We're creating a user manual for a software application. Like the manual, the application itself is a work in progress.

We have a version of the manual that describes the application as we expect it to be when completed. It could change over time, as the application is modified, but it's mostly stable.

If "draft" (or "draft version") is the term for the current, pre-publication version of user manual, and "final version" is what you'd call what is ultimately published, what's the adjective for the initial version?

"Expected version" isn't quite right, and "Aspirational" sounds pompous. "Target" might work, except that our tools use that term for something else and I don't want the confusion.

  • You could call it the "premature" version.
    – TRomano
    Feb 18, 2019 at 20:54
  • 1
    I would call it preliminary version. Feb 18, 2019 at 22:52
  • Yes, preliminary is almost universal. Feb 19, 2019 at 1:35
  • Your software should have a version number X, and the manual is for version X. Whatever adjective you use will be context sensitive--it won't be preliminary or a draft once you release, but all your old documentation and emails will still read that way.
    – jimm101
    Feb 19, 2019 at 13:44
  • Sounds like the vapourware version of the manual.
    – David
    Nov 16, 2019 at 13:10

2 Answers 2


In software terms, it sounds like you're working on something that's out of beta and essentially complete—but still pending any last-minute changes prior to publication.

This is often described as a release candidate.

From PC Magazine's definition of release candidate:

A pre-release version of software. Sometimes software vendors make one or two release candidates (RC1, RC2, etc.) available to select customers in advance of the official release. A release candidate is like a "sneak preview" of the final release with the added advantage that serious bugs may yet surface and be fixed before the general public uses it. Thus, there are alpha versions (internal), beta versions (external), release candidates (sometimes) and the final release of software. After that, there are countless updates that add features and fix bugs.

In editing terminology, a manuscript that has had its final round of technical input and copyediting is, as you've called it, a final draft:


: a final version of something (such as a document) usually after a lot of editing and rewriting
// The final draft is due tomorrow.

However, what you're currently working on is something prior to that stage—and certainly prior to the even more complete stage of proof or galley proof (which, in the publishing world, is what a final drafte turns into when it's sent to a typesetter).

In general editing terms, a draft that comes before a final draft is simply a manuscript.

I know of no editing terminology that is the exact equivalent of release candidate, but that is the analogous term that you're looking for.

Note that you asked for the initial version in your question—but also said that you want something that's the expected or target version. Those two things seem incompatible to me. But if it's not actually release candidate that describes your current situation, then you could make use of either alpha or beta, depending on how you are interpreting things. Or even initial draft. But, again, you seem to be describing things at two different ends of the development cycle at the same time, so I'm not certain. A target version is also known as a prototype or proposal.

  • They are incompatible; I probably shouldn't have said "initial" when speaking of the "target" version. (I called it that because it was written first). But I think "proposal" is probably closest. Feb 19, 2019 at 23:39

Draft, working version, work in progress ('WIP') each convey the temporary nature of the document. I can't find any dictionary authority for 'working version' but it does show up in web searches with this meaning.

  • Those are the words I'm using for the version we're actively writing, which will culminate in a final draft. This other one is sort of a target, and will only change if the developers make some modification in the application Feb 19, 2019 at 6:27

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