Beta software refers to computer software that is undergoing testing and has not yet been officially released. The beta phase follows the alpha phase, but precedes the final version. Some beta software is only made available to a select number of users, while other beta programs are released to the general public.
Software developers release beta versions of software in order to garner useful feedback before releasing the final version of a program. They often provide web forums that allow beta testers to post their feedback and discuss their experience using the software. Some beta software programs even have a built-in feedback feature that allows users to submit feature requests or bugs directly to the developer.
In most cases, a software developer will release multiple "beta" versions of a program during the beta phase. Each version includes updates and bug fixes that have been made in response to user feedback. The beta phase may last anywhere from a few weeks for a small program to several months for a large program.
Each beta version is typically labeled with the final version number followed by a beta version identifier. For example, the fifth beta release of the second version of a software program may have the version number "2.0b5." If a developer prefers not to list the specific version of a beta program, the version number may simply have the term "(beta)" after the program name, e.g. "My New App (beta)." This naming convention is commonly used for beta versions of websites or web applications.
Since beta software is a pre-release version of the final application, it may be unstable or lack features that will be be included in the final release. Therefore, beta software often comes with a disclaimer that testers should use the software at their own risk. If you choose to beta test a program, be aware that it may not function as expected.
Updated: April 5, 2013