Humble Collection of Python Sphinx Gotchas: Part II

Gotcha 1: Release and Version

Sphinx makes a distinction between the release code and the version of the application. The idea is that it should look this way:

version = "4.0.4"
release = "4.0.4.rc.1"

Most project use a much simpler versioning convention, so they would probably do something like this:

version = "4.0.4"
release = "4.0.4"

I’d been doing this myself for some time, until I realized the conf.py file is a simple Python file (no shit!) and it is perfectly fine to do something like this:

version = "4.0.4"
release = version

Yeah, kinda obvious I know. I however missed this (though I’ve been putting much more complex code to conf.py) and some people did either. So, I’ll just leave it here.

Gotcha 2: Download as PDF

Sometimes a PDF download should be provided along with the hosted HTML version. It looks good and people can get a well-formatted file to use locally as they are trying to work with your API or product. In short: it could be done easily, using Python. I’m really pissed off at people, who know Python or Bash and they still keep asking, whether there is an automatic way of doing that. Well, it doesn’t get more automatic than that:

# generating latex and pdf
make latexpdf

# generating html
find 'index.rst' -print -exec sed -i.bak "s/.. &//g" {} \;
find 'index.rst' -print -exec sed -i.bak "s/TARGET/$UPTARGET/g" {} \;

VERSION="$(grep -F -m 1 'version = ' conf.py)";
VERSION="${VERSION#*\'}";
VERSION="${VERSION%\'*}"

sphinx-build -b html . ../$TARGET/$VERSION/
cp latex/$UPTARGET.pdf ../$TARGET/$VERSION/

Note, that there should be the following line, inserted into the index.rst in the example above:

.. &  `Download as PDF <TARGET.pdf>`_

Where .. is the comment syntax, & is here to distinguish the line from usual comments and TARGET is replaced with $UPTARGET which is the upper case version of the project name and the default name of the .tex and .pdf files. It creates a relative link to the .pdf file, which is then copied to the exact same folder, where HTML output is located. I’m not going explain much about the variables, as their sources may differ. In my work I use a python script, with exact same principle (I figured bash example would be more universal) and it gets values of $TARGET, $UPTARGET and $VERSION from a JSON file with a list of targets (more on that in the next example). In the example above, I’m stripping values off the conf.py file. In fact you can use whatever input you wish, even pass the values as arguments. What I was trying to illustrate is the concept itself.

Gotcha 3: Using Scripting to Organize the Sphinx Project as a Multiple Project Knowledge Base

Some of the companies, I’ve been working at had this huge array of active projects, that they wanted to present as a single site, or the whole variety of sites with the same theme, or the single site with PDF version for every first level subsection. Basically they wanted me to create a Sphinx-based knowledge base. Using a simple Python or Bash script there are ways to organize your project any way you want (we’ll use Python this time as it’s closer to what I’ve been using). We’re going to create a site that automatically builds PDF version for each first level subsection (project) and puts it alongside the subsection’s index.html. Basically this is a bit more complex variant of the previous example.

Let’s imagine we have a single Sphinx project with a couple first level sections corresponding to company’s projects, for example: Foo and Bar (give me that medal for originality, yeah). Basically, your folder structure will look like this:

Acme
|  index.rst
|_ Foo
|  |_1.0.0
|    |_index.rst
|  |_1.1.0
|    |_index.rst
|
|_ Bar
   |_1.0.1
     |_index.rst

Yeah, we also have versions. I use the following script for the projects with such layout. Don’t worry, it only looks kinda big. The script is rather simple. Also, I’ve commented the hell out of it so that you could figure it all out. Note, that you also need to create a targets.json file in the root of your project, containing the following lines (assuming we’re using the structure we agreed on in the beginning):

{
  "foo" : "Foo Foo",
  "bar" : "Barrington"
}

The file will tell the script of full project names and how they correspond to target names (folder names) in the structure. Also you will need to have a temp.py file containing only the info we need for PDF building with most of the target names and version numbers represented as variables for injection (yeah, I know this is hacky, but did’t want to bother with imports, dependencies etc). First of all it should have $VRSN tags:

# The short X.Y version.
version = '&VRSN'
# The full version, including alpha/beta/rc tags.
release = '&VRSN'

It should also have tags in the LaTeX part of the settings:

latex_documents = [
  ('index', '&TRGT.tex', u'&UPTRGT',
   u'ACME', 'manual'),
]

Other than that temp.py may resemble your usual conf.py. The reason is that we use conf.py for HTML and it has preset version and project name values for the project as the whole. So we better distinguish between the file for injections and the main configuration file, so that they don’t mess with each other. Note that if you’ll need to add some additional parameters or a preamble to the LaTeX output, you should do that in temp.py as conf.py is not used for building PDFs at all.

If we prepare the project this way, the script should build PDF’s for every subproject and put them to the subproject’s HTML root. Ideally the HTML version could also be built separately for every subproject (for the right project name/version to appear for every subproject). This script is more of a proof of concept rather than out-of-the-box solution. However if you now understand Sphinx’s capability to extension and automation, you may create projects of any complexity yourself.

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