Frequently Asked Questions

My project isn’t building with autodoc

First, you should check out the Builds tab of your project. That records all of the build attempts that RTD has made to build your project. If you see ImportError messages for custom Python modules, you should enable the virtualenv feature in the Admin page of your project, which will install your project into a virtualenv, and allow you to specify a requirements.txt file for your project.

If you are still seeing errors because of C library dependencies, please see I get import errors on libraries that depend on C modules.

How do I change my project slug (the URL your docs are served at)?

We don’t support allowing folks to change the slug for their project. You can update the name which is shown on the site, but not the actual URL that documentation is served.

The main reason for this is that all existing URLs to the content will break. You can delete and re-create the project with the proper name to get a new slug, but you really shouldn’t do this if you have existing inbound links, as it breaks the internet.

If that isn’t enough, you can request the change sending an email to support@readthedocs.org.

How do I change the version slug of my project?

We don’t support allowing folks to change the slug for their versions. But you can rename the branch/tag to achieve this. If that isn’t enough, you can request the change sending an email to support@readthedocs.org.

Help, my build passed but my documentation page is 404 Not Found!

This often happens because you don’t have an index.html file being generated. Make sure you have one of the following files:

  • index.rst
  • index.md

At the top level of your built documentation, otherwise we aren’t able to serve a “default” index page.

To test if your docs actually built correctly, you can navigate to a specific page (/en/latest/README.html for example).

How do I change behavior for Read the Docs?

When RTD builds your project, it sets the READTHEDOCS environment variable to the string True. So within your Sphinx conf.py file, you can vary the behavior based on this. For example:

import os
on_rtd = os.environ.get('READTHEDOCS') == 'True'
if on_rtd:
    html_theme = 'default'
else:
    html_theme = 'nature'

The READTHEDOCS variable is also available in the Sphinx build environment, and will be set to True when building on RTD:

{% if READTHEDOCS %}
Woo
{% endif %}

My project requires different settings than those available under Admin

Read the Docs offers some settings which can be used for a variety of purposes, such as to use the latest version of sphinx or pip. To enable these settings, please send an email to support@readthedocs.org and we will change the settings for the project. Read more about these settings here.

I get import errors on libraries that depend on C modules

Note

Another use case for this is when you have a module with a C extension.

This happens because our build system doesn’t have the dependencies for building your project. This happens with things like libevent, mysql, and other python packages that depend on C libraries. We can’t support installing random C binaries on our system, so there is another way to fix these imports.

With Sphinx you can use the built-in autodoc_mock_imports for mocking. If such libraries are installed via setup.py, you also will need to remove all the C-dependent libraries from your install_requires in the RTD environment.

Client Error 401 when building documentation

If you did not install the test_data fixture during the installation instructions, you will get the following error:

slumber.exceptions.HttpClientError: Client Error 401: http://localhost:8000/api/v1/version/

This is because the API admin user does not exist, and so cannot authenticate. You can fix this by loading the test_data:

./manage.py loaddata test_data

If you’d prefer not to install the test data, you’ll need to provide a database account for the builder to use. You can provide these credentials by editing the following settings:

SLUMBER_USERNAME = 'test'
SLUMBER_PASSWORD = 'test'

Deleting a stale or broken build environment

See Wiping a Build Environment.

How do I host multiple projects on one custom domain?

We support the concept of subprojects, which allows multiple projects to share a single domain. If you add a subproject to a project, that documentation will be served under the parent project’s subdomain or custom domain.

For example, Kombu is a subproject of Celery, so you can access it on the celery.readthedocs.io domain:

http://celery.readthedocs.io/projects/kombu/en/latest/

This also works the same for custom domains:

http://docs.celeryproject.org/projects/kombu/en/latest/

You can add subprojects in the project admin dashboard.

Where do I need to put my docs for RTD to find it?

