In this hands-on, the objective is to familiarize you with the Plain-text Markdown syntax and demonstrate the usage of MkDocs.

Overview of the Mardown Syntax

[Markdown] is a way to style text on the web. You control the display of the document; formatting words as bold or italic, adding images, and creating lists are just a few of the things we can do with Markdown. Mostly, Markdown is just regular text with a few non-alphabetic characters thrown #, * or _

Due to its simplicity, this format become more and more popular (for instance, you can use Markdown in most places around GitHub and Gitlab) but also in MkDocs.

Kindly take some time to read the following resources:


MkDocs is a free, static site generator geared towards building project documentation. It can be used to generate a stand-alone site, or just a documentation section of your project.

Because MkDocs produces static files from Markdown text files, your documentation is light-weight and easy to track using git, and easy to host using free services such as GitHub Pages and Read The Docs.

Installing MkDocs

To install MkDocs, you need to have Python and pip (a Python package manager) installed in your computer. They may already be installed on your computer. * If you have Python 3.4 or later installed, you probably have pip installed. (See the Python installation guide for full instructions.)

Install then mkdocs:

$> pip install mkdocs

Initiating new Documentation

Create a new project directory and initiate it

$> mkdir /tmp/myproject
$> mkdocs new  /tmp/myproject

Take a moment to review the initial project that has been created for you:

You will find

  • a single configuration file named mkdocs.yml
  • a folder named docs/ that will contain your documentation source files (markdown files *.md).
    • Right now the docs folder just contains a single documentation page, named

MkDocs comes with a built-in dev-server that lets you preview your documentation as you work on it. Make sure you're in the same directory as the mkdocs.yml configuration file, and then start the server by running the mkdocs serve command:

$> mkdocs serve
INFO    -  Building documentation...
INFO    -  Cleaning site directory
[I 161212 00:10:06 server:281] Serving on
[I 161212 00:10:06 handlers:59] Start watching changes
[I 161212 00:10:06 handlers:61] Start detecting changes

Open up in your favorite browser, and you'll see the default home page being displayed.

Update the theme

You may prefer (like us) the theme proposed by readthedocs. So it's time to update the mkdocs.yml as follows:

site_name: My Docs
- Home: ''
theme: readthedocs

Notice that you did not had to refresh your browser to see the effect of your modifications. That what make it convenient

Hierarchical structure of your Documentations

Imagine that you setup a new experiment and document it

$> mkdir -p docs/exp/myexp
$> vim docs/exp/myexp/     # Edit and document

Add it to mkdocs by just editing mkdocs.yml:

site_name: My Docs
- Home: ''
- Experiments:
  - 'My Experiment': 'exp/myexp/'
theme: readthedocs

Access other documentations

You can quickly rebuild the documentation of this tutorial (as you would do in a RR context when pulling changes out of a project repository). Recall to stop the previous serving process.

$> cd RR-tutorials
$> mkdocs serve