A while ago, GitHub added a new option for “watching” repositories, the setting that determines which events on a project trigger a notification for you.

Previously, the options were:

  1. Not Watching: be notified when participating or @mentioned.
  2. Watching: be notified of all conversations.
  3. Ignoring: never be notified.

The new addition is “Releases Only” — to be notified of new releases, and when participating or @mentioned. It is the perfect middle-ground between “not watching” and “watching”. For me, it is one of the best and most useful features on GitHub.

Watching releases only on GitHub

Watching releases only on GitHub

Why is it so useful? I rarely want to get notifications for all activity on a project, especially if I am only a user of the project, not a contributor to it. More importantly, many projects do not have a blog or mailing list that announces new releases — and for those that do, they often only announce major releases, not all releases. And even then, I often miss these announcements in my RSS reader (that is, if the blog even provides an RSS feed).

I would rather not clutter my RSS feed with project release announcements, anyway. GitHub is where I go to work, and that is where I want to be notified. There are many tools that I use that I want to keep updated, like SwiftLint, Jazzy, and CocoaPods. “Watching releases” for these projects and others has been great. Sometimes, I am waiting on a patch release for a project to fix a specific bug that I have encountered, or maybe I am waiting on CocoaPods to support the latest version of Xcode — now GitHub notifies me for every release.

Here’s a bonus: I also watch releases on actions/virtual-environments so that I get notified whenever the GitHub Actions environments change. That means as soon as a new Xcode version is deployed to GitHub Actions, I can update all of my workflows.