Read the Docs will crawl your project looking for a conf.py. Where it finds the conf.py, it will run sphinx-build in that directory. So as long as you only have one set of sphinx documentation in your project, it should Just Work.

I want to use the Blue/Default Sphinx theme

We think that our theme is badass, and better than the default for many reasons. Some people don’t like change though :), so there is a hack that will let you keep using the default theme. If you set the html_style variable in your conf.py, it should default to using the default theme. The value of this doesn’t matter, and can be set to /default.css for default behavior.

I want to use the Read the Docs theme locally

There is a repository for that: https://github.com/readthedocs/sphinx_rtd_theme. Simply follow the instructions in the README.

Image scaling doesn’t work in my documentation

Image scaling in docutils depends on PIL. PIL is installed in the system that RTD runs on. However, if you are using the virtualenv building option, you will likely need to include PIL in your requirements for your project.

I want comments in my docs

RTD doesn’t have explicit support for this. That said, a tool like Disqus (and the sphinxcontrib-disqus plugin) can be used for this purpose on RTD.

How do I support multiple languages of documentation?

See the section on Localization of Documentation.

Does Read The Docs work well with “legible” docstrings?

Yes. One criticism of Sphinx is that its annotated docstrings are too dense and difficult for humans to read. In response, many projects have adopted customized docstring styles that are simultaneously informative and legible. The NumPy and Google styles are two popular docstring formats. Fortunately, the default Read The Docs theme handles both formats just fine, provided your conf.py specifies an appropriate Sphinx extension that knows how to convert your customized docstrings. Two such extensions are numpydoc and napoleon. Only napoleon is able to handle both docstring formats. Its default output more closely matches the format of standard Sphinx annotations, and as a result, it tends to look a bit better with the default theme.

Note

To use these extensions you need to specify the dependencies on your project by following this guide.

Can I document a python package that is not at the root of my repository?

Yes. The most convenient way to access a python package for example via Sphinx’s autoapi in your documentation is to use the Install your project inside a virtualenv using setup.py install option in the admin panel of your project. However this assumes that your setup.py is in the root of your repository.

If you want to place your package in a different directory or have multiple python packages in the same project, then create a pip requirements file. You can specify the relative path to your package inside the file. For example you want to keep your python package in the src/python directory, then create a requirements.readthedocs.txt file with the following contents:

src/python/

Please note that the path must be relative to the file. So the example path above would work if the file is in the root of your repository. If you want to put the requirements in a file called requirements/readthedocs.txt, the contents would look like:

../python/

After adding the file to your repository, go to the Advanced Settings in your project’s admin panel and add the name of the file to the Requirements file field.

What commit of Read the Docs is in production?

We deploy readthedocs.org from the rel branch in our GitHub repository. You can see the latest commits that have been deployed by looking on GitHub: https://github.com/readthedocs/readthedocs.org/commits/rel

How can I avoid search results having a deprecated version of my docs?

If readers search something related to your docs in Google, it will probably return the most relevant version of your documentation. It may happen that this version is already deprecated and you want to stop Google indexing it as a result, and start suggesting the latest (or newer) one.

To accomplish this, you can add a robots.txt file to your documentation’s root so it ends up served at the root URL of your project (for example, https://yourproject.readthedocs.io/robots.txt).

Minimal example of robots.txt

User-agent: *
Disallow: /en/deprecated-version/
Disallow: /en/2.0/

Note

See Google’s docs for its full syntax.

This file has to be served as is under /robots.txt.

Setup

The robots.txt file will be served from the default version of your Project. This is because the robots.txt file is served at the top-level of your domain, so we must choose a version to find the file in. The default version is the best place to look for it.

Sphinx and Mkdocs both have different ways of outputting static files in the build:

Sphinx

Sphinx uses html_extra_path option to add static files to the output. You need to create a robots.txt file and put it under the path defined in html_extra_path.

MkDocs

MkDocs needs the robots.txt to be at the directory defined at docs_dir config.