Developing a “Hello world” extension¶

The objective of this tutorial is to create a very basic extension that adds a new directive. This directive will output a paragraph containing “hello world”.

Only basic information is provided in this tutorial. For more information, refer to the other tutorials that go into more details.

Warning

For this extension, you will need some basic understanding of docutils and Python.

Overview¶

We want the extension to add the following to Sphinx:

• A helloworld directive, that will simply output the text “hello world”.

Prerequisites¶

We will not be distributing this plugin via PyPI and will instead include it as part of an existing project. This means you will need to use an existing project or create a new one using sphinx-quickstart.

We assume you are using separate source (source) and build (build) folders. Your extension file could be in any folder of your project. In our case, let’s do the following:

1. Create an _ext folder in source

2. Create a new Python file in the _ext folder called helloworld.py

Here is an example of the folder structure you might obtain:

└── source
├── _ext
│   └── helloworld.py
├── _static
├── conf.py
├── somefolder
├── index.rst
├── somefile.rst
└── someotherfile.rst


Writing the extension¶

Open helloworld.py and paste the following code in it:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 from docutils import nodes from docutils.parsers.rst import Directive class HelloWorld(Directive): def run(self): paragraph_node = nodes.paragraph(text='Hello World!') return [paragraph_node] def setup(app): app.add_directive("helloworld", HelloWorld) return { 'version': '0.1', 'parallel_read_safe': True, 'parallel_write_safe': True, } 

Some essential things are happening in this example, and you will see them for all directives.

The directive class

Our new directive is declared in the HelloWorld class.

 1 2 3 4 5 class HelloWorld(Directive): def run(self): paragraph_node = nodes.paragraph(text='Hello World!') return [paragraph_node] 

This class extends the docutilsDirective class. All extensions that create directives should extend this class.

This class contains a run method. This method is a requirement and it is part of every directive. It contains the main logic of the directive and it returns a list of docutils nodes to be processed by Sphinx. These nodes are docutils’ way of representing the content of a document. There are many types of nodes available: text, paragraph, reference, table, etc.

The nodes.paragraph class creates a new paragraph node. A paragraph node typically contains some text that we can set during instantiation using the text parameter.

The setup function

This function is a requirement. We use it to plug our new directive into Sphinx.

 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 def setup(app): app.add_directive("helloworld", HelloWorld) return { 'version': '0.1', 'parallel_read_safe': True, 'parallel_write_safe': True, } 

The simplest thing you can do it call the add_directive() method, which is what we’ve done here. For this particular call, the first argument is the name of the directive itself as used in a reST file. In this case, we would use helloworld. For example:

Some intro text here...

.. helloworld::

Some more text here...


We also return the extension metadata that indicates the version of our extension, along with the fact that it is safe to use the extension for both parallel reading and writing.

Using the extension¶

The extension has to be declared in your conf.py file to make Sphinx aware of it. There are two steps necessary here:

1. Add the _ext directory to the Python path using sys.path.append. This should be placed at the top of the file.

2. Update or create the extensions list and add the extension file name to the list

For example:

import os
import sys

sys.path.append(os.path.abspath("./_ext"))

extensions = ['helloworld']


Tip

We’re not distributing this extension as a Python package, we need to modify the Python path so Sphinx can find our extension. This is why we need the call to sys.path.append.

You can now use the extension in a file. For example:

Some intro text here...

.. helloworld::

Some more text here...


The sample above would generate:

Some intro text here...

Hello World!

Some more text here...