Just after some advice with respect to the QGIS LTR schedule. Our IT managers have recently intervened in our use of QGIS (a State Government Authority) and are wanting to put in place a policy to only install and use the LTR release version, stating that the other releases are effectively 'Beta' versions.

Is this how the QGIS developer world sees the other releases?

There view is from a stability and security standpoint, not from training and process mapping (as that has nothing to do with them).

I have seen and read this article - https://github.com/qgis/QGIS-Enhancement-Proposals/blob/master/QEP-4-QGIS_Long_Term_Releases.rst

Obviously the LTR has a slightly longer testing window so is less likely to have any major issues, but is their view that the other releases are 'Beta' version accurate or misled?

Hoping for advice or suggestions to counter the arguments and continue to have access to the latest functionality - it's one of the things we love about QGIS!

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    I am not QGIS developer but pretty experienced QGIS user and from my point of view even the long term release had some major bugs. The difference is that in this case it get fixed and in coming years probably even less than highest priority bugs will be fixed. The major difference is not about bugs but about backckward compatibility - if there will be some version 2.8.5 in the future you can be sure that the projects you create in it will be completely compatible with 2.8.1 where this is not the case between 2.6, 2.8 and 2.10. – Miro Aug 31 '15 at 23:07

I would say (not being a developer for QGIS) that the only release to be considered beta would be the master builds of QGIS (ie, nightly).

QGIS (long-term release) can be considered static (no new features added) but with cherry-picked patches that are back ported for stability, enhancement and security.

QGIS (current release) is mainly different from the LTR, that in addition to back-ported patches, it'll get new features added (from master version) when they are considered stable enough with frequent releases (proposed every 3 months).

QGIS (master) is the development version of QGIS which I'd say is beta because when you build it daily there are new features that may be incomplete or existing features may become broken. Not intended for production use.

QGIS LTR and QGIS Current Release can be used for production use.

So to decide, it really depends on whether or not it's a priority that you're looking to:

  • maintain a GIS with minimal changes and stability through consistency (ie, long-term release)
  • explore and integrate new functionality from QGIS into your workflows (long-term release, master)
  • preparing developed applications and plugins for backwards and future compatibility (long-term + current release, master)
  • testing new features (master)
  • other...

But to answer your question around security... That's tricky because besides QGIS with it's own many potential use-cases and vulnerabilities there's also a long-tail of dependencies that have to be considered as well. For example, one might be in certain scenarios where the versions of QGIS they're using have a dependency mixup like qt4 or 5, python2 or 3, GRASS 6 or 7, etc that would also have to be taken into consideration for security.

Depending on the operating system, package updates for both the long-term and current release may not be frequent enough to give the patches they fix justice (remember it's volunteer based). I've been able to make use of the development cycle by compiling QGIS on Linux directly from the specific master and release branches off of GIT as needed.

  • (Dev) I would just add the only real time you should consider "master" a beta version is after feature freeze. At that point it's good for user testing, before that things can change and break. – Nathan W Aug 31 '15 at 23:18
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    I should also be noted that on Windows you can install QGIS LTR, QGIS, and QGIS dev all on one machine with no issues. We also only release a patch for the LTR version when we have to, we don't do it each time a single fix comes in. – Nathan W Aug 31 '15 at 23:19
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    besides QGIS with it's own many potential use-cases and vulnerabilities there's also a long-tail of dependencies that have to be considered as well'Like most software. – Nathan W Sep 1 '15 at 0:43

My experience as a user and developer of GPL software made me expect something and left me surprised with what I found. So I had to adapt expectations to observations, at least as far as 2.14 and 2.18 are concerned.

I had expected:

  • nightly build useful for experimenting new features, and before reporting bugs.
  • normal releases for normal use
  • LTR release for security and conservative IT Managers

I have been running 2.14 for a couple of months, I'm a sporadic user, and I was surprised to see it misbehave on input fields, while I was quite happy with its overall performance.

I then installed 2.18, I expected the misbehaviour on input fields to have been corrected (it has—as far as I could test), but I was very unpleasantly surprised to see it crash constantly, edit a feature, select an other one, and there it goes. Given such instability, I would not even know where to start to file a bug report.

I don't know if it's just my system, or just 2.18, but my conclusion is that your IT managers are being very wise and that QGIS-ltr is the only acceptable way to use QGIS.

If you have the chance to run two versions next to each other (I still have to see how, on Debian), do that, and be prepared to file bug reports. As for myself, I'm looking forward to the next LTR version.

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    I am using QGIS for some years now, and can't share your experience about the 2.18 version. Both 2.14 and 2.18 work well for me, on Windows next to each other, and on Linux in different virtual boxes synced with shared folders for the data. – AndreJ Jan 8 '17 at 17:37
  • something that makes 2.18 crash is this: new feature in vector layer, select it, crash. in 2.14 I can't select the new feature and I need to close QGIS and reopen it, but at least it will not crash. – mariotomo Jan 9 '17 at 14:34
  • I never experienced that for a long time. I am used to save after adding new features, before editing or styling them. – AndreJ Jan 9 '17 at 18:38

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