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Sphinx Quickstart Template

Section author: Sean Silva <>

Introduction and Quickstart

This document is meant to get you writing documentation as fast as possible even if you have no previous experience with Sphinx. The goal is to take someone in the state of “I want to write documentation and get it added to LLVM’s docs” and turn that into useful documentation mailed to llvm-commits with as little nonsense as possible.

You can find this document in docs/SphinxQuickstartTemplate.rst. You should copy it, open the new file in your text editor, write your docs, and then send the new document to llvm-commits for review.

Focus on content. It is easy to fix the Sphinx (reStructuredText) syntax later if necessary, although reStructuredText tries to imitate common plain-text conventions so it should be quite natural. A basic knowledge of reStructuredText syntax is useful when writing the document, so the last ~half of this document (starting with Example Section) gives examples which should cover 99% of use cases.

Let me say that again: focus on content.

Once you have finished with the content, please send the .rst file to llvm-commits for review.


Try to answer the following questions in your first section:

  1. Why would I want to read this document?
  2. What should I know to be able to follow along with this document?
  3. What will I have learned by the end of this document?

Common names for the first section are Introduction, Overview, or Background.

If possible, make your document a “how to”. Give it a name HowTo*.rst like the other “how to” documents. This format is usually the easiest for another person to understand and also the most useful.

You generally should not be writing documentation other than a “how to” unless there is already a “how to” about your topic. The reason for this is that without a “how to” document to read first, it is difficult for a person to understand a more advanced document.

Focus on content (yes, I had to say it again).

The rest of this document shows example reStructuredText markup constructs that are meant to be read by you in your text editor after you have copied this file into a new file for the documentation you are about to write.

Example Section

Your text can be emphasized, bold, or monospace.

Use blank lines to separate paragraphs.

Headings (like Example Section just above) give your document structure. Use the same kind of adornments (e.g. ====== vs. ------) as are used in this document. The adornment must be the same length as the text above it. For Vim users, variations of yypVr= might be handy.

Example Subsection

Make a link like this. There is also a more sophisticated syntax which can be more readable for longer links since it disrupts the flow less. You can put the .. _`link text`: <URL> block pretty much anywhere later in the document.

Lists can be made like this:

  1. A list starting with #. will be automatically numbered.
  2. This is a second list element.
    1. They nest too.

You can also use unordered lists.

  • Stuff.
    • Deeper stuff.
  • More stuff.

Example Subsubsection

You can make blocks of code like this:

int main() {
  return 0

For a shell session, use a bash code block:

$ echo "Goodbye cruel world!"
$ rm -rf /

If you need to show LLVM IR use the llvm code block.

Hopefully you won’t need to be this deep

If you need to do fancier things than what has been shown in this document, you can mail the list or check Sphinx’s reStructuredText Primer.