There are roughly three mayor steps in programming, Alpha test, Beta test and final release (except for any bugfixes/patches, but I said 'roughly'). Programmers have an idea and that idea will be programmed to a Alpha version. That is a version that works but isn't finished yet and has a lot of (mayor) bugs in it. This version is often used internally or to a select group of testers, although Open Source programs and sometimes Freeware apps (like Winamp 3) release Alpha programs to the public.
When the programmers have forked out all mayor bugs and make sure it works, that is does what it should do, they release the Beta program. Beta's are often released to the public (except for the very expensive programs like Windows and Photoshop) as a test version. Because there are *A LOT* of different computerconfigurations around the world, it is not likely that the program will work immediately or very good on every computer. For the small programs that doesn't matter much, but with the bigger programs it does. There will the user give feedback on what works and what not. Also can users feedback what should be added/removed to/from the program. There may also be some small bugs in the program, some bugs that the programmers or Alphatesters didn't notice in the initial test and also then the users can give feedback.
And finally is the final release. This release is trusted to be safe and should work on every computer around the world (as long as it meets the specs). Even now users can give feedback on bugs or sometimes things are added to the program to make it even better. You might ask yourself, 'The program is finished right? Why add more things?' Well that's an interesting question. The reason is that a program is never finished. There are always some bugs in the programs, users that complain about things etc. At one point the programmers must say 'OK, enough testing, let's release it', but they are in fact never done testing. Especially when a program is big. Just look at Windows '95. Bugfixes where released to the end of 1999, I believe, 4 years after the initial release.
This 'rule' doesn't apply to simple programs, of course. If you make a, let's say, a .Wav-player, that does nothing else than playback a .wav-file, then there comes a point when there is nothing to be added or fixed.
If there are other people who think otherwise about this, feel free to reply. I am not a programmer, I may be wrong on some things.
AaronMcarthur, I hope I've make those clouds around programming clear for you (if you think 'Whatyatalkingbout?', it's just a metafor).
Ep, glad to see you come back and tidy up...did want to ask a one day favor, I want to enhance my resume , was hoping you could make me administrator for a day, if so, take me right off since I won't be here to do anything, and don't know the slightest about the board, but it would be nice putting "served administrator osnn", if can do, THANKS