In this post I go over how to automatically document Django applications. By this I refer to a way to run a tool that automatically reads your projects and docstrings and generates beautiful documentation. Sphinx is an excellent tool for the job. Sphinx makes it easy to create beautiful intelligent documentation for projects. It uses reStructuredText as its markup language. Here’s how to go about it.
First install Sphinx using the command:
pip install sphinx
You will be asked several questions which will be used to generate a configuration file, a few folders and possibly a Makefile. You will want to make sure you enable autodoc to allow generating documentation from docstrings as well as the generation of Makefile so that you can run the make command in the future to update documentation. Below is an example of the what the screen looks like for these
Welcome to the Sphinx 1.6.1 quickstart utility.
Please enter values for the following settings (just press Enter to
accept a default value, if one is given in brackets).
Enter the root path for documentation.
> Root path for the documentation [.]: ./docs
You have two options for placing the build directory for Sphinx output.
Either, you use a directory "_build" within the root path, or you separate
"source" and "build" directories within the root path.
> Separate source and build directories (y/n) [n]: n
Inside the root directory, two more directories will be created; "_templates"
for custom HTML templates and "_static" for custom stylesheets and other static
files. You can enter another prefix (such as ".") to replace the underscore.
> Name prefix for templates and static dir [_]:
The project name will occur in several places in the built documentation.
> Project name: Your Project Name
> Author name(s): Some Author Name
Sphinx has the notion of a "version" and a "release" for the
software. Each version can have multiple releases. For example, for
Python the version is something like 2.5 or 3.0, while the release is
something like 2.5.1 or 3.0a1. If you don't need this dual structure,
just set both to the same value.
> Project version : 0.1
> Project release [0.1]:
If the documents are to be written in a language other than English,
you can select a language here by its language code. Sphinx will then
translate text that it generates into that language.
For a list of supported codes, see
> Project language [en]:
The file name suffix for source files. Commonly, this is either ".txt"
or ".rst". Only files with this suffix are considered documents.
> Source file suffix [.rst]:
One document is special in that it is considered the top node of the
"contents tree", that is, it is the root of the hierarchical structure
of the documents. Normally, this is "index", but if your "index"
document is a custom template, you can also set this to another filename.
> Name of your master document (without suffix) [index]:
Sphinx can also add configuration for epub output:
> Do you want to use the epub builder (y/n) [n]:
Please indicate if you want to use one of the following Sphinx extensions:
> autodoc: automatically insert docstrings from modules (y/n) [n]: y
> doctest: automatically test code snippets in doctest blocks (y/n) [n]: y
> intersphinx: link between Sphinx documentation of different projects (y/n) [n]: y
> todo: write "todo" entries that can be shown or hidden on build (y/n) [n]: y
> coverage: checks for documentation coverage (y/n) [n]: y
> imgmath: include math, rendered as PNG or SVG images (y/n) [n]: y
> mathjax: include math, rendered in the browser by MathJax (y/n) [n]:
> ifconfig: conditional inclusion of content based on config values (y/n) [n]:
> viewcode: include links to the source code of documented Python objects (y/n) [n]:
> githubpages: create .nojekyll file to publish the document on GitHub pages (y/n) [n]:
A Makefile and a Windows command file can be generated for you so that you
only have to run e.g. `make html' instead of invoking sphinx-build
> Create Makefile? (y/n) [y]:
> Create Windows command file? (y/n) [y]: n
Creating file ./docs/conf.py.
Creating file ./docs/index.rst.
Creating file ./docs/Makefile.
Finished: An initial directory structure has been created.
You should now populate your master file ./docs/index.rst and create other documentation
source files. Use the Makefile to build the docs, like so:
where "builder" is one of the supported builders, e.g. html, latex or linkcheck.
Upon completion, a docs file should appear in your project.
Generate HTML Documentation
You can then generate documentation in HTML format by changing to the docs folder and running the following command:
You should see something like:
Running Sphinx v1.6.1
making output directory...
loading pickled environment... not yet created
loading intersphinx inventory from https://docs.python.org/objects.inv...
intersphinx inventory has moved: https://docs.python.org/objects.inv -> https://docs.python.org/2/objects.inv
building [mo]: targets for 0 po files that are out of date
building [html]: targets for 1 source files that are out of date
updating environment: 1 added, 0 changed, 0 removed
reading sources... [100%] index
looking for now-outdated files... none found
pickling environment... done
checking consistency... done
preparing documents... done
writing output... [100%] index
generating indices... genindex
writing additional pages... search
copying static files... done
copying extra files... done
dumping search index in English (code: en) ... done
dumping object inventory... done
Build finished. The HTML pages are in _build/html.
Document Project Modules
Now we will tell Sphinx to document the modules of one of our applications.
After the first block of comments, add the following code so that Sphinx can read docstrings from project files:
os.environ['DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE'] = 'yourprojectname.settings'
Next, create a modules folder within docs. We will use these to hold our documentation. E.g. To document models, create a file at modules/models.rst.
Edit models.rst and add the following content:
.. automodule:: yourappname.models
Save and close the file.
Next, make this link available in the documentation index by editing docs/index.rst.
Find the section starting with .. toctree:: and add a line modules/models under it so that it looks like this:
Save and close the file.
Now is the time to regenerate the documentation.
Run the following command from inside the docs folder.
You can access the documentation by opening docs/_build/html/index.html in a browser. You should see ‘Models’ under ‘Content’.
If you want to be able to access your documentation from the Django application itself, e.g. using a link like /docs/, you can do this using the awesome django-docs package.
1. Documenting your Django application with sphinx. https://madradavid.com/documenting-your-django-application-sphinx/.