Contributing to the Ansible Documentation

Ansible has a lot of documentation and a small team of writers. Community support helps us keep up with new features, fixes, and changes.

Improving the documentation is an easy way to make your first contribution to the Ansible project. You don’t have to be a programmer, since our documentation is written in YAML (module documentation) or reStructuredText (rST). If you’re using Ansible, you already use YAML in your playbooks. And rST is mostly just text. You don’t even need git experience, if you use the Edit on GitHub option.

If you find a typo, a broken example, a missing topic, or any other error or omission on this documentation website, let us know. Here are some ways to support Ansible documentation:

Editing docs directly on GitHub

For typos and other quick fixes, you can edit the documentation right from the site. Look at the top right corner of this page. That Edit on GitHub link is available on every page in the documentation. If you have a GitHub account, you can submit a quick and easy pull request this way.

To submit a documentation PR from with Edit on GitHub:

  1. Click on Edit on GitHub.

  2. If you don’t already have a fork of the ansible repo on your GitHub account, you’ll be prompted to create one.

  3. Fix the typo, update the example, or make whatever other change you have in mind.

  4. Enter a commit message in the first rectangle under the heading Propose file change at the bottom of the GitHub page. The more specific, the better. For example, “fixes typo in my_module description”. You can put more detail in the second rectangle if you like. Leave the +label: docsite_pr there.

  5. Submit the suggested change by clicking on the green “Propose file change” button. GitHub will handle branching and committing for you, and open a page with the heading “Comparing Changes”.

  6. Click on Create pull request to open the PR template.

  7. Fill out the PR template, including as much detail as appropriate for your change. You can change the title of your PR if you like (by default it’s the same as your commit message). In the Issue Type section, delete all lines except the Docs Pull Request line.

  8. Submit your change by clicking on Create pull request button.

  9. Be patient while Ansibot, our automated script, adds labels, pings the docs maintainers, and kicks off a CI testing run.

  10. Keep an eye on your PR - the docs team may ask you for changes.

Reviewing open PRs and issues

You can also contribute by reviewing open documentation issues and PRs. To add a helpful review, please:

  • Include a comment - “looks good to me” only helps if we know why.

  • For issues, reproduce the problem.

  • For PRs, test the change.

Opening a new issue and/or PR

If the problem you’ve noticed is too complex to fix with the Edit on GitHub option, and no open issue or PR already documents the problem, please open an issue and/or a PR on the ansible/ansible repo.

A great documentation GitHub issue or PR includes:

  • a specific title

  • a detailed description of the problem (even for a PR - it’s hard to evaluate a suggested change unless we know what problem it’s meant to solve)

  • links to other information (related issues/PRs, external documentation, pages on, and so on.)

Before you open a complex documentation PR

If you make multiple changes to the documentation, or add more than a line to it, before you open a pull request, please:

  1. Check that your text follows our Ansible style guide.

  2. Test your changes for rST errors.

  3. Build the page, and preferably the entire documentation site, locally.

To work with documentation on your local machine, you need to have python-3.5 or greater and the following packages installed:

  • gcc

  • jinja2

  • libyaml

  • Pygments >= 2.4.0

  • pyparsing

  • PyYAML

  • rstcheck

  • six

  • sphinx

  • sphinx-notfound-page

  • straight.plugin


On macOS with Xcode, you may need to install six and pyparsing with --ignore-installed to get versions that work wth sphinx.

Testing the documentation locally

To test an individual file for rST errors:

rstcheck changed_file.rst

Building the documentation locally

Building the documentation is the best way to check for errors and review your changes. Once rstcheck runs with no errors, navigate to ansible/docs/docsite and then build the page(s) you want to review.

Building a single rST page

To build a single rST file with the make utility:

make htmlsingle rst=path/to/your_file.rst

For example:

make htmlsingle rst=community/documentation_contributions.rst

This process compiles all the links but provides minimal log output. If you’re writing a new page or want more detailed log output, refer to the instructions on Building rST files with sphinx-build


make htmlsingle adds rst/ to the beginning of the path you provide in rst=, so you can’t type the filename with autocomplete. Here are the error messages you will see if you get this wrong:

  • If you run make htmlsingle from the docs/docsite/rst/ directory: make: *** No rule to make target `htmlsingle'.  Stop.

  • If you run make htmlsingle from the docs/docsite/ directory with the full path to your rST document: sphinx-build: error: cannot find files ['rst/rst/community/documentation_contributions.rst'].

Building all the rST pages

To build all the rST files without any module documentation:

MODULES=none make webdocs

Building module docs and rST pages

To build documentation for a few modules plus all the rST files, use a comma-separated list:

MODULES=one_module,another_module make webdocs

To build all the module documentation plus all the rST files:

make webdocs

Building rST files with sphinx-build

Advanced users can build one or more rST files with the sphinx utility directly. sphinx-build returns misleading undefined label warnings if you only build a single page, because it does not create internal links. However, sphinx-build returns more extensive syntax feedback, including warnings about indentation errors and x-string without end-string warnings. This can be useful, especially if you’re creating a new page from scratch. To build a page or pages with sphinx-build:

sphinx-build [options] sourcedir outdir [filenames...]

You can specify filenames, or –a for all files, or omit both to compile only new/changed files.

For example:

sphinx-build -b html -c rst/ rst/dev_guide/ _build/html/dev_guide/ rst/dev_guide/developing_modules_documenting.rst

Running the final tests

When you submit a documentation pull request, automated tests are run. Those same tests can be run locally. To do so, navigate to the repository’s top directory and run:

make clean &&
bin/ansible-test sanity --test docs-build &&
bin/ansible-test sanity --test rstcheck

Unfortunately, leftover rST-files from previous document-generating can occasionally confuse these tests. It is therefore safest to run them on a clean copy of the repository, which is the purpose of make clean. If you type these three lines one at a time and manually check the success of each, you do not need the &&.

Joining the documentation working group

The Documentation Working Group is just getting started, please visit the community repo for more information.

The Documentation Working Group (DaWGs) meets weekly on Tuesdays on the #ansible-docs channel on the IRC network. For more information, including links to our agenda and a calendar invite, please visit the working group page in the community repo.