From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Readme)
Jump to: navigation, search
The README file for cURL

A README file contains information about other files in a directory or archive of computer software. A form of documentation, it is usually a simple plain text file called READ.ME, README.TXT, (for a text file using markdown markup), README.1ST – or simply README.

The file's name is generally always written in upper case. On Unix-like systems in particular this makes it easily noticed – both because lower case filenames are more usual, and because traditionally the ls command sorts and displays files in ASCIIbetical ordering, so that upper-case filenames appear first.[1]


The contents typically include one or more of the following:


It is unclear when the convention began, but there are examples dating back to the mid 1970s.[3][4]

A README file is a requirement in the GNU Coding Standards.[5] Since the advent of the web as a de facto standard platform for software distribution, many software packages have moved (or occasionally, copied) some of the above ancillary files and pieces of information to a website or wiki, sometimes including the README itself, or sometimes leaving behind only a brief README file without all of the information required by a new user of the software. However, the popularity of GitHub (as well as older community conventions) has contributed towards README files still being widely used in open-source software (see next section).

As a generic term[edit]

The expression "readme file" is also sometimes used generically, for files with a similar purpose.[citation needed] For example, the source code distributions of many free software packages, especially those following the Gnits Standards or those produced with GNU Autotools, include a standard set of readme files:

README General information
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

Other files commonly distributed with software include a FAQ and a TODO file listing possible future changes.

Further reading[edit]

  • Johnson, Mark (February 1997). "Building a Better ReadMe". Technical Communication. Society for Technical Communication. 44 (1): 28–36. 
  • Livingston, Brian (14 September 1998). "Check your Readme files to avoid common Windows problems". InfoWorld. Vol. 20 no. 37. p. 34. 


  1. ^ Note that this is often no longer the case – but LC_ALL=C ls will show the older behavior.
  2. ^ a b Manes, Stephen (November 1996). "README? Sure--before I buy!". PC World. 14 (11): 366. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  • This article is based in part on the Jargon File, which is in the public domain.