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Documenting Python

The Python language has a substantial body of documentation, much of it contributed by various authors. The markup used for the Python documentation is reStructuredText, developed by the docutils project, amended by custom directives and using a toolset named Sphinx to postprocess the HTML output.

This document describes the style guide for our documentation as well as the custom reStructuredText markup introduced by Sphinx to support Python documentation and how it should be used.


If you're interested in contributing to Python's documentation, there's no need to write reStructuredText if you're not so inclined; plain text contributions are more than welcome as well. Send an e-mail to or open an issue on the :ref:`tracker <reporting-bugs>`.


Python's documentation has long been considered to be good for a free programming language. There are a number of reasons for this, the most important being the early commitment of Python's creator, Guido van Rossum, to providing documentation on the language and its libraries, and the continuing involvement of the user community in providing assistance for creating and maintaining documentation.

The involvement of the community takes many forms, from authoring to bug reports to just plain complaining when the documentation could be more complete or easier to use.

This document is aimed at authors and potential authors of documentation for Python. More specifically, it is for people contributing to the standard documentation and developing additional documents using the same tools as the standard documents. This guide will be less useful for authors using the Python documentation tools for topics other than Python, and less useful still for authors not using the tools at all.

If your interest is in contributing to the Python documentation, but you don't have the time or inclination to learn reStructuredText and the markup structures documented here, there's a welcoming place for you among the Python contributors as well. Any time you feel that you can clarify existing documentation or provide documentation that's missing, the existing documentation team will gladly work with you to integrate your text, dealing with the markup for you. Please don't let the material in this document stand between the documentation and your desire to help out!

Style guide

The Python documentation should follow the Apple Publications Style Guide wherever possible. This particular style guide was selected mostly because it seems reasonable and is easy to get online.

Topics which are either not covered in Apple's style guide or treated differently in Python documentation will be discussed in this document.

Use of whitespace

All reST files use an indentation of 3 spaces; no tabs are allowed. The maximum line length is 80 characters for normal text, but tables, deeply indented code samples and long links may extend beyond that. Code example bodies should use normal Python 4-space indentation.

Make generous use of blank lines where applicable; they help grouping things together.

A sentence-ending period may be followed by one or two spaces; while reST ignores the second space, it is customarily put in by some users, for example to aid Emacs' auto-fill mode.


Footnotes are generally discouraged, though they may be used when they are the best way to present specific information. When a footnote reference is added at the end of the sentence, it should follow the sentence-ending punctuation. The reST markup should appear something like this:

This sentence has a footnote reference. [#]_ This is the next sentence.

Footnotes should be gathered at the end of a file, or if the file is very long, at the end of a section. The docutils will automatically create backlinks to the footnote reference.

Footnotes may appear in the middle of sentences where appropriate.


Apple style guide recommends the use of title case in section titles. However, rules for which words should be capitalized in title case vary greaty between publications.

In Python documentation, use of sentence case in section titles is preferable, but consistency within a unit is more important than following this rule. If you add a section to the chapter where most sections are in title case you can either convert all titles to sentence case or use the dominant style in the new section title.

Sentences that start with a word for which specific rules require starting it with a lower case letter should be avoided in titles and elsewhere.


Sections that describe a library module often have titles in the form of "modulename --- Short description of the module." In this case, the description should be capitalized as a stand-alone sentence.

Many special names are used in the Python documentation, including the names of operating systems, programming languages, standards bodies, and the like. Most of these entities are not assigned any special markup, but the preferred spellings are given here to aid authors in maintaining the consistency of presentation in the Python documentation.

Other terms and words deserve special mention as well; these conventions should be used to ensure consistency throughout the documentation:

For "central processing unit." Many style guides say this should be spelled out on the first use (and if you must use it, do so!). For the Python documentation, this abbreviation should be avoided since there's no reasonable way to predict which occurrence will be the first seen by the reader. It is better to use the word "processor" instead.
The name assigned to a particular group of standards. This is always uppercase.
The name of our favorite programming language is always capitalized.
For "reStructuredText," an easy to read, plaintext markup syntax used to produce Python documentation. When spelled out, it is always one word and both forms start with a lower case 'r'.
The name of a character coding system. This is always written capitalized.
The name of the operating system developed at AT&T Bell Labs in the early 1970s.

Affirmative Tone

The documentation focuses on affirmatively stating what the language does and how to use it effectively.

Except for certain security risks or segfault risks, the docs should avoid wording along the lines of "feature x is dangerous" or "experts only". These kinds of value judgments belong in external blogs and wikis, not in the core documentation.

