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by Kaylee Fisher

Action cli Generator

A GitHub action that builds your release notes / changelog fast, easy and exactly the way you want.


#release-changelog-builder-action on Discord








... a GitHub action that builds your release notes / changelog fast, easy and exactly the way you want.

What's included ๐Ÿš€Setup ๐Ÿ› ๏ธSample ๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธCustomization ๐Ÿ–๏ธContribute ๐ŸงฌLocal Testing ๐ŸงชLicense ๐Ÿ““

What's included ๐Ÿš€


Configure the workflow

Specify the action as part of your GitHub actions workflow:

- name: "Build Changelog"
id: build_changelog
uses: mikepenz/release-changelog-builder-action@{latest-release}

Action outputs

After action execution it will return the changelog and additional information as step output. You can use it in any follow-up step by referencing the output by referencing it via the id of the step. For example build_changelog.

# ${{steps.{CHANGELOG_STEP_ID}.outputs.changelog}}

A full set list of possible output values for this action.

Output Description
outputs.changelog The built release changelog built from the merged pull requests
outputs.owner Specifies the owner of the repository processed
outputs.repo Describes the repository name, which was processed
outputs.fromTag Defines the fromTag which describes the lower bound to process pull requests for
outputs.toTag Defines the toTag which describes the upper bound to process pull request for
outputs.failed Defines if there was an issue with the action run, and the changelog may not have been generated correctly. [true, false]
outputs.pull_requests Defines a , joined array with all PR IDs associated with the generated changelog.
outputs.categorized_prs Count of PRs which were successfully categorized as part of the action.
outputs.open_prs Count of open PRs. Only fetched if includeOpen is enabled.
outputs.uncategorized_prs Count of PRs which were not categorized as part of the action.
outputs.changed_files Count of changed files in this release.
outputs.additions Count of code additions in this release (lines).
outputs.deletions Count of code deletions in this release (lines).
outputs.changes Total count of changes in this release (lines).
outputs.commits Count of commits which have been added in this release.
outputs.categorized The categorized pull requests used to build the changelog as serialized JSON.
outputs.cache The cache for the current fetched data. Can be provided to another action step.

Full Sample ๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ

Below is a complete example showcasing how to define a build, which is executed when tagging the project. It consists of:

Note: Pre v4 PRs will only show up in the changelog if assigned one of the default label categories "feature", "fix" or "test". Starting with v4 these PRs will be in the Uncategorized section.


name: 'CI'
- '*'
if: startsWith(github.ref, 'refs/tags/')
runs-on: ubuntu-latest
- name: Build Changelog
id: github_release
uses: mikepenz/release-changelog-builder-action@v3
- name: Create Release
uses: mikepenz/action-gh-release@v0.2.0-a03 #softprops/action-gh-release
body: ${{steps.github_release.outputs.changelog}}

Example w/ Configuration

if: startsWith(github.ref, 'refs/tags/')
runs-on: ubuntu-latest
- name: Build Changelog
uses: mikepenz/release-changelog-builder-action@v3
configurationJson: |
"template": "#{{CHANGELOG}}\n\n<details>\n<summary>Uncategorized</summary>\n\n#{{UNCATEGORIZED}}\n</details>",
"categories": [
"title": "## ๐Ÿ’ฌ Other",
"labels": ["other"]
"title": "## ๐Ÿ“ฆ Dependencies",
"labels": ["dependencies"]

Customization ๐Ÿ–๏ธ


Warning: When running this action for non tags trigger the toTag will be automatically resolved using the latest tag as retrieved by the git API.

Note: The first release tag is a special case since there is no previous release the action can reference to. For this case, there are 2 options:

  1. When checking out the source via git (E.g.: actions/checkout), the action will use the first commit.
  2. Create a initial tag on the commit you want to begin a changelog from (for example v0.0.1).

Note: By default not specifying fromTag or toTag will resolve toTag from either the ref or alternatively fallback to the latest tag from the git API. fromTag is resolved by sorting tags using semver. Check the configuration for alternatives.

Note: If you are behind a corporate HTTP proxy, you can set the https_proxy environment variable to the proxy URL. For reference, please see the Octokit documentation.


The action supports flexible configuration options to modify vast areas of its behavior. To do so, provide the configuration file to the workflow using the configuration setting.

