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.. highlight:: rst
First Steps with Sphinx
This document is meant to give a tutorial-like overview of all common tasks
while using Sphinx.
The green arrows designate "more info" links leading to advanced sections about
the described task.
Install Sphinx
Install Sphinx, either from a distribution package or from
`PyPI <>`_ with ::
$ pip install Sphinx
Setting up the documentation sources
The root directory of a Sphinx collection of reStructuredText document sources
is called the :term:`source directory`. This directory also contains the Sphinx
configuration file :file:``, where you can configure all aspects of how
Sphinx reads your sources and builds your documentation. [#]_
Sphinx comes with a script called :program:`sphinx-quickstart` that sets up a
source directory and creates a default :file:`` with the most useful
configuration values from a few questions it asks you. Just run ::
$ sphinx-quickstart
and answer its questions. (Be sure to say yes to the "autodoc" extension.)
There is also an automatic "API documentation" generator called
:program:`sphinx-apidoc`; see :ref:`invocation-apidoc` for details.
Defining document structure
Let's assume you've run :program:`sphinx-quickstart`. It created a source
directory with :file:`` and a master document, :file:`index.rst` (if you
accepted the defaults). The main function of the :term:`master document` is to
serve as a welcome page, and to contain the root of the "table of contents tree"
(or *toctree*). This is one of the main things that Sphinx adds to
reStructuredText, a way to connect multiple files to a single hierarchy of
.. sidebar:: reStructuredText directives
``toctree`` is a reStructuredText :dfn:`directive`, a very versatile piece of
markup. Directives can have arguments, options and content.
*Arguments* are given directly after the double colon following the
directive's name. Each directive decides whether it can have arguments, and
how many.
*Options* are given after the arguments, in form of a "field list". The
``maxdepth`` is such an option for the ``toctree`` directive.
*Content* follows the options or arguments after a blank line. Each
directive decides whether to allow content, and what to do with it.
A common gotcha with directives is that **the first line of the content must
be indented to the same level as the options are**.
The toctree directive initially is empty, and looks like this::
.. toctree::
:maxdepth: 2
You add documents listing them in the *content* of the directive::
.. toctree::
:maxdepth: 2
This is exactly how the toctree for this documentation looks. The documents to
include are given as :term:`document name`\ s, which in short means that you
leave off the file name extension and use slashes as directory separators.
|more| Read more about :ref:`the toctree directive <toctree-directive>`.
You can now create the files you listed in the toctree and add content, and
their section titles will be inserted (up to the "maxdepth" level) at the place
where the toctree directive is placed. Also, Sphinx now knows about the order
and hierarchy of your documents. (They may contain ``toctree`` directives
themselves, which means you can create deeply nested hierarchies if necessary.)
Adding content
In Sphinx source files, you can use most features of standard reStructuredText.
There are also several features added by Sphinx. For example, you can add
cross-file references in a portable way (which works for all output types) using
the :rst:role:`ref` role.
For an example, if you are viewing the HTML version you can look at the source
for this document -- use the "Show Source" link in the sidebar.
|more| See :ref:`rst-primer` for a more in-depth introduction to
reStructuredText and :ref:`sphinxmarkup` for a full list of markup added by
Running the build
Now that you have added some files and content, let's make a first build of the
docs. A build is started with the :program:`sphinx-build` program, called like
$ sphinx-build -b html sourcedir builddir
where *sourcedir* is the :term:`source directory`, and *builddir* is the
directory in which you want to place the built documentation. The :option:`-b`
option selects a builder; in this example Sphinx will build HTML files.
|more| See :ref:`invocation` for all options that :program:`sphinx-build`
However, :program:`sphinx-quickstart` script creates a :file:`Makefile` and a
:file:`make.bat` which make life even easier for you: with them you only need
to run ::
$ make html
to build HTML docs in the build directory you chose. Execute ``make`` without
an argument to see which targets are available.
.. admonition:: How do I generate PDF documents?
``make latexpdf`` runs the :mod:`LaTeX builder
<>` and readily invokes the pdfTeX
toolchain for you.
Documenting objects
One of Sphinx's main objectives is easy documentation of :dfn:`objects` (in a
very general sense) in any :dfn:`domain`. A domain is a collection of object
types that belong together, complete with markup to create and reference
descriptions of these objects.
The most prominent domain is the Python domain. To e.g. document the Python
built-in function ``enumerate()``, you would add this to one of your source
.. py:function:: enumerate(sequence[, start=0])
Return an iterator that yields tuples of an index and an item of the
*sequence*. (And so on.)
This is rendered like this:
.. py:function:: enumerate(sequence[, start=0])
Return an iterator that yields tuples of an index and an item of the
*sequence*. (And so on.)
