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rstdoc - support documentation in restructedText (rst)

Project description

See background and documentation.

Many companies use DOCX and thus produce an information barrier. Working with text is more integrated in the (software) development process. A final format can be DOCX, but, at least during development, text is better.

Sphinx is an extension of Docutils used for many (software) projects, but it does not support creation of DOCX files, which certain companies demand. Pandoc does support DOCX, but does not support the Sphinx extensions, hence :ref: and the like cannot be used.

This python package supports working with RST as documentation format without depending on Sphinx.

  • link RST documents (.rest) using substitutions (generated in _links_xxx.rst)

  • create a .tags file to jump around in an editor that support ctags

  • RST handling with python: reformat/create RST tables

  • post-process Pandoc’s conversion from DOCX to RST

  • pre-process Pandoc’s conversion from RST to DOCX

  • Support in building with WAF (or Makefile)

    • expand SimpleTemplate template files .stpl

    • graphics files (.tikz, .svg, .dot, .uml, .eps or .stpl thereof, and .pyg) are converted to .png and placed into ./_images or ../_images

    • a gen file specifies how RST should be generated from source code files (see

The conventions used are shown

pip install rstdoc installs:


CLI Script



rstdcx, rstoc

create .tags, labels and links



Convert DOCX to RST using Pandoc



Convert RST grid tables to list-tables



Converts certain list-tables to paragraphs



Reflow paragraphs and tables



Rename images referenced in the RST file



Transforms list tables to grid tables


Support script to create documentation (PDF, HTML, DOCX) from restructuredText (RST, reST) using either

rstdoc and rstdcx command line tools call which

  • processes gen files (see examples produced by –rest)

  • handles .stpl files

  • creates .tags to jump around with the editor

  • creates links files like _links_pdf.rst, _links_docx.rst, _links_sphinx.rst in link roots, which are folders where the first .rest is encoutered during depth-first traversal. Non-overlapping link root paths produce separately linked file sets.

    .. include:: /_links_sphinx.rst, with the one initial / instead of a relative or absolute path, will automatically search upward for the _link_xxx.rst file (_sphinx is replaced by what is needed by the wanted target).

  • forwards known files to either Pandoc, Sphinx or Docutils

    Sphinx is augmented by configuration for Pandoc and Docutils. It should be where the input file is or above. If used with waf, it can also be where the main wscript is.

See example at the end of It is supposed to be used with a build tool. make and waf examples are included.

  • Initialize example tree. This copies into the example tree to be independent from possible future changes:

    $ ./ --rest repo #repo/doc/{sy,ra,sr,dd,tp}.rest files OR
    $ ./ --stpl repo #repo/doc/{sy,ra,sr,dd,tp}.rest.stpl files
    $ ./ --ipdt repo #repo/pdt/AAA/{i,p,d,t}.rest.stpl files
    $ ./ --over repo all over
  • Only create .tags and _links_xxx.rst:

    $ cd tmp/doc
    $ ./
  • Create the docs (and .tags and _links_xxx.rst) with make:

    $ make html #OR
    $ make epub #OR
    $ make latex #OR
    $ make docx #OR
    $ make pdf

    The latter two are done by Pandoc, the others by Sphinx.

  • Create the docs (and .tags and _links_xxx.rst) with waf:

    Instead of using make one can load in waf. waf also considers all recursively included files, such that a change in any of them results in a rebuild of the documentation. All files can have an additional .stpl extension to use SimpleTemplate.

    $ waf configure #also copies the latest version of waf in here $ waf –docs docx,sphinx_html,rst_odt $ #or you provide –docs during configure to always compile the docs

The following image language files should be parallel to the .rest files. They are automatically converted to .png and placed into ./_images, or ../_images, if only that exists.

  • .tikz or .tikz.stpl. This needs LaTex.

  • .svg or .svg.stpl

  • .dot or .dot.stpl

    This needs graphviz.

  • .uml or .uml.stpl

    This needs plantuml . Provide either

    • plantuml.bat with e.g. java -jar "%~dp0plantuml.jar" %* or

    • plantuml sh script with java -jar `dirname $BASH_SOURCE`/plantuml.jar "$@"

  • .eps or .eps.stpl embedded postscript files.

    This needs inkscape.

  • .pyg contains python code that produces a graphic. If the python code defines a to_svg or a save_to_png function, then that is used, to create a png. Else the following is tried

    • pyx.canvas.canvas from the pyx library or

    • cairocffi.Surface from cairocffi

    • matplotlib. If matplotlib.pyplot.get_fignums()>1 the figures result in <name><fignum>.png

    The same code or the file names can be used in a .rest.stpl file with pngembed() or dcx.svgembed() to embed in html output.

    from svgwrite import cm, mm, drawing
    d=drawing.Drawing(viewBox=('0 0 300 300'))
    d.add(*cm, 2*cm), r='1cm', stroke='blue', stroke_width=9))


  • Files

    • main docs end in .rest

    • .rst are included and ignored by Sphinx (see

    • .txt are literally included (use :literal: option).

