RPC workflow#

docs-rpc is a private GitHub repository that contains both external and internal-only content. The repository has some extra configuration elements that enable us to build both types of content from a single doc directory while also providing access to multiple versions of the documentation.

As a result of this extra configuration, there are a few ways in which docs-rpc interaction differs from our standard workflow.


Tox is required for building, testing, and internal publishing:

$ sudo pip install tox

Using tox#

tox is a Python tool for automated testing. Although it is designed primarily for testing code, it is also useful for testing and building docs.

Tox provides us with two main benefits:

  • it handles dependency installation, which enables us to avoid installing requirements locally and ensures we are all using the same package versions
  • it provides a virtual environment that can be reproduced on a variety of machines

In other words, if the documentation builds correctly in one tox environment, it should build correctly in all tox environments.


Tox configuration is controlled by a tox.ini file in the repository root. It consists of general tox settings, a series of testenvs that can be invoked individually (e.g. tox -e checkbuild), and configuration for certain tests.

For our purposes, this file is relatively simple:

minversion = 1.6
envlist = checksyntax,checkbuild
skipsdist = True

deps = -r{toxinidir}/requirements.txt

whitelist_externals =

commands =
  make html -C {toxinidir}/doc

commands =
  make linkcheck -C {toxinidir}/doc

commands =
  make spelling -C {toxinidir}/doc

commands =
  doc8 doc

commands =
  sphinx-versioning build {toxinidir}/doc {toxinidir}/doc/_build/html

commands =
  sphinx-versioning push {toxinidir}/doc gh-pages .

# Ignore target directories
ignore-path = doc/_build*
# File extensions to use
extensions = .rst,.txt
# Maximal line length is 79.
max-line-length = 79
# Disable D000: Check RST validity (cannot handle lineos directive)
# ignore = D000

Description of tox.ini options#

  • minversion: minimum version of tox to use
  • envlist: testenvs to run when none are specified. I.e. when you run tox.
  • skipdist: run tox without requiring a setup.py file
  • deps: packages required by all testenvs. We install them from the requirements.txt file.
  • whitelist_exernals: commands sourced from the local operating system instead of being downloaded and installed by tox
  • checkbuild: build the current branch using make html. Configuration is in conf.py and Makefile.
  • checklinks: run link checker. Configuration is in conf.py.
  • checkspelling: run spell checker. Configuration is in Makefile and the custom dictionary is spelling_wordlist.txt
  • checksyntax: run RST syntax check. Configuration is in tox.ini.
  • checkversions: build versioned docs. Configuration is in conf.py.
  • publish: builds the documentation and pushes it to the our internal gh-pages site. Configuration is in conf.py. Using this command has special requirements. See Publishing.
  • configuration options for the doc8 tests run in the checksyntax env


In order to run more quickly, tox reuses elements of its virtual test environment. This makes sense, as there is no need to re-download all the packages required for building the docs if the requirements have not changed. However, when a configuration option changes or a new package is available, tox does not automatically refresh its environment.

If you or someone else changes a configuration option in tox.ini or alters the requirements.txt file, you must force tox to recreate the test environment. You can do this in two ways:

  • Add the -r, --recreate option the next time you run tox:

    $ tox -r
  • Delete the hidden .tox directory in the repository root where the environment is stored:

    $ rm -rf .tox

Most of the time, recreating the tox environment solves tox-related problems. If you are still having issues, check the configuration in tox.ini is correct.

On rare occasions, a new version of an upstream dependency causes a failure when installing from requirements.txt. The tox error output should provide some clue in the traceback. Package maintainers will usually fix it these sorts of errors fairly quickly. In the meantime, you can pin that package to the most recent working version in requirements.txt. For example:


If you do this, please retest every few days and remove the version requirement when the package is fixed.

Local builds#

You have three options for building the current working branch.

The recommended approach is using tox, which loads all requirements into a virtual environment. Tox commands can be run from any location within the docs-rpc repository.

