A simple host for static documentation.
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Latest commit 707420d May 26, 2017 @rgalanakis committed on GitHub Merge pull request #13 from allebacco/fix/do-not-overwrite-project-de…

Do not overwrite project description if it is empty in the POST


Welcome to Host the Docs

Host the Docs is a simple way to host static code documentation. Its main use is as a self-hosted server for your organization's private documentation. Better alternatives are available for open source projects, such as Read the Docs or Github Pages.

Host the Docs was created after a long day of banging my head against the wall trying to get Read the Docs set up with private GitHub repositories, and having helped develop a plugin to get it to work with Perforce previously. What the world needed was a way to easily host documentation from several projects, from any source or language or SCM.

Seriously, let other people generate their own docs, I just want to Host the Docs!

Running the server

Host the Docs is built with Flask, so it should be easy enough to set up and run even if you aren't a competent web programmer. You don't even have to run Host the Docs with Apache or nginx or whatever, even though I recommend it since you're primarily serving static files.

$ python runserver.py

That's it! Your server is using the built-in Flask webserver, and files will be stored and served from the static directory. Of course this sort of sucks, so let's configure our server.

Configuring the server

Configuration is supported through environment variables or a a conf.py file (env vars are looked at first, conf.py after that, defaults after that). The name of the environment variable is the same as the attribute in conf.py except with HTD_ prepended.

See the conf_template.py file for a list and explanation of all the configuration values Host the Docs supports. Copy it to conf.py and override the values you want.

Linking to latest

Instead of linking to a concrete path (for example, when referring to your documentation in a readme), you can refer to the 'latest' documentation. For example:


When someone goes to that link, they will be redirected to the "newest" documentation. You can also link to specific pages with "latest", like:


The index page will also have a link to "Latest" for every project.

Working with Host the Docs

Using Host the Docs involves Generating your docs and Uploading your docs. You may also need to know about Deleting your docs.

Generating your docs

You are responsible for your own documentation generation.

For example, you can use Sphinx to generate html documentation (make html), then zip up the build/html folder and send it to a Host the Docs server via POSTing to /hmfd (see next section). The .zip should have an index.html file in the root. For example, mydocs.zip/index.html is well-formed. However, mydocs.zip/html/index.html is not.

Host the Docs just uses docutils to convert README.rst into and index.html file and then puts it into a zip file (see host_my_docs.py for example code).

You can use the Linux zip command to zip a directory after building it through Sphinx (or you can build your own function based on the Python zipfile module.

Uploading your docs

To upload your docs, use the /hmfd URL (easy to remember: "host my fucking docs"). You need to POST a JSON document and include a .zip file. For example, you would use the following to upload your docs using the Python requests library:

zippath = 'mydocs.zip'
        "name": "My Project",
        "version": "0.1.0",
        "description": "This is my project."
    files={"archive": ("archive.zip", open(zippath, 'rb'))})

You can even do the entire zipping and uploading via the command line:

cd /path/to/html
zip -r archive.zip *
curl -X POST \
  -F filedata=@archive.zip \
  -F name="My Project" \
  -F version="0.1.0" \
  -F description="This is my project." \
  • See Generating your docs for info about the zip file.
  • The name must contain only letters, numbers, spaces, underscores, and dashes.
  • The version must contain only letters, numbers, and periods.
  • The 'description' can be any string, and can contain HTML.

After you upload new docs, they should show up on the Host the Docs homepage, either as a new project or a new version. If the files already exist, they will be overwritten.

See host_my_docs.py for more example code.

Deleting your docs

You can DELETE to /hmfd to delete a version or entire project. The url parameters should include the project name and version, and it will be deleted if it exists (noop if it doesn't). For example, the following command will delete version 1.2 of MyProject's docs:

curl -X DELETE ""

If the last version is deleted, the project will still remain (this is by design, is it a good one?). You need to include include a "entire_project" parameter to remove the entire project, including all versions, removing the display of the project entirely (note you do not need to include the version).:

curl -X DELETE ""

Alternatively, you can just ssh or RDP into the host and delete the directories yourself.

Obviously there's no security here. On the other hand, it isn't exposed through any UI, so it's not like some random person is going to stumble across it or accidentally press a button. And you can always regenerate the docs easily if something happened.


I'm sure you have a lot of questions.

Is there a demo available?

Not at this time (there used to be), but as Host the Docs can't just be stuck on Heroku or something, I didn't want to keep it up.

If you want to make a public demo, make it a readonly installation through the config.

Who is Host the Docs for?
The programmer in an enterprise environment, maybe using Windows, maybe without time or machines to spare, maybe who doesn't even do web programming, who has documentation to host and no good way to host it. If you really hate Host the Docs, and find its ideas and implementation offensive, it's probably not for you.
Is Host the Docs secure?
No. Run it behind a firewall and only give access to people you don't mistrust (ie, only people within your organization, not the general public). It does some basic validation of things like project names and versions to keep you from shooting yourself in the foot, but there are all sorts of holes. If you need to make something publicly accessible, use the readonly configuration option. You will be able to manually add documentation through the filesystem, but not through Host the Docs.
Is Host the Docs fast?
It depends what you mean by "fast." It is probably fast enough. You're lucky if you have more than a couple concurrent users reading your docs, so using Flask or gevent to serve static content should not be an issue. And if you need it faster, set it up with a proper webserver.
Is there cross-project search?
No. This just hosts static HTML right now. The search within a project should work, but you cannot search across projects. I'd love to add it, but as I've never done something like this before, it'd probably be more work than I can commit to. If you're interested in adding this feature, please email me!
What programming languages does Host the Docs support?
Any. Host the Docs just hosts the static HTML files generated from the programming language documentation generator of your choice.
This project is stupid, just use x!
I wish it were so. I could not find any hosted or self-hosted solution to host documentation from private servers, such as internal source control repositories or private Github repos. Workarounds were available, but honestly, this is documentation and I didn't have the time for that. My needs were so simple and the existing answers so complex, so Host the Docs was born while my son took a nap in the afternoon, and my wife went out with her friends at night.
Is there a database?
No. In the future a DB can be added if there's a need to cache the project information from disk.
Is Host the Docs' theme customizable?
Not right now. I'd like to get some more users first to know what sort of customization is desirable. The "site" is a single page, so I'm not sure it's worth it. The two options are to configure where Flask serves its static files from (so you would provide a whole new template), or make the current colors configurable, maybe through some inline stylesheets that are templated through config values. Not sure. Open to ideas.
Does Host the Docs support images?
Not right now. I want to avoid complicating things at first. I'd like to add project logos on the home page, and of course a logo/favicon for Host the Docs itself. You can embed an <img> tag in your project description HTML, if you really want.