How this documentation works and how you can contribute

This documentation is generated using sphinx which translates RST (reStructured Text) markup to html and latex. Sphinx and RST are extremely widely used in the python community. The nice thing about RST markup that it looks nice by itself in the terminal. RST and Sphinx are very simple and intuitive and for first steps consult the reStructuredText Primer and the Sphinx Markup Constructs. Typically RST markups is auto-colored in the terminal so you can see when the markup is correct or wrong.

Sphinx installation

We recommend to install the required packages using either virtualenv or Conda but not using standard packages. Possibly the only packages that you may need to install system-wide are python-pip and python-virtualenv).

Now you can set up a virtual environment (the last argument is its name/location and you can change it):

$ python -m venv venv

On some systems, instead of the above, you need:

$ python3 -m venv venv

This will create a folder called venv in your current working directory. You can create it in another place and you can give it a different name. It is a good practice to have separate environments for separate projects. Once you have set it up, you need to activate it:

$ source venv/bin/activate

Once activated, you can install Python packages into the virtual environment:

$ python -m pip install "sphinx<7.0.0" sphinx_rtd_theme sphinxcontrib-bibtex

Again, on some systems you need python3 -m pip ... instead.

The restriction on the sphinx version is a workaround for

Next time you log on, you do not need to install it again, you just activate (source) it like above, you do not need to install the dependencies again.

The advantage of using virtualenv is that it is cross-platform, you get the latest packages, you get an isolated and disposable environment, and you do not require sudo permissions.

Generation of html pages

The central documentation web pages are generated automatically from the RST files every hour. But you can also generate the web pages by yourself. For this install the sphinx-packages first (see above), then:

$ mkdir build
$ cd build
$ cmake ..
$ make -k html > build_html.log 2> build_html.log

Now point your browser to build/html/index.html. We recommend the developer to check the build_html.log file for possible errors in generating the documentation.

How to add new sections and text

Modify existing RST files or add new ones and reference them in index.rst.

New theme

The sphinx_rtd_theme has been customized and integrated as the new theme for Dirac. Theme extension can be installed using pip:

pip install sphinx_rtd_theme

Here is example configuration with the fallback to the old theme:

    import sphinx_rtd_theme
    html_theme = 'sphinx_rtd_theme'

    # set paths for loading local and also theme static resources
    html_theme_path = ['_themes', sphinx_rtd_theme.get_html_theme_path()]
    html_static_path = ['_static']

    # styles can be customized in this file
    html_context = {
        'css_files': ['_static/theme-custom.css'],
except ImportError:
    # fallback to old theme
    html_theme = 'dirac'
    html_theme_path = ['_themes']

If you want to customize the HTML templates, just copy the original ones from the theme and place them inside the _templates folder inside the project. Sphinx will automatically prefer the ones in the _templates folder over the global ones from the theme itself.

# layouts can be customized in these paths

To override/customize the CSS styles, there is a css file placed under the _static folder called theme-custom.css.

New format of citations

Citations have been updated to use the BibTeX format. This format is more maintainable and standardized. Support for this format is provided by the sphinxcontrib-bibtex extension and it can be installed using pip:

pip install sphinxcontrib-bibtex

Citations can be added using the new cite directive:

# old format

# new format

The new format also enables the option to download the citations in BibTeX. This code will generate a link to static BibTeX file with all citations:

:download:`BibTeX <zreferences.bib>`

The list of references can be added to the document using the bibliography directive:

.. bibliography:: references.bib
  :enumtype: upperroman
  :style: diracstyle


Ensure that the bibliography directive is processed after all cites. The simplest way is to name the references page so that it starts with the “z” letter in order to be alphabeticaly last. The issue is being tracked here.

When defining you own styles, please consider studying these examples, as the documentation of this project is really poor. In order for citations to be sorted alphabetically, the plain or alpha formatting must be used.

Available labels:

  • alpha - Display data from citation fields.

  • numbers - Displays numbers.

Available formatting:

  • alpha - Uses alpha label, citations are sorted by author_year_title.

  • plain - Uses number label, citations are sorted by author_year_title.

  • unsrt - Uses number label, citations are sorted by order of appearance in documentation.

  • unsrtalpha - Uses alpha label, citations are sorted by order of appearance in documentation.

