Building single-package documentation locally

While developing a package and its documentation, you’ll probably want to preview what the documentation looks like when built. The quickest way to do this is with a single-package documentation build.

Keep in mind that a single-package documentation build may have many broken links because package documentation is meant to be built in the context of the package stack. To do a full-stack documentation build, see either:

Nevertheless, a single-package build is useful for checking formatting and proof-reading your work. This page describes how to run a single-package documentation build, using pipe_base as the example.


Before starting this tutorial, you’ll need a working lsst_distrib installation. This installation should already be set up with a command like setup lsst_distrib.

This installation needs to be a recent daily or weekly build since you’ll be compiling the pipe_base repository from its main branch. Working from the tip of the main branch is the norm for LSST software development.

The documentation build uses Documenteer and related Sphinx documentation packages, which are already installed if you are using the Rubin Conda developer environment. You can check if rubin-env-developer is installed by running mamba list rubin-env. If not, you can install the developer environment with: mamba install rubin-env-developer.

Downloading and setting up a package

You need to clone and build the package locally. In this example, you’ll be cloning and building pipe_base:

git clone
cd pipe_base
setup -k -r .


If you’re actively developing a package, it’s likely that you’ve already cloned and built that package.

Building the package’s documentation

You can build the package’s documentation by running:

package-docs build

The built HTML is located, relative to the pipe_base directory, at doc/_build/html.


The page at doc/_build/html/index.html is the homepage for single-package builds. It never appears in the site build but does link to all the package and module documentation directories listed in the package’s doc/manifest.yaml file.

See Documenteer’s documentation for more information about the package-docs command.

Deleting built documentation

Since Sphinx only builds files that have changed, and may not notice updated docstrings, you may need to delete the built documentation to force a clean rebuild. You can delete this built documentation by running:

package-docs clean

Further reading