Module format and documentation

If you want to contribute your module to Ansible, you must write your module in Python and follow the standard format described below. (Unless you’re writing a Windows module, in which case the Windows guidelines apply.) In addition to following this format, you should review our submission checklist, programming tips, and strategy for maintaining Python 2 and Python 3 compatibility, as well as information about testing before you open a pull request.

Every Ansible module written in Python must begin with seven standard sections in a particular order, followed by the code. The sections in order are:

Note

Why don’t the imports go first?

Keen Python programmers may notice that contrary to PEP 8’s advice we don’t put imports at the top of the file. This is because the ANSIBLE_METADATA through RETURN sections are not used by the module code itself; they are essentially extra docstrings for the file. The imports are placed after these special variables for the same reason as PEP 8 puts the imports after the introductory comments and docstrings. This keeps the active parts of the code together and the pieces which are purely informational apart. The decision to exclude E402 is based on readability (which is what PEP 8 is about). Documentation strings in a module are much more similar to module level docstrings, than code, and are never utilized by the module itself. Placing the imports below this documentation and closer to the code, consolidates and groups all related code in a congruent manner to improve readability, debugging and understanding.

Warning

Copy old modules with care!

Some older modules in Ansible Core have imports at the bottom of the file, Copyright notices with the full GPL prefix, and/or ANSIBLE_METADATA fields in the wrong order. These are legacy files that need updating - do not copy them into new modules. Over time we’re updating and correcting older modules. Please follow the guidelines on this page!

Python shebang & UTF-8 coding

Every Ansible module must begin with #!/usr/bin/python - this “shebang” allows ansible_python_interpreter to work. This is immediately followed by # -*- coding: utf-8 -*- to clarify that the file is UTF-8 encoded.

ANSIBLE_METADATA block

After the shebang, the UTF-8 coding, the copyright, and the license, your module file should contain an ANSIBLE_METADATA section. This section provides information about the module for use by other tools. For new modules, the following block can be simply added into your module:

ANSIBLE_METADATA = {'metadata_version': '1.1',
                    'status': ['preview'],
                    'supported_by': 'community'}

Warning

  • metadata_version is the version of the ANSIBLE_METADATA schema, not the version of the module.
  • Promoting a module’s status or supported_by status should only be done by members of the Ansible Core Team.

Ansible metadata fields

metadata_version:
 

An “X.Y” formatted string. X and Y are integers which define the metadata format version. Modules shipped with Ansible are tied to an Ansible release, so we will only ship with a single version of the metadata. We’ll increment Y if we add fields or legal values to an existing field. We’ll increment X if we remove fields or values or change the type or meaning of a field. Current metadata_version is “1.1”

supported_by:

Who supports the module. Default value is community. For information on what the support level values entail, please see Modules Support. Values are:

  • core
  • network
  • certified
  • community
  • curated (deprecated value - modules in this category should be core or certified instead)
status:

List of strings describing how stable the module is likely to be. See also The lifecycle of an Ansible module. The default value is a single element list [“preview”]. The following strings are valid statuses and have the following meanings:

stableinterface:
 The module’s options (the parameters or arguments it accepts) are stable. Every effort will be made not to remove options or change their meaning. Not a rating of the module’s code quality.
preview:The module is in tech preview. It may be unstable, the options may change, or it may require libraries or web services that are themselves subject to incompatible changes.
deprecated:The module is deprecated and will be removed in a future release.
removed:The module is not present in the release. A stub is kept so that documentation can be built. The documentation helps users port from the removed module to new modules.

DOCUMENTATION block

After the shebang, the UTF-8 coding, the copyright line, the license, and the ANSIBLE_METADATA section comes the DOCUMENTATION block. Ansible’s online module documentation is generated from the DOCUMENTATION blocks in each module’s source code. The DOCUMENTATION block must be valid YAML. You may find it easier to start writing your DOCUMENTATION string in an editor with YAML syntax highlighting before you include it in your Python file. You can start by copying our example documentation string into your module file and modifying it. If you run into syntax issues in your YAML, you can validate it on the YAML Lint website.

Module documentation should briefly and accurately define what each module and option does, and how it works with others in the underlying system. Documentation should be written for broad audience–readable both by experts and non-experts.
  • Descriptions should always start with a capital letter and end with a full stop. Consistency always helps.
  • Verify that arguments in doc and module spec dict are identical.
  • For password / secret arguments no_log=True should be set.
  • If an option is only sometimes required, describe the conditions. For example, “Required when I(state=present).”
  • If your module allows check_mode, reflect this fact in the documentation.

Each documentation field is described below. Before committing your module documentation, please test it at the command line and as HTML:

  • As long as your module file is available locally, you can use ansible-doc -t module my_module_name to view your module documentation at the command line. Any parsing errors will be obvious - you can view details by adding -vvv to the command.
  • You should also test the HTML output of your module documentation.