  • Run syntax checks and build the docs (recommended):

    $ tox
  • Build the docs without syntax checks (slightly faster):

    $ tox -e checkbuild

Tox builds the documentation by calling make html. You can, however, run the make command directly if required. Before doing this, you need to install locally all the dependencies listed in the requirements.txt file. This only needs to be done once, but you should regularly update your installed packages to the latest versions while keeping them in sync with any pinned dependencies in requirements.txt:

$ sudo pip install -r requirements.txt

You can then build the documentation by changing into the doc directory and running make:

$ make html

View the built documentation by opening doc/_build/html/index.html in your browser.

Advanced local builds#

The basic local builds options are sufficient for testing changes on your current working branch before creating a pull request.

However, the basic build only builds the current working branch, and we have several versions of the RPC docs on stable branches. When we publish to the internal gh-pages site, we publish all the stable branches using a single index page with a version selector.

You can build the versioned site locally, but there are a few extra steps you must take:

  1. Add your working branch to the whitelist.
  2. Push your branch to origin before building.
  3. Build the versioned documentation site.
  4. Remove your working branch from the whitelist before creating a PR.

Adding your working branch to the whitelist#

Versioned builds are created using SCVersioning, which is configured in conf.py:

scv_root_ref = 'v13'
scv_overflow = ('-q', )
scv_show_banner = True
scv_banner_main_ref = 'v13'
scv_whitelist_branches = (re.compile(r"\bmaster\b|\bv1[123]\b"),)
scv_whitelist_tags = ('NIL', )
scv_push_remote = 'internal'
scv_grm_exclude = ('.nojekyll', '.gitignore')

Our interest here is scv_whitelist_branches. For information about the other configuration options, see sphinxcontrib-versioning options.

SCVersioning works by reading the list of whitelisted branches and building each one as a version of the documentation suite. If you are on a working branch, you must add it to the whitelist in order to include it in the build.

Adding v12 to the whitelist matches all branches with v12 in them. For example, testv12 and v12-wip. To prevent such matches, we use a regular expression that matches only branches with the exact names given. Currently the expression matches master, v11, v12, and v13.

While testing your content, you may also want to remove some of the other branches to speed up local builds. Commenting out the production list makes it easier to restore later.

Assuming a working branch named issue-123, you could use:

# scv_whitelist_branches = (re.compile(r"\bmaster\b|\bv1[123]\b"),)
scv_whitelist_branches = (v13, issue-123)

While you can remove most branches during testing, you must keep the branch designated as scv_root_ref, as this is the branch treated as the default version. Normally, this is the latest release of the RPC docs.

Pushing to origin#

SCVersioning only works with remote branches and ignores local changes (committed, staged, unstaged, etc). You must push your work to origin or SCVersioning cannot see it. This eliminates race conditions when multiple CI jobs are building docs at the same time.

After you commit you work locally, push it to origin:

$ git push --set-upstream origin issue-123

You only need to set the upstream once. For pushing subsequent commits to origin, use:

$ git push

Building the versioned site#

SCVersioning uses its own build command to produce the versioned site. The recommended way to invoke it is using the checkversions tox environment:

$ tox -e checkversions

Alternatively, you can run the build command directly from the repository root, but the same caveats apply regarding dependencies as running make html directly:

$ sphinx-versioning build doc doc/_build/html

Open doc/_build/html/index.html in a browser to view the versioned site. Use the version selector to view your branch and see the latest changes.


Before building the versioned site, you must update the stable branches (e.g. v11, v12, v13) locally then push them to origin in order to see the latest changes.

Removing your working branch from the whitelist#

When you are finished testing and you are ready to create a pull request, you must remove your branch from the whitelist and restore the list of stable branches. Commit, push, then open your PR.

scv_whitelist_branches = (re.compile(r"\bmaster\b|\bv1[123]\b"),)

Reviewers can check your content using the Nexus preview. If they need to see the internal gh-page styling or the versioned build, they must clone your fork and build using the above workflow.


Publishing externally to developer.rackspace.com happens automatically when a PR is merged into docs-rpc.

Publishing internally to github.rackspace.com requires a few extra steps.

Initial repository setup for internal publishing#

Publishing to the internal gh-pages site uses two remote repositories:

a private repository on github.com where RPC documentation is developed
an internal repository on github.rackspace.com that is only accessible to users on the Rackspace network. This repository hosts our internal gh-pages site.


