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A readme (or read me) file contains information about other files in a directory or archive and is commonly distributed with computer software. Such a file is usually a text file called README.TXT, README.md, README.1ST, READ.ME, or simply README, although some Microsoft Windows software may occasionally include a README.WRI, README.RTF, or README.DOC. The name is chosen so that users unaware of the existence of this type of file would be drawn to read it. It is traditionally written in upper case so that on case-preserving environments using an ASCIIbetical ordering, the name will appear near the beginning of a directory listing (since upper-case letters sort before lower-case letters in ASCIIbetical ordering).
The contents typically include one or more of the following:
- Configuration instructions
- Installation instructions
- Operating instructions
- A file manifest (list of files included)
- Copyright and licensing information
- Contact information for the distributor or programmer
- Known bugs
- Credits and acknowledgments
- A changelog (usually for programmers)
- A news section (usually for users)
The expression "readme file" is also sometimes used descriptively and generically, whereby the files are not named "readme", but are considered types of readme files. The source code distributions of many free software packages, especially those following the Gnits Standards or those produced with GNU Autotools, usually include a standard set of readme files:
README General information AUTHORS Credits THANKS Acknowledgments ChangeLog A detailed changelog, intended for programmers NEWS A basic changelog, intended for users INSTALL Installation instructions COPYING / LICENSE Copyright and licensing information BUGS Known bugs and instructions on reporting new ones
- Johnson, Mark (February 1997). "Building a Better ReadMe". Technical Communication (Society for Technical Communication) 44 (1): p28–36.
- Livingston, Brian (14 September 1998). "Check your Readme files to avoid common Windows problems". InfoWorld 20 (37): p34.
- Manes, Stephen (November 1996). "README? Sure--before I buy!". PC World 14 (11): p366.
- This article is based in part on the Jargon File, which is in the public domain.