Release Playbook

This document explains the steps related to publishing a version-numbered Drake binary release. It is intended only for use by the few Drake Developer experts who regularly handle the release process.

We publish a minor release approximately once per month in the middle of the calendar month, with version number is v1.N.0 where N is monotonically increasing.

Minor releases

Begin this process around 1 week prior to the intended release date.

The release engineering tools (relnotes, download_release_candidate, push_release, etc.) are supported only on Ubuntu (not macOS).

Prior to release

  1. Choose the next version number.
  2. Create a local Drake branch named release_notes-v1.N.0 (so that others can easily find and push to it after the PR is opened).
  3. As the first commit on the branch, mimic the commit drake@65adb4dd in order to disable CI. A quick way to do this might be:
    git fetch upstream 65adb4dd1f89835ad482d6a9a437cb899c05b779
    git cherry-pick FETCH_HEAD
  4. Push that branch and then open a new pull request titled:
    [doc] Add release notes v1.N.0

    Make sure that “Allow edits by maintainers” on the GitHub PR page is enabled (the checkbox is checked). Set label release notes: none.

  5. For release notes, on an ongoing basis, add recent commit messages to the release notes draft using the tools/release_engineering/relnotes tooling. (Instructions can be found atop its source code:
    1. On the first run, use --action=create to bootstrap the file.
      • The output is draft release notes in doc/_release-notes/
    2. On the subsequent runs, use --action=update to refresh the file.
      • Try to avoid updating the release notes to refer to changes newer than the likely release, i.e., if you run --update on the morning you’re actually doing the release, be sure to pass the --target_commit= argument to avoid including commits that will not be part of the tag.
  6. For release notes, on an ongoing basis, clean up and relocate the commit notes to properly organized and wordsmithed bullet points. See Polishing the release notes.
  7. From time to time, merge upstream/master into your origin/release_notes-v1.N.0 branch (so that it doesn’t go stale). Never rebase or force-push to the branch. We expect that several people will clone and push to it concurrently.
  8. As the release is nearly ready, post a call for action for feature teams to look at the draft document and provide suggestions (in reviewable) or fixes (as pushes).
    1. To help ensure that the “newly deprecated APIs” section is accurate, grep the code for YYYY-MM-01 deprecation notations, for the MM values that would have been associated with our +3 months typical period.

Polishing the release notes

Here are some guidelines for bringing commit notes from the relnotes tool into the main body of the document:

  • Many commit messages can be cut down to their summary strings and used as-is.
  • File geometry/optimization changes under the “Mathematical Program” heading, not the “Multibody” heading.
  • Expand all acronyms (eg, MBP -> MultibodyPlant, SG -> SceneGraph).
  • Commits can be omitted if they only affect tests or non-installed examples.
  • In general you should mention deprecated/removed classes and methods using their exact name (for easier searching).
    • In the deprecation section you can provide the fully-qualified name as the whole line item; the meaning is clear from context.
    • This may mean having a long list of items for a single commit. That is fine.
  • We have four common grammatical forms for our commit messages:
    • Past tense (“Added new method foo”) is acceptable
    • Noun phrase (“Ability to foo the bar”) is acceptable
    • Imperative (“Add new method foo”, i.e. PEP-8 style) is acceptable
    • Present tense (“Adds new method foo”, i.e. Google styleguide style) is discouraged
  • Use exactly the same wording for the boilerplate items:
    • Every dependency upgrade line should be “Upgrade libfoobar to latest release 1.2.3” or “Upgrade funrepo to latest commit”.
    • Dependencies should be referred to by their workspace name.
    • Only one dependency change per line. Even if both meshcat and meshcat-python were upgraded in the same pull request, they each should get their own line in the release notes.
  • Some features under development (eg, deformables as of this writing) may have no-release-notes policies, as their APIs although public are not yet fully supported. Be sure to take note of which these are, or ask on #platform_review slack.
  • Keep all bullet points to one line.
    • Using hard linebreaks to stay under 80 columns makes the bullet lists hard to maintain over time.
  • Say “macOS” not “Mac” or “Apple” or etc.
  • Say “SDFormat” not “SDF” nor “sdf”.

