Zephyr documentation Generation

These instructions will walk you through generating the Zephyr Project’s documentation on your local system using the same documentation sources as we use to create the online documentation found at http://docs.zephyrproject.org

Documentation overview

Zephyr Project content is written using the reStructuredText markup language (.rst file extension) with Sphinx extensions, and processed using Sphinx to create a formatted stand-alone website. Developers can view this content either in its raw form as .rst markup files, or you can generate the HTML content and view it with a web browser directly on your workstation. This same .rst content is also fed into the Zephyr Project’s public website documentation area (with a different theme applied).

You can read details about reStructuredText, and Sphinx from their respective websites.

The project’s documentation contains the following items:

  • ReStructuredText source files used to generate documentation found at the http://docs.zephyrproject.org website. Most of the reStructuredText sources are found in the /doc directory, but others are stored within the code source tree near their specific component (such as /samples and /boards)
  • Doxygen-generated material used to create all API-specific documents also found at http://docs.zephyrproject.org
  • Script-generated material for kernel configuration options based on Kconfig files found in the source code tree

The reStructuredText files are processed by the Sphinx documentation system, and make use of the breathe extension for including the doxygen-generated API material. Additional tools are required to generate the documentation locally, as described in the following sections.

Installing the documentation processors

Our documentation processing has been tested to run with:

  • Doxygen version 1.8.13
  • Sphinx version 1.7.5
  • Breathe version 4.9.1
  • docutils version 0.14
  • sphinx_rtd_theme version 0.4.0

In order to install the documentation tools, clone a copy of the git repository for the Zephyr project and set up your development environment as described in Getting Started Guide. This will ensure all the required tools are installed on your system.


On Windows, the Sphinx executable sphinx-build.exe is placed in the Scripts folder of your Python installation path. Dependending on how you have installed Python, you may need to add this folder to your PATH environment variable. Follow the instructions in Windows Python Path to add those if needed.

Documentation presentation theme

Sphinx supports easy customization of the generated documentation appearance through the use of themes. Replace the theme files and do another make htmldocs and the output layout and style is changed. The read-the-docs theme is installed as part of the requirements.txt list above, and will be used if it’s available, for local doc generation.

Running the documentation processors

The /doc directory in your cloned copy of the Zephyr project git repo has all the .rst source files, extra tools, and Makefile for generating a local copy of the Zephyr project’s technical documentation. Assuming the local Zephyr project copy is in a folder zephyr in your home folder, here are the commands to generate the html content locally:

# On Linux/macOS
cd ~/zephyr
source zephyr-env.sh
mkdir -p doc/_build && cd doc/_build
# On Windows
cd %userprofile%\zephyr
mkdir doc\_build & cd doc/_build

# Use cmake to configure a Ninja-based build system:
cmake -GNinja ..
# Now run ninja on the generated build system:
ninja htmldocs
# If you modify or add .rst files, run ninja again:
ninja htmldocs

Depending on your development system, it will take up to 15 minutes to collect and generate the HTML content. When done, you can view the HTML output with your browser started at doc/_build/html/index.html

If you want to build the documentation from scratch just delete the contents of the build folder and run cmake and then ninja again.

On Unix platforms a convenience Makefile at the root folder of the Zephyr repository can be used to build the documentation directly from there:

cd ~/zephyr
source zephyr-env.sh
make htmldocs

Filtering expected warnings

Alas, there are some known issues with the doxygen/Sphinx/Breathe processing that generates warnings for some constructs, in particular around unnamed structures in nested unions or structs. While these issues are being considered for fixing in Sphinx/Breathe, we’ve added a post-processing filter on the output of the documentation build process to check for “expected” messages from the generation process output.

The output from the Sphinx build is processed by the python script scripts/filter-known-issues.py together with a set of filter configuration files in the .known-issues/doc folder. (This filtering is done as part of the doc/CMakeLists.txt CMake listfile.)

If you’re contributing components included in the Zephyr API documentation and run across these warnings, you can include filtering them out as “expected” warnings by adding a conf file to the .known-issues/doc folder, following the example of other conf files found there.