Getting Started with Sphinx

Sphinx is a powerful documentation generator that has many great features for writing technical documentation including:

  • Generate web pages, printable PDFs, documents for e-readers (ePub), and more all from the same sources

  • You can use reStructuredText or Markdown to write documentation

  • An extensive system of cross-referencing code and documentation

  • Syntax highlighted code samples

  • A vibrant ecosystem of first and third-party extensions

Quick start video

This screencast will help you get started or you can read our guide below.

Quick start

Assuming you have Python already, install Sphinx:

pip install sphinx

Create a directory inside your project to hold your docs:

cd /path/to/project
mkdir docs

Run sphinx-quickstart in there:

cd docs
sphinx-quickstart

This quick start will walk you through creating the basic configuration; in most cases, you can just accept the defaults. When it’s done, you’ll have an index.rst, a conf.py and some other files. Add these to revision control.

Now, edit your index.rst and add some information about your project. Include as much detail as you like (refer to the reStructuredText syntax or this template if you need help). Build them to see how they look:

make html

Your index.rst has been built into index.html in your documentation output directory (typically _build/html/index.html). Open this file in your web browser to see your docs.

../_images/sphinx-hello-world.png

Your Sphinx project is built

Edit your files and rebuild until you like what you see, then commit your changes and push to your public repository. Once you have Sphinx documentation in a public repository, you can start using Read the Docs by importing your docs.

Warning

We strongly recommend to pin the Sphinx version used for your project to build the docs to avoid potential future incompatibilities.

Using Markdown with Sphinx

You can use Markdown and reStructuredText in the same Sphinx project. We support this natively on Read the Docs, and you can do it locally:

pip install recommonmark

Then in your conf.py:

extensions = ['recommonmark']

Warning

Markdown doesn’t support a lot of the features of Sphinx, like inline markup and directives. However, it works for basic prose content. reStructuredText is the preferred format for technical documentation, please read this blog post for motivation.

External resources

Here are some external resources to help you learn more about Sphinx.