Sphinx uses the Jinja templating engine for its HTML templates. Jinja is a text-based engine, inspired by Django templates, so anyone having used Django will already be familiar with it. It also has excellent documentation for those who need to make themselves familiar with it.

Do I need to use Sphinx’s templates to produce HTML?

No. You have several other options:

Jinja/Sphinx Templating Primer

The default templating language in Sphinx is Jinja. It’s Django/Smarty inspired and easy to understand. The most important concept in Jinja is template inheritance, which means that you can overwrite only specific blocks within a template, customizing it while also keeping the changes at a minimum.

To customize the output of your documentation you can override all the templates (both the layout templates and the child templates) by adding files with the same name as the original filename into the template directory of the structure the Sphinx quickstart generated for you.

Sphinx will look for templates in the folders of templates_path first, and if it can’t find the template it’s looking for there, it falls back to the selected theme’s templates.

A template contains variables, which are replaced with values when the template is evaluated, tags, which control the logic of the template and blocks which are used for template inheritance.

Sphinx’s basic theme provides base templates with a couple of blocks it will fill with data. These are located in the themes/basic subdirectory of the Sphinx installation directory, and used by all builtin Sphinx themes. Templates with the same name in the templates_path override templates supplied by the selected theme.

For example, to add a new link to the template area containing related links all you have to do is to add a new template called layout.html with the following contents:

{% extends "!layout.html" %}
{% block rootrellink %}
    <li><a href="https://project.invalid/">Project Homepage</a> &raquo;</li>
    {{ super() }}
{% endblock %}

By prefixing the name of the overridden template with an exclamation mark, Sphinx will load the layout template from the underlying HTML theme.


If you override a block, call {{ super() }} somewhere to render the block’s original content in the extended template – unless you don’t want that content to show up.

Working with the builtin templates

The builtin basic theme supplies the templates that all builtin Sphinx themes are based on. It has the following elements you can override or use:


The following blocks exist in the layout.html template:


The doctype of the output format. By default this is XHTML 1.0 Transitional as this is the closest to what Sphinx and Docutils generate and it’s a good idea not to change it unless you want to switch to HTML 5 or a different but compatible XHTML doctype.


This block adds a couple of <link> tags to the head section of the template.


This block is empty by default and can be used to add extra contents into the <head> tag of the generated HTML file. This is the right place to add references to JavaScript or extra CSS files.

relbar1, relbar2

This block contains the relation bar, the list of related links (the parent documents on the left, and the links to index, modules etc. on the right). relbar1 appears before the document, relbar2 after the document. By default, both blocks are filled; to show the relbar only before the document, you would override relbar2 like this:

{% block relbar2 %}{% endblock %}
rootrellink, relbaritems

Inside the relbar there are three sections: The rootrellink, the links from the documentation and the custom relbaritems. The rootrellink is a block that by default contains a list item pointing to the root document by default, the relbaritems is an empty block. If you override them to add extra links into the bar make sure that they are list items and end with the reldelim1.


The contents of the document itself. It contains the block “body” where the individual content is put by subtemplates like page.html.


In order for the built-in JavaScript search to show a page preview on the results page, the document or body content should be wrapped in an HTML element containing the role="main" attribute. For example:

<div role="main">
  {% block document %}{% endblock %}
sidebar1, sidebar2

A possible location for a sidebar. sidebar1 appears before the document and is empty by default, sidebar2 after the document and contains the default sidebar. If you want to swap the sidebar location override this and call the sidebar helper:

{% block sidebar1 %}{{ sidebar() }}{% endblock %}
{% block sidebar2 %}{% endblock %}

(The sidebar2 location for the sidebar is needed by the sphinxdoc.css stylesheet, for example.)


The logo location within the sidebar. Override this if you want to place some content at the top of the sidebar.


The block for the footer div. If you want a custom footer or markup before or after it, override this one.

The following four blocks are only used for pages that do not have assigned a list of custom sidebars in the html_sidebars config value. Their use is deprecated in favor of separate sidebar templates, which can be included via html_sidebars.


The table of contents within the sidebar.

Deprecated since version 1.0.


The relation links (previous, next document) within the sidebar.

Deprecated since version 1.0.


The “Show source” link within the sidebar (normally only shown if this is enabled by html_show_sourcelink).

Deprecated since version 1.0.


The search box within the sidebar. Override this if you want to place some content at the bottom of the sidebar.

Deprecated since version 1.0.

Configuration Variables

Inside templates you can set a couple of variables used by the layout template using the {% set %} tag:


The delimiter for the items on the left side of the related bar. This defaults to ' &raquo;' Each item in the related bar ends with the value of this variable.