The argument of the directive is the :dfn:`signature` of the object you
describe, the content is the documentation for it. Multiple signatures can be
given, each in its own line.
The Python domain also happens to be the default domain, so you don't need to
prefix the markup with the domain name::
.. function:: enumerate(sequence[, start=0])
does the same job if you keep the default setting for the default domain.
There are several more directives for documenting other types of Python objects,
for example :rst:dir:`py:class` or :rst:dir:`py:method`. There is also a
cross-referencing :dfn:`role` for each of these object types. This markup will
create a link to the documentation of ``enumerate()``::
The :py:func:`enumerate` function can be used for ...
And here is the proof: A link to :func:`enumerate`.
Again, the ``py:`` can be left out if the Python domain is the default one. It
doesn't matter which file contains the actual documentation for ``enumerate()``;
Sphinx will find it and create a link to it.
Each domain will have special rules for how the signatures can look like, and
make the formatted output look pretty, or add specific features like links to
parameter types, e.g. in the C/C++ domains.
|more| See :ref:`domains` for all the available domains and their
Basic configuration
Earlier we mentioned that the :file:`` file controls how Sphinx processes
your documents. In that file, which is executed as a Python source file, you
assign configuration values. For advanced users: since it is executed by
Sphinx, you can do non-trivial tasks in it, like extending :data:`sys.path` or
importing a module to find out the version you are documenting.
The config values that you probably want to change are already put into the
:file:`` by :program:`sphinx-quickstart` and initially commented out
(with standard Python syntax: a ``#`` comments the rest of the line). To change
the default value, remove the hash sign and modify the value. To customize a
config value that is not automatically added by :program:`sphinx-quickstart`,
just add an additional assignment.
Keep in mind that the file uses Python syntax for strings, numbers, lists and so
on. The file is saved in UTF-8 by default, as indicated by the encoding
declaration in the first line. If you use non-ASCII characters in any string
value, you need to use Python Unicode strings (like ``project = u'Exposé'``).
|more| See :ref:`build-config` for documentation of all available config values.
When documenting Python code, it is common to put a lot of documentation in the
source files, in documentation strings. Sphinx supports the inclusion of
docstrings from your modules with an :dfn:`extension` (an extension is a Python
module that provides additional features for Sphinx projects) called "autodoc".
In order to use autodoc, you need to activate it in :file:`` by putting
the string ``'sphinx.ext.autodoc'`` into the list assigned to the
:confval:`extensions` config value. Then, you have a few additional directives
at your disposal.
For example, to document the function ````, reading its
signature and docstring from the source file, you'd write this::
.. autofunction::
You can also document whole classes or even modules automatically, using member
options for the auto directives, like ::
.. automodule:: io
autodoc needs to import your modules in order to extract the docstrings.
Therefore, you must add the appropriate path to :py:data:`sys.path` in your
.. warning::
:mod:`~sphinx.ext.autodoc` **imports** the modules to be documented. If any
modules have side effects on import, these will be executed by ``autodoc``
when ``sphinx-build`` is run.
If you document scripts (as opposed to library modules), make sure their main
routine is protected by a ``if __name__ == '__main__'`` condition.
|more| See :mod:`sphinx.ext.autodoc` for the complete description of the
features of autodoc.
Many Sphinx documents including the `Python documentation`_ are published on the
internet. When you want to make links to such documents from your
documentation, you can do it with :mod:`sphinx.ext.intersphinx`.
.. _Python documentation:
In order to use intersphinx, you need to activate it in :file:`` by
putting the string ``'sphinx.ext.intersphinx'`` into the :confval:`extensions`
list and set up the :confval:`intersphinx_mapping` config value.
For example, to link to ```` in the Python library manual, you need to
setup your :confval:`intersphinx_mapping` like::
intersphinx_mapping = {'python': ('', None)}
And now, you can write a cross-reference like ``:py:func:````. Any
cross-reference that has no matching target in the current documentation set,
will be looked up in the documentation sets configured in
:confval:`intersphinx_mapping` (this needs access to the URL in order to
download the list of valid targets). Intersphinx also works for some other
:ref:`domains' <domains>` roles including ``:ref:``, however it doesn't work for
``:doc:`` as that is non-domain role.
|more| See :mod:`sphinx.ext.intersphinx` for the complete description of the
features of intersphinx.
More topics to be covered
- Other extensions (math, viewcode, doctest)
- Static files
- Selecting a theme
- Templating
- Using extensions
- Writing extensions
.. rubric:: Footnotes
.. [#] This is the usual layout. However, :file:`` can also live in
another directory, the :term:`configuration directory`. See
.. |more| image:: more.png
:align: middle
:alt: more info