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About Canvas Release Notes (FAQ)

About Canvas Release Notes (FAQ)


What are Canvas Release Notes?

A release represents a scheduled event when customer-affecting code is intended to be visible in a specified environment. Canvas release notes maintain a current list of features and other customer-impacting changes that will be included in an upcoming Canvas release.

Features are subject to change based on user feedback and QA testing.

  • Some features may not be available for testing in the beta environment as indicated in the release notes.
  • Changes outside the release date may be indicated for specific features.
  • Modifications to the release notes are indicated in the Change Log section at the end of each release notes document.

What is the Canvas release schedule?

The release date indicates the date the features will be available in the production environment, unless otherwise noted. Updates are available on the third Saturday of every month. 

On the following Monday, all customer-affecting code for the following month will be available in the beta environment. Customers are welcome to experiment in the beta environment at this time, but the environment is still subject to change. 

For more information about the Canvas release process, please see the Canvas release schedule.

Does Canvas use versions?

Unlike traditional software, Canvas updates on a regular cadence identified by its release date, not a version number. Unless otherwise indicated as a feature preview, released features are available in the production environment on the indicated release date.

How can I try out new features?

Changes described in the release apply to Canvas as accessed through a desktop browser.

All features are available for testing in the beta environment unless otherwise indicated directly in the release notes. Some features may not yet be supported in the beta environment.

Please note that beta environments are refreshed weekly on Saturdays. Any changes made in the beta environment will refresh with the latest data in the production environment. For more information, please see What is the Canvas beta environment?

After the production deploy, all features will also be available in the Test environment. For more information, please see What is the Canvas test environment? 

What are feature previews?

Some features are available in Canvas as feature previews, which may either be enabled by a Canvas admin in Account Settings or by a Canvas Customer Success Manager as indicated in the release notes. 

For a list of current feature previews, please see Feature Previews by Canvas Release.

Feature preview are features that may change the workflow for common activities in Canvas during an institution's current term and allows Canvas admins to enable the feature based on their preferred timeline. However, after a specified period of time, feature previews will become standard features in Canvas for all users. 

Unless otherwise noted, feature previews are opt-in and do not require any action until an enforcement date is announced. For feature preview enforcements, advanced notice will be provided via the release notes. 

How can I enable a feature preview?

Feature previews can be managed by an institution’s Canvas admin. Feature previews can either be turned on for all users or allowed at the sub-account and course levels. Allowed features at the course level can be managed by instructors within each individual course.

For details about how to enable feature previews, please see How do I manage new features for an account? and How do I manage new features for a course?

What is a beta feature?

The term Beta means the feature is available for use in the production environment but is still being tested for usability and accessibility behavior. However, occasionally features may only be available for testing in the beta environment.

Beta features are generally feature previews, and their initial introduction is included in the release notes. Not all institutions may be comfortable exploring beta features, so an institution may not choose to participate until the feature has become more stable and is generally announced for all users. 

Enabling a beta feature may create unintended behavior within a Canvas account. 

How do I leave feedback about something in the release notes?

Comments are welcome in the release notes for discussing announced feature functionality. Each feature in the release notes includes a Q&A link for feature discussion.

How can I submit an idea for a feature enhancement and/or see what is on the roadmap?

The release notes indicate available functionality for a feature.If you want to see future development planned for any features, please visit the the Roadmap. Have an idea you don't see prioritized in the next three months? Visit the Idea Conversations page.

Where can I find interface updates that aren't part of release notes?

Visit the Canvas Deploys page.

Where can I find out about notable fixed bugs?

Visit Known Issues.

Where can I learn about updates to Canvas APIs?

Canvas APIs, Canvas Data, GraphQL, and Live Events updates are located in Canvas Change Log.

Where can I learn about changes that affect CSS and JavaScript?

For Undocumented changes that affect styles and code in custom JavaScript/CSS applications, please review the affected application using the Beta environment for potential customization conflicts.

Where can I learn about changes to the Canvas mobile apps?

Visit the Mobile release notes (not all features will apply to mobile apps, and some functionality may be implemented at a later date).

How do I get support with issues in the release?

All items listed in the release notes are immediately available for testing in the Canvas beta environment, unless otherwise indicated. If functionality in the beta environment does not match the functionality shown in the release notes, please submit a support case through your institution's preferred method as shown in your Global Navigation Help Menu.