- name: "Build Changelog"
uses: mikepenz/release-changelog-builder-action@{latest-release}
configuration: "configuration.json"

Note Defaults for the configuration can be found in the configuration.ts

Warning It is required to have a checkout step prior to the changelog step if configuration is used, to allow the action to discover the configuration file. Use configurationJson as alternative.

Note It is possible to provide the configuration as file and as json via the yml file. The order of config values used: configurationJson > configuration > DefaultConfiguration.

This configuration is a JSON in the following format. (The below showcases example configurations for all possible options. In most scenarios most of the settings will not be needed, and the defaults will be appropiate.)

"categories": [
"title": "## ๐Ÿš€ Features",
"labels": ["feature"]
"title": "## ๐Ÿ› Fixes",
"labels": ["fix"]
"key": "tests",
"title": "## ๐Ÿงช Tests",
"labels": ["test"]
"title": "## ๐Ÿงช Tests and some ๐Ÿช„ Magic",
"labels": ["test", "magic"],
"exclude_labels": ["no-magic"],
"exhaustive": true,
"exhaustive_rules": "false",
"empty_content": "- no matching PRs",
"rules": [
"pattern": "open",
"on_property": "status",
"flags": "gu"
"ignore_labels": [
"sort": {
"order": "ASC",
"on_property": "mergedAt"
"template": "${{CHANGELOG}}\n\n<details>\n<summary>Uncategorized</summary>\n\n${{UNCATEGORIZED}}\n</details>",
"pr_template": "- ${{TITLE}}\n - PR: #${{NUMBER}}",
"empty_template": "- no changes",
"label_extractor": [
"pattern": "(.) (.+)",
"target": "$1",
"flags": "gu"
"pattern": "\\[Issue\\]",
"on_property": "title",
"method": "match"
"duplicate_filter": {
"pattern": "\\[ABC-....\\]",
"on_property": "title",
"method": "match"
"reference": {
"pattern": ".*\\ \\#(.).*",
"on_property": "body",
"method": "replace",
"target": "$1"
"transformers": [
"pattern": "[\\-\\*] (\\[(...|TEST|CI|SKIP)\\])( )?(.+?)\n(.+?[\\-\\*] )(.+)",
"target": "- $4\n - $6"
"trim_values": false,
"max_tags_to_fetch": 200,
"max_pull_requests": 200,
"max_back_track_time_days": 365,
"exclude_merge_branches": [
"tag_resolver": {
"method": "semver",
"filter": {
"pattern": "api-(.+)",
"flags": "gu"
"base_branches": [

Any section of the configuration can be omitted to have defaults apply.

Warning: ignore_labels take precedence over category labels, allowing to specifically exclude certain PRs.

Please see the Configuration Specification for detailed descriptions on the offered configuration options.

Advanced workflow specification

For advanced use cases additional settings can be provided to the action

- name: "Complex Configuration"
id: build_changelog
if: startsWith(github.ref, 'refs/tags/')
uses: mikepenz/release-changelog-builder-action@{latest-release}
configuration: "configuration_complex.json"
owner: "mikepenz"
repo: "release-changelog-builder-action"
ignorePreReleases: "false"
fromTag: "0.3.0"
toTag: "0.5.0"
token: ${{ secrets.PAT }}

Note: All input values are optional. It is only required to provide the token either via the input, or as env variable.

Input Description
configurationJson Provide the configuration directly via the build yml file. Please note that ${{}} has to be written as #{{}} within the yml file.
configuration Relative path, to the configuration.json file, providing additional configurations
outputFile Optional relative path to a file to store the resulting changelog in.
owner The owner of the repository to generate the changelog for
repo Name of the repository we want to process
fromTag Defines the 'start' from where the changelog will consider merged pull requests (can be a tag or a valid git ref)
toTag Defines until which tag the changelog will consider merged pull requests (can be a tag or a valid git ref)
path Allows to specify an alternative sub directory, to use as base
token Alternative config to specify token. You should prefer env.GITHUB_TOKEN instead though
baseUrl Alternative config to specify base url for GitHub Enterprise authentication. Default value set to https://api.github.com
includeOpen Enables to also fetch currently open PRs. Default: false
ignorePreReleases Allows to ignore pre-releases for changelog generation (E.g. for 1.0.1... 1.0.0-rc02 <- ignore, 1.0.0 <- pick). Only used if fromTag was not specified. Default: false
failOnError Defines if the action will result in a build failure if problems occurred. Default: false
fetchReviewers Will enable fetching the users/reviewers who approved the PR. Default: false
fetchReleaseInformation Will enable fetching additional release information from tags. Default: false
fetchReviews Will enable fetching the reviews on of the PR. Default: false
commitMode Special configuration for projects which work without PRs. Uses commit messages as changelog. This mode looses access to information only available for PRs. Default: false
cache Cached data from a previous run. Will skip fetching PR information

Warning: ${{ secrets.GITHUB_TOKEN }} only grants rights to the current repository, for other repositories please use a PAT (Personal Access Token).

