, which contains descriptions of existing releases of the package. Such a file is normally included in each distributed archive of the package and is present in its VCS repository.

Little or no effort has been invested into standartization of release log formats. There exists a plethora of variations which differ more or less considerably. The choice of a particular variation for a given package depends mostly on the language this package is written in and the distribution system adopted for this package. Authors’ preferences play certain role as well.

Despite the diversity of release log formats, similarities between them overnumber their differences. The following observations hold true:

  1. Release logs are plaintext files.

  2. Within a file, each release is described by a separate entry.

  3. Each such entry consists of a heading, containing at least the version number and date of the release, and a textual block discussing the changes introduced with this release.

  4. Entries are arranged in reverse chronological order, the most recent release being described first.

  5. Format of the headings is consistent throughout the given release log.

  6. Entry description is usually a list of changes. However, more verbose and general descriptions may also appear within it. In general, it is safest to assume the description to be an opaque block of arbitrary text.

  7. Release logs can contain additional textual information before the first release entry (a “prologue”) and after the last release entry (an “epilogue”).

Supported Formats

Most frequently used release log formats can be grouped into three main families:

GNU-style release logs

These are normally used by GNU software. Such log files are usually named “NEWS”. Example heading lines are:

version 1.30 - Sergey Poznyakoff, 2017-12-17
Version 1.18 - 2018-08-21
* Version 4.2, 2014-05-23

Perl-style release logs

These are the “Changes” files included in each Perl package distributed via CPAN. Example heading lines:

2.00 2018-03-08
1.01 Sat Jul  7 19:11:35 2018

Python package release logs

The “CHANGES.txt” files found in many Python packages. Example heading lines:

v2.0.1, 2014/12/14 – Update token generator 2.7 (23 June 2018)

The special feature of the first heading variant is that the first line of the changeset description follows the heading on the same physical line. Quite often this is the only line in the description.


The ReleaseLog class is a fabric returning actual release history implementation, depending on the first argument to its constructor. Typical usage:

rl = ReleaseLog('GNU', content, count=1)

The two mandatory arguments are the format name and the list of lines obtained from the release log file.

Valid format names for this version of releaselogparser are:


GNU-style news file.

CPAN, Changes

Perl-style release log.

Python, python

Python-style release log.

Supported keyword arguments are:

start = N

Start parsing from the entry N. Entries are numbered from 0.

stop = N

Stop parsing on the entry N.

count = N

Collect at most N entries

If all three keywords are given, the actual range of history entries is computed as

[start, min(start+count, stop)]

Two derived classes are provided that read input data from various sources:

class ReleaseLogFile

The ReleaseLogFile class reads release log from the file:

rl = ReleaseLogFile(fmt, file [, kwargs...])

Here, fmt is the name of the format, file is the name of the input file, and kwargs are keyword arguments described above.

class ReleaseLogURL

The ReleaseLogURL class reads log entries from a URL:

rl = ReleaseLogURL(fmt, url [, kwargs...])

Acessing release information

The returned object can be indexed to obtain particular log entries. Indices start with 0, which corresponds to the most recent entry, e.g.:

entry = cl[0]

The entry is an object of class Release, which has three attributes:


Release version number.


Date and time of the release (a datetime object)


Textual description of the release - a list of lines.

The obtained entry can be printed as string, e.g.:


The output format is as shown in the example below:

Version 1.0, released at 2018-08-19 15:30:00


The following simple program reads release log entries from the file NEWS and prints them on the standard output:

from releaselogparser.input import ReleaseLogFile

for log in ReleaseLogFile('GNU', 'NEWS'):

Extending Release Log

Implementing support for new release log format is fairly easy. To do so, provide a class inherited from ReleaseHistory. This base class has the following attributes:


List of names for this format. Names from this list can be used interchangeably to identify this log format, e.g. as a first argument to the ReleaseLog or derived constructor.


Name of the file used normally for release logs in this format.


Compiled regular expression that returns a match for history entry heading lines. The expression must contain two named groups: version, which returns part of the string corresponding to the release version number, and date, returning its timestamp.

If it contains a named group rest, part of the header string corresponding to this group will be added to the descr list of the created history entry.


Compiled regular expression that matches end of entry. Can be None, if not needed.

The file with the definition of the inherited class must be placed in the directory releaselogparser/format reachable from the Python search path for module files.

The following example implements a simplified version of CHANGES.txt log format:

import re
from releaselogparser import ReleaseHistory

class ChangesLogFormat(ReleaseHistory):
    format = ['changes']
    filename = 'CHANGES.txt'
    header = re.compile("""^[vV](?P<version>\d[\d.]*)\s*
                        """, re.X)

More sophisticated implementations can overload the parse_header method of the parent class. This method is defined as follows:

def parse_header(self, line):

If the input line is an entry header, the method should return a triplet:

(date, version, first_line)

where date is textual representation of the date of the release, version is the release version string, and first_line is the first line of the description (can be None).

If the line is not a valid entry header, the method returns (None, None, None).

The releaselog utility

The releaselog tool reads release logs in various formats from a given file or URL. Its usage is:

releaselog [OPTIONS] FILE-or-URL

The argument is treated as file name by default. To read from a URL, use the --url option.


-H FORMAT, --format=FORMAT

Read logs in the given format.

-f N, --from=N, --start=N

Start from N th entry.

-t N, --to=N, --stop=N

End on N th entry.

-n COUNT, --count=COUNT

Read at most that much entries.

-u, --url

Treat argument as URL

-l, --list

List supported formats


Show program version number and exit.

-h, --help

Show a short help message and exit.

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