Documenting a project

Documenting a project is the key to make it usable, understandable and maintainable, making the difference between a technically excellent software and a successful software. SKA has defined a set of standards and practices that shall be implemented when developing software documentation. A more comprehensive set of resources can be found online at:

What to document

Based on the documentation provided everyone should be able to:

  • understand the problem the project is trying to solve
  • understand how the project is implemented
  • know exactly what this projects depends on
  • download and build the project
  • execute the project tests
  • run the project

In order to achieve this goal any structure can be used allowing free text as well as code-extracted documentation.

Documenting the Public API

When it comes to software systems, such as services or libraries, it is of paramount importance that the public API exposed by the software component is clearly captured and documented.

How to document

Documentation on git

Each software repository shall contain its documentation as part of the code included in a git repository. In this way the documentation will be released with the same cadence as the code and it will always be possible to trace a particular version of the documentation to a particular version of the code documented.

Free text documentation must be placed in a docs folder in the upper level of the repository structure. Sphinx generates automatically extracted files under this folder as well, wherever there are docstrings in the code.

Using sphinx

Documentation must be realised using the sphinx package and Restructured Text . SKA provides a predefined sphinx template for this purpose in the SKA Python skeleton project. Every project shall use the same docs folder as a starting point for assembling their own documentation.

Sphinx can be used to generate text documents such as this portal, but it also provides capabilities to automatically extract and parse code documentation, or docstrings. Refer to the Python Coding Guidelines for more information.

Extracting documentation from code


  • add hello world class with parameters to the SKA Python Skeleton Project
  • add code snippet here as an example of additional documentation which is decoupled from code, and describe the pitfalls of separating documentation from the code.

Integration into the Developer Portal

The developer portal is hosted on ReadTheDocs. On the Alpahbetical list of projects and subgroups page a list of all the projects that are hosted on GitLab is available, with badges to show the build status of the project’s documentation. Each badge is also a hyperlink to the project’s documentation that you can click on.

Every SKA project’s documentation is hosted on Readthedocs as a subproject of the developer portal, so that all projects have a common URL for easier search-ability. For example: whereas the developer portal’s URL is, the ska_python_skeleton project is at

In order to add the project’s documentation as a subproject on Readthedocs, a project must first be imported into Readthedocs.

Register on ReadTheDocs

Developers working on the SKA are members of the ska-telescope organisation on GitLab. Registering an account using the OAuth credentials on ReadTheDocs is recommended, because then the integration between the SKA GitLab and SKA ReadTheDocs services is done automatically. The integrations can also be set up manually later, and is not difficult.

Sign up / sign in with GitLab account

Login on Readthedocs

Import project to ReadTheDocs

After signing in, one lands on the Dashboard, and the steps for importing a project are pretty self-explanatory from here. While importing the project name should be the ska-telescope- and project’s gitlab slug (part in the url after, i.e. ska-telescope-ska-python-skeleton. After the project is imported successfully, name should be changed to the name of the project as listed in Gitlab project site. Project name could be changed in the Admin page of Read the Docs project site. As a last step, kurtcobain-19 account should be added to the project as a maintainer for the system team to manage the documentation later on.

Add project as a sub-project on ReadTheDocs

A sub-project must be added by a user with Maintainer privileges on the main project.

Currently only the System Team members have these permissions. Please ask on the Slack channel #team-system-support to have your project added.

For more information on how to add a subproject, go to Read The Docs.