The delimiter for the items on the right side of the related bar. This defaults to ' |'. Each item except of the last one in the related bar ends with the value of this variable.

Overriding works like this:

{% extends "!layout.html" %}
{% set reldelim1 = ' &gt;' %}

Add additional script files here, like this:

{% set script_files = script_files + ["_static/myscript.js"] %}

Deprecated since version 1.8.0: Please use .Sphinx.add_js_file() instead.

Helper Functions

Sphinx provides various Jinja functions as helpers in the template. You can use them to generate links or output multiply used elements.


Return the path to a Sphinx document as a URL. Use this to refer to built documents.

pathto(file, 1)

Return the path to a file which is a filename relative to the root of the generated output. Use this to refer to static files.


Check if a document with the name document exists.

Return the rendered sidebar.


Return the rendered relation bar.


Emit a warning message.

Global Variables

These global variables are available in every template and are safe to use. There are more, but most of them are an implementation detail and might change in the future.


The name of the builder (e.g. html or htmlhelp).

The value of copyright.


The title of the documentation (the value of html_title), except when the “single-file” builder is used, when it is set to None.


True if the built HTML is meant to be embedded in some viewing application that handles navigation, not the web browser, such as for HTML help or Qt help formats. In this case, the sidebar is not included.


The relative path to the HTML favicon image from the current document, or URL to the favicon, or ''.

Added in version 4.0.


The value of the builder’s out_suffix attribute, i.e. the file name extension that the output files will get. For a standard HTML builder, this is usually .html.


True if the reST document sources are copied (if html_copy_source is True).


The value of language.


The build date.


The relative path to the HTML logo image from the current document, or URL to the logo, or ''.

Added in version 4.0.


Same as root_doc.

Changed in version 4.0: Renamed to root_doc.


The value of root_doc, for usage with pathto().

Changed in version 4.0: Renamed from master_doc.


The “page name” of the current file, i.e. either the document name if the file is generated from a reST source, or the equivalent hierarchical name relative to the output directory ([directory/]filename_without_extension).


The value of project.


The value of release.

A list of links to put at the left side of the relbar, next to “next” and “prev”. This usually contains links to the general index and other indices, such as the Python module index. If you add something yourself, it must be a tuple (pagename, link title, accesskey, link text).


The value of html_short_title.


True if html_show_sourcelink is True.


The version of Sphinx used to build represented as a string for example “3.5.1”.


The version of Sphinx used to build represented as a tuple of five elements. For Sphinx version 3.5.1 beta 3 this would be (3, 5, 1, 'beta', 3). The fourth element can be one of: alpha, beta, rc, final. final always has 0 as the last element.

Added in version 4.2.


The version of Docutils used to build represented as a tuple of five elements. For Docutils version 0.16.1 beta 2 this would be (0, 16, 1, 'beta', 2). The fourth element can be one of: alpha, beta, candidate, final. final always has 0 as the last element.

Added in version 5.0.2.


A list of the names of the main stylesheets as given by the theme or html_style.

Added in version 5.1.


The title of the current document, as used in the <title> tag.


The value of html_use_opensearch.


The value of version.

In addition to these values, there are also all theme options available (prefixed by theme_), as well as the values given by the user in html_context.

In documents that are created from source files (as opposed to automatically-generated files like the module index, or documents that already are in HTML form), these variables are also available:


A string containing the content of the page in HTML form as produced by the HTML builder, before the theme is applied.


A boolean that is True if the toc contains more than one entry.


Document metadata (a dictionary), see File-wide metadata.


A string containing the page’s HTML meta tags.


The next document for the navigation. This variable is either false or has two attributes link and title. The title contains HTML markup. For example, to generate a link to the next page, you can use this snippet:

{% if next %}
<a href="{{ next.link|e }}">{{ next.title }}</a>
{% endif %}

The suffix of the file that was rendered. Since we support a list of source_suffix, this will allow you to properly link to the original source file.


A list of parent documents for navigation, structured like the next item.


Like next, but for the previous page.


The name of the copied source file for the current document. This is only nonempty if the html_copy_source value is True. This has empty value on creating automatically-generated files.


The local table of contents for the current page, rendered as HTML bullet lists.


A callable yielding the global TOC tree containing the current page, rendered as HTML bullet lists. Optional keyword arguments:


If true, all TOC entries that are not ancestors of the current page are collapsed. True by default.


The maximum depth of the tree. Set it to -1 to allow unlimited depth. Defaults to the max depth selected in the toctree directive.


If true, put only top-level document titles in the tree. False by default.


If true, the ToC tree will also contain hidden entries. False by default.