Here’s a term you may have run across a few time and wondered exactly what it meant:

beta test.

A beta test is a testing period that happens prior to the final commercial release of a product. A good example of this is the Windows Preview Build that people who sign up to be a Microsoft Insider can download and use.

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The purpose of a beta test is to move a product outside the development lab and into the real world with a fairly large sample of users putting it to work in real-life situations. Beta testers could be selected privately, or the product could be offered to members of the public that want to participate. A private test is called a closed beta test, while one that’s open to members of the public is an open beta test. A product could start out with a closed beta test and then expand to an open beta test if it proves to not have a lot of problems.

While a beta test gives you earlier access to some products and features, you might also run into some bugs, as these products haven’t been thoroughly tested in the real world. You’re the one doing the testing after all.

Sometimes you’ll see an app in the app store for your device marked as beta.

 

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Sometimes you get the chance to try out the beta version of your browser or an email program.

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For the most part, beta versions are safe to try because they are usually tested fairly well before being made available. But there could be bugs. And you can also expect to see changes to features and the interface of the product as testers give their feedback. Feedback is an important part of the beta testing process. If you choose to participate, you should offer as much feedback as possible.

Most beta tests offer a button or a link where you can click to give feedback. Some will even regularly pop up a window asking you provide it.