Bad example (creating worry in the mind of a reader):

Warning: failing to explicitly close a file could result in lost data or excessive resource consumption. Never rely on reference counting to automatically close a file.

Good example (establishing confident knowledge in the effective use of the language):

A best practice for using files is use a try/finally pair to explicitly close a file after it is used. Alternatively, using a with-statement can achieve the same effect. This assures that files are flushed and file descriptor resources are released in a timely manner.

Economy of Expression

More documentation is not necessarily better documentation. Err on the side of being succinct.

It is an unfortunate fact that making documentation longer can be an impediment to understanding and can result in even more ways to misread or misinterpret the text. Long descriptions full of corner cases and caveats can create the impression that a function is more complex or harder to use than it actually is.

The documentation for :func:`super` is an example of where a good deal of information was condensed into a few short paragraphs. Discussion of :func:`super` could have filled a chapter in a book, but it is often easier to grasp a terse description than a lengthy narrative.

Code Examples

Short code examples can be a useful adjunct to understanding. Readers can often grasp a simple example more quickly than they can digest a formal description in prose.

People learn faster with concrete, motivating examples that match the context of a typical use case. For instance, the :func:`str.rpartition` method is better demonstrated with an example splitting the domain from a URL than it would be with an example of removing the last word from a line of Monty Python dialog.

The ellipsis for the :attr:`sys.ps2` secondary interpreter prompt should only be used sparingly, where it is necessary to clearly differentiate between input lines and output lines. Besides contributing visual clutter, it makes it difficult for readers to cut-and-paste examples so they can experiment with variations.

Code Equivalents

Giving pure Python code equivalents (or approximate equivalents) can be a useful adjunct to a prose description. A documenter should carefully weigh whether the code equivalent adds value.

A good example is the code equivalent for :func:`all`. The short 4-line code equivalent is easily digested; it re-emphasizes the early-out behavior; and it clarifies the handling of the corner-case where the iterable is empty. In addition, it serves as a model for people wanting to implement a commonly requested alternative where :func:`all` would return the specific object evaluating to False whenever the function terminates early.

A more questionable example is the code for :func:`itertools.groupby`. Its code equivalent borders on being too complex to be a quick aid to understanding. Despite its complexity, the code equivalent was kept because it serves as a model to alternative implementations and because the operation of the "grouper" is more easily shown in code than in English prose.

An example of when not to use a code equivalent is for the :func:`oct` function. The exact steps in converting a number to octal doesn't add value for a user trying to learn what the function does.


The tone of the tutorial (and all the docs) needs to be respectful of the reader's intelligence. Don't presume that the readers are stupid. Lay out the relevant information, show motivating use cases, provide glossary links, and do your best to connect-the-dots, but don't talk down to them or waste their time.

The tutorial is meant for newcomers, many of whom will be using the tutorial to evaluate the language as a whole. The experience needs to be positive and not leave the reader with worries that something bad will happen if they make a misstep. The tutorial serves as guide for intelligent and curious readers, saving details for the how-to guides and other sources.

Be careful accepting requests for documentation changes from the rare but vocal category of reader who is looking for vindication for one of their programming errors ("I made a mistake, therefore the docs must be wrong ..."). Typically, the documentation wasn't consulted until after the error was made. It is unfortunate, but typically no documentation edit would have saved the user from making false assumptions about the language ("I was surprised by ...").

reStructuredText Primer

This section is a brief introduction to reStructuredText (reST) concepts and syntax, intended to provide authors with enough information to author documents productively. Since reST was designed to be a simple, unobtrusive markup language, this will not take too long.


The paragraph is the most basic block in a reST document. Paragraphs are simply chunks of text separated by one or more blank lines. As in Python, indentation is significant in reST, so all lines of the same paragraph must be left-aligned to the same level of indentation.

Inline markup

The standard reST inline markup is quite simple: use

  • one asterisk: *text* for emphasis (italics),
  • two asterisks: **text** for strong emphasis (boldface), and
  • backquotes: ``text`` for code samples.

If asterisks or backquotes appear in running text and could be confused with inline markup delimiters, they have to be escaped with a backslash.

Be aware of some restrictions of this markup:

  • it may not be nested,
  • content may not start or end with whitespace: * text* is wrong,
  • it must be separated from surrounding text by non-word characters. Use a backslash escaped space to work around that: thisis\ *one*\ word.