    • templates and y.rst.stpl are rendered separately.

    • some.rst.tpl are template included Template lookup is done in . and .. with respect to the current file.

      • with %include('some.rst.tpl', param="test") with optional parameters

      • with %globals().update(include('utility.rst.tpl')) if it contains only definitions

  • .. _`id`: are reST targets. reST targets should not be template-generated. The template files should have a higher or equal number of targets than the generated file, in order for tags to jump to the template original. If one wants to generate reST targets, then this should better happen in a previous step, e.g. with gen files mentioned above.

  • References use replacement substitutions : |id|.

  • If you want an overview of the linking (traceability), add .. include:: _traceability_file.rst to or another .rest parallel to it. It is there in the generated example project, to include it in tests. You might want to remove that line, if you start with the example project. _traceability_file.{svg,png,rst} are all in the same directory.

See the example project created with --rest or --stpl at the end of this file and the sources of the documentation of rstdoc.

Integrates Sphinx, Pandoc and Docutils to produce output supported by any of them. To use all three, restructuredText must not use Sphinx extensions. Input file, dir or - for stdin.


rstfromdocx: shell command
fromdocx: rstdoc module

Convert DOCX to RST in a subfolder of current dir, named after the DOCX file. It also creates, and Makefile and copies into the folder.

See rstdcx for format conventions for the RST.

There are options to post-process through:

--listtable (--join can be provided)
--reflow (--sentence True,  --join 0)

rstfromdocx -lurg combines all of these.

To convert more DOCX documents into the same RST documentation folder, proceed like this:

  • rename/copy the original DOCX to the name you want for the .rest file

  • run rstfromdocx -lurg doc1.docx; instead of -lurg use your own options

  • check the output in the doc1 subfolder

  • repeat the previous 2 steps with the next DOCX files

  • create a new folder, e.g. doc

  • merge all other folders into that new folder

fromdocx.docx_rst_5 creates 5 different rst files with different postprocessing.

See rstreflow for an alternative proceeding.


rstlisttable: shell command
listable: rstdoc module

Convert RST grid tables to list-tables.

  1. Convert grid tables in a file to list-tables. The result is output to stdout:

    $ input.rst
  2. Convert several files:

    $ input1.rst input2.rst
    $ *.rst
  3. Use pipe (but cat might not keep the encoding):

    $ cat in.rst | -  | - > out.rst


-j, --join

e.g.002. Join method per column: 0=””.join; 1=” “.join; 2=”\n”.join


rstuntable: shell command
untable: rstdoc module

Convert tables of following format to paragraphs with an ID. The ‘-’ in ID is removed and the ID is made lower case. Bold is removed.


text goes here


text again goes here

If the first entry does contain no word chars or spaces between words, then the table stays. For a different behavior replace paragraph23.

A file produced from a docx using pandoc or will need a pre-processing via rstlisttable to convert grid tables to list-table tables. This is done in one step with rstfromdocx -lu doc.rst.


rstreflow: shell command
reflow: rstdoc module

Reflow tables and paragraphs in a rst document produced from a docx.

Post-process a docx in this order:

rstfromdocx doc.docx
rstlisttable doc/doc.rst > doc/tmp.rst
rstuntable doc/tmp.rst > doc/tmp1.rst
rstreflow doc/tmp1.rst > doc/tmp2.rst
rstreimg doc/tmp2.rst > doc/tmp3.rst
rm doc/doc.rst
mv doc/tmp3.rst doc/doc.rst
rm doc/tmp*

Check the intermediate results.

Else one can also do inplace:

rstfromdocx doc.docx
rstlisttable -i doc/doc.rst
rstuntable -i doc/doc.rst
rstreflow -i doc/doc.rst
rstreimg -i doc/doc.rst


rstreimg: shell command
reimg: rstdoc module

Reimg renames the images in the rst file and the files themselves. It uses part of the document name and a number as new names.

This is useful, if more RST documents converted from DOCX should be combined in one directory and the names of the images have no meaning (image13,…).


rstretable: shell command
retable: rstdoc module

Transforms list tables to grid tables.

This file also contains the code from the Vim plugin vim-rst-tables-py3, plus some little fixes. rstdoc is used by the Vim plugin vim_py3_rst , which replaces vim-rst-tables-py3.

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