Web Support Quick Start

Building Documentation Data

To make use of the web support package in your application you’ll need to build the data it uses. This data includes pickle files representing documents, search indices, and node data that is used to track where comments and other things are in a document. To do this you will need to create an instance of the WebSupport class and call its build() method:

from sphinxcontrib.websupport import WebSupport

support = WebSupport(srcdir='/path/to/rst/sources/',


This will read reStructuredText sources from srcdir and place the necessary data in builddir. The builddir will contain two sub-directories: one named “data” that contains all the data needed to display documents, search through documents, and add comments to documents. The other directory will be called “static” and contains static files that should be served from “/static”.


If you wish to serve static files from a path other than “/static”, you can do so by providing the staticdir keyword argument when creating the WebSupport object.

Integrating Sphinx Documents Into Your Webapp

Now that the data is built, it’s time to do something useful with it. Start off by creating a WebSupport object for your application:

from sphinxcontrib.websupport import WebSupport

support = WebSupport(datadir='/path/to/the/data',

You’ll only need one of these for each set of documentation you will be working with. You can then call its get_document() method to access individual documents:

contents = support.get_document('contents')

This will return a dictionary containing the following items:

  • body: The main body of the document as HTML
  • sidebar: The sidebar of the document as HTML
  • relbar: A div containing links to related documents
  • title: The title of the document
  • css: Links to CSS files used by Sphinx
  • script: JavaScript containing comment options

This dict can then be used as context for templates. The goal is to be easy to integrate with your existing templating system. An example using Jinja2 is:

{%- extends "layout.html" %}

{%- block title %}
    {{ document.title }}
{%- endblock %}

{% block css %}
    {{ super() }}
    {{ document.css|safe }}
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="/static/websupport-custom.css" type="text/css">
{% endblock %}

{%- block script %}
    {{ super() }}
    {{ document.script|safe }}
{%- endblock %}

{%- block relbar %}
    {{ document.relbar|safe }}
{%- endblock %}

{%- block body %}
    {{ document.body|safe }}
{%- endblock %}

{%- block sidebar %}
    {{ document.sidebar|safe }}
{%- endblock %}


To use certain features such as voting, it must be possible to authenticate users. The details of the authentication are left to your application. Once a user has been authenticated you can pass the user’s details to certain WebSupport methods using the username and moderator keyword arguments. The web support package will store the username with comments and votes. The only caveat is that if you allow users to change their username you must update the websupport package’s data:

support.update_username(old_username, new_username)

username should be a unique string which identifies a user, and moderator should be a boolean representing whether the user has moderation privileges. The default value for moderator is False.

An example Flask function that checks whether a user is logged in and then retrieves a document is:

from sphinxcontrib.websupport.errors import *

def doc(docname):
    username = g.user.name if g.user else ''
    moderator = g.user.moderator if g.user else False
        document = support.get_document(docname, username, moderator)
    except DocumentNotFoundError:
    return render_template('doc.html', document=document)

The first thing to notice is that the docname is just the request path. This makes accessing the correct document easy from a single view. If the user is authenticated, then the username and moderation status are passed along with the docname to get_document(). The web support package will then add this data to the COMMENT_OPTIONS that are used in the template.


This only works if your documentation is served from your document root. If it is served from another directory, you will need to prefix the url route with that directory, and give the docroot keyword argument when creating the web support object:

support = WebSupport(..., docroot='docs')


Performing Searches

To use the search form built-in to the Sphinx sidebar, create a function to handle requests to the url ‘search’ relative to the documentation root. The user’s search query will be in the GET parameters, with the key q. Then use the get_search_results() method to retrieve search results. In Flask that would be like this:

def search():
    q = request.args.get('q')
    document = support.get_search_results(q)
    return render_template('doc.html', document=document)

Note that we used the same template to render our search results as we did to render our documents. That’s because get_search_results() returns a context dict in the same format that get_document() does.

Comments & Proposals

Now that this is done it’s time to define the functions that handle the AJAX calls from the script. You will need three functions. The first function is used to add a new comment, and will call the web support method add_comment():

@app.route('/docs/add_comment', methods=['POST'])
def add_comment():
    parent_id = request.form.get('parent', '')
    node_id = request.form.get('node', '')
    text = request.form.get('text', '')
    proposal = request.form.get('proposal', '')
    username = g.user.name if g.user is not None else 'Anonymous'
    comment = support.add_comment(text, node_id='node_id',
                                  username=username, proposal=proposal)
    return jsonify(comment=comment)

You’ll notice that both a parent_id and node_id are sent with the request. If the comment is being attached directly to a node, parent_id will be empty. If the comment is a child of another comment, then node_id will be empty. Then next function handles the retrieval of comments for a specific node, and is aptly named get_data():

def get_comments():
    username = g.user.name if g.user else None
    moderator = g.user.moderator if g.user else False
    node_id = request.args.get('node', '')
    data = support.get_data(node_id, username, moderator)
    return jsonify(**data)

The final function that is needed will call process_vote(), and will handle user votes on comments:

@app.route('/docs/process_vote', methods=['POST'])
def process_vote():
    if g.user is None:
    comment_id = request.form.get('comment_id')
    value = request.form.get('value')
    if value is None or comment_id is None:
    support.process_vote(comment_id, g.user.id, value)
    return "success"

Comment Moderation

By default, all comments added through add_comment() are automatically displayed. If you wish to have some form of moderation, you can pass the displayed keyword argument:

comment = support.add_comment(text, node_id='node_id',
                              username=username, proposal=proposal,

You can then create a new view to handle the moderation of comments. It will be called when a moderator decides a comment should be accepted and displayed:

@app.route('/docs/accept_comment', methods=['POST'])
def accept_comment():
    moderator = g.user.moderator if g.user else False
    comment_id = request.form.get('id')
    support.accept_comment(comment_id, moderator=moderator)
    return 'OK'

Rejecting comments happens via comment deletion.

To perform a custom action (such as emailing a moderator) when a new comment is added but not displayed, you can pass callable to the WebSupport class when instantiating your support object:

def moderation_callback(comment):
    """Do something..."""

support = WebSupport(..., moderation_callback=moderation_callback)

The moderation callback must take one argument, which will be the same comment dict that is returned by add_comment().