Documentation fields

All fields in the DOCUMENTATION block are lower-case. All fields are required unless specified otherwise:

module:
  • The name of the module.
  • Must be the same as the filename, without the .py extension.
short_description:
 
  • A short description which is displayed on the All modules page and ansible-doc -l.
  • The short_description is displayed by ansible-doc -l without any category grouping, so it needs enough detail to explain the module’s purpose without the context of the directory structure in which it lives.
  • Unlike description:, short_description should not have a trailing period/full stop.
description:
  • A detailed description (generally two or more sentences).
  • Must be written in full sentences, i.e. with capital letters and periods/full stops.
  • Shouldn’t mention the module name.
  • Make use of multiple entries rather than using one long paragraph.
  • Don’t quote complete values unless it is required by YAML.
version_added:
  • The version of Ansible when the module was added.
  • This is a string, and not a float, i.e. version_added: '2.1'
author:
  • Name of the module author in the form First Last (@GitHubID).
  • Use a multi-line list if there is more than one author.
  • Don’t use quotes as it should not be required by YAML.
deprecated:
options:
  • Options are often called parameters or arguments. Because the documentation field is called options, we will use that term.
  • If the module has no options (for example, it’s a _facts module), all you need is one line: options: {}.
  • If your module has options (in other words, accepts arguments), each option should be documented thoroughly. For each module option, include:
option-name:
  • Declarative operation (not CRUD), to focus on the final state, for example online:, rather than is_online:.
  • The name of the option should be consistent with the rest of the module, as well as other modules in the same category.
  • When in doubt, look for other modules to find option names that are used for the same purpose, we like to offer consistency to our users.
description:
  • Detailed explanation of what this option does. It should be written in full sentences.
  • The first entry is a description of the option itself; subsequent entries detail its use, dependencies, or format of possible values.
  • Should not list the possible values (that’s what choices: is for, though it should explain what the values do if they aren’t obvious).
  • If an option is only sometimes required, describe the conditions. For example, “Required when I(state=present).”
  • Mutually exclusive options must be documented as the final sentence on each of the options.
required:
  • Only needed if true.
  • If missing, we assume the option is not required.
default:
  • If required is false/missing, default may be specified (assumed ‘null’ if missing).
  • Ensure that the default value in the docs matches the default value in the code.
  • The default field must not be listed as part of the description, unless it requires additional information or conditions.
  • If the option is a boolean value, you can use any of the boolean values recognized by Ansible: (such as true/false or yes/no). Choose the one that reads better in the context of the option.
choices:
  • List of option values.
  • Should be absent if empty.
type:
  • Specifies the data type that option accepts, must match the argspec.
  • If an argument is type='bool', this field should be set to type: bool and no choices should be specified.
  • If an argument is type='list', elements should be specified.
elements:
  • Specifies the data type for list elements in case type='list'.
aliases:
  • List of optional name aliases.
  • Generally not needed.
version_added:
  • Only needed if this option was extended after initial Ansible release, i.e. this is greater than the top level version_added field.
  • This is a string, and not a float, i.e. version_added: '2.3'.
suboptions:
requirements:
  • List of requirements (if applicable).
  • Include minimum versions.
seealso:
  • A list of references to other modules, documentation or Internet resources

  • A reference can be one of the following formats:

    seealso:
    
    # Reference by module name
    - module: aci_tenant
    
    # Reference by module name, including description
    - module: aci_tenant
      description: ACI module to create tenants on a Cisco ACI fabric.
    
    # Reference by rST documentation anchor
    - ref: aci_guide
      description: Detailed information on how to manage your ACI infrastructure using Ansible.
    
    # Reference by Internet resource
    - name: APIC Management Information Model reference
      description: Complete reference of the APIC object model.
      link: https://developer.cisco.com/docs/apic-mim-ref/
    
notes:
  • Details of any important information that doesn’t fit in one of the above sections.
  • For example, whether check_mode is or is not supported.

Linking within module documentation

You can link from your module documentation to other module docs, other resources on docs.ansible.com, and resources elsewhere on the internet. The correct formats for these links are:

  • L() for Links with a heading. For example: See L(IOS Platform Options guide,../network/user_guide/platform_ios.html).
  • U() for URLs. For example: See U(https://www.ansible.com/products/tower) for an overview.
  • I() for option names. For example: Required if I(state=present).
  • C() for files and option values. For example: If not set the environment variable C(ACME_PASSWORD) will be used.
  • M() for module names. For example: See also M(win_copy) or M(win_template).

Note

For modules in a collection, you can only use L() and M() for content within that collection. Use U() to refer to content in a different collection.

Note

  • To refer a group of modules, use C(..), e.g. Refer to the C(win_*) modules.
  • Because it stands out better, using seealso is preferred for general references over the use of notes or adding links to the description.