These restrictions may be lifted in future versions of the docutils.

reST also allows for custom "interpreted text roles"', which signify that the enclosed text should be interpreted in a specific way. Sphinx uses this to provide semantic markup and cross-referencing of identifiers, as described in the appropriate section. The general syntax is :rolename:`content`.

Lists and Quotes

List markup is natural: just place an asterisk at the start of a paragraph and indent properly. The same goes for numbered lists; they can also be autonumbered using a # sign:

* This is a bulleted list.
* It has two items, the second
  item uses two lines.

1. This is a numbered list.
2. It has two items too.

#. This is a numbered list.
#. It has two items too.

Nested lists are possible, but be aware that they must be separated from the parent list items by blank lines:

* this is
* a list

  * with a nested list
  * and some subitems

* and here the parent list continues

Definition lists are created as follows:

term (up to a line of text)
   Definition of the term, which must be indented

   and can even consist of multiple paragraphs

next term

Paragraphs are quoted by just indenting them more than the surrounding paragraphs.

Source Code

Literal code blocks are introduced by ending a paragraph with the special marker ::. The literal block must be indented:

This is a normal text paragraph. The next paragraph is a code sample::

   It is not processed in any way, except
   that the indentation is removed.

   It can span multiple lines.

This is a normal text paragraph again.

The handling of the :: marker is smart:

  • If it occurs as a paragraph of its own, that paragraph is completely left out of the document.
  • If it is preceded by whitespace, the marker is removed.
  • If it is preceded by non-whitespace, the marker is replaced by a single colon.

That way, the second sentence in the above example's first paragraph would be rendered as "The next paragraph is a code sample:".


Section headers are created by underlining (and optionally overlining) the section title with a punctuation character, at least as long as the text:

This is a heading

Normally, there are no heading levels assigned to certain characters as the structure is determined from the succession of headings. However, for the Python documentation, we use this convention:

  • # with overline, for parts
  • * with overline, for chapters
  • =, for sections
  • -, for subsections
  • ^, for subsubsections
  • ", for paragraphs

Explicit Markup

"Explicit markup" is used in reST for most constructs that need special handling, such as footnotes, specially-highlighted paragraphs, comments, and generic directives.

An explicit markup block begins with a line starting with .. followed by whitespace and is terminated by the next paragraph at the same level of indentation. (There needs to be a blank line between explicit markup and normal paragraphs. This may all sound a bit complicated, but it is intuitive enough when you write it.)


A directive is a generic block of explicit markup. Besides roles, it is one of the extension mechanisms of reST, and Sphinx makes heavy use of it.

Basically, a directive consists of a name, arguments, options and content. (Keep this terminology in mind, it is used in the next chapter describing custom directives.) Looking at this example,

.. function:: foo(x)
              foo(y, z)
   :bar: no

   Return a line of text input from the user.

function is the directive name. It is given two arguments here, the remainder of the first line and the second line, as well as one option bar (as you can see, options are given in the lines immediately following the arguments and indicated by the colons).

The directive content follows after a blank line and is indented relative to the directive start.


For footnotes, use [#]_ to mark the footnote location, and add the footnote body at the bottom of the document after a "Footnotes" rubric heading, like so:

Lorem ipsum [#]_ dolor sit amet ... [#]_

.. rubric:: Footnotes

.. [#] Text of the first footnote.
.. [#] Text of the second footnote.

You can also explicitly number the footnotes for better context.


Every explicit markup block which isn't a valid markup construct (like the footnotes above) is regarded as a comment.

Source encoding

Since the easiest way to include special characters like em dashes or copyright signs in reST is to directly write them as Unicode characters, one has to specify an encoding:

All Python documentation source files must be in UTF-8 encoding, and the HTML documents written from them will be in that encoding as well.


There are some problems one commonly runs into while authoring reST documents:

  • Separation of inline markup: As said above, inline markup spans must be separated from the surrounding text by non-word characters, you have to use an escaped space to get around that.

Additional Markup Constructs

Sphinx adds a lot of new directives and interpreted text roles to standard reST markup. This section contains the reference material for these facilities. Documentation for "standard" reST constructs is not included here, though they are used in the Python documentation.


This is just an overview of Sphinx' extended markup capabilities; full coverage can be found in its own documentation.

Meta-information markup

Module-specific markup

The markup described in this section is used to provide information about a module being documented. Each module should be documented in its own file. Normally this markup appears after the title heading of that file; a typical file might start like this:

:mod:`parrot` -- Dead parrot access

.. module:: parrot
   :platform: Unix, Windows
   :synopsis: Analyze and reanimate dead parrots.
.. moduleauthor:: Eric Cleese <eric@python.invalid>
.. moduleauthor:: John Idle <john@python.invalid>

As you can see, the module-specific markup consists of two directives, the module directive and the moduleauthor directive.


