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sphinx-build - Sphinx documentation generator tool


sphinx-build [options] <sourcedir> <outputdir> [filenames …]


sphinx-build generates documentation from the files in <sourcedir> and places it in the <outputdir>.

sphinx-build looks for <sourcedir>/ for the configuration settings. sphinx-quickstart(1) may be used to generate template files, including

sphinx-build can create documentation in different formats. A format is selected by specifying the builder name on the command line; it defaults to HTML. Builders can also perform other tasks related to documentation processing.

By default, everything that is outdated is built. Output only for selected files can be built by specifying individual filenames.

For a list of available options, refer to sphinx-build -b.


-b buildername
The most important option: it selects a builder. The most common builders are:
Build HTML pages. This is the default builder.
Build HTML pages, but with a single directory per document. Makes for prettier URLs (no .html) if served from a webserver.
Build a single HTML with the whole content.
htmlhelp, qthelp, devhelp, epub
Build HTML files with additional information for building a documentation collection in one of these formats.
Build an Apple Help Book. Requires hiutil and codesign, which are not Open Source and presently only available on Mac OS X 10.6 and higher.
Build LaTeX sources that can be compiled to a PDF document using pdflatex.
Build manual pages in groff format for UNIX systems.
Build Texinfo files that can be processed into Info files using makeinfo.
Build plain text files.
Build gettext-style message catalogs (.pot files).
Run all doctests in the documentation, if the doctest extension is enabled.
Check the integrity of all external links.
Build Docutils-native XML files.
Build compact pretty-printed “pseudo-XML” files displaying the internal structure of the intermediate document trees.

See builders for a list of all builders shipped with Sphinx. Extensions can add their own builders.

-M buildername
Alternative to -b. Uses the Sphinx make_mode module, which provides the same build functionality as a default Makefile or Make.bat. In addition to all Sphinx builders, the following build pipelines are available:
Build LaTeX files and run them through pdflatex, or as per latex_engine setting. If language is set to 'ja', will use automatically the platex/dvipdfmx latex to PDF pipeline.
Build Texinfo files and run them through makeinfo.


Sphinx only recognizes the -M option if it is placed first.

New in version 1.2.1.

If given, always write all output files. The default is to only write output files for new and changed source files. (This may not apply to all builders.)

Don’t use a saved environment (the structure caching all cross-references), but rebuild it completely. The default is to only read and parse source files that are new or have changed since the last run.

-t tag
Define the tag tag. This is relevant for only directives that only include their content if this tag is set.

New in version 0.6.

-d path
Since Sphinx has to read and parse all source files before it can write an output file, the parsed source files are cached as “doctree pickles”. Normally, these files are put in a directory called .doctrees under the build directory; with this option you can select a different cache directory (the doctrees can be shared between all builders).

-j N
Distribute the build over N processes in parallel, to make building on multiprocessor machines more effective. Note that not all parts and not all builders of Sphinx can be parallelized. If auto argument is given, Sphinx uses the number of CPUs as N.

New in version 1.2: This option should be considered experimental.

Changed in version 1.7: Support auto argument.

-c path
Don’t look for the in the source directory, but use the given configuration directory instead. Note that various other files and paths given by configuration values are expected to be relative to the configuration directory, so they will have to be present at this location too.

New in version 0.3.

Don’t look for a configuration file; only take options via the -D option.

New in version 0.5.

-D setting=value
Override a configuration value set in the file. The value must be a number, string, list or dictionary value.

For lists, you can separate elements with a comma like this: -D html_theme_path=path1,path2.

For dictionary values, supply the setting name and key like this: -D latex_elements.docclass=scrartcl.

For boolean values, use 0 or 1 as the value.

Changed in version 0.6: The value can now be a dictionary value.

Changed in version 1.3: The value can now also be a list value.

-A name=value
Make the name assigned to value in the HTML templates.

New in version 0.5.

Run in nit-picky mode. Currently, this generates warnings for all missing references. See the config value nitpick_ignore for a way to exclude some references as “known missing”.

Do not emit colored output.

Increase verbosity (loglevel). This option can be given up to three times to get more debug logging output. It implies -T.

New in version 1.2.

Do not output anything on standard output, only write warnings and errors to standard error.

Do not output anything on standard output, also suppress warnings. Only errors are written to standard error.

-w file
Write warnings (and errors) to the given file, in addition to standard error.

Turn warnings into errors. This means that the build stops at the first warning and sphinx-build exits with exit status 1.

Display the full traceback when an unhandled exception occurs. Otherwise, only a summary is displayed and the traceback information is saved to a file for further analysis.

New in version 1.2.

(Useful for debugging only.) Run the Python debugger, pdb, if an unhandled exception occurs while building.

-h, --help, --version
Display usage summary or Sphinx version.

New in version 1.2.

You can also give one or more filenames on the command line after the source and build directories. Sphinx will then try to build only these output files (and their dependencies).


The sphinx-build refers following environment variables:
A path to make command. A command name is also allowed. sphinx-build uses it to invoke sub-build process on make-mode.

Makefile Options

The Makefile and make.bat files created by sphinx-quickstart usually run sphinx-build only with the -b and -d options. However, they support the following variables to customize behavior:

This sets the 'papersize' key of latex_elements: i.e. PAPER=a4 sets it to 'a4paper' and PAPER=letter to 'letterpaper'.


Usage of this environment variable got broken at Sphinx 1.5 as a4 or letter ended up as option to LaTeX document in place of the needed a4paper, resp. letterpaper. Fixed at 1.7.7.

The command to use instead of sphinx-build.

The build directory to use instead of the one chosen in sphinx-quickstart.

Additional options for sphinx-build.


If any deprecation warning like RemovedInSphinxXXXWarning are displayed when building a user’s document, some Sphinx extension is using deprecated features. In that case, please report it to author of the extension.

To disable the deprecation warnings, please set PYTHONWARNINGS= environment variable to your environment. For example:

  • PYTHONWARNINGS= make html (Linux/Mac)
  • export PYTHONWARNINGS= and do make html (Linux/Mac)
  • set PYTHONWARNINGS= and do make html (Windows)
  • modify your Makefile/make.bat and set the environment variable




2007-2018, Georg Brandl and the Sphinx team
October 22, 2018 1.7.9