Do not upload dev releases at PyPI

The discussion we had on the SQLAlchemy mailing list, triggered by the release of 0.7.1b, made me realize that we need a heads-up on this problem. EDIT: a similar problem occurred for psycopg2 today.

Until our packaging ecosystem knows how to handle properly development releases, the best practice for mature projects is to avoid publishing anything that is not a final release at PyPI (or any download link that points to a development release)

By development releases, as opposed to final releases, I include:
- any release that is a snapshot of the trunk or tip of the project - any alpha, beta, or release candidate

And by mature project, I mean any project that already published one stable release at PyPI.

The reason is that our current set of packaging tools do not know how to make a difference between a final release and a development release.

Setuptools' easy_install script will scan the simple index page, order the releases number via its version sorting algorithm, then take the "latest" version.

So calling:
$ easy_install Foo

will install the latest uploaded release for the Foo project, even if it's a development version. If you use Setuptools' install_requires option in your, the same thing will happen.

To prevent it, you can tell the tool which version you want, and even provide a complex condition, like:
$ easy_install SQLAlchemy >=0.5, <0.7

But there's no way to tell it to get the latest final.

zc.buildout is the only tool in my knowledge that prevents this, with the prefer-final option.

How Distutils2 and PEP 386 fixes the problem

But uploading release candidates is a great way to get feedback from the community, and it's currently frustrating not to be able to push development versions at PyPI. Because depending on the installers our users will use, they might be unable to control if they want to opt in using non final releases.

And, well, what's a final release ? what's a beta ? Are we sure all tools agree on the versionning schemes ?

How can I make sure my beta version will be recognized as a beta release by all tools out there ?

PEP 386 solves this by defining a version scheme.

And guess what:
- The new Metadata 1.2 - PEP 345, implemented in Distutils2, recognizes only PEP 386 versions - PyPI will reject any project that uploads metadata 1.2 with a non-PEP 386 version. And this is already activated at PyPI. - The Distutils2 installer recognizes development releases and let you decide which one to pick.

Granted, it's going to take a while before all installers use the new standards, and all projects out there make the jump to Metadata 1.2, but at least we know the problem and implemented the solution..

AndPycon should be an important milestone since the first beta of Distutils2 will be released at... PyPI and will be usable by any project.