Build Environments

Read the Docs uses container virtualization to encapsulate documentation build processes. Each build spins up a new virtual machine using our base image, which is an image with the minimum necessary components required to build documentation. Virtual machines are limiting in CPU time and memory, which aims to reduce excessive usage of build resources.


Build environments use Docker to handle container virtualization. To perform any development on the Docker build system, you will need to set up Docker on your host system. Setup of Docker will vary by system, and so is out of the scope of this documentation.

Once you have Docker set up, you will need to create the base image used for container creation. The base image is found in our container images repo. It is the basic container image supported by our community site.

To get started, create the image using the docker command line tool. You can name the image whatever you like here, rtfd-build is the default name, but can be configured in your settings – see Configuration:

docker build -t rtfd-build base/

When this process has completed, you should have a working image that Read the Docs can use to start containers.


There are several settings used to configure usage of virtual machines:

True/False value used to enable the Docker build environment. Default: False

A dictionary of limits to virtual machines. These limits include:

An integer representing the total allowed time limit (in seconds) of build processes. This time limit affects the parent process to the virtual machine and will force a virtual machine to die if a build is still running after the allotted time expires.
The maximum memory allocated to the virtual machine. If this limit is hit, build processes will be automatically killed. Examples: ‘200m’ for 200MB of total memory, or ‘2g’ for 2GB of total memory.
Tag of a Docker image to use as a base image.
URI of the socket to connect to the Docker daemon. Examples include: unix:///var/run/docker.sock and tcp://
Version of the API to use for the Docker API client.