Technotes for Stand-Alone Technical Documentation

Technotes are a way for Data Management team members to write standalone documents that are native to the web, can be cited in literature, and are easy to write, publish, and update. You can write with either our reStructuredText or LaTeX templates. All technotes are developed on GitHub and published with LSST the Docs.

When to write technotes

Some of the possible applications for technotes are:

  • Report the results of a project, such as a data processing or software development experiment.
  • Announce a new technology, serving as a high-level overview complementing user documentation.
  • Propose an architecture, possibly becoming the subject of a request for comment (RFC).

For further background, see SQR-000: The LSST DM Technical Note Publishing Platform.

Technotes are not always the right platform for your information. Consider these alternatives:

  • Change-controlled documentation (LDM documents, for example). See LPM-19 for guidelines on what kinds of information are change-controlled.
  • User documentation (, for example). Descriptions of how to use software, services, or data should be written as user documentation. Technotes complement user documentation by being point-in-time discussions of software, like a technical blog post.

Technote series

Create a reStructuredText technote

ReStructuredText-formatted technotes are built with Sphinx into websites. Create a reStructuredText-formatted technote by messaging the SQuaRE Bot on Slack:

@sqrbot project create technote series={{<series>}} title={{<title>}} description={{<description>}}

Set the <title>, <description> and <series> fields (see below) for your technote, but keep the {{ and }} delimiters.


In a Direct Message channel with SQuaRE Bot, don’t include the @sqrbot prefix.

The fields are:

Values can be dmtn, sqr or smtn. Use test for testing.
Title of the technote. The title doesn’t include the handle (DMTN, SQR, or SMTN). You can update the title later by modifying the metadata file.
Short abstract for the technote. The description is used both as an abstract in the technote itself and in the technote’s README. You can update description later by editing the technote and the metadata file.

SQuaRE Bot prepares technotes in the background after you make your request. Go to the GitHub organization for your document series to find your new technote repository. Reach out on the #dm-docs Slack channel for help.

Create a LaTeX technote

Technotes can be written as LaTeX documents that are published to the web as PDFs inside landing pages.

Follow the lsst-texmf documentation to create a new LaTeX-formatted technote.

Using bibliographies in reStructuredText technotes

The lsst-texmf project includes shared BibTeX bibliographic databases. You can also use these bibliographies from reStructuredText technotes.

First, add or uncomment the bibliography directive at the bottom of your technote’s index.rst file:

.. bibliography:: local.bib lsstbib/books.bib lsstbib/lsst.bib lsstbib/lsst-dm.bib lsstbib/refs.bib lsstbib/refs_ads.bib
   :encoding: latex+latin
   :style: lsst_aa


Only include the local.bib file if your technote’s repository has one. Use local.bib to temporarily store bib items before you permanently transfer them to the lsst-texmf project.

The bibliographies in the lsstbib directory are copies from the repository. Refresh the copies maintained in your technote’s repository by running this command:

make refresh-bib

To make citations in the technote’s text, use the cite role. For example:


In-text citations are numbered, not author-year style.

Editing metadata in reStructuredText technotes

ReStructuredText-format technotes use a metadata.yaml in their repositories to describe attributes like the document’s title, author list, and abstract. To change the technote’s title or author list, for example, commit a change to the metadata.yaml file. See the comments in metadata.yaml for a description of these fields.