It is important to make the section title of a module-describing file meaningful since that value will be inserted in the table-of-contents trees in overview files.

Information units

There are a number of directives used to describe specific features provided by modules. Each directive requires one or more signatures to provide basic information about what is being described, and the content should be the description. The basic version makes entries in the general index; if no index entry is desired, you can give the directive option flag :noindex:. The following example shows all of the features of this directive type:

.. function:: spam(eggs)

   Spam or ham the foo.

The signatures of object methods or data attributes should not include the class name, but be nested in a class directive. The generated files will reflect this nesting, and the target identifiers (for HTML output) will use both the class and method name, to enable consistent cross-references. If you describe methods belonging to an abstract protocol such as context managers, use a class directive with a (pseudo-)type name too to make the index entries more informative.

The directives are:

There is also a generic version of these directives:

Showing code examples

Examples of Python source code or interactive sessions are represented using standard reST literal blocks. They are started by a :: at the end of the preceding paragraph and delimited by indentation.

Representing an interactive session requires including the prompts and output along with the Python code. No special markup is required for interactive sessions. After the last line of input or output presented, there should not be an "unused" primary prompt; this is an example of what not to do:

>>> 1 + 1

Syntax highlighting is handled in a smart way:

  • There is a "highlighting language" for each source file. Per default, this is 'python' as the majority of files will have to highlight Python snippets.

  • Within Python highlighting mode, interactive sessions are recognized automatically and highlighted appropriately.

  • The highlighting language can be changed using the highlightlang directive, used as follows:

    .. highlightlang:: c

    This language is used until the next highlightlang directive is encountered.

  • The values normally used for the highlighting language are:

    • python (the default)
    • c
    • rest
    • none (no highlighting)
  • If highlighting with the current language fails, the block is not highlighted in any way.

Longer displays of verbatim text may be included by storing the example text in an external file containing only plain text. The file may be included using the literalinclude directive. [1] For example, to include the Python source file :file:``, use:

.. literalinclude::

The file name is relative to the current file's path. Documentation-specific include files should be placed in the Doc/includes subdirectory.

Inline markup

As said before, Sphinx uses interpreted text roles to insert semantic markup in documents.

Names of local variables, such as function/method arguments, are an exception, they should be marked simply with *var*.

For all other roles, you have to write :rolename:`content`.

There are some additional facilities that make cross-referencing roles more versatile:

  • You may supply an explicit title and reference target, like in reST direct hyperlinks: :role:`title <target>` will refer to target, but the link text will be title.

  • If you prefix the content with !, no reference/hyperlink will be created.

  • For the Python object roles, if you prefix the content with ~, the link text will only be the last component of the target. For example, :meth:`~Queue.Queue.get` will refer to Queue.Queue.get but only display get as the link text.

    In HTML output, the link's title attribute (that is e.g. shown as a tool-tip on mouse-hover) will always be the full target name.

The following roles refer to objects in modules and are possibly hyperlinked if a matching identifier is found:

The name enclosed in this markup can include a module name and/or a class name. For example, :func:`filter` could refer to a function named filter in the current module, or the built-in function of that name. In contrast, :func:`foo.filter` clearly refers to the filter function in the foo module.

Normally, names in these roles are searched first without any further qualification, then with the current module name prepended, then with the current module and class name (if any) prepended. If you prefix the name with a dot, this order is reversed. For example, in the documentation of the :mod:`codecs` module, :func:`open` always refers to the built-in function, while :func:`.open` refers to :func:``.

A similar heuristic is used to determine whether the name is an attribute of the currently documented class.

The following roles create cross-references to C-language constructs if they are defined in the API documentation:

The following role does possibly create a cross-reference, but does not refer to objects:

The following role creates a cross-reference to the term in the glossary:

The following roles don't do anything special except formatting the text in a different style:

The following roles generate external links:

Note that there are no special roles for including hyperlinks as you can use the standard reST markup for that purpose.

Cross-linking markup

To support cross-referencing to arbitrary sections in the documentation, the standard reST labels are "abused" a bit: Every label must precede a section title; and every label name must be unique throughout the entire documentation source.

You can then reference to these sections using the :ref:`label-name` role.


.. _my-reference-label:

Section to cross-reference

This is the text of the section.

It refers to the section itself, see :ref:`my-reference-label`.

