Building documentation

Building documentation

Clone a repository first

Before building documentation, you must first clone the repo where the files reside:

$ git clone git://

Navigate to the openstack-manuals directory and create a branch from there to do your work:

$ cd openstack-manuals
$ git checkout -b new-branch

The value of new-branch is any name you want to give to your branch.

To work on a file, use a text editor and open the .rst file from the same navigational path as the path shown in the HTML URL. For example,, is found in the folder: openstack-manuals/doc/contributor-guide/docs-builds.rst.

Refer to Writing documentation for details on how to create content and contribute to the documentation.

Building output locally

The openstack-manuals project uses a tox.ini file with specific sections that run jobs using the Tox tool, a virtualenv-based automation of test activities. You can use MacOS, Windows, or Linux to build the Sphinx documentation everywhere in OpenStack.

Install dependencies for building documentation

OpenStack maintains a tool called bindep that maintains a list of dependencies for Linux package managers. When you run the tox -e bindep command, read the error messages and install the dependencies based on the error messages returned. Continue to run until your local environment meets the requirements as listed in bindep.txt in the repository.


You cannot run tox -e bindep on Mac OS X as it uses a Linux tool to parse the information. Issue logged here.

  • On MacOS

Open a Terminal window. Make sure you have Python installed. Many contributors use the Homebrew tool instructions.

$ brew install python
$ pip install tox
  • On Ubuntu or Debian:

    # apt-get install python-pip
    # pip install tox
    $ tox -e bindep
    # apt-get install <indicated missing package names>
  • On RHEL or CentOS including Fedora:

    # yum install python-pip
    # pip install tox
    $ tox -e bindep
    # yum install <indicated missing package names>
  • On openSUSE or SUSE Linux Enterprise:

    # zypper in python-pip
    # pip install tox
    $ tox -e bindep
    # zypper in <indicated missing package names>


This will install all required packages for building both RST and PDF files. If you do not build PDF files, you do not need to install the texlive packages and Liberation font family.

  • On Windows

To the doc build scripts as-is on Windows, first install Git for Windows. Make sure you have a working Python environment, and then use Git Bash to run all tox commands within the repository directory:

$ pip install tox

Build workflow

Once Tox is installed and configured, execute tox -e <jobname> to run a particular job:

  • To build all docs, open your local openstack-manuals project and run:

    $ tox -e checkbuild
  • To build a specific guide, add the guide folder name to the tox -e build command. For example:

    $ tox -e build -- contributor-guide


    This command does not work for the install-guide, as it contains conditional content. To build specific parts of the Installation tutorials, use the commands below:

    $ tox -e install-guide-debconf
    $ tox -e install-guide-debian
    $ tox -e install-guide-obs
    $ tox -e install-guide-rdo
    $ tox -e install-guide-ubuntu

This runs the sphinx-build command. When the build is finished, it displays in the openstack-manuals/publish-docs directory. You can open the .html file in a browser to view the resulting output.

If you do not want to use Tox, install the below prerequisites locally:

# pip install sphinx
# pip install openstackdocstheme
# pip install sphinxmark


Sphinxmark uses the Pillow module for creating PNG files. If you encounter C module is not installed errors when Sphinx loads the sphinxmark extension, you may need to install some of the external libraries for Pillow.

To get the .html output locally, switch to the directory containing a and run:

$ sphinx-build /path/to/source/ path/to/build/

The RST source is built into HTML using Sphinx, so that it is displayed on the<guide-name>. For example:

Using Tox to check builds

As a part of the review process, the OpenStack CI system runs scripts to check that the patch is fine. Locally, you can use the Tox tool to ensure that a patch works. To check all books, run the following command from the base directory of repository:

$ tox

The following individual checks are also available:

  • tox -e checkniceness - to run the niceness tests (for example, to see extra whitespaces)
  • tox -e checksyntax - to run syntax checks
  • tox -e checklang - to check all the translated manuals
  • tox -e docs - to build only RST-sourced manuals
  • tox -e checkbuild - to build all the manuals. This will also generate a directory publish-docs that contains the built files for inspection.


  • The scripts are not written for Windows, but we encourage cross-platform work on our scripts.
  • If Tox stops working, try tox --recreate to rebuild the environment.

Generate PDF

To build a specific guide with a PDF file, use the tox build command for the guide with the pdf option. For example:

$ tox -e build -- contributor-guide --pdf

PDF builds are accomplished using LaTeX as an intermediate format. Currently, you can generate a PDF file for a limited number of guides. The supported list is maintained in the tools/ file.


Build an existing patch locally

To build a patch locally:

  1. Change to the directory containing the appropriate repository:

    • openstack-manuals
    • security-doc
    • api-site

    For example:

    $ cd openstack-manuals
  2. Create a local branch that contains the particular patch.

    $ git review -d PATCH_ID

    Where the value of PATCH_ID is a Gerrit commit number. You can find this number on the patch link,

  3. Build all the books that are affected by changes in the patch set:

    $ tox -e checkbuild
  4. Find the build result in publish-docs/index.html.

Build jobs

The build jobs for documentation are stored in the repository. The zuul/layout.yaml file and the jenkins/jobs/manual-jobs.yaml or jenkins/jobs/api-jobs.yaml file contain the build jobs that build to the and sites, copying built files via FTP.

The release specific books are built for the currently supported branches (current and previous releases), development happens on the master branch. The continuously released books are only built on the master branch.

Like other projects, the documentation projects use a number of jobs that do automatic testing of patches.

The current jobs are:

  • gate-openstack-manuals-tox-checkniceness
  • gate-openstack-manuals-tox-doc-publish-checkbuild
  • gate-openstack-manuals-tox-checklang

Checklang job

We only gate on manual/language combinations that are translated sufficiently. For example, in openstack-manuals this includes Japanese with the Security Guide, HA Guide and Install Guides.

  • If an import from Zanata fails, we do not approve the import.
  • If any other patch fails, the failure might get ignored.
  • In any case of failure, a bug gets reported against the i18n project.

If you want to manually run this check on your local workstation you can use the checklang environment (tox -e checklang). To use this environment, you first have to install the xml2po utility on your local workstation. xml2po is part of the gnome-doc-utils and can be installed with yum install gnome-doc-utils (on RedHat-based distributions), or zypper install xml2po (on SUSE-based distributions).

Building docs from end-of-life releases

OpenStack projects can follow different release models. The openstack-manuals repo follows two of these models, independent and cycle-with-milestones.


The docs repo, api-site, follows the independent release model.

The content that uses a stable branch method to indicate a point in time that content is set for a release (cycle-with-milestones) includes these docs:

  • Configuration Reference
  • Install Guides
  • Networking Guide

When a release reaches an end-of-life status and is no longer maintained by the stable branch maintainers, the website redirects requests for old content to the latest release. Read more about support phases and stable branches in the Project Team Guide.

To build documentation from a particular release locally, follow these steps.

  1. Clone a copy of the stable branch content locally, if you do not already have a local copy:

    $ git clone git://
    $ cd openstack-manuals
  2. View the remote tags to see the tags for each release:

    $ git tag -l
  3. Look for the release name you want to build, such as Essex, and check out the corresponding tag:

    $ git checkout essex-eol

    Git checks out the files and when complete, shows you the reference point for your local files, such as, HEAD is now at e6b9f61... fix delay_auth_decision parameter.

  4. Read the README.rst file available at that point in time for the prerequisites for building the documentation locally. For example, you may need to install Apache Maven in order to build old documents.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Except where otherwise noted, this document is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. See all OpenStack Legal Documents.