Cutting the release

  1. Find a plausible nightly build to use:
    1. Make sure is clean
    2. Make sure has nothing still running (modulo the *-coverage builds, which we can ignore)
    3. Open the latest builds from the following builds:
    4. Check the logs for those packaging builds and find the URLs they posted to (open the latest build, go to “View as plain text”, and search for drake/nightly/drake-20), and find the date. It will be YYYYMMDD with today’s date (they kick off after midnight). All of the builds should have the same date. If not, wait until the following night.
    5. Use the tools/release_engineering/download_release_candidate tool with the --find-git-sha option to download and verify that all the nightlies are built from the same commit. (It’s usage instructions are atop its source code:
  2. Launch the staging builds for that git commit sha:
    1. Open the following seven Jenkins jobs (e.g., each in its own new browser tab):
    2. In the upper right, click “log in” (unless you’re already logged in). This will use your GitHub credentials.
    3. Click “Build with Parameters”.
    4. Change “sha1” to the full git sha corresponding to v1.N.0 and “release_version” to 1.N.0 (no “v”).
      • If you mistakenly provide the “v” in “release_version”, your build will appear to work, but actually fail 5-6 minutes later.
    5. Click “Build”; each build will take around an hour, give or take.
    6. Wait for all staging jobs to succeed. It’s OK to work on release notes finishing touches in the meantime, but do not merge the release notes nor tag the release until all seven builds have succeeded.
  3. Update the release notes to have the YYYY-MM-DD we choose.
    1. There is a dummy date 2099-12-31 nearby that should likewise be changed.
    2. Make sure that the nightly build git sha from the prior steps matches the newest_commit whose changes are enumerated in the notes.
    3. Update the github links within doc/_pages/ to reflect the upcoming v1.N.0.
  4. Re-enable CI by reverting the commit you added way up above in step 3 of Prior to release.
  5. Wait for the wheel builds to complete, and then download release artifacts:
    1. Use the tools/release_engineering/download_release_candidate tool with the --version option to download and verify all binaries. (It’s usage instructions are atop its source code:
  6. Merge the release notes PR
    1. Take care when squashing not to accept github’s auto-generated commit message if it is not appropriate.
    2. After merge, go to and push “Build now”.
      • If you don’t have “Build now” click “Log in” first in upper right.
  7. Open and choose “Draft a new release”. Note that this page has neither history nor undo. Be slow and careful!
    1. Tag version is: v1.N.0
    2. Target is: [the git sha from the --find-git-sha in step 1.v]
      • You should select the commit from Target > Recent Commits. The search via commit does not work if you don’t use the correct length.
    3. Release title is: Drake v1.N.0
    4. The body of the release should be forked from the prior release (open the prior release’s web page and click “Edit” to get the markdown), with appropriate edits as follows:
      • The version number
    5. Click the box labeled “Attach binaries by dropping them here or selecting them.” and then choose for upload the 39 release files from /tmp/drake-release/v1.N.0/...:
      • 12: 4 .tar.gz + 8 checksums
      • 6: 2 .deb + 4 checksums
      • 9: 3 linux .whl + 6 checksums
      • 6: 2 macOS x86 .whl + 4 checksums
      • 6: 2 macOS arm .whl + 4 checksums
      • Note that on Jammy with snap provided Firefox, drag-and-drop from Nautilus will fail, and drop all of your release page inputs typed so far. Use the Firefox-provided selection dialog instead, by clicking on the box.
    6. Choose “Save draft” and take a deep breath.
  8. Once the documentation build finishes, release!
    1. Check that the link to docs from the GitHub release draft page actually works.
    2. Click “Publish release”
    3. Notify @BetsyMcPhail by creating a GitHub issue asking her to manually tag docker images and upload the releases to S3. Be sure to provide her with the release tag in the same ping.
    4. Create a GitHub issue on the drake-ros repository, requesting an update of the DRAKE_SUGGESTED_VERSION constant.
    5. Announce on Drake Slack, #general.
    6. Party on, Wayne.

Post-release wheel upload

After tagging the release, you must manually upload a PyPI release.

If you haven’t done so already, follow Drake’s PyPI account setup instructions to obtain a username and password.

Most likely, you will want to use an api token to authenticate yourself to the twine uploader. See and for advice on managing api tokens.

For Jammy (and later?), apt install twine gives a perfectly adequate version of twine.

  1. Run twine to upload the wheel release, as follows:

    1. You will need your PyPI username and password for this. (Do not use drake-robot.)
    2. Run twine upload /tmp/drake-release/v1.N.0/*.whl.
    3. Confirm that all of the uploads succeeded without any error messages in your terminal.

Post-release tutorials updates

Upgrade our Deepnote-hosted tutorials to the latest release. This requires that you have “Edit” permission in the Deepnote project. If you don’t have that yet, then ask for help on slack in the #releases channel. Provide the email address associated with your github account.

