Pretty REST API docs authored in Markdown
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Pretty REST API docs authored in Markdown

  1. Write a Markdown file that describes your REST API -- with some light conventions (see "Conventions" below) to structure to your doc file. E.g.:

     $ cat api.restdown    # or or index.markdown whatever
     title: My Awesome REST API
     # My Awesome REST API
     Some introduction...
     # Wuzzers
     ## GET /wuzzers
     ## POST /wuzzers
  2. Run it through restdown and out pops (a) "api.html", fairly light semantic HTML5 for your API; and (b) "api.json", a JSON representation of your API.

     $ restdown -m STATICDIR api.restdown

    where "STATICDIR" is a path to your static content served dir.

You should now have pretty decent looking REST API docs. Read on for details.


cd /opt             # or whereever you like install apps
git clone
cd restdown
# Optionally checkout a particular release tag. E.g.:
#   LATEST_RELEASE_TAG=`git tag -l | grep '[0-9]\+\.[0-9]\+\.[0-9]\+' | tail -1`
#   git checkout $LATEST_RELEASE_TAG
export PATH=`pwd`/bin:$PATH

Now you should be able to run restdown:

restdown --version
restdown --help


Expected conventions to follow in your restdown document to get nice REST API docs.

  • The first h1 is the API title, and its body is a preface to the API. This first section is exluded from the table of contents (TOC).

  • Subsequent h1's are API section titles. (If your whole API is one logical grouping then you might need that second h1 anyway. Please log an issue if that is the case for you so I can gauge popularity.)

  • h2's are API methods. The text of the h2 should be one of the following forms:

      1. "NAME (VERB PATH)" if you name your api methods other than just
         with the HTTP verb and path. E.g. "ListMachines (GET /:login/machines)".
      2. "VERB PATH", E.g. "DELETE /widgets/:uuid"
      3. "NAME", E.g. "".

    Note that while the more structured names aren't required, they will help get good docs (including: HTML anchors, table of contents entries, JSON API summary content, etc.).

  • h3's are just normal subsection headers within endpoints, if needed for longer documentation for a particular endpoint.

  • h4's are typically for showing example request and response output for an endpoint. A pre-block inside an h4 will get a CSS class.


A "brand" is a directory with all of the styling (CSS, JS, images) for a restdown-created .html file. The default brand is called "ohthejoy". It was originally derived from the styling of, though has diverged quite a bit by now. I (or you?) should add more.

The idea is that you can start with the brand here and tweak it to create your own style. You can use your own brand files (for your own HTML/CSS/image tweaks). Start by copying one of the brands in the restdown/brands directory and then use the "-b|--brand" option to restdown. However, if you are happy with the existing brand, then just keep using that. :)

Document Metadata

A restdown document should start with a metadata block like this:

key: value

At the least, you should provide the "title". Supported metadata keys depend on the brand (the metadata is interpolated into the '' and '' files), but typical keys are:

  • title: The text for the HTML <title>.

  • mediaroot: The base URL from which to load the brand media (images, css). If not provided, the default is "media" (i.e. a relative path).

  • apisections: By default all h1 sections (except the leading preface section) are presumed to define API methods, i.e. all h2's in them are methods. If this isn't the case for you (perhaps you have some expository sections), then you can explicitly list the sections that include API methods. This is a comma-separated list of h1 section titles. E.g.:

      apisections: Accounts, Data Centers, Widgets
  • markdown2extras: A list of "extras" to be used for processing the markdown in the document. Valid values are the Extra supported by python-markdown2 (the Markdown processor used by restdown). Note that the "toc", "header-ids" and "markdown-in-html" extras are always turned on. E.g.:

      markdown2extras: wiki-tables, cuddled-lists
  • logo-color (brands: spartan): A CSS color string (e.g. '#ff5533', 'blue') to be used for the #logo element.

  • logo-font-family (brands: spartan): A CSS font-family list of font faces for the #logo element. This also supports a font from Google Web Fonts with a "google:" prefix. E.g.:

      logo-font-family: google:Aldrich, Verdana, sans-serif
  • header-font-family (brands: spartan): A CSS font-family list of font faces for the h1 - h6 elements. Supports "google:" prefix as above.

Metadata can also be provided on the command-line with the -d|--define option. For example:

restdown --define mediaroot=/ index.restdown

JSON API Summary

A by-product of building the HTML file from the input Restdown is a JSON API summary, that looks something like this:

  "endpoints": [
    "GET    /wuzzers",
    "POST   /wuzzers",
    "DELETE /wuzzers",

This might or might not be useful to you. Really it isn't that useful but can make for a nice endpoints summary for someone curl'ing your API.

If you swing with the expressjs crowd, here is how you can wire this into your project:

// Show JSON API summary by default, but show the API docs if accepts
// HTML (e.g. in a browser).
app.get('/', function(req, res) {
  var accept = req.header("Accept");
  if (accept && ("application/xhtml+xml") != -1
                 ||"text/html") != -1)) {
    res.sendfile(__dirname + "/docs/api.html");
  } else {
    res.header("Content-Type", "application/json");
    res.sendfile(__dirname + "/docs/api.json");