The Canvas Support Team can help escalate behaviors that may need to be resolved before they are deployed to the production environment, which takes place on the date of these release notes. When submitting a case, please indicate that the behavior is occurring in the beta environment.

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erinhallmark‌  Hi Erin,  I noticed that there were no Beta Release notes with the 8/27 deployment and figured at first that had to do with not wanting to make changes just before many of us started a new semester.  Only today did I discover that:

 Beta Release Notes are "discontinued as of 2018-08-04"

Two comments: First, this strikes me as a major change in operational strategy, instituted with very little fanfare.  I don't question that Instructure may have had solid reasons for making the change (though I'd guess many of us would be curious to hear them).  I am uneasy about the super-low-key approach, that makes it seem like you're trying to duck customer reaction.  (Can't imagine that anyone was so naïve as to believe that you could ultimately avoid that though.  That in itself is worrying.)

Second:  The FAQ says "When a notable change is made to the beta environment after the Canvas release notes have been published, the notes will be updated with any notable changes. Changes are specified in the release change log at the end of each release notes document."  Evaluating these changes and familiarizing ourselves with them has been part of our process from the beginning.  How are we going to be alerted when these notes are updated, as we previously were when there was a new Beta release.

You've always been very open with this community, so these concerns are offered along with appreciation of your past directness and clarity.


Hi, Peter,

You're right in that it's a major change in operational strategy, and we did our best to let everyone know about the changes! I'd encourage you to check out our blog post posted in early July: Simplifying the Release Notes Process: Upcoming Release Notes Changes.

In summary, Canvas customers have adapted beta notes more prominently than production notes, so the release notes made some modifications. Release notes are still the same but now they're combined into one document and you get all the updates (including fixed bugs) for two full weeks. The majority of our features in the beta notes always went to production anyway, so now we're just cutting out the extra step of having to follow two separate documents (beta and production). Customer reaction has been extremely positive, and we'll continue to make iterative adjustments as necessary.

To be alerted of changes, we encourage you to follow the release notes directly. When notes are updated, you'll receive a notification, either in the Canvas Community Inbox or via your email (depending on your preferences). On our side, we are trying not to update any code in the beta environment after the release notes have been published, but in the times when our engineers to update something, we'd like to let you know about it.

Hopefully those answers resolve your concerns a bit. Feel free to add to the comments in the blog post above if you have additional thoughts about these changes!



Thanks erinhallmark  Prior to reading your comment, I did a little more investigating myself, and based on that and your helpful note, I think I now understand and am on-board with the change.  I'll assume, unless corrected, that there will continue to be a fairly fixed relationship between the dates given for "Canvas Documentation Published" (most recent example, August 25)  and "Canvas Beta Environment Deploy" (most recent example: August 27).

The email summary I received overnight last night - subject: "Canvas Release Notes (2018-09-15)" - was very helpful, but I'm not sure why it wasn't sent earlier - or perhaps it was, and I missed it.

While I've got your attention, a completely unrelated comment.  I understand the appeal of keeping documentation highly modularized.  Sometimes I would appreciate modules that were a little more complete and inclusive.  For example, I'd like to be able to give a person one link to learn about the new grade book rather than thirty-one.  Of course I don't ever do that, but there are 31 documentation modules that cover the new grade book - and that's just for instructors.  It's overwhelming just to read through the titles.

I really appreciate your availability and willingness to respond to bothersome nquiries like this.

Hi, Peter,

Yes, if you are following the Canvas release calendar or any document that explains the dates, all the dates have been updated to reflect when new code is deployed to the beta environment, when release notes are published, and when the production release takes place.

The Canvas Release Notes email is usually sent on Monday afternoon (Utah time), but because of a holiday in the United States, the email was sent on Tuesday. Only a few times a year do we have Monday holidays that conflict with the schedule, so the delay is infrequent.

As for the documentation, the primary type of documentation in the guides is how-to documentation. We know that there is a need for more overview-type documentation, which is included in the Canvas Basics guide, but we have much to improve there. Eventually we will provide more overview documents to provide more clarification on how a feature works as a whole with all user roles. In the meantime, you can give users a link to the first lesson in a chapter, as it contains an overview of all features and provides links to more feature-specific details if needed. For instance, the gradebook chapter has a lesson called How do I use the New Gradebook, which should be sufficient.

Thanks for your feedback! We're excited to continue to work on these projects so we can continue to improve the guides for you.