Development workflow with semantic-release

  • Marton Orehovszky

This article intends to give you examples and show you how to manage and automate complex release workflows with semantic-release. These workflows are based on multiple Git branches and distribution channels.

Learn more about our Custom Development and CMS services.

Release management can be challenging, especially for projects with frequent updates and multiple contributors. However, by implementing a streamlined workflow with semantic-release, you can simplify the release process and ensure consistent versioning and distribution.

Semantic-release is a popular open-source tool that automates the process of versioning and publishing of software packages. It follows the principles of semantic versioning, where version numbers convey meaning about the code changes. Semantic-release allows developers to focus more on writing code and less on managing releases.

The workflow

Let's dive into the details. We will start by outlining the topic and showing which problems semantic-release solves. We will also present relevant use cases. When working on a software project with multiple developers and frequent updates, a standardized release process is crucial. Manually managing version numbers, generating changelogs, and publishing to different distribution channels can be time consuming and lead to errors. Semantic-release solves this problem by automating these tasks based on predefined rules and commit message conventions.

To illustrate the workflow, let's take a sample node package project. This project follows Git branching conventions. Different branches represent different stages of development. We have “feature” or “fix” branches for ongoing development, a “next” branch for preparing the next release, and a “main” branch representing the stable production version. A “develop” branch is also common, but in our use case we can just install a published pre-release version in our other applications as a dependency.

Project setup

To set up semantic-release for our sample node package project, we first need to install the necessary dependencies. Using npm, we run the following command:

npm install semantic-release @semantic-release/changelog @semantic-release/git

Next, we configure semantic-release by creating a release.config.js file in the project's root directory. In this configuration file, we define the release rules, plugins, and other settings specific to our project.

To use the setup wizard and configure it yourself, use the command:

semantic-release-cli setup

Here's a sample configuration of release.config.js:

module.exports = {
  branches: [
    { name: 'next', prerelease: true },
    { name: 'develop', prerelease: 'beta' },
  plugins: [
    ['@semantic-release/git', {
      assets: [''],

You can also use a .releaserc file. If you do, it will look like this:

  "branches": [
    { "name": "next", "prerelease": true },
    { "name": "develop", "prerelease": "beta" },
  "plugins": [
        "assets": ["package.json"],
        "message": "chore(release): ${nextRelease.version} [skip ci]\n\n${nextRelease.notes}"

In this configuration, we define three branches: “main” for stable releases, “next” for pre-releases, and “develop” for ongoing development. We also specify the plugins required for commit analysis, generating release notes and changelogs, publishing to GitLab, and publishing to npm.

With semantic-release set up, we can now utilise the commands to automate our release workflow. These semantic-release commands are used most:


This command initiates the release process. It analyses the commit history, determines the appropriate version based on semantic versioning rules, generates release notes and changelogs, updates the package version, and publishes the release to the specified distribution channel.

It’s common practice to test with a dry run before publishing. To do so, use the “--dry-run” option after the command or set a dryRun property to “true” in the above configuration

semantic-release-cli setup 

This command guides you through a setup wizard. This helps you create the release.config.js file and configure semantic-release for your project.

CI service setup

In addition to the commands, integrating semantic-release with continuous integration (CI) setups further enhances the release automation process. By triggering semantic-release on specific events, such as pushing changes to certain branches or merging pull requests, you can ensure that releases are automatically triggered and deployed.

For example, using popular CI services like Travis CI or GitHub Actions, you can configure your CI pipeline to run the semantic-release command after successful builds on the relevant branches. This way, whenever new changes are merged, semantic-release will be triggered, automating the release process.

Find further information for setting it up with different CI services in the semantic-release documentation.

Once you have completed the setup, semantic-release will automatically analyse commits, determine the next appropriate version based on semantic versioning rules, generate release notes and changelogs, update the package version, and publish the release to the specified distribution channels.


To conclude, by adopting a development workflow with semantic-release, you can automate and simplify complex release processes in your software projects. With proper configuration, semantic-release will handle versioning, changelog generation, and publishing. This allows developers to focus on writing code and ensuring a smooth release cycle.

Through this example, we have shown how to set up semantic-release for a sample project and explored its benefits in managing complex release workflows. By following the conventions and best practices of semantic-release, you can significantly improve your development process and deliver high-quality software with ease.

Remember to adapt the configuration to your specific project requirements and distribution channels. With semantic-release as a part of your development toolkit, you can streamline your release process and make it more efficient, consistent, and hassle-free.

The semantic-release documentation gives you further information and guides for different setups and usages.

Tell us what you think