The :ref: invocation is replaced with the section title.

Alternatively, you can reference any label (not just section titles) if you provide the link text :ref:`link text <reference-label>`.

Paragraph-level markup

These directives create short paragraphs and can be used inside information units as well as normal text:

Table-of-contents markup

Since reST does not have facilities to interconnect several documents, or split documents into multiple output files, Sphinx uses a custom directive to add relations between the single files the documentation is made of, as well as tables of contents. The toctree directive is the central element.

Index-generating markup

Sphinx automatically creates index entries from all information units (like functions, classes or attributes) like discussed before.

However, there is also an explicit directive available, to make the index more comprehensive and enable index entries in documents where information is not mainly contained in information units, such as the language reference.

The directive is index and contains one or more index entries. Each entry consists of a type and a value, separated by a colon.

For example:

.. index::
   single: execution; context
   module: __main__
   module: sys
   triple: module; search; path

This directive contains five entries, which will be converted to entries in the generated index which link to the exact location of the index statement (or, in case of offline media, the corresponding page number).

The possible entry types are:

Creates a single index entry. Can be made a subentry by separating the subentry text with a semicolon (this notation is also used below to describe what entries are created).
pair: loop; statement is a shortcut that creates two index entries, namely loop; statement and statement; loop.
Likewise, triple: module; search; path is a shortcut that creates three index entries, which are module; search path, search; path, module and path; module search.
module, keyword, operator, object, exception, statement, builtin
These all create two index entries. For example, module: hashlib creates the entries module; hashlib and hashlib; module.

For index directives containing only "single" entries, there is a shorthand notation:

.. index:: BNF, grammar, syntax, notation

This creates four index entries.

Grammar production displays

Special markup is available for displaying the productions of a formal grammar. The markup is simple and does not attempt to model all aspects of BNF (or any derived forms), but provides enough to allow context-free grammars to be displayed in a way that causes uses of a symbol to be rendered as hyperlinks to the definition of the symbol. There is this directive:

The following is an example taken from the Python Reference Manual:

.. productionlist::
   try_stmt: try1_stmt | try2_stmt
   try1_stmt: "try" ":" `suite`
            : ("except" [`expression` ["," `target`]] ":" `suite`)+
            : ["else" ":" `suite`]
            : ["finally" ":" `suite`]
   try2_stmt: "try" ":" `suite`
            : "finally" ":" `suite`


The documentation system provides three substitutions that are defined by default. They are set in the build configuration file :file:``.


[1]There is a standard .. include directive, but it raises errors if the file is not found. This one only emits a warning.

Differences to the LaTeX markup

Though the markup language is different, most of the concepts and markup types of the old LaTeX docs have been kept -- environments as reST directives, inline commands as reST roles and so forth.

However, there are some differences in the way these work, partly due to the differences in the markup languages, partly due to improvements in Sphinx. This section lists these differences, in order to give those familiar with the old format a quick overview of what they might run into.

Inline markup

These changes have been made to inline markup:

  • Cross-reference roles

    Most of the following semantic roles existed previously as inline commands, but didn't do anything except formatting the content as code. Now, they cross-reference to known targets (some names have also been shortened):

    mod (previously refmodule or module)
    func (previously function)
    data (new)
    meth (previously method)
    attr (previously member)
    exc (previously exception)
    cfunc (previously cfunction)
    cmacro (previously csimplemacro)

    Also different is the handling of func and meth: while previously parentheses were added to the callable name (like \func{str()}), they are now appended by the build system -- appending them in the source will result in double parentheses. This also means that :func:`str(object)` will not work as expected -- use ``str(object)`` instead!

  • Inline commands implemented as directives

    These were inline commands in LaTeX, but are now directives in reST:


    These are used like so:

    .. deprecated:: 2.5
       Reason of deprecation.

    Also, no period is appended to the text for versionadded and versionchanged.


    These are used like so:

    .. note::
       Content of note.
  • Otherwise changed commands

    The samp command previously formatted code and added quotation marks around it. The samp role, however, features a new highlighting system just like file does:

    :samp:`open({filename}, {mode})` results in :samp:`open({filename}, {mode})`

  • Dropped commands

    These were commands in LaTeX, but are not available as roles:

    character (use :samp:`\`\`'c'\`\``)
    citetitle (use `Title <URL>`_)
    code (use ``code``)
    email (just write the address in body text)
    filevar (use the {...} highlighting feature of file)
    programopt, longprogramopt (use option)
    ulink (use `Title <URL>`_)
    url (just write the URL in body text)
    var (use *var*)
    infinity, plusminus (use the Unicode character)
    shortversion, version (use the |version| and |release| substitutions)
    emph, strong (use the reST markup)
  • Backslash escaping

    In reST, a backslash must be escaped in normal text, and in the content of roles. However, in code literals and literal blocks, it must not be escaped. Example: :file:`C:\\Temp\\my.tmp` vs. ``open("C:\Temp\my.tmp")``.

