Setting up sphinx-autobuild on Windows

[ sphinx ]

I write the documentation for all of my side projects in Sphinx , as it’s more or less the standard for Python docs. One of the ongoing pain points has been having to re-run make/make.bat every time I want to view the rendered docs after an edit. I don’t recall where I came across it, but I’ve found sphinx-autobuild to work quite nicely, as the name suggests, to automatically rebuild the docset every time I save changes to the source. However, the README for the project only has instructions for configuring make livehtml on Linux, and not make.bat for Windows. So, I had to figure that out on my own.

For versions of Sphinx since (I think) v1.6.1, the make.bat generated from sphinx-quickstart will look something like this:


pushd %~dp0

REM Command file for Sphinx documentation

if "%SPHINXBUILD%" == "" (
	set SPHINXBUILD=sphinx-build
set SOURCEDIR=source
set BUILDDIR=build

if "%1" == "" goto help

if errorlevel 9009 (
	echo.The 'sphinx-build' command was not found. Make sure you have Sphinx
	echo.installed, then set the SPHINXBUILD environment variable to point the full path of the 'sphinx-build' executable. Alternatively you
	echo.may add the Sphinx directory to PATH.
	echo.If you don't have Sphinx installed, grab it from
	exit /b 1

goto end



The above file was probably generated from v1.7.4 or thereabouts. In any event, the part I usually edit is the invocation right above the :help label, which I change to the following:

if "%1" == "livehtml" (
	sphinx-autobuild %SOURCEDIR% %BUILDDIR% %SPHINXOPTS% %2
) else (
goto end

Then, invoking make livehtml works smoothly to launch sphinx-autobuild. To kick off the auto-build in a new console window, so that the old one remains free for use, start make livehtml works great. It even launches the process in the same virtualenv!

The %2 added at the ends of the sphinx-autobuild and %SPHINXBUILD lines allows passing additional arguments to the commands. For sphinx-autobuild, these include options to configure how the documentation is served; for the plain Sphinx build, it allows things like make html -Ea, which rebuilds the entire docset completely from scratch (somewhat like what make clean html does on Linux), and make html -n, which warns about things like improperly constructed cross-references.

Written on November 2, 2018