  1. Post a new slack thread in #releases saying that you’re beginning the tutorials deployment now (so that others are aware of the potentially- disruptive changes).
  2. Open the tutorials Dockerfile:
    1. Edit the first line to refer to the YYYYMMDD for this release.
      1. For reference, the typical content is thus:
        FROM robotlocomotion/drake:jammy-20230518
        RUN apt-get -q update && apt-get -q install -y --no-install-recommends nginx-light xvfb && apt-get -q clean
        ENV DISPLAY=:1
        ENV PATH="/opt/drake/bin:${PATH}" \
      2. If the current content differs by more than just the date from the above template, ask for help on slack in the #releases channel.
    2. After editing the date, click the “Build” button in the upper right, and wait for the build to succeed.
      1. If the build fails due to an infrastructure flake, you’ll need to tweak the Dockerfile before Deepnote will allow you to re-run the Build. For example, add && true to the end of a RUN line.
  3. For reference (no action required), the requirements.txt file should have the following content:
  4. For reference (no action required), the initialization notebook at init.ipynb has this cell added the bottom, as a Drake-specific customization:

    In case the display server is not working later on, this might be a good place to double-check. For Jammy we also needed to add cd /work atop the stanza that checks for requirements.txt to get it working again.

  5. Copy the updated tutorials from the pinned Dockerfile release (in /opt/drake/share/drake/tutorials/...) into the Deepnote project storage (~/work/...):
    1. Open zzz_for_maintainers.ipynb.
    2. Run each cell one by one, checking for errors as you go.
    3. Note the first cell will take 1-2 minutes to finish because Deepnote needs to boot the machine first.
  6. Next you’ll copy and run each notebook (in alphabetical order). Read all of these instructions before performing any of them.
    1. Caveats for specific notebook names:
      1. Do not run licensed_solvers_deepnote; you don’t have a license.
      2. Do not re-run zzz_for_maintainers; you’ve already done that.
      3. The authoring_multibody_simulation notebook will appear to hang on one of the middle cells where it uses JointSliders. It is not hung, rather it is waiting for user input. Find the “Meshcat URL” link earlier in the notebook, click through to open Meshcat in a new tab, click “Open Controls”, then click “Stop JointSliders” repeatedly until the option vanishes and the notebook completes.
      4. The rendering_multibody_plant sometimes crashes with an interrupted error. In that case, click through to the “Environment” gear in the left-hand panel, then into the init.ipynb notebook and re-run the initialization. Then go back to rendering_multibody_plant and try again.
    2. To deploy run each of the ~2 dozen notebooks (i.e., do this step for authoring_leaf_system then authoring_multibody_simulation then … etc.):
      1. In the left-hand panel of your screen, take note that each notebook appears in two places – in “NOTEBOOKS” near the top and in “FILES” near the bottom. The “NOTEBOOKS” is the old copy; the “FILES” is the new copy. Our goal is to replace the old copy with the new.
      2. Scroll down to the “FILES” and choose the top-most name. Right click on it and select “Move to notebooks”. Be patient because the web interface could be slow, and there might be delay between copying and deleting the file.
      3. Because a notebook of that name already existed in “NOTEBOOKS” (the old copy), the moved notebook will be renamed with a -2 suffix.
      4. Scroll up to “NOTEBOOKS”. Right click on the old copy (without -2) and select “Delete” and confirm. Right click on the new notebook (with -2) and select “Rename” and remove the -2 suffix.
      5. Open the (new) notebook and click “Run notebook”. It should succeed.
      6. For all code cells, examine the output of each cell to check that no exceptions have snuck through (or any other unexpected error text).
        • The error “‘%matplotlib notebook’ is not supported in Deepnote” is expected and can be ignored.
      7. For all markdown cells, quickly skim over the rendered output to check that no markup errors have snuck through (e.g., LaTeX syntax errors).
      8. If you get an error like “Synchronization of file … failed, your changes are not being saved. You might be running out of disk quota” you may ignore it.
      9. Leave the notebook output intact (do not clear the outputs). We want users to be able to read the outputs on their own, without necessarily running the notebook themselves.
      10. The moved notebook no longer appears in “FILES”, so you can always use the top-most *.ipynb in “FILES” as your checklist for which one to tackle next.
  7. On the left side, click “Environment” then “Stop Machine”, as a courtesy. (It will time out on its own within the hour, but we might as well save a few nanograms of CO2 where we can.)