Information units

Information units (...desc environments) have been made reST directives. These changes to information units should be noted:

  • New names

    "desc" has been removed from every name. Additionally, these directives have new names:

    cfunction (previously cfuncdesc)
    cmacro (previously csimplemacrodesc)
    exception (previously excdesc)
    function (previously funcdesc)
    attribute (previously memberdesc)

    The classdesc* and excclassdesc environments have been dropped, the class and exception directives support classes documented with and without constructor arguments.

  • Multiple objects

    The equivalent of the ...line commands is:

    .. function:: do_foo(bar)
       Description of the functions.

    IOW, just give one signatures per line, at the same indentation level.

  • Arguments

    There is no optional command. Just give function signatures like they should appear in the output:

    .. function:: open(filename[, mode[, buffering]])

    Note: markup in the signature is not supported.

  • Indexing

    The ...descni environments have been dropped. To mark an information unit as unsuitable for index entry generation, use the noindex option like so:

    .. function:: foo_*
  • New information units

    There are new generic information units: One is called "describe" and can be used to document things that are not covered by the other units:

    .. describe:: a == b
       The equals operator.

    The others are:

    .. cmdoption:: -O
       Describes a command-line option.
    .. envvar:: PYTHONINSPECT
       Describes an environment variable.


The LaTeX docs were split in several toplevel manuals. Now, all files are part of the same documentation tree, as indicated by the toctree directives in the sources (though individual output formats may choose to split them up into parts again). Every toctree directive embeds other files as subdocuments of the current file (this structure is not necessarily mirrored in the filesystem layout). The toplevel file is :file:`contents.rst`.

However, most of the old directory structure has been kept, with the directories renamed as follows:

Building the documentation

You need to have Python 2.4 or higher installed; the toolset used to build the docs is written in Python. It is called Sphinx, it is not included in this tree, but maintained separately. Also needed are the docutils, supplying the base markup that Sphinx uses, Jinja, a templating engine, and optionally Pygments, a code highlighter.

Using make

Luckily, a Makefile has been prepared so that on Unix, provided you have installed Python and Subversion, you can just run

cd Doc
make html

to check out the necessary toolset in the :file:`tools/` subdirectory and build the HTML output files. To view the generated HTML, point your favorite browser at the top-level index :file:`build/html/index.html` after running "make".

Available make targets are:

  • "html", which builds standalone HTML files for offline viewing.

  • "htmlhelp", which builds HTML files and a HTML Help project file usable to convert them into a single Compiled HTML (.chm) file -- these are popular under Microsoft Windows, but very handy on every platform.

    To create the CHM file, you need to run the Microsoft HTML Help Workshop over the generated project (.hhp) file.

  • "latex", which builds LaTeX source files as input to "pdflatex" to produce PDF documents.

  • "text", which builds a plain text file for each source file.

  • "linkcheck", which checks all external references to see whether they are broken, redirected or malformed, and outputs this information to stdout as well as a plain-text (.txt) file.

  • "changes", which builds an overview over all versionadded/versionchanged/ deprecated items in the current version. This is meant as a help for the writer of the "What's New" document.

  • "coverage", which builds a coverage overview for standard library modules and C API.

  • "pydoc-topics", which builds a Python module containing a dictionary with plain text documentation for the labels defined in :file:`tools/sphinxext/` -- pydoc needs these to show topic and keyword help.

A "make update" updates the Subversion checkouts in :file:`tools/`.

Without make

You'll need to install the Sphinx package, either by checking it out via

svn co tools/sphinx

or by installing it from PyPI.

Then, you need to install Docutils, either by checking it out via

svn co tools/docutils

or by installing it from

You also need Jinja2, either by checking it out via

svn co tools/jinja2

or by installing it from PyPI.

You can optionally also install Pygments, either as a checkout via

svn co tools/pygments

or from PyPI at

Then, make an output directory, e.g. under build/, and run

python tools/ -b<builder> . build/<outputdirectory>

where <builder> is one of html, text, latex, or htmlhelp (for explanations see the make targets above).