Renovate was originally created to scratch an internal itch, so we’ve been both enjoying its capabilities and testing them from day one. When people get started or get comfortable with using Renovate, it’s pretty understandable that they might look at the Renovate project itself as a reference user. We’ve put together this post to share how we as “power users” use Renovate in our day-to-day activity, as a little inspiration.
We use a renovate.json config file in the root so it’s easy for everyone to spot, and it extends our default organization preset in github>renovatebot/.github. We’ll describe how our organization preset works later.
Now that the repository is installed via the app, and onboarded via a config file, it means the hosted app will usually run:
Automating dependency updates is the main reason people use Renovate, and we aim to keep the project as up-to-date as possible. After all, a professional painter shouldn’t live in a house that needs a new coat, should they?
The key points about how we use Renovate to update dependencies are:
The renovatebot organization on GitHub has a .github repository used to share common files, including Renovate configuration files. There are two files which are relevant:
Renovate’s org preset also contains some pretty clever “regex manager” rules which we use to apply custom dependency updates to our Dockerfiles and documentation. Both of these are worthy of their own post!
We’re a believer that great tools should fit into a developer’s workflows, rather than request developers adjust to a tool’s workflows. For Renovate, this means adapting to a project’s conventions for branch naming, commit syntax, labeling, etc.
In Renovate’s case:
A great new feature introduced by Mend last year is Merge Confidence, and we rely on it heavily.
We built Merge Confidence on the premise that:
In practice, that means Pull Requests for new versions look like this:
Based on the above, it’s clear why the Confidence is “High” and I have no problem merging it, especially as it passed my tests too.
Another aspect of how we use Renovate to build Renovate is downstream automation. It was mentioned earlier that in most cases you don’t need new releases immediately after they’re released, but internal packages are an exception that an increasing number of Renovate users utilize to improve productivity between projects and teams.
Similar to how many projects are built, Renovate is developed and published across multiple repositories. Once a new release of Renovate is made, we have repositories which build and publish a Docker Image as well as a GitHub Action. App users are often eager to try out new Renovate features right away, so we make sure there is no stability days restriction on our own packages and that PRs are created right away.
Further, there is no need for us to review or approve our own packages in this case, so we also enable branch automerge. What this means is that usually within about an hour of releasing Renovate, the downstream Docker and GitHub Action repositories have already received an automated upgrade of Renovate and are on their way to finishing the process. Because we release up to dozens of times per release, this is not something that can be handled manually.
Additionally, the Mend Renovate App also needs updating, and a similar process applies. In this case although we create the PR immediately, we do require a manual approval/merge before updating the hosted app, because sometimes there are new features which should ideally be observed post-upgrade just to make sure all goes smoothly. We wouldn’t want an accidental bug taking down the app “automatically” during an hour when nobody’s watching closely, so we use a manual approval step for upgrading Renovate in the app. This is again not something which would scale well with manual dependency updates and commits.
We hope sharing our experience with Renovate helps you find ways to tweak Renovate to your needs, including custom package updates, scheduling, stability, and workflow features. If you have any questions, always feel free to post to Renovate’s Discussion Forum.