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The core MkDocs plugin used by Backstage's TechDocs as a wrapper around multiple MkDocs plugins and Python Markdown extensions

Project description


This is the base Mkdocs plugin used when using Mkdocs with Spotify's TechDocs. It is written in Python and packages all of our Mkdocs defaults, such as theming, plugins, etc in a single plugin.

Package on PyPI


Requires Python version >= 3.7

$ pip install mkdocs-techdocs-core

Once you have installed the mkdocs-techdocs-core plugin, you'll need to add it to your mkdocs.yml.

site_name: Backstage Docs

  - Home:
  - Developing a Plugin:

  - techdocs-core


Running Locally

You can install this package locally using pip and the --editable flag used for making developing Python packages.

pip install --editable .

You'll then have the techdocs-core package available to use in Mkdocs and pip will point the dependency to this folder.


We use black as our linter. Please run it against your code before submitting a pull request.

pip install black
black .

Note: This will write to all Python files in src/ with the formatted code. If you would like to only check to see if it passes, simply append the --check flag.

Testing Dependencies End-to-End

Much of the value of this plugin lies in its dependencies, on which there are implicit dependencies upstream in the Backstage TechDocs frontend plugin. Each time you update a pinned dependency, it's important to test that generated documentation can be loaded and parsed as expected in the Backstage frontend. The recommended way to do so is the following:

  1. Make the expected dependency change locally in requirements.txt.
  2. Clone the techdocs-container image and, within the cloned directory, copy the entire contents of your local version of mkdocs-techdocs-core, e.g. named local-mkdocs-techdocs-core.
  3. Just before the RUN pip install command in techdocs-container's Dockerfile, add a COPY command that copies the contents of your modified mkdocs-techdocs-core directory into the container's file system. Something like: COPY ./local-mkdocs-techdocs-core/ /local-mkdocs-techdocs-core/
  4. Modify the RUN pip install... command to install an editable version of the copied local plugin, rather than the specific version. Something like... RUN pip install --upgrade pip && pip install -e /local-mkdocs-techdocs-core
  5. Build the modified image: docker build -t mkdocs:local-dev .
  6. Modify your local Backstage instance to use your locally built techdocs-container instead of using the published image by setting the following configuration:
    runIn: "docker"
    dockerImage: "mkdocs:local-dev"


  1. Update the Changelog.
  2. Bump up the version number in which triggers the release workflow on GitHub Actions to publish a new version in PyPI.

MkDocs plugins and extensions

The TechDocs Core MkDocs plugin comes with a set of extensions and plugins that mkdocs supports. Below you can find a list of all extensions and plugins that are included in the TechDocs Core plugin:


  • search: A search plugin is provided by default with MkDocs which uses lunr.js as a search engine.
  • mkdocs-monorepo-plugin: This plugin enables you to build multiple sets of documentation in a single MkDocs project. It is designed to address writing documentation in Spotify's largest and most business-critical codebases (typically monoliths or monorepos).


  • admonition: Admonitions, also known as call-outs, are an excellent choice for including side content without significantly interrupting the document flow. Material for MkDocs provides several different types of admonitions and allows for the inclusion and nesting of arbitrary content.

  • toc: The Table of Contents extension generates a Table of Contents from a Markdown document and adds it into the resulting HTML document. This extension is included in the standard Markdown library.

  • pymdown: PyMdown Extensions is a collection of extensions for Python Markdown. All extensions are found under the module namespace of pymdownx.

    • caret: Caret is an extension that is syntactically built around the ^ character. It adds support for inserting superscripts and adds an easy way to place <ins>text</ins> in an <ins> tag.
    • critic: Critic adds handling and support of Critic Markup.
    • details: Details creates collapsible elements with <details> and <summary> tags.
    • emoji: Emoji makes adding emoji via Markdown easy 😄.
    • superfences: SuperFences is like Python Markdown's fences, but better. Nest fences under lists, admonitions, and other syntaxes. You can even create special custom fences for content like UML.
    • inlinehilite: InlineHilite highlights inline code: from module import function as func.
    • magiclink: MagicLink linkafies URL and email links without having to wrap them in Markdown syntax. Also, shortens repository issue, pull request, and commit links automatically for popular code hosting providers. You can even use special shorthand syntax to link to issues, diffs, and even mention people
    • mark: Mark allows you to mark words easily.
    • smartsymbols: SmartSymbols inserts commonly used Unicode characters via simple ASCII representations: =/= → ≠.
    • highlight: Highlight allows you to configure the syntax highlighting of SuperFences and InlineHilite. Also passes standard Markdown indented code blocks through the syntax highlighter.
    • extra: Extra is just like Python Markdown's Extra package except it uses PyMdown Extensions to substitute similar extensions.
    • tabbed: Tabbed allows for tabbed Markdown content.
    • tasklist: Tasklist allows inserting lists with check boxes.
    • tilde: Tilde is syntactically built around the ~ character. It adds support for inserting subscripts and adds an easy way to place text in a <del> tag.
  • markdown_inline_graphviz: A Python Markdown extension replaces inline Graphviz definitions with inline SVGs or PNGs. Activate the inline_graphviz extension using the usage instructions.

