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

If you want to learn more about how to create your first Sphinx project, read on. If you are interested in exploring the Read the Docs platform using an already existing Sphinx project, check out Read the Docs tutorial.

Quick start

See also

If you already have a Sphinx project, check out our Importing your documentation guide.

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

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 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.


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.


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

pip install myst-parser

Then in your

extensions = ["myst_parser"]

You can now continue writing your docs in .md files and it will work with Sphinx. Read the Getting started with MyST in Sphinx docs for additional instructions.

Get inspired!

You might learn more and find the first ingredients for starting your own documentation project by looking at Example projects - view live example renditions and copy & paste from the accompanying source code.

External resources

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