PR Template placeholders

Table of supported placeholders allowed to be used in the pr_template configuration, which will be included in the release notes / changelog.

Placeholder Description
${{NUMBER}} The number referencing this pull request. E.g. 13.
${{TITLE}} Specified title of the merged pull request.
${{URL}} Url linking to the pull request on GitHub.
${{STATUS}} Status of the PR. Usually always merged. Possibly Open if includeOpen is configured.
${{CREATED_AT}} The ISO time, the pull request was created at.
${{MERGED_AT}} The ISO time, the pull request was merged at.
${{MERGE_SHA}} The commit SHA, the pull request was merged with.
${{AUTHOR}} Author creating and opening the pull request.
${{LABELS}} The labels associated with this pull request, joined by ,.
${{MILESTONE}} Milestone this PR was part of, as assigned on GitHub.
${{BODY}} Description/Body of the pull request as specified on GitHub.
${{ASSIGNEES}} Login names of assigned GitHub users, joined by ,.
${{REVIEWERS}} GitHub Login names of specified reviewers, joined by ,. Requires fetchReviewers to be enabled.
${{APPROVERS}} GitHub Login names of users who approved the PR, joined by ,.
Array Placeholders

Table of special array placeholders allowed to be used in the pr_template configuration.

Array placeholders follow the following format: (KEY)[(*/index)] for example: ASSIGNEES[*] or ASSIGNEES[0]. When using * values are joined by ,.

Placeholder Description
${{ASSIGNEES[*]}} Login names of assigned GitHub users.
${{REVIEWERS[*]}} GitHub Login names of specified reviewers. Requires fetchReviewers to be enabled.
${{APPROVERS[*]}} GitHub Login names of users who approved the PR.

Additionally there are special array placeholders like REVIEWS which allows access to it's properties via (KEY)[(*/index)].(property).

For example: REVIEWS[*].author or REVIEWS[*].body

Placeholder Description
${{REVIEWS[*].author}} GitHub Login names of specified reviewers.
${{REVIEWS[*].body}} The body of the review.
${{REVIEWS[*].htmlURL}} The URL to the given review.
${{REVIEWS[*].submittedAt}} The date whent he review was submitted.
${{REVIEWS[*].state}} The state of the given review.

Similar to REVIEWS, REFERENCED PRs also offer special placeholders.

Placeholder Description
${{REFERENCED[*].number}} The PR number of the referenced PR.
${{REFERENCED[*].title}} The title of the referenced PR.
${{REFERENCED[*]."..."}} Allows to use most other PR properties as placeholder.

Template placeholders

Table of supported placeholders allowed to be used in the template and empty_template (only supports placeholder marked for empty) configuration, to give additional control on defining the contents of the release notes / changelog.

Placeholder Description Empty
${{CHANGELOG}} The contents of the changelog, matching the labels as specified in the categories configuration
${{UNCATEGORIZED}} All pull requests not matching a specified label in categories
${{OPEN}} All open pull requests. Will only be fetched if includeOpen is enabled.
${{IGNORED}} All pull requests defining labels matching the ignore_labels configuration
${{OWNER}} Describes the owner of the repository the changelog was generated for x
${{REPO}} The repository name of the repo the changelog was generated for x
${{FROM_TAG}} Defines the 'start' from where the changelog did consider merged pull requests x
${{FROM_TAG_DATE}} Defines the date at which the 'start' tag was created. Requires fetchReleaseInformation. x
${{TO_TAG}} Defines until which tag the changelog did consider merged pull requests x
${{TO_TAG_DATE}} Defines the date at which the 'until' tag was created. Requires fetchReleaseInformation. x
${{RELEASE_DIFF}} Introduces a link to the full diff between from tag and to tag releases x
${{CHANGED_FILES}} The count of changed files.
${{ADDITIONS}} The count of code additions (lines).
${{DELETIONS}} The count of code deletions (lines).
${{CHANGES}} The count of total changes (lines).
${{COMMITS}} The count of commits in this release.
${{CATEGORIZED_COUNT}} The count of PRs which were categorized
${{UNCATEGORIZED_COUNT}} The count of PRs and changes which were not categorized. No label overlapping with category labels
${{OPEN_COUNT}} The count of open PRs. Will only be fetched if includeOpen is configured.
${{IGNORED_COUNT}} The count of PRs and changes which were specifically ignored from the changelog.
${{DAYS_SINCE}} Days between the 2 releases. Requires fetchReleaseInformation to be enabled. x

Configuration Specification

Table of descriptions for the configuration.json options to configure the resulting release notes / changelog.

