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Definition: beta version

A pre-release of software that is given out to a large group of users to try under real conditions. Beta versions have gone through alpha testing inhouse and are generally fairly close in look, feel and function to the final product; however, design changes often occur as a result.

Beta testing is imperative when writing software because developers are too close to their products, and fresh eyes are essential. In addition, for Windows developers especially, it is impossible to duplicate the myriad configurations of PC hardware/software that exist, and beta versions test for potential conflicts as much as usability. In more closed environments such as the Mac and mobile phone platforms, beta testing is less about coexistence with other software and more about functionality and ease of use, the latter a long-standing joke in this industry (see user interface). See alpha test, beta test, release candidate and dogfooding.