Sphinx FAQ

This is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Sphinx. Feel free to suggest new entries!

How do I...

... create PDF files without LaTeX?
You can use rst2pdf version 0.12 or greater which comes with built-in Sphinx integration. See the Available builders section for details.
... get section numbers?
They are automatic in LaTeX output; for HTML, give a :numbered: option to the toctree directive where you want to start numbering.
... customize the look of the built HTML files?
Use themes, see HTML theming support.
... add global substitutions or includes?
Add them in the :confval:`rst_epilog` config value.
... display the whole TOC tree in the sidebar?
Use the toctree callable in a custom layout template, probably in the sidebartoc block.
... write my own extension?
See the extension tutorial.
... convert from my existing docs using MoinMoin markup?
The easiest way is to convert to xhtml, then convert xhtml to reST. You’ll still need to mark up classes and such, but the headings and code examples come through cleanly.

Using Sphinx with...

Read the Docs
http://readthedocs.org is a documentation hosting service based around Sphinx. They will host sphinx documentation, along with supporting a number of other features including version support, PDF generation, and more. The Getting Started guide is a good place to start.
There’s a third-party extension providing an api role which refers to Epydoc’s API docs for a given identifier.
Michael Jones is developing a reST/Sphinx bridge to doxygen called breathe.
Glenn Hutchings has written a SCons build script to build Sphinx documentation; it is hosted here: https://bitbucket.org/zondo/sphinx-scons
Jannis Leidel wrote a setuptools command that automatically uploads Sphinx documentation to the PyPI package documentation area at http://packages.python.org/.
GitHub Pages
Directories starting with underscores are ignored by default which breaks static files in Sphinx. GitHub’s preprocessor can be disabled to support Sphinx HTML output properly.
See https://bitbucket.org/kevindunn/sphinx-wiki, a project by Kevin Dunn.
Google Analytics

You can use a custom layout.html template, like this:

{% extends "!layout.html" %}

{%- block extrahead %}
{{ super() }}
<script type="text/javascript">
  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'XXX account number XXX']);
{% endblock %}

{% block footer %}
{{ super() }}
<div class="footer">This page uses <a href="http://analytics.google.com/">
Google Analytics</a> to collect statistics. You can disable it by blocking
the JavaScript coming from www.google-analytics.com.
<script type="text/javascript">
  (function() {
    var ga = document.createElement('script');
    ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ?
              'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
    ga.setAttribute('async', 'true');
{% endblock %}

Epub info

The epub builder is currently in an experimental stage. It has only been tested with the Sphinx documentation itself. If you want to create epubs, here are some notes:

  • Split the text into several files. The longer the individual HTML files are, the longer it takes the ebook reader to render them. In extreme cases, the rendering can take up to one minute.

  • Try to minimize the markup. This also pays in rendering time.

  • For some readers you can use embedded or external fonts using the CSS @font-face directive. This is extremely useful for code listings which are often cut at the right margin. The default Courier font (or variant) is quite wide and you can only display up to 60 characters on a line. If you replace it with a narrower font, you can get more characters on a line. You may even use FontForge and create narrow variants of some free font. In my case I get up to 70 characters on a line.

    You may have to experiment a little until you get reasonable results.

  • Test the created epubs. You can use several alternatives. The ones I am aware of are Epubcheck, Calibre, FBreader (although it does not render the CSS), and Bookworm. For bookworm you can download the source from http://code.google.com/p/threepress/ and run your own local server.

  • Large floating divs are not displayed properly. If they cover more than one page, the div is only shown on the first page. In that case you can copy the epub.css from the sphinx/themes/epub/static/ directory to your local _static/ directory and remove the float settings.

  • Files that are inserted outside of the toctree directive must be manually included. This sometimes applies to appendixes, e.g. the glossary or the indices. You can add them with the :confval:`epub_post_files` option.

Texinfo info

The Texinfo builder is currently in an experimental stage but has successfully been used to build the documentation for both Sphinx and Python. The intended use of this builder is to generate Texinfo that is then processed into Info files.

There are two main programs for reading Info files, info and GNU Emacs. The info program has less features but is available in most Unix environments and can be quickly accessed from the terminal. Emacs provides better font and color display and supports extensive customization (of course).


The following notes may be helpful if you want to create Texinfo files:

  • Each section corresponds to a different node in the Info file.

  • Colons (:) cannot be properly escaped in menu entries and xrefs. They will be replaced with semicolons (;).

  • In the HTML and Tex output, the word see is automatically inserted before all xrefs.

  • Links to external Info files can be created using the somewhat official URI scheme info. For example:


    which produces:

  • Inline markup appears as follows in Info:

    • strong – *strong*
    • emphasis – _emphasis_
    • literal – `literal’

    It is possible to change this behavior using the Texinfo command @definfoenclose. For example, to make inline markup more closely resemble reST, add the following to your conf.py:

    texinfo_elements = {'preamble': """\
    @definfoenclose strong,**,**
    @definfoenclose emph,*,*
    @definfoenclose code,`@w{}`,`@w{}`