You can write codebase documentation in the popular Markdown or ReST format; Pants eases generating readable versions and publishing them so your users can read it.

Markdown to HTML

To tell Pants about your Markdown or ReST file, use a page target in a BUILD file as in this excerpt from examples/src/java/org/pantsbuild/example/hello/main/BUILD:


To render the page as HTML, use the markdown goal. For example, to view examples/src/java/org/pantsbuild/example/hello/main/ as HTML in your browser,

$ ./pants markdown --open examples/src/java/org/pantsbuild/example/hello/main:readme

Pants generates the HTML files in the dist/markdown/ directory tree.

Markdown Syntax

Pants uses the Python Markdown module; thus, in addition to the usual Gruber Markdown syntax, there are other features Pants uses Python Markdown's codehilite, extra, tables, and toc extensions.

One page can link to another. Regular Markdown-link syntax works for regular links; but if you use pages to generate both .html files and wiki pages, it's not clear what to link to: the .html file or the wiki address. You can use a Pants-specific syntax to make links that work with generated HTML or wiki pages.

To set up a page that contains a link to, you make a dependencies relation and use the special pants(...) syntax in the markdown.

In the BUILD file:

  dependencies=[':dest'], # enables linking
  provides=[...publishing info...],

  provides=[...publishing info...],

To set up the links in that point to or an anchor therein:

For more information about this fascinating topic,
please see [[Destinations|pants('path/to:dest')]],
especially the
[[Addendum section|pants('path/to:dest)'#addendum]],

Pants replaces the pants('path/to:dest') with the appropriate link.

Include a File Snippet

Sometimes the best way to explain is to show an excerpt from You can use the !inc markdown to do this. Specify a file to include and (optionally) regexps at which to start copying or stop copying. For example, to include an excerpt from the file, starting with the first line matching the pattern void main and stopping before a subsequent line matching private HelloMain:

!inc[start-at=void main&end-before=private HelloMain](

To include all of


To include most of, starting after license boilerplate:

!inc[start-after=Licensed under the Apache](

It accepts the following optional parameters, separated by ampersands (&):

When excerpting the file to include, start at the first line containing substring.

When excerpting the file to include, start after the first line containing substring.

When excerpting the file to include, stop before a line containing substring.

When excerpting the file to include, stop at a line containing substring.

ReStructedText Syntax

Pants can generate web content from docutils reStructuredText-formatted text.

To tell Pants that your page target's source is in reStructuredText format, you can either

  • give the source file an .rst file extension, or
  • pass format='rst' to the page target.


You can tell Pants to publish a page. So far, there's only one way to publish: as a page in an Atlassian Confluence wiki. (You can add other doc-publish backends to Pants; send us a patch!)

To specify the "address" to which to publish a page, give it a provides parameter.

Once you've done this, you can publish the page by invoking the goal set up in your workspace. For example, if the goal was set up with the name "confluence", you invoke:

$ ./pants confluence examples/src/java/org/pantsbuild/example/hello/main:readme

To specify that a page should be published to a Confluence wiki page, set its provides to something like:

      title='Pants Hello World Example',

...assuming your workspace is set up for confluence publishing with a Wiki symbol named confluence set up as part of a plugin as described below:

Setting up your workspace for Confluence publish

That wiki specifies some information about your wiki server. So far, the only kind of thing you can publish to is a Confluence wiki. To set up and register this symbol, set up a Pants plugin if your workspace doesn't already have one. In the plugin, define a Wiki and register it:

import urllib

from pants.backend.docgen.targets.doc import Wiki

def confluence_url_builder(page, config):
  title = config['title']
  return title, '' % (

confluence_wiki = Wiki(name='confluence', url_builder=confluence_url_builder)

# in
def build_file_aliases():
  return BuildFileAliases(
    # ...
      # ...
      'confluence', confluence_wiki},

You need to install a goal to enable publishing a doc to confluence. To do this, in your Pants plugin, install a goal that subclasses ConfluencePublish:

from pants.backend.docgen.tasks.confluence_publish import ConfluencePublish

class ArchieConfluence(ConfluencePublish):
  def wiki(self):
    return confluence_wiki
  def api(self):
    return 'confluence2'

# in
def register_goals():
  # ...
  task(name='confluence', action=ArchieConfluence, dependencies=['markdown']).install()

In your pants.toml file, add a section with the url of your wiki server. E.g., if your server is at, it would look like:

url = ""
Generated by publish_docs from dist/markdown/html/examples/src/java/org/pantsbuild/example/page.html 2022-12-03T01:09:00.284178