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Python utilities for Manubot: Manuscripts, open and automated
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Python utilities for Manubot: Manuscripts, open and automated

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Manubot is a workflow and set of tools for the next generation of scholarly publishing. This repository contains a Python package with several Manubot-related utilities, as described in the usage section below.

The manubot cite command-line interface retrieves and formats bibliographic metadata for user-supplied persistent identifiers like DOIs or PubMed IDs. The manubot process command-line interface prepares scholarly manuscripts for Pandoc consumption. The manubot process command is used by Manubot manuscripts, which are based off the Rootstock template, to automate several aspects of manuscript generation. See Rootstock's manuscript usage guide for more information.

Note: If you want to experience Manubot by editing an existing manuscript, see If you want to create a new manuscript, see

To cite the Manubot project or for more information on its design and history, see:

Open collaborative writing with Manubot
Daniel S. Himmelstein, Vincent Rubinetti, David R. Slochower, Dongbo Hu, Venkat S. Malladi, Casey S. Greene, Anthony Gitter
PLOS Computational Biology (2019-06-24)
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007128 · PMID: 31233491

The Manubot version of this manuscript is available at


If you are using the manubot Python package as part of a manuscript repository, installation of this package is handled though the Rootstock's environment specification. For other use cases, this package can be installed via pip.

Install the latest release version from PyPI:

pip install --upgrade manubot

Or install from the source code on GitHub, using the version specified by a commit hash:

pip install --upgrade git+$COMMIT

The --upgrade argument ensures pip updates an existing manubot installation if present.


Installing the python package creates the manubot command line program. Here is the usage information as per manubot --help:

usage: manubot [-h] [--version] {process,cite} ...

Manubot: the manuscript bot for scholarly writing

optional arguments:
  -h, --help      show this help message and exit
  --version       show program's version number and exit

  All operations are done through subcommands:

    process       process manuscript content
    cite          citation to CSL command line utility

Note that all operations are done through the following sub-commands.


The manubot process program is the primary interface to using Manubot. There are two required arguments: --content-directory and --output-directory, which specify the respective paths to the content and output directories. The content directory stores the manuscript source files. Files generated by Manubot are saved to the output directory.

One common setup is to create a directory for a manuscript that contains both the content and output directory. Under this setup, you can run the Manubot using:

manubot process \
  --content-directory=content \

See manubot process --help for documentation of all command line arguments:

usage: manubot process [-h] --content-directory CONTENT_DIRECTORY
                       --output-directory OUTPUT_DIRECTORY
                       [--template-variables-path TEMPLATE_VARIABLES_PATH]
                       [--cache-directory CACHE_DIRECTORY]
                       [--log-level {DEBUG,INFO,WARNING,ERROR,CRITICAL}]

Process manuscript content to create outputs for Pandoc consumption. Performs
bibliographic processing and templating.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --content-directory CONTENT_DIRECTORY
                        Directory where manuscript content files are located.
  --output-directory OUTPUT_DIRECTORY
                        Directory to output files generated by this script.
  --template-variables-path TEMPLATE_VARIABLES_PATH
                        Path or URL of a JSON file containing template
                        variables for jinja2. Specify this argument multiple
                        times to read multiple files. Variables can be applied
                        to a namespace (i.e. stored under a dictionary key)
                        like `--template-variables-
                        path=namespace=path_or_url`. Namespaces must match the
                        regex `[a-zA-Z_][a-zA-Z0-9_]*`.
  --cache-directory CACHE_DIRECTORY
                        Custom cache directory. If not specified, caches to
                        Set the logging level for stderr logging

Manual references

Manubot has the ability to rely on user-provided reference metadata rather than generating it. manubot process searches the content directory for files containing manually-provided reference metadata that match the glob manual-references*.*. If a manual reference filename ends with .json or .yaml, it's assumed to contain CSL Data (i.e. Citation Style Language JSON). Otherwise, the format is inferred from the extension and converted to CSL JSON using the pandoc-citeproc --bib2json utility. The standard citation for manual references is inferred from the CSL JSON id or note field. When no prefix is provided, such as doi:, url:, or raw:, a raw: prefix is automatically added. If multiple manual reference files load metadata for the same standard citation id, precedence is assigned according to descending filename order.


manubot cite is a command line utility to create CSL JSON items for one or more citations. Citations should be in the format source:identifier. For example, the following example generates CSL JSON for four references:

manubot cite doi:10.1098/rsif.2017.0387 pmid:29424689 pmcid:PMC5640425 arxiv:1806.05726

The following terminal recording demonstrates the main features of manubot cite:

manubot cite demonstration

Additional usage information is available from manubot cite --help:

usage: manubot cite [-h] [--render] [--csl CSL]
                    [--format {plain,markdown,docx,html,jats}]
                    [--output OUTPUT] [--allow-invalid-csl-data]
                    [--log-level {DEBUG,INFO,WARNING,ERROR,CRITICAL}]
                    citations [citations ...]

Retrieve bibliographic metadata for one or more citation identifiers.

positional arguments:
  citations             One or more (space separated) citations to produce CSL

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --render              Whether to render CSL Data into a formatted reference
                        list using Pandoc. Pandoc version 2.0 or higher is
                        required for complete support of available output
  --csl CSL             When --render, specify an XML CSL definition to style
                        references (i.e. Pandoc's --csl option). Defaults to
                        Manubot's style.
  --format {plain,markdown,docx,html,jats}
                        When --render, format to use for output file. If not
                        specified, attempt to infer this from filename
                        extension. Otherwise, default to plain.
  --output OUTPUT       Specify a file to write output, otherwise default to
                        Allow CSL Items that do not conform to the JSON
                        Schema. Skips CSL pruning.
                        Set the logging level for stderr logging


Create a development environment using:

conda create --name manubot-dev --channel conda-forge \
  python=3.6 jinja2 pandas pytest pandoc
conda activate manubot-dev  # assumes conda >= 4.4
pip install --editable .

Inside this environment, use pytest to run the test suite. You can also use the manubot CLI to build manuscripts. For example:

manubot process \
  --content-directory=tests/manuscripts/example/content \
  --output-directory=tests/manuscripts/example/output \

Release instructions


This section is only relevant for project maintainers. Travis CI deployments are used to upload releases to PyPI. To create a new release, bump the __version__ in manubot/ Then run the following commands:

TAG=v`python --version`
# Commit updated __version__ info
git add manubot/ release-notes/$
git commit --message="Prepare $TAG release"
git push
# Create & push tag (assuming upstream is the manubot organization remote)
git tag --annotate $TAG --file=release-notes/$
git push upstream $TAG

Goals & Acknowledgments

Our goal is to create scholarly infrastructure that encourages open science and assists reproducibility. Accordingly, we hope for the Manubot software and philosophy to be adopted widely, by both academic and commercial entities. As such, Manubot is free/libre and open source software (see

We would like to thank the contributors and funders whose support makes this project possible. Specifically, Manubot development has been financially supported by:

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