Do not edit the internal repository directly.

Run the following commands while connected to the Rackspace network directly or through VPN. You only need to perform these steps once.

  1. Upload an SSH key to your internal GitHub account. You can access SSH key options by going to Settings -> SSH keys in the GitHub interface.

  2. Ask an RPC writer to add you to the rpcdocs team. This membership gives you push access to the rpc-internal repository.

  3. In your local docs-rpc repository, add the internal repository as a remote:

    $ git remote add internal git@github.rackspace.com:rpc-internal/docs-rpc.git
  4. Confirm your remote setup:

    $ git remote -v
    internal  git@github.rackspace.com:rpc-internal/docs-rpc.git (fetch)
    internal  git@github.rackspace.com:rpc-internal/docs-rpc.git (push)
    origin    git@github.com:username/docs-rpc.git (fetch)
    origin    git@github.com:username/docs-rpc.git (push)
    upstream  git@github.com:rackerlabs/docs-rpc.git (fetch)
    upstream  git@github.com:rackerlabs/docs-rpc.git (push)
  5. Update your remotes:

    $ git remote update
  6. Create a local gh-pages branch that tracks internal/gh-pages:

    $ git branch gh-pages --track internal/gh-pages

You are now ready to publish the RPC docs internally.

Publishing internally#

  1. Update the stable branches (e.g. v12, v13, v14). You can use the following script:

    # Merges upstream into local stable branches and pushes the
    # results to origin.
    # NOTE: the local branches (v12, v13, ...) must exist before
    # running this script
    branches=(v12 v13 v14)
    for item in ${branches[@]}; do
        git checkout $item
        git fetch upstream
        git merge upstream/$item
        git push origin $item
    git checkout master
    git branch
  2. Run the publish command from the master branch while connected to the Rackspace network directly or through VPN:

    $ tox -e publish

Using conditionals#

In order to have both internal and external documents in a single directory, we use the ifconfig directive to label content that should only be published internally.


Sphinx includes content labeled internal based on configuration settings in conf.py:

# set ifconfig tags
if not 'CONTENT_ID_BASE' in os.environ or 'build-' in os.environ['CONTENT_ID_BASE']:
    # Nexus previews, gh-pages, and local builds
    internal = True
    # Nexus publishing
    internal = False


def setup(app):
    """Create the internal config value and set to False."""
    app.add_config_value('internal', False, 'env')


Use ifconfig like other directives, indenting content beneath it that you want to apply to internal documents only.

For example:

This is some text that will appear in internal and external documentation.

.. ifconfig:: internal

   This text will only appear in internal documenation.

Currently, we have completely separate books for internal and external content. We only use this directive to conditionalize the doc/index.rst file.

Excluding internal documents from public builds#

Although documents labeled with ifconfig in a toctree do not appear in the external table of contents, the source is still processed and output to the build directory. This means that the internal content can be accessed externally through searches.

To prevent this, directories containing internal books must be excluded from external builds by adding them to a conditional exclude_patterns list in conf.py:

if internal is False:
    exclude_patterns.extend(['rpc-faq-internal', 'rpc-install-internal',
                            'rpc-ops-internal', 'rpc-sales-eng-internal',

Due to these files being excluded, when Strider runs a merge build it will output some nonexisting document and undefined label warnings. You can safely ignore these.

./index.rst:36: WARNING: toctree contains reference to nonexisting document 'rpc-faq-internal/index'
./index.rst:31: WARNING: undefined label: rpc-faq-internal (if the link has no caption the label must precede a section header)

Deconst global table of contents#

Deconst builds two tables of contents for Sphinx projects:

  • the main text area uses the table of contents provided by doc/index.rst. A .. toctree:: directive with the :hidden: option does not appear.
  • the sidebar uses a global table of contents. Normally this is built from doc/index.rst. However, the global table of contents does not honor the :hidden: option, thus hidden toctrees appear in the sidebar. To avoid this, a special _toc.rst file is used to specify the sidebar table of contents. For more information, see https://deconst.horse/writing-docs/author/sphinx/#tables-of-contents.