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Sphinx traceability extension

Project description

Traceability extension for Sphinx documentation generator.

This extension adds directives and roles that serve to identify and relate portions of Sphinx documents and create lists and traceability matrices based on them.

It brings Sphinx the capability to work as a pretty decent document-oriented requirements management tool. Outside of the requirements domain, it can also be used for a wide range of documentation needs. Interesting features such as code-documentation traceability comes also out of the box.


.. item:: item_id [item_caption]
   :<<relationship>>:  other_item_id ...


This directive identifies with item_id the portion of a document contained by the directive itself (item_content). If no item_content is defined, the directive just marks with item_id the position of the document where it is defined. An optional text can be defined with item_caption and it will be used in cross references instead of item_id.

The extension also checks for uniqueness of item identifiers through all files of a Sphinx project, in a similar way to standard Sphinx references.

The directive allows multiple :<<relationship>>: options that can set a list of item identifiers (space separated) the item traces to. The name of the option itself indicates the type of the relationship. For example:

.. item:: SW_REQ_001
   :addresses: SYS_REQ_001 SYS_REQ_002
   :tested_by: SW_TEST_005
   :allocated_to: SW_CSU_004

There is a predefined set of relationship names that can be used (the most typical in the systems / software engineering world). If no specific relationship type is to be set, just the generic :trace: relationship name can be used.

A configuration variable, traceability_relationships, can be used to extend and customize the set of available relationships. See Configuration for details.

.. item-list:: title
   :filter: regexp

This directive generates in place a list of items. A regular expression can be set with option :filter:, so that only items whose identifier matches the expression are written in the list.

.. item-matrix:: title
   :source: regexp
   :target: regexp
   :type: <<relationship>> ...

This directive generates in place a traceability matrix of item cross-references. :source: and :target: options can be used to filter matrix contents. Also content can be filtered based on traceability relationships.


Whenever an item needs to be referenced in documentation, it can be done with the :item: role. This item works the same way as any other Sphinx cross-reference role. By default, item identifier (or caption, if existing) shall be used in generated link text, but it can be overwritten with :role:`Text <target>` Sphinx syntax.

More on relationships

When setting a relationship from one item to another, this extension always considers the reverse relationship and sets it automatically from the latter to the former.

To do it, the internal relationship dictionary will always require a name for the reverse relationship. For bidirectional relationships, the same name shall be used. Examples:

  • depends_on: impacts_on

  • parent: child

  • sibling: sibling

  • trace: backtrace

This is a very effective way to make traceability matrices flexible and easy, as often matrices are requested in both directions. A traceability matrix from source A to target B according a relationship will have its automatic reverse matrix form B to A using its reverse relationship.


traceability_relationships configuration variable follows the rules above. It is a dictionary with relationship/reverse pairs.

This is the set of predefined relationships (mostly related with standard UML relationships):

  • fulfills: fulfilled_by

  • depends_on: impacts_on

  • implements: implemented_by

  • realizes: realized_by

  • validates: validated_by

  • trace: backtrace (this is kept mainly for backwards compatibility)

Advanced configuration

By default, items are written as term/definition tuples, but this is fully customizable by defining traceability_item_template configuration variable. It uses Jinja2 templating language.


There is an examples folder with some Sphinx projects you can run.

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