We have a new wiki. The migration is not 100% complete. You can help out by moving pages across. This wiki will exist for as long as there are pages left.

The official documentation has moved to http://docs.couchdb.org — The transition is not 100% complete, but http://docs.couchdb.org should be seen as having the latest info. In some cases, the wiki still has some more or older info on certain topics inside CouchDB.

You need to be added to the ContributorsGroup to edit the wiki. But don't worry! Just email any Mailing List or grab us on IRC and let us know your user name.

Contributing Documentation to the CouchDB project is one of the most valuable things you can do - every bit helps. Here's how.

Take me to your Docs

Documentation is currently still a bit scattered, however, authoritative documentation is now in the repo and available for browsing online. Unfortunately, some things are still documented only here on this wiki or in mailinglist posts/commit messages/github gists/etc. but should be in the official documentation; contributions welcome.

We welcome your contributions to any of these - if you need help, just ask in IRC, or on the user email list. Thanks!

The Quick Start Guide

sphinx-build -a -E -W -n -b html \
-D version='$ver' \
-D release='$ver-git-sha' \
-D project='Apache CouchDB' \
-D copyright='$year, Apache Software Foundation' \
-d $TMPDIR/couchdocs/ \
src/ \

sphinx-build -a -E -W -n -b singlehtml \
-D version='$ver' \
-D release='$ver-git-sha' \
-D project='Apache CouchDB' \
-D copyright='$year, Apache Software Foundation' \
-d $TMPDIR/couchdocs/ \
src/ \

RestructuredText and Sphinx Tutorials

The official source contains .rst (Restructured Text) files used for API and release notes. These will be published with every CouchDB release, and made available online eventually.

There are plenty of helpful tutorials out there:

Adding Version Added/Changed or Deprecated Information

Sphinx supports paragraph-level annotations for tracking when functionality was modified. By adding this information directly to the .rst documentation during committing any functionality, future NEWS and CHANGES updates can be directly extracted from Sphinx.

Editing Documentation via GitHub

GitHub supports displaying .rst files with correct formatting directly in their web UI. This makes quick updates very easy, using the mirrored ASF CouchDB git repository.

Get your own Fork

Before editing the documentation, get your own editable copy of the repository, and choose the most appropriate branch to work on:


  1. Fork: as you will not have write permission to the ASF CouchDB git mirror, you'll need to make your own fork, or copy. Just click on the fork button, and you're done.

  2. Branch if needed: Once you have your own fork, list the available branches from the drop-down menu. The /docs branch will be used to build 1.3.0 release.

  3. The correct branch will depend a lot on where things are in the release cycle. In most cases, you'll simply want to pick either the patch branch for the last release (e.g. the 1.2.0 release will have a corresponding 1.2.x branch, as shown above), or more often, use the current master branch which will eventually be used to generate the next major release. For example, after 1.2.0, would come 1.3.0.

Driving GitHub UI

Now that you've got a suitable branch selected:




Generating Docs

Documentation should be freshly generated for each pull request, to ensure the formatting and linking in particular is still correct, prior to commit or merge.

Setting up Python and Sphinx for the first time

Assuming you have python 2.7 or a close relative, the following instructions will set up a python virtual environment containing the required tools:

virtualenv env
source env/bin/activate
which python pip
pip install sphinx docutils pygments

In future, you'll only need to run source $MY_COUCH_SOURCE_REPO/env/bin/activate in each shell / prompt you run in.

If you want to build the PDF, info files, etc, you will need a working TeX installation. Mac OS X users can use MacTex for this.

Can someone explain why a virtual environment is needed? Why can't, or shouldn't, I just install these packages normally? ~ Noah S.

Virtualenv is good common practice to not mix system wide installed Python packages with project required ones. While in most cases you will not face any problems with installing sphinx and all his dependencies system wide, there are some edge cases that could make things broken:

- Your system package manager doesn't have sphinx or some of his depended package available to install. Manual system wide installation is like make && make install - one more step closer to unmanaged system;

- You already has sphinx installed, but of version that has breaking changes against required one, and you're needed this different version - updating could break something for you;

Since Python 3.3 release there wouldn't be any requirement for virtualenv since it goes to be in stdlib and sphinx is ready for Python 3.x. ~ Alexander Sh.

Generation via ReadTheDocs

To regenerate the online docs, push your changes to the /docs branch, and then POST to a build-specific URL curl -vX POST http://readthedocs.org/build/4251. You can track the build progress and also grab the various built formats.

The https://github.com/dch/couchdb/tree/docs repo has a github post-commit hook already set up, so for testing you can use that repo, and view your results directly, or see the error log. You will be added as a contributor to it on your first pull request.


Check out the documentation component in JIRA for our current TODO list.

@@ Replace this with a shared filter, once you have permissions. ~ Noah S.


The original Couchbase-provided API documentation came in DocBook form. XML is feared and loathed by the Couch Community, who prefer to Relax with JSON. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth was done, and eventually the foul beast was slain by a thousand IRC cuts and ten thousand reply-to-alls. Those who have no fear may find the following lightweight information of use. Others may use it to scare small children and remind teenagers that the world was much harder in days gone by.

The DocBook source was exported using pandoc which is available as a binary on most common platforms, as follows:

for xml in *.xml; \
do echo ${xml}; \
    --smart --preserve-tabs --normalize --reference-links --chapters \
    --number-sections --standalone --from docbook --to rst \
    --output ../dist/${xml} ${xml};

Documentation (last edited 2013-06-05 22:15:13 by 71)