Documentation fragments

If you’re writing multiple related modules, they may share common documentation, such as authentication details, file mode settings, notes: or seealso: entries. Rather than duplicate that information in each module’s DOCUMENTATION block, you can save it once as a doc_fragment plugin and use it in each module’s documentation. In Ansible, shared documentation fragments are contained in a ModuleDocFragment class in lib/ansible/plugins/doc_fragments/. To include a documentation fragment, add extends_documentation_fragment: FRAGMENT_NAME in your module’s documentation.

Modules should only use items from a doc fragment if the module will implement all of the interface documented there in a manner that behaves the same as the existing modules which import that fragment. The goal is that items imported from the doc fragment will behave identically when used in another module that imports the doc fragment.

By default, only the DOCUMENTATION property from a doc fragment is inserted into the module documentation. It is possible to define additional properties in the doc fragment in order to import only certain parts of a doc fragment or mix and match as appropriate. If a property is defined in both the doc fragment and the module, the module value overrides the doc fragment.

Here is an example doc fragment named example_fragment.py:

class ModuleDocFragment(object):
    # Standard documentation
    DOCUMENTATION = r'''
    options:
      # options here
    '''

    # Additional section
    OTHER = r'''
    options:
      # other options here
    '''

To insert the contents of OTHER in a module:

extends_documentation_fragment: example_fragment.other

Or use both :

extends_documentation_fragment:
  - example_fragment
  - example_fragment.other

New in version 2.8.

Since Ansible 2.8, you can have user-supplied doc_fragments by using a doc_fragments directory adjacent to play or role, just like any other plugin.

For example, all AWS modules should include:

extends_documentation_fragment:
- aws
- ec2

EXAMPLES block

After the shebang, the UTF-8 coding, the copyright line, the license, the ANSIBLE_METADATA section, and the DOCUMENTATION block comes the EXAMPLES block. Here you show users how your module works with real-world examples in multi-line plain-text YAML format. The best examples are ready for the user to copy and paste into a playbook. Review and update your examples with every change to your module.

Per playbook best practices, each example should include a name: line:

EXAMPLES = r'''
- name: Ensure foo is installed
  modulename:
    name: foo
    state: present
'''

The name: line should be capitalized and not include a trailing dot.

If your examples use boolean options, use yes/no values. Since the documentation generates boolean values as yes/no, having the examples use these values as well makes the module documentation more consistent.

If your module returns facts that are often needed, an example of how to use them can be helpful.

RETURN block

After the shebang, the UTF-8 coding, the copyright line, the license, the ANSIBLE_METADATA section, DOCUMENTATION and EXAMPLES blocks comes the RETURN block. This section documents the information the module returns for use by other modules.

If your module doesn’t return anything (apart from the standard returns), this section of your module should read: RETURN = r''' # ''' Otherwise, for each value returned, provide the following fields. All fields are required unless specified otherwise.

return name:

Name of the returned field.

description:Detailed description of what this value represents. Capitalized and with trailing dot.
returned:When this value is returned, such as always, or on success.
type:Data type.
elements:If type='list', specifies the data type of the list’s elements.
sample:One or more examples.
version_added:Only needed if this return was extended after initial Ansible release, i.e. this is greater than the top level version_added field. This is a string, and not a float, i.e. version_added: '2.3'.
contains:Optional. To describe nested return values, set type: complex, type: dict, or type: list/elements: dict and repeat the elements above for each sub-field.

Here are two example RETURN sections, one with three simple fields and one with a complex nested field:

RETURN = r'''
dest:
    description: Destination file/path.
    returned: success
    type: str
    sample: /path/to/file.txt
src:
    description: Source file used for the copy on the target machine.
    returned: changed
    type: str
    sample: /home/httpd/.ansible/tmp/ansible-tmp-1423796390.97-147729857856000/source
md5sum:
    description: MD5 checksum of the file after running copy.
    returned: when supported
    type: str
    sample: 2a5aeecc61dc98c4d780b14b330e3282
'''

RETURN = r'''
packages:
    description: Information about package requirements
    returned: On success
    type: complex
    contains:
        missing:
            description: Packages that are missing from the system
            returned: success
            type: list
            sample:
                - libmysqlclient-dev
                - libxml2-dev
        badversion:
            description: Packages that are installed but at bad versions.
            returned: success
            type: list
            sample:
                - package: libxml2-dev
                  version: 2.9.4+dfsg1-2
                  constraint: ">= 3.0"
'''

Python imports

After the shebang, the UTF-8 coding, the copyright line, the license, and the sections for ANSIBLE_METADATA, DOCUMENTATION, EXAMPLES, and RETURN, you can finally add the python imports. All modules must use Python imports in the form:

from module_utils.basic import AnsibleModule

The use of “wildcard” imports such as from module_utils.basic import * is no longer allowed.