Here are the guidelines for being an Emacs pretester.
If you would like to do this, say so, and I'll add you to
the pretest list.
Information for Emacs Pretesters
The purpose of Emacs pretesting is to verify that the new Emacs
distribution, about to be released, works properly on your system *with
no change whatever*, when installed following the precise
recommendations that come with the Emacs distribution.
Here are some guidelines on how to do pretesting so as to make it
helpful. All of them follow from common sense together with the
nature of the purpose and the situation.
Please save this file, and reread it when a new series of pretests
* Get the pretest from gnu/emacs/emacs-MM.NN.tar.gz and
gnu/emacs/leim-MM.NN.tar.gz on alpha.gnu.org.
* After a few days of testing, if there are no problems, please report
that Emacs works for you and what configuration you are testing it on.
* If you want to communicate with other pretesters, send mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org. I don't use that mailing list when I send
to you because I've found that mailing lists tend to amplify random
noise into long discussions or even arguments, and that can waste a
lot of time. But when you have a reason to ask other pretesters for
help, you can do it that way.
* It is absolutely vital that you report even the smallest change or
departure from the standard sources and procedure.
Otherwise, you are not testing the same program that we asked you to
test. Testing a different program is usually of no use whatever. It
can even cause trouble, if you fail to tell us that you tested some
other program instead of what we are about to release. We might think
that Emacs works, when in fact it has not even been tried, and might
have a glaring fault.
* Don't use a site-load.el file or a site-init.el file when you pretest.
Using either of those files means you are not testing Emacs as a typical
site would use it.
Actually, it does no harm to test Emacs with such customizations *as
well as* testing it "out of the box". Anything you do that could find
a bug is useful, as long as you make sure we know exactly what you
did. The important point is that testing with local changes is no
substitute for testing Emacs exactly as it is distributed.
* Even changing the compilation options counts as a change in the
program. The Emacs sources specify which compilation options to use.
Some of them are specified in makefiles, and some in machine-specific
configuration files. They also give you ways to override this--but if
you do, then you are not testing what ordinary users will do.
Therefore, when pretesting, it is vital to test with the default
(Testing with a different set of options can be useful *in addition*,
but not *instead of* the default options.)
* The machine and system configuration files of Emacs are parts of
Emacs. So when you test Emacs, you need to do it with the
configuration files that come with Emacs.
If Emacs does not come with configuration files for a certain machine,
and you test it with configuration files that don't come with Emacs,
this is effectively changing Emacs. Because the crucial fact about
the planned release is that, without changes, it doesn't work on that
To make Emacs work on that machine, we would need to install new
configuration files. That is not out of the question, since it is
safe--it certainly won't break any other machines that already work.
But you will have to rush in the legal papers to give the FSF
permission to use such a large piece of text.
* Look in the etc/MACHINES file.
The etc/MACHINES file says which configuration files to use for your
machine, so use the ones that are recommended. If you guess, you might
guess wrong and encounter spurious difficulties. What's more, if you
don't follow etc/MACHINES then you aren't helping to test that its
recommendations are valid.
The etc/MACHINES file may describe other things that you need to do
to make Emacs work on your machine. If so, you should follow these
recommendations also, for the same reason.
* Send your problem reports to email@example.com, not
Sometimes we won't know what to do about a system-dependent issue, and
we may need people to say what happens if you try a certain thing on a
certain system. When this happens, we'll send out a query.
* Don't delay sending information.
When you test on a system and encounter no problems, please report it
right away. That way, we will know that someone has tested Emacs on
that kind of system.
Please don't wait for several days "to see if it really works before
you say anything." Tell us right away that Emacs seems basically to
work; then, if you notice a problem a few days later, tell us
immediately about that when you see it.
It is okay if you double check things before reporting a problem, such
as to see if you can easily fix it. But don't wait very long. A good
rule to use in pretesting is always to report every problem on the
same day you encounter it, even if that means you can't find a
solution before you report the problem.
I'd much rather hear about a problem today and a solution tomorrow
than get both of them tomorrow at the same time.
* Make each bug report self-contained.
If you refer back to another message, whether from you or from someone
else, then it will be necessary for anyone who wants to investigate
the bug to find the other message. This may be difficult, it is
To help save our time, simply copy the relevant parts of any previous
messages into your own bug report.
In particular, if we ask you for more information because a bug report
was incomplete, it is best to send me the *entire* collection of
relevant information, all together. If you send just the additional
information, that makes extra work for us. There is even a risk that
we won't remember what question you are sending the answer to.
* When you encounter a bug that manifests itself as a Lisp error,
try setting debug-on-error to t and making the bug happen again.
Then you will get a Lisp backtrace. Including that in your bug report
is very useful.
* For advice on debugging, see etc/DEBUG.
* Debugging optimized code is possible, if you compile with GCC, but
in some cases the optimized code can be confusing. If you are not
accustomed to that, recompile Emacs without -O. One way to do this is
* Configure tries to figure out what kind of system you have by
compiling and linking programs which calls various functions and looks
at whether that succeeds. The file config.log contains any messages
produced by compilers while running configure, to aid debugging if
configure makes a mistake. But note that config.cache reads:
# Giving --cache-file=/dev/null disables caching, for debugging configure.
or more simply,
* Don't try changing Emacs *in any way* during pretest unless it fails
to work unchanged.
* Always be precise when talking about changes you have made. Show
things rather than describing them. Use exact filenames (relative to
the main directory of the distribution), not partial ones. For
example, say "I changed Makefile" rather than "I changed the
makefile". Instead of saying "I defined the MUMBLE macro", send a
* Always use `diff -c' to make diffs. If you don't include context, it
may be hard for us to figure out where you propose to make the
changes. So we might ignore your patch.
* When you write a fix, keep in mind that we can't install a change
that *might* break other systems without the risk that it will fail to
work and therefore require an additional cycle of pretesting.
People often suggest fixing a problem by changing config.h or
src/ymakefile or even src/Makefile to do something special that a
particular system needs. Sometimes it is totally obvious that such
changes would break Emacs for almost all users. We can't possibly
make a change like that. All we can do is ask you to find a fix that
is safe to install.
Sometimes people send fixes that *might* be an improvement in
general--but it is hard to be sure of this. I can install such
changes some of the time, but not during pretest, when I am trying to
get a new version to work reliably as quickly as possible.
The safest changes for us to install are changes to the s- and m-
files. At least those can't break other systems.
Another safe kind of change is one that uses a conditional to make
sure it will apply only to a particular kind of system. Ordinarily,
that is a bad way to solve a problem, and I would want to find a
cleaner alternative. But the virtue of safety can make it superior at
* Don't suggest changes during pretest to add features or make
something cleaner. Every change risks introducing a bug, so I won't
install a change during pretest unless it is *necessary*.
* If you would like to suggest changes for purposes other than fixing
user-visible bugs, don't wait till pretest time. Instead, send them
after we have made a release that proves to be stable. That is the
easiest time to consider such suggestions. If you send them at
pretest time, we will have to defer them till later, and that might
mean we forget all about them.
* In some cases, if you don't follow these guidelines, your
information might still be useful, but we would have to do more work
to make use of it. That might cause it to fall by the wayside.
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