Common tools and content for MongoDB documentation projects.
Python JavaScript HTML CSS Makefile


docs-tools -- Buildsystem Components for MongoDB Documentation Projects

docs-tools holds all common build system components for MongoDB documenting projects (e.g. the MongoDB Manual, MongoDB Ecosystem Documentation, etc.) These tools include: Sphinx extensions, the meta-build system, themes, deployment and orchestration scripts, and scripts that generate common restructured text elements.

The goal of docs-tools is to totally remove all programs from the documentation source trees to facilitate maintenance of these components in the context of a multi-branch and multi-repository documentation project.

This document explains the componets and operations of the build system, and serves as a guide for anyone who wants to maintain a MongoDB Documentation-like project.


fabfile (orchestration and scripts)

fabric is a deployment orchestration system that provides simple and convenient Python interfaces for shell scripting and task running. docs-tools uses fabric tasks for two purposes:

  1. to deploy build products to testing and production environments.
  2. to bundle groups of related operations in a consistent and simple interface.

Historically, these operations were a mixture of multi-step makefile targets, shell scripts, and Python programs. Combining all of these operations into a single interface increases portability, consistency, and overall reliability of the build systems.

makecloth (meta-build system)

Makecloth is a meta-build tool that generates build specifications (e.g. Makefiles and files.) Makecloth makes it possible to take advantage of the dependency resolution and concurrency features of a robust and stable buildsystem while mostly writing Python rather than a build tool specific specification.

In the docs-tools implementation, Makecloth scripts generate buildscripts based on project-specific data supplied with the source data, so that many projects can use common logic. See the build data for the MongoDB Manual for an example.

rstcloth (rst generation)

rstcloth use the model of makecloth but generates reStructuredText: In some situations, it makes sense to generate rst programatically rather than maintains that content manually.

For example:

  • to make tables, it often makes more sense to generate the table based on more generic data than to build the table directly in restructured text, given the flexibility of the table syntax.
  • to keep multiple related pieces of content in sync, it often makes sense to generate when two pieces of content derive from the same source but need different reStructuredText forms.
  • to enforce common formatting requirements centrally for forms that appear throughout the documentation.

This approach allows minimally invasive generation of output for multiple formats and reduces the amount of custom template logic.

sphinxext (Sphinx)

This directory contains conventional Sphinx extensions, required for producing and referencing MongoDB documentation projects. This includes the extensions for the MongoDB Domain to cross reference MongoDB objects (database commands, shell methods, database output, etc.) as well as custom admonition and directive types.

themes (Sphinx)

These are standard Sphinx themes customized for MongoDB documentation projects, centralized here for ease of use across projects.

dtf (testing)

dtf is a consistency testing framework for documentation projects to provide ways of enforcing conventions in documentation. The content of these scripts just include the test logic, and not the testing running architecture, or data used to define testable situations.

bin (utilities)

The scripts in the bin directory include common components and logic shared between bootstrapping operations, fabric scripts, and meta-build scripts.

Bootstrapping is an example bootstrapping script that intializes a docs-tools based repository.

Integration and Getting Started

See the mongodb manual repository for an example of an integrated repository using docs-tools. In particular, note the build_conf.yaml <> file: this is the only strict requirement for docs-tools.

Copy the script in the top level of your repository and create a file in the bin/ directory of your repository. You can now run the following command to bootstrap your build system:


To begin using the meta-build system, specify a generated makefile in the build.system.files list in the file. This will correspond to one of the scripts in the makecloth/ directory of docs-tools. Then in your makefile, include the following bootstrapping content:

output = build
tools = $(output)/docs-tools

-include $(output)/makefile.meta

     @mkdir -p $(output)
     @python $< $@

Modify the tools variable if you downloaded docs-tools to an alternate location. You may also include the following bootstrapping helper target:

bootstrap fabfile build/docs-tools:
     @echo "[bootstrap]: configured build environment."

Some of the makecloth files require a corresponding yaml file in the directory specified in the build.paths.builddata field of docs_meta.yaml.

To generate the run make without any arguments.

Extension and Development

There are several ways to add functionality to the build system:

  • add additional tasks to the fabfile modules according to standard fabric development practices.
  • add additional rstcloth generated files. These scripts typically take inputs via arguments on the command line or a file passed in on the command line. For integration, add corresponding makecloth scripts to generate build instructions.
  • add additional makecloth files for additional processing and build products. Add generated makecloth files to the build.system.files in docs_meta.yaml to generate a new makefile.


  • improve documentation of each makecloth's purpose and use.
  • expand documentation of makecloth data forms and schema.
  • improve symlink handling throughout makecloth (for windows compatibility.)
  • stabilize makecloth and rstcloth and move them out of the tree.
  • build helpers for working with development virtualenvs.
  • make build system fully Python 3 compatible.