Input Description
categories An array of category specifications, offering a flexible way to group changes into categories.
category.key Optional key used for the categorized json output.
category.title The display name of a category in the changelog.
category.labels An array of labels, to match pull request labels against. If any PR label matches any category label, the pull request will show up under this category. (See exhaustive to change this)
category.exclude_labels Similar to labels, an array of labels to match PRs against, but if a match occurs the PR is excluded from this category.
category.exhaustive Will require all labels defined within this category to be present on the matching PR.
category.exhaustive_rules Will require all rules defined within this category to be valid on the matching PR. If not defined, defaults to the value of exhaustive
category.empty_content If the category has no matching PRs, this content will be used. When not set, the category will be skipped in the changelog.
category.rules An array of rules used to match PRs against. Any match will include the PR. (See exhaustive to change this)
category.rules.pattern A regex pattern to match the property value towards. Uses RegExp.test("val")
category.rules.flags Defines the regex flags specified for the pattern. Default: gu.
category.rules.on_property The PR property to match against. Possible values.
ignore_labels An array of labels, to match pull request labels against. If any PR label overlaps, the pull request will be ignored from the changelog. This takes precedence over category labels
sort A sort specification, offering the ability to define sort order and property.
sort.order The sort order. Allowed values: ASC, DESC
sort.on_property The property to sort on. Allowed values: mergedAt, title
template Specifies the global template to pick for creating the changelog. See Template placeholders for possible values
pr_template Defines the per pull request template. See PR Template placeholders for possible values
empty_template Template to pick if no changes are detected. See Template placeholders for possible values
label_extractor An array of Extractor specifications, offering a flexible API to extract additinal labels from a PR (Default: body, Default in commit mode: commit message).
label_extractor.pattern A regex pattern, extracting values of the change message.
label_extractor.target The result pattern. The result text will be used as label. If empty, no label is created. (Unused for match method)
label_extractor.on_property The property to retrieve the text from. This is optional. Defaults to: body. Alternative values: title, author, milestone.
label_extractor.method The extraction method used. Defaults to: replace. Alternative value: match. The method specified references the JavaScript String method.
label_extractor.flags Defines the regex flags specified for the pattern. Default: gu.
label_extractor.on_empty Defines the placeholder to be filled in, if the regex does not lead to a result.
duplicate_filter Defines the Extractor to use for retrieving the identifier for a PR. In case of duplicates will keep the last matching pull request (depends on sort). See label_extractor for details on Extractor properties.
reference Defines the Extractor to use for resolving the "PR-number" for a parent PR. In case of a match, the child PR will not be included in the release notes. See label_extractor for details on Extractor properties.
transformers An array of transform specifications, offering a flexible API to modify the text per pull request. This is applied on the change text created with pr_template. transformers are executed per change, in the order specified
transformer.pattern A regex pattern, extracting values of the change message.
transformer.target The result pattern, the regex groups will be filled into. Allows for full transformation of a pull request message. Including potentially specified texts
max_tags_to_fetch The maximum amount of tags to load from the API to find the previous tag. Loaded paginated with 100 per page
max_pull_requests The maximum amount of pull requests to load from the API. Loaded paginated with 30 per page
max_back_track_time_days Defines the max amount of days to go back in time per changelog
exclude_merge_branches An array of branches to be ignored from processing as merge commits
tag_resolver Section to provide configuration for the tag resolving logic. Used if no fromTag is provided
tag_resolver.method Defines the method to use. Current options are: semver, sort. Default: semver
tag_resolver.filter Defines a regex which is used to filter out tags not matching.
tag_resolver.transformer Defines a regex transformer used to optionally transform the tag after the filter was applied. Allows to adjust the format to e.g. semver.
base_branches The target branches for the merged PR, ingnores PRs with different target branch. Values can be a regex. Default: allow all base branches
trim_values Defines if all values inserted in templates are trimmed. Default: false

Experimental ๐Ÿงช

Starting with v3.2.0 the action provides an experimental feature of defining CUSTOM_PLACEHOLDERS. Custom placeholders allow to extract values from any existing placeholder and insert them into the target template.


