Sphinx – how to make autodoc really automatic ?

Automating sphinx.ext.autodoc

A tool to help use the ‘autodoc’ facilties of Sphinx.


Sphinx has a great extension,sphinx.ext.autodoc, which imports the modules you want to document and uses the docstrings as the basis for the documentation. A script I’ve just found makes using sphinx.ext.autodoc even easier.


Although the sphinx.ext.autodoc extension reduces the work of creating Sphinx source files a great deal I still found myself having to create a set of files which corresponded to the modules in a project. This was a bit of a bore particularly as I like to start creating documentation early in a project and so modules would come and go during development.

On a number of occasions I wished I had a script to automatically create the source files needed … well it turns out that Etienne Desautels has already done the heavy lifting and written generate_modules.py which does just what I want.

Making use of it

generate_modules.py is completely independent of Sphinx. Just download it from the above location and run it as

>python generate_modules.py --help

Usage: generate_modules.py [options] <package path> [exclude paths, ...]

Note: By default this script will not overwrite already created files.

 -h, --help            show this help message and exit
 -n HEADER, --doc-header=HEADER
                       Documentation Header (default=Project)
 -d DESTDIR, --dest-dir=DESTDIR
                       Output destination directory
 -s SUFFIX, --suffix=SUFFIX
                       module suffix (default=txt)
 -m MAXDEPTH, --maxdepth=MAXDEPTH
                       Maximum depth of submodules to show in the TOC
 -r, --dry-run         Run the script without creating the files
 -f, --force           Overwrite all the files
 -t, --no-toc          Don't create the table of content file

Most of this is pretty self-explanatory.

My index.rst looks like this :

Welcome to pySourceAid's documentation!


.. toctree::
:maxdepth: 2



.. toctree::
:maxdepth: 20


Indices and tables

* :ref:`genindex`
* :ref:`modindex`
* :ref:`search`

And that line in the index.rst


… means that autodoc is going to go looking for source files corresponding to each of the modules in a directory called modules. As a result when I run generate_modules.py I use a command like this

python generate_modules.py --suffix=rst --dest-dir=C:\myproject\docs\source\modules C:\myproject\src

Where the modules are living in C:\myproject\src


This blog post is based on some work done using : Python 2.6 and Sphinx 1.0.5

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