Hosting Documentation

Hosting Documentation

After going through the Package Guide and Doctests page you will need to host the generated documentation somewhere for potential users to read. This guide will describe how to setup automatic updates for your package docs using the Travis build service and GitHub Pages. This is the same approach used by this package to host its own docs – the docs you're currently reading.


Following this guide should be the final step you take after you are comfortable with the syntax and build process used by Documenter.jl. It is recommended that you only proceed with the steps outlined here once you have successfully managed to build your documentation locally with Documenter.

This guide assumes that you already have GitHub and Travis accounts setup. If not then go set those up first and then return here.


Once set up correctly, the following will happen each time you push new updates to your package repository:

Note that the hosted documentation does not update when you make pull requests; you see updates only when you merge to master or push new tags.

The following sections outline how to enable this for your own package.

SSH Deploy Keys

Deploy keys provide push access to a single repository, to allow secure deployment of generated documentation from Travis to GitHub. The SSH keys can be generated with the Travis.genkeys from the DocumenterTools package.


You will need several command line programs (which, git and ssh-keygen) to be installed for the following steps to work. If DocumenterTools fails, please see the the SSH Deploy Keys Walkthrough section for instruction on how to generate the keys manually (including in Windows).

Install and load DocumenterTools with

pkg> add DocumenterTools
julia> using DocumenterTools

Then call the Travis.genkeys function as follows:

julia> using MyPackage
julia> Travis.genkeys(user="MyUser", repo="")

where MyPackage is the name of the package you would like to create deploy keys for and MyUser is your GitHub username. Note that the keyword arguments are optional and can be omitted.

If the package is checked out in development mode with ] dev MyPackage, you can also use Travis.genkeys as follows:

julia> using MyPackage
julia> Travis.genkeys(MyPackage)

where MyPackage is the package you would like to create deploy keys for. The output will look similar to the text below:

INFO: add the public key below to
      with read/write access:


INFO: add a secure environment variable named 'DOCUMENTER_KEY' to with value:


Follow the instructions that are printed out, namely:

  1. Add the public ssh key to your settings page for the GitHub repository that you are setting up by following the .../settings/key link provided. Click on Add deploy key, enter the name documenter as the title, and copy the public key into the Key field. Check Allow write access to allow Documenter to commit the generated documentation to the repo.

  2. Next add the long private key to the Travis settings page using the provided link. Again note that you should include no whitespace when copying the key. In the Environment Variables section add a key with the name DOCUMENTER_KEY and the value that was printed out. Do not set the variable to be displayed in the build log. Then click Add.

    Security warning

    To reiterate: make sure that the "Display value in build log" option is OFF for the variable, so that it does not get printed when the tests run. This base64-encoded string contains the unencrypted private key that gives full write access to your repository, so it must be kept safe. Also, make sure that you never expose this variable in your tests, nor merge any code that does. You can read more about Travis environment variables in Travis User Documentation.


There are more explicit instructions for adding the keys to GitHub and Travis in the SSH Deploy Keys Walkthrough section of the manual.

.travis.yml Configuration

To tell Travis that we want a new build stage we can add the following to the .travis.yml file:

    - stage: "Documentation"
      julia: 1.0
      os: linux
        - julia --project=docs/ -e 'using Pkg; Pkg.develop(PackageSpec(path=pwd()));
        - julia --project=docs/ docs/make.jl
      after_success: skip

where the julia: and os: entries decide the worker from which the docs are built and deployed. In the example above we will thus build and deploy the documentation from a linux worker running Julia 1.0. For more information on how to setup a build stage, see the Travis manual for Build Stages.

The three lines in the script: section do the following:

  1. Instantiate the doc-building environment (i.e. docs/Project.toml, see below).
  2. Install your package in the doc-build environment.
  3. Run the docs/make.jl script, which builds and deploys the documentation.

If your package has a build script you should call"PackageName") after the call to Pkg.develop to make sure the package is built properly.

The doc-build environment docs/Project.toml includes Documenter and other doc-build dependencies your package might have. If Documenter is the only dependency, then the Project.toml should include the following:

Documenter = "e30172f5-a6a5-5a46-863b-614d45cd2de4"

Documenter = "~0.23"

Note that it is recommended that you have a [compat] section, like the one above, in your Project.toml file, which would restrict Documenter's version that gets installed when the build runs. This is to make sure that your builds do not start failing suddenly due to a new major release of Documenter, which may include breaking changes. However, it also means that you will not get updates to Documenter automatically, and hence need to upgrade Documenter's major version yourself.

The deploydocs Function

At the moment your docs/make.jl file probably only contains

using Documenter, PACKAGE_NAME


We'll need to add an additional function call to this file after makedocs which would perform the deployment of the docs to the gh-pages branch. Add the following at the end of the file:

    repo = "",

where USER_NAME and PACKAGE_NAME must be set to the appropriate names. Note that repo should not specify any protocol, i.e. it should not begin with https:// or git@.

See the deploydocs function documentation for more details.


Add the following to your package's .gitignore file


These are needed to avoid committing generated content to your repository.

gh-pages Branch

By default, Documenter pushes documentation to the gh-pages branch. If the branch does not exist it will be created automatically by deploydocs. If does exist then Documenter simply adds an additional commit with the built documentation. You should be aware that Documenter may overwrite existing content without warning.

If you wish to create the gh-pages branch manually the that can be done following these instructions.

Documentation Versions

The documentation is deployed as follows:

Which versions that will show up in the version selector is determined by the versions argument to deploydocs.

Unless a custom domain is being used, the pages are found at:

By default Documenter will create a link called stable that points to the latest release

It is recommended to use this link, rather then the versioned links, since it will be updated with new releases.

Once your documentation has been pushed to the gh-pages branch you should add links to your pointing to the stable (and perhaps dev) documentation URLs. It is common practice to make use of "badges" similar to those used for Travis and AppVeyor build statuses or code coverage. Adding the following to your package should be all that is necessary:


PACKAGE_NAME and USER_NAME should be replaced with their appropriate values. The colour and text of the image can be changed by altering docs-stable-blue as described on, though it is recommended that package authors follow this standard to make it easier for potential users to find documentation links across multiple package README files.

Final Remarks

That should be all that is needed to enable automatic documentation building. Pushing new commits to your master branch should trigger doc builds. Note that other branches do not trigger these builds and neither do pull requests by potential contributors.

If you would like to see a more complete example of how this process is setup then take a look at this package's repository for some inspiration.