Custom placeholders can be defined via the configuration.json as custom_placeholders. See the below example json:

"template": "**Epics**\n${{EPIC[*]}}\n\n${{CHANGELOG}}",
"pr_template": "- ${{TITLE}} - ${{URL}} ${{EPIC}}",
"custom_placeholders": [
"name": "EPIC",
"source": "BODY",
"transformer": {
"pattern": "[\\S\\s]*?(https:\\/\\/corp\\.atlassian\\.net\\/browse\\/EPIC-.{2,4})[\\S\\s]*",
"target": "- $1"

This example will look for JIRA tickets in the EPIC project, and extract all of these tickets. The exciting part for that case is, that the ticket is PR bound, but can be used in the global TEMPLATE, but equally also in the PR template. This is unique for CUSTOM PLACEHOLDERS as standard palceholders do not offer this functionality.

Input Description
custom_placeholders An array of Placeholder specifications, offering a flexible API to extract custom placeholders from existing placeholders.
custom_placeholders.name The name of the custom placeholder. Will be used within the template.
custom_placeholders.source The source PLACEHOLDER, requires to be one of the existing Template or PR Template placeholders.
custom_placeholders.transformer The transformer specification used to extract the value from the original source PLACEHOLDER.

A placeholder with the name as CUSTOM_PLACEHOLDER can be used as ${{CUSTOM_PLACEHOLDER}} in the target template. By default the same restriction applies as for PR vs template placeholder. E.g. a global placeholder can only be used in the global template (and not in the PR template).

Custom placeholders offer one new feature though. PR related placeholders can be used in the global template via the following syntax:

  • CUSTOM_PLACEHOLDER[*] - Will join all found values and insert them at the given location in the global template
  • CUSTOM_PLACEHOLDER[0] / CUSTOM_PLACEHOLDER[index] - Will insert the first found value (item at index) into the global template

Contribute ๐Ÿงฌ

# Install the dependencies
$ npm install
# Verify lint is happy
$ npm run lint -- --fix
# Build the typescript and package it for distribution
$ npm run build && npm run package
# Run the tests, use to debug, and test it out
$ npm test

It's suggested to export the token to your path before running the tests so that API calls can be done to GitHub.

export GITHUB_TOKEN=your_personal_github_pat

Local Testing ๐Ÿงช

This GitHub action is fully developed in Typescript and can be run locally via npm. Doing so is a great way to test the action and/or your custom configurations locally, without the need to push and re-run GitHub actions over and over again.

To run this action locally, first make sure you provide a GITHUB_TOKEN with enough permissions to access the repository.

# GitHub token for the action
export GITHUB_TOKEN=your_read_only_github_token

Afterwards run the testcases with:

npm test -- custom.test.ts

import {resolveConfiguration} from '../src/utils'
import {ReleaseNotesBuilder} from '../src/releaseNotesBuilder'
it('Test custom changelog builder', async () => {
const configuration = resolveConfiguration(
const releaseNotesBuilder = new ReleaseNotesBuilder(
null, // baseUrl
null, // token
'.', // repoPath
'mikepenz', // user
'release-changelog-builder-action-playground', // repo
'1.5.0', // fromTag
'2.0.0', // toTag
true, // includeOpen
false, // failOnError
false, // ignorePrePrelease
true, // enable to fetch reviewers
false, // enable to fetch release information
false, // enable to fetch reviews
false, // commitMode
configuration // configuration
const changeLog = await releaseNotesBuilder.build()

Additionally it is possible to do full debugging including the option of breakpoints via (for example) Visual Code. Open the project in Visual code -> open the terminal -> use the + and start a new JavaScript Debug Terminal. Afterwards run the tests as described above.

Developed By


Other actions


Copyright for portions of pr-release-notes are held by Nikolay Blagoev, 2019-2020 as part of project pull-release-notes.
All other copyright for project pr-release-notes are held by Mike Penz, 2021.

Fork License

All patches and changes applied to the original source are licensed under the Apache 2.0 license.

Copyright 2022 Mike Penz
Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
You may obtain a copy of the License at
Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
limitations under the License.

Sample result release notes / changelog