How to read the Django documentation
We've put a lot of effort into making Django's documentation useful, easy to
read and as complete as possible. Here are a few tips on how to make the best
of it, along with some style guidelines.
(Yes, this is documentation about documentation. Rest assured we have no plans
to write a document about how to read the document about documentation.)
How documentation is updated
Just as the Django code base is developed and improved on a daily basis, our
documentation is consistently improving. We improve documentation for several
* To make content fixes, such as grammar/typo corrections.
* To add information and/or examples to existing sections that need to be
* To document Django features that aren't yet documented. (The list of
such features is shrinking but exists nonetheless.)
* To add documentation for new features as new features get added, or as
Django APIs or behaviors change.
Django's documentation is kept in the same source control system as its code.
It lives in the `django/trunk/docs`_ directory of our Subversion repository.
Each document is a separate text file that covers a narrowly focused topic,
such as the "generic views" framework or how to construct a database model.
.. _django/trunk/docs: http://code.djangoproject.com/browser/django/trunk/docs
Where to get it
You can read Django documentation in several ways. They are, in order of
On the Web
The most recent version of the Django documentation lives at
http://www.djangoproject.com/documentation/ . These HTML pages are generated
automatically from the text files in source control every 15 minutes. That
means they reflect the "latest and greatest" in Django -- they include the very
latest corrections and additions, and they discuss the latest Django features,
which may only be available to users of the Django development version. (See
"Differences between versions" below.)
A key advantage of the Web-based documentation is the comment section at the
bottom of each document. This is an area for anybody to submit changes,
corrections and suggestions about the given document. The Django developers
frequently monitor the comments there and use them to improve the documentation
We encourage you to help improve the docs: it's easy! Note, however, that
comments should explicitly relate to the documentation, rather than asking
broad tech-support questions. If you need help with your particular Django
setup, try the `django-users mailing list`_ instead of posting a comment to the
.. _django-users mailing list: http://groups.google.com/group/django-users
In plain text
For offline reading, or just for convenience, you can read the Django
documentation in plain text.
If you're using an official release of Django, note that the zipped package
(tarball) of the code includes a ``docs/`` directory, which contains all the
documentation for that release.
If you're using the development version of Django (aka the Subversion "trunk"),
note that the ``docs/`` directory contains all of the documentation. You can
``svn update`` it, just as you ``svn update`` the Python code, in order to get
the latest changes.
You can check out the latest Django documentation from Subversion using this
svn co http://code.djangoproject.com/svn/django/trunk/docs/ django_docs
One low-tech way of taking advantage of the text documentation is by using the
Unix ``grep`` utility to search for a phrase in all of the documentation. For
example, this will show you each mention of the phrase "edit_inline" in any
grep edit_inline /path/to/django/docs/*.txt
The text documentation is written in ReST (ReStructured Text) format. That
means it's easy to read but is also formatted in a way that makes it easy to
convert into other formats, such as HTML. If you're interested, the script that
converts the ReST text docs into djangoproject.com's HTML lives at
the Django Subversion repository.
.. _djangoproject.com/django_website/apps/docs/parts/build_documentation.py: http://code.djangoproject.com/browser/djangoproject.com/django_website/apps/docs/parts/build_documentation.py
Differences between versions
As previously mentioned, the text documentation in our Subversion repository
contains the "latest and greatest" changes and additions. These changes often
include documentation of new features added in the Django development version
-- the Subversion ("trunk") version of Django. For that reason, it's worth
pointing out our policy on keeping straight the documentation for various
versions of the framework.
We follow this policy:
* The primary documentation on djangoproject.com is an HTML version of the
latest docs in Subversion. These docs always correspond to the latest
official Django release, plus whatever features we've added/changed in
the framework *since* the latest release.
* As we add features to Django's development version, we try to update the
documentation in the same Subversion commit transaction.
* To distinguish feature changes/additions in the docs, we use the phrase
**New in Django development version**. In practice, this means that the
current documentation on djangoproject.com can be used by users of either
the latest release *or* the development version.
* Documentation for a particular Django release is frozen once the version
has been released officially. It remains a snapshot of the docs as of the
moment of the release. We will make exceptions to this rule in
the case of retroactive security updates or other such retroactive
changes. Once documentation is frozen, we add a note to the top of each
frozen document that says "These docs are frozen for Django version XXX"
and links to the current version of that document.
* Once a document is frozen for a Django release, we remove comments from
that page, in favor of having comments on the latest version of that
document. This is for the sake of maintainability and usability, so that
users have one, and only one, place to leave comments on a particular
document. We realize that some people may be stuck on a previous version
of Django, but we believe the usability problems with multiple versions
of a document the outweigh the benefits.
* The `main documentation Web page`_ includes links to documentation for
all previous versions.
.. _main documentation Web page: http://www.djangoproject.com/documentation/