Clever release names for creative developers

John Reeve | June 8th, 2011 | , , , ,

Ubuntu Oneiric OcelotAndroid Honeycomb
OS X Snow Leopard

Ubuntu and its alliterative, animal themes, are the first thing that comes to our minds when we think of noticeable nomenclatures used by developers — in place of boring, old-fashioned numbers — to label significant releases. More recently they’ve released Lucid Lynx, Maverick Meerkat, and Natty Narwhal. As I write this they are working on the Oneiric Ocelot release.

Other developers have joined in the fun of creating clever release names for software updates. Android has made headlines with Froyo, Gingerbread, and Honeycomb, and has announced the next major version will be dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich. Apple is running through the list their list of furry Felidae with Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard. The list of lists goes on, as many companies, some memorable, some not (did someone say Chicago?), affix clever code names to their releases.

Sequence-based Identifiers

The answer to life, the universe, and everything...Why replace a perfectly good numbering system with offbeat words? What’s wrong with 10.1, 10.2, 10.3 and so on? It’s boring. That’s what’s wrong. Assigning fun and imaginative names to your releases does two things. One, using clever release names for software updates gets your customers excited about your release because it creates a brand for that release. It get’s them involved in a way that numbering conventions can’t do. As consumers, we love talking about when Honeycomb is going to mature and take over the tablet world. We anxiously await the release of Apple’s Lion update.


Does it get much more boring than solitaire?As developers, naming releases grants us collective ownership, and boosts our morale by making everyone part of something more than just shipping software. We don’t want to be talking about releases in numbers, they’re too corporate-esque. We want to speak in code, with intrigue, over lunch or drinks at happy hour. And when the launch arrives, the quirky release names transmogrify into even quirkier release parties, complete with themed DIY decorations and music. Alt.boring becomes

Creating our own theme for release names

This is what release cycles can begin to feel like when they're too long...The team here at Intervals recently decided we, too, were through with using boring old numbers to internally keep track of our releases. Numerical releases don’t lend themselves well to web-based software because of our agile and iterative development cycle. We are constantly pushing up new code, tweaking and fine tuning our online project management software. We needed something inspiring, nostalgic, and entertaining to mark our releases, before our brains became card catalogs filled with decimal-pocked milestones.

Sometimes, it’s all in a name

8 bit Nintendo Entertainment System

Giving our releases more relevant and personable names would give us more wiggle room, more leeway in pushing up iterative changes after a major release. That’s why we came up with a naming convention based on our collective childhood experiences with console video game systems. Given the average age of our team, there was only one console that fit our demographic… the infamous 8-bit video game console known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Yeah, the one with the big gray cartridges that you had to blow on and clear the dust to get it working, the video console that came with a gun that neither parents nor media seemed to notice, and what was up with balancing gyros on that useless robot’s arms? That NES.

That useless robot has a name… it’s R.O.B.!

NES R.O.B.But don’t expect any upcoming releases from us named Gyromite. The NES had plenty more games available to play — more than I had realized, more than enough to creatively label each Intervals release. Everyone here has bought in to the NES theme and we’ve already gone through a few releases with the new naming convention. We started with Contra, then moved on to Double Dragon, and now we’re working on our Excitebike release. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a while before we get to my personal favorite, Metroid.


NES Release Names
Photo credits: sskennel (solitaire) | crazyoctopus (Nintento Entertainment System) | Velo Steve (Wheel)

7 Responses to “Clever release names for creative developers”

  1. Brad says:

    This made me smile – I haven’t though about excitebike for a long, long time.

    What kind of milestones are you planning to use to move to a new release name? We’ve adopted a time year/number strategy, but I like the name idea. Could maybe be as simple as – get bored of the old name I guess. Would love to hear how you move.


  2. John Reeve says:

    The first step is to come up with a creative theme for planning release names. Once you’ve got the theme, the rest is easy. We chose NES games and that is what we’ll use for the rest of our releases. Since we are only developing one product, we don’t need to come up with another theme. I have seen some creative themes used though, such as:
    Geographical locations in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Rohan, Mordor, etc)
    Dead Gangster Rappers
    Stars in the solar system
    Muppet characters
    Characters from Sid & Marty Krofft shows

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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