To customize citations style you can edit it in, for example here we are using the citation key as the label:

from pybtex.plugin import register_plugin
from import Style
from import LabelStyle

class DiracLabelStyle(LabelStyle):
    def format_label(self, entry):
        return entry.key

class DiracStyle(Style):
    default_label_style = 'dirac'

register_plugin('', 'dirac', DiracLabelStyle)
register_plugin('', 'diracstyle', DiracStyle)

Download mathjax formulas in LaTeX format:

The mathjax extension has been extended and renamed to mathjaxplus. The new mathjaxplus extension provides a way to download formulas in LaTeX format. There are also configuration parameters exposed to customize the generation process:

# disable or enable
mathjax_generate_latex = True

# style of save as link
mathjax_latex_style = 'font-size:14px;text-align:right;'

# title of the save as link
mathjax_latex_title = 'Save as Latex'

Gitlog - display the GIT commit history for pages

A new extension called gitlog has been developed and integrated to the documentation. The motivation for this extension was to display information about the last git commit for each document in the documentation. There are some parameters exposed to configure the process:

# path to the git repository
gitlog_source_path = '../doc/'

# date format used to format git commit date in templates
gitlog_date_format = '%d %b %Y, %H:%M:%S'

The extension adds following data available to the context of given document:

git_author_name  # name of the commit author
git_author_email # email address of the commit author
git_commit_sha   # sha1 hash of the commit
git_commit_date  # date of the commit

This code shows a simple usage in Jinja2 template:

{% if git_author_name %}
    Committer name: {{ git_author_name }}
    Committer email: {{ git_author_email }}
    Commit date: {{ git_commit_date }}
    Commit sha1 hash: {{ git_commit_sha }}
{%- endif %}

Continuous integration and deployments

The current trend is to test your code on each push to the versioning system. We use this to ensure the stability of the codebase and get valuable early feedback on our changes. There are some free CI services available which suits our needs.

Currently supported free CI services:

Most of the CI services also offer ability to deploy built code. We use this feature to deploy the documentation after successful builds. To deploy the code we use simple python script which wraps rsync command and adds some additional metadata to each deployed HTML. After build, most of the services leaves the build environment untouched and so we can just deploy the built HTML files. Some services do not, and we need to bootstrap the environment with system and python dependencies. To include build logs we need to rebuild documentation and capture the standard and error outputs.

Example documentation build and deploy:

make html > $SPHINX_LOG 2> $SPHINX_LOG
make slides > $SLIDES_LOG 2> $SLIDES_LOG
make doxygen > $DOXYGEN_LOG 2> $DOXYGEN_LOG
cd ..
python maintenance/ --root=/path/to/documentation/root --user=user123 --port=22 --post_script=/path/to/ ci_name $BUILD_DIR

When deploying logs it is expected that logs are named according to this mapping:

mapping = {
    'sphinx': 'sphinx-log.txt',
    'slides': 'slides-log.txt',
    'doxygen': 'doxygen-log.txt',

Deploy script is located at maintenance/ and code is documented so feel free to study it when implementing new deployer. For example this is implementation of Semaphore deployer:

class Semaphore(Deployment):
    name = 'semaphoreci'

    def get_root_path(self):
        return os.environ['SEMAPHORE_PROJECT_DIR']

    def get_branch(self):
        return os.environ['BRANCH_NAME']

    def get_revision(self):
        return os.environ['REVISION']

As you can see we use environment variables to get information about the build. Each CI service provides its own set of environment variables so please refer to the respective CI documentation for more info. When implementing a new deployer you have to inherit from Deployment and implement some methods to provide CI specific data about build:

def get_root_path(self):
    Returns path to the root directory - git repository root.
    raise NotImplementedError

def get_revision(self):
    Returns the current git revision.
    raise NotImplementedError

def get_branch(self):
    Returns the current git branch.
    raise NotImplementedError

After implementing the custom deployer class, you have to add it to CI mapping in order to be able to use it. You can do so in the main function of the deployment script:

ci_mapping = {
    'semaphoreci': Semaphore,
    'codeship': Codeship,
    'magnumci': Magnum,

To deliver the built HTML to the remote server we use rsync over SSH protocol. You can configure the script behaviour using keyword command line arguments:


Remote root path, documentation will be synced to this path.


Remote user.


Remote hostname.


Remote SSH port.


Path to optional Python script on remote host.

After keyword arguments you have to provide two positional arguments.

  • ci - CI name, as named in ci_mapping.

  • build_dir - The name of the build directory, for example build, same as positional argument passed to the setup script.

Every operation on the remote server will be executed under the given user. If the post_script option is passed it will be executed after the rsync operation finishes. Example post deploy script can be found in maintenance/ It used to generate nice overview of last documentation builds on the main documentation site.