  • plantuml_markdown: This plugin implements a block extension which can be used to specify a PlantUML diagram which will be converted into an image and inserted in the document.

    • Note that the format svg_object is not supported for rendering diagrams. Read more in the TechDocs troubleshooting section.
  • mdx_truly_sane_lists: An extension for Python-Markdown that makes lists truly sane. Features custom indents for nested lists and fix for messy linebreaks and paragraphs between lists.

Other plugins and extensions

Note that the above set of plugins and extensions represents an opinionated list providing a core set of functionality necessary for most technical documentation needs (hence: techdocs-core). PRs introducing new plugins or extensions are welcome, but they are not guaranteed to be accepted.

In order to solve your organization's specific needs, you're encouraged to install any necessary extensions/plugins in your own environment on top of techdocs-core (be it the TechDocs backend container, or a custom TechDocs build container).



We only use material-mkdocs as base styles because Backstage also uses the Material UI on the client-side. We don't expect people to use themes other than Material UI to maintain consistency across all Backstage pages (in other words, documentation pages have the same look and feel as any other Backstage page) and so we use the BackstageTheme configured in Front-end application as the source of truth for all application design tokens like colors, typography and etc. So here you can see that some styles will always be overridden regardless of the mkdocs-material plugin theme settings and this can cause unexpected behavior for those who override the theme setting in a mkdocs.yaml file.




  • Updated mkdocs-monorepo-plugin to 1.0.4, which includes a compatibility fix for mkdocs versions 1.4.0 and newer.


  • Removed pins on the pyparsing and Jinja2 dependencies, which are no longer needed.
  • Pinned mkdocs-monorepo-plugin and markdown_inline_graphviz_extension to specific (latest) releases to improve stability. Going forward, these (along with all other feature-related deps) will be bumped regularly and any changes will be reflected in this changelog.


  • Added support for Python 3.10 #73
  • Resolved a run-time error introduced in 1.1.4 that prevented sites from being built under certain circumstances.


  • Support markdown version >3.2,<4
  • Use markdown_inline_graphviz_extension 1.1.1 which supports svg rendering for markdown >=3.3


  • Upgraded plantuml-markdown to 3.5.1, which removes uuid as a dependency.


  • Simplify theme code to update only the attribute necessary by backstage.


  • Fix run-time AttributeError: 'Theme' object has no attribute 'copy'


  • Add new capability to override mkdocs theme attributes

Note: Look the caveats section in readme about the Backstage theme consideration


  • Bumped pymdown-extensions to 9.3 and enabled pygments_lang_class to allow easier targeting of codeblocks by language in TechDocs Addons.


Jinja2 pinned to v3.0.3.


  • This package has been promoted to v1.0!

Note: Going forward, this package will follow semver conventions.


  • Upgrade mkdocs-material and its dependencies


  • Update plantuml-markdown version to 3.5.0 for image maps support


  • Fix run-time module 'pyparsing' has no attribute 'downcaseTokens' error as a result of shifting python dependencies.
  • Update to latest mkdocs-monorepo-plugin, which allows use of .yaml file extensions and non-slug-like site_names in monorepos.



  • Fix the dependency version of Markdown to ensure GraphViz SVG rendering works.


  • Ensure required mkdocs-monorepo-plugin is compatible with Mkdocs 1.2.x.


  • Improved dependency compatibility with other mkdocs plugins.
  • Upgraded mkdocs minimum to 1.2.2


  • Reused data from requirements.txt file in install_requires of #24


  • Upgrade monorepo to track latest patch, includes various bug fixes. #22


  • Upgrade plantuml-markdown to 3.4.2 with support for external file sources. #18


  • Fixed issue where the whole temp directory could be included in the built site output. #7




  • Pin Markdown version to fix issue with Graphviz


  • Change development status to 3 - Alpha


  • Superfences and Codehilite doesn't work very well together (squidfunk/mkdocs-material#1604) so therefore the codehilite extension is replaced by pymdownx.highlight
  • Uses pymdownx extensions v.7.1 instead of 8.0.0 to allow legacy_tab_classes config. This makes the techdocs core plugin compatible with the usage of tabs for grouping markdown with the following syntax:
    ```java tab="java 2"
        public void function() {

as well as the new

    === "Java"

    public void function() {

The pymdownx extension will be bumped too 8.0.0 in the near future.

  • pymdownx.tabbed is added to support tabs to group markdown content, such as codeblocks.

  • "PyMdown Extensions includes three extensions that are meant to replace their counterpart in the default Python Markdown extensions." Therefore some extensions has been taken away in this version that comes by default from pymdownx.extra which is added now (


  • Fix an issue with configuration of emoji support


  • Further adjustments to versions to find ones that are compatible


  • Downgrade some versions of markdown extensions to versions that are more stable


  • Added support for more mkdocs extensions
    • mkdocs-material
    • mkdocs-monorepo-plugin
    • plantuml-markdown
    • markdown_inline_graphviz_extension
    • pygments
    • pymdown-extensions


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Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0:

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