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Contributing to the Documentation#

This guide is for those comfortable with the development process, looking for the specifics of how to apply that knowledge to Iris. You may instead find it easier to use the Contributing to the Documentation (the easy way).

Any change to the Iris project whether it is a bugfix, new feature or documentation update must use the Development Workflow.


The documentation uses specific packages that need to be present. Please see Installing for instructions.


This documentation was built using the latest Python version that Iris supports. For more information see Installing.

The build can be run from the documentation directory docs/src.

The build output for the html is found in the _build/html sub directory. When updating the documentation ensure the html build has no errors or warnings otherwise it may fail the automated Iris GitHub Actions build.

Once the build is complete, if it is rerun it will only rebuild the impacted build artefacts so should take less time.

There is an option to perform a build but skip the Gallery creation completely. This can be achieved via:

make html-noplot

Another option is to skip the iris documentation creation. This can be useful as it reduces the time to build the documentation, however you may have some build warnings as there maybe references to the API documentation. This can be achieved via:

make html-noapi

You can combine both the above and skip the Gallery and iris documentation completely. This can be achieved via:

make html-quick

If you wish to run a full clean build you can run:

make clean
make html

This is useful for a final test before committing your changes. Having built the documentation, you can view them in your default browser via:

make show


In order to preserve a clean build for the html, all warnings have been promoted to be errors to ensure they are addressed. This only applies when make html is run.


There are various ways to test aspects of the documentation.

Each Gallery entry has a corresponding test. To run all the gallery tests:

pytest -v docs/gallery_tests/

To run a test for a single gallery example, use the pytest -k option for pattern matching, e.g.:

pytest -v -k plot_coriolis docs/gallery_tests/

If a gallery test fails, follow the instructions in Adding or Updating Graphics Tests.

The make commands shown below can be run in the docs or docs/src directory.

Many documentation pages includes python code itself that can be run to ensure it is still valid or to demonstrate examples. To ensure these tests pass run:

make doctest

See for an example of using the doctest approach.

The hyperlinks in the documentation can be checked automatically. If there is a link that is known to work it can be excluded from the checks by adding it to the linkcheck_ignore array that is defined in the The hyperlink check can be run via:

make linkcheck

If this fails check the output for the text broken and then correct or ignore the url.


In addition to the automated Iris GitHub Actions build of all the documentation build options above, the service is also used. The configuration of this held in a file in the root of the github Iris project named .readthedocs.yml.

Generating API Documentation#

In order to auto generate the API documentation based upon the docstrings a custom set of python scripts are used, these are located in the directory docs/src/sphinxext. Once the make html command has been run, the output of these scripts can be found in docs/src/generated/api.

If there is a particularly troublesome module that breaks the make html you can exclude the module from the API documentation. Add the entry to the exclude_modules tuple list in the docs/src/sphinxext/ file.