reST Overview

The outline for this chapter has been taken from and adapted and extended for our needs.

Use of whitespace

All reST files use an indentation of 3 spaces; no tabs are allowed. The maximum line length is 80 characters for normal text, but tables, deeply indented code samples and long links may extend beyond that. Code example bodies should use normal Python 4-space indentation.

Make generous use of blank lines where applicable; they help group things together.

Sphinx naming

reST/Sphinx have some specific wording.


A role is an inline markup (see Inline markup). Own roles can be created. They are used inside other text structures.






A directive is an Explicit Markup (see Explicit Markup). Own directives can be created. Directives are written as a block.


.. directive:: arg1 arg2 ...
   :option1: value
   :option2: value
   :option5: value

   Multiline content,
arg1, arg2, ...
Arguments. The last argument can contain spaces (depending on the directive implementation).
Options are optional.


.. code-block:: bareosconfig
   :caption: bareos-sd.d/device/FileStorage.conf
   Device {
     Name = FileStorage
     Archive Device = /var/lib/bareos/storage


Device {
  Name = FileStorage
  Archive Device = /var/lib/bareos/storage


A domain is a collection of markup (reStructuredText directives and roles) to describe and link to objects belonging together.


The paragraph is the most basic block in a reST document. Paragraphs are simply chunks of text seperated by one or more blank lines. As in Python, indentation is significant in reST, so all lines of the same paragraph must be left-aligned to the same level of indentation.

Inline markup

The standard reST inline markup is quite simple: use

  • one asterisk: *text* for emphasis (italics),
  • two asterisks: **text** or :strong:`text` for strong emphasis (boldface), and
  • backquotes: ``text`` for code samples.

If asterisks or backquotes appear in running text and could be confused with inline markup delimiters, they have to be escaped with a backslash.

Be aware of some restrictions of this markup:

  • it may not be nested,
  • content may not start or end with whitespace: * text* is wrong,
  • it must be seperated from surrounding text by non-word characters. Use a backslash escaped space to work around that: thisis\ *one*\ word.

These restrictions may be lifted in future versions of the docutils.

reST also allows for custom “interpreted text roles”’, which signify that the enclosed text should be interpreted in a specific way. Sphinx uses this to provide semantic markup and cross-referencing of identifiers, as described in the appropriate section. The general syntax is :rolename:`content`.

Lists, Definition Lists and Quotes

List markup is natural: just place an asterisk at the start of a paragraph and indent properly. The same goes for numbered lists; they can also be automatically numbered using a # sign:

* This is a bulleted list.
* It has two items, the second
  item uses two lines.

1. This is a numbered list.
2. It has two items too.

#. This is a numbered list.
#. It has two items too.

Nested lists are possible, but be aware that they must be seperated from the parent list items by blank lines:

* this is
* a list

  * with a nested list
  * and some subitems

* and here the parent list continues

Definition lists are created as follows:

term (up to a line of text)
   Definition of the term, which must be indented

   and can even consist of multiple paragraphs

next term

Paragraphs are quoted by just indenting them more than the surrounding paragraphs.

Literal block

Literal code blocks are introduced by ending a paragraph with the special marker ::. The literal block must be indented:

This is a normal text paragraph. The next paragraph is a code sample::

   It is not processed in any way, except
   that the indentation is removed.

   It can span multiple lines.

This is a normal text paragraph again.

The handling of the :: marker is smart:

  • If it occurs as a paragraph of its own, that paragraph is completely left out of the document.
  • If it is preceded by whitespace, the marker is removed.
  • If it is preceded by non-whitespace, the marker is replaced by a single colon.

That way, the second sentence in the above example’s first paragraph would be rendered as “The next paragraph is a code sample:”.

Source Code

Source code will be formatted by the directive code-block.


.. code-block:: sh
   :caption: Titel

   Line 1
   Line 2


Line 1
Line 2

Valid values for the highlighting language are:

  • none (no highlighting)
  • python (the default)
  • bareosconfig (Bareos configuration files or parts thereof)
  • bconsole (Bareos console (bconsole) sessions)
  • bareoslog (Bareos log files)
  • bareosmessage (Bareos messages)
  • sh (Shell scripts)
  • shell-session (Shell sessions)
  • dosbatch (DOS/Windows Batch file)
  • doscon (MSDOS sessions)
  • cfg (Generic configuration file, mostly INI files)
  • sql (Generic SQL commands)
  • registry (Windows Registry files produced by regedit)
  • guess (let Pygments guess the lexer based on contents, only works with certain well-recognizable languages)
  • rest
  • c
  • … and any other lexer alias that Pygments supports.

If the text resides in a seperate file, use:

.. literalinclude:: /include/config/backup-client1.cfg
   :language: bareosconfig

All included files should be located under /include.

The beginning / means, root directory of the documenation source directory. Without it, the path is relative to the directory of the including file.

Configuration files should be located under /include/config/.

Cross-linking markup

To support cross-referencing to arbitrary sections in the documentation, the standard reST labels are “abused” a bit: Every label must precede a section title; and every label name must be unique throughout the entire documentation source.

You can then reference to these sections using the :ref:`label-name` role.


.. _my-reference-label:

Section to cross-reference

This is the text of the section.

It refers to the section itself, see :ref:`my-reference-label`.

The :ref: invocation is replaced with the section title.

Alternatively, you can reference any label (not just section titles) if you provide the link text :ref:`link text <reference-label>`.

Manual defined labels should use following naming rules:

  • without spaces
  • without columns (:)


If the label is not defined immediately before a section title and no link text is given, :ref: will fail and not create a link at all. Instead it produces a warning (WARNING: undefined label: mytestlabel (if the link has no caption the label must precede a section header)) and writes the parameter as plain text.

It is possible, however uncommon, to define multiple labels before a section header:

.. _section-feature1:

.. _section-feature2:

Section about Feature 1 and Feature 2

This is the text of the section.

In the Bareos documentation we use the Sphinx extension sphinx.ext.autosectionlabel with the parameter autosectionlabel_prefix_document = True.

With this, all section titles do automatically create a section label. This causes warnings when there are multiple sections with the same title. To reduce the number of warnings, the parameter autosectionlabel_prefix_document = True is set, This prefix each section label with the name (including the relative path from the top directory) of the document it is in, followed by a colon.


:ref:`DocumentationStyleGuide/RestOverview:Cross-linking markup`

This will link to Cross-linking markup.


Section headers are created by underlining (and optionally overlining) the section title with a punctuation character, at least as long as the text:

This is a heading

Normally, there are no heading levels assigned to certain characters as the structure is determined from the succession of headings.

Our convention is to use them in this order:

  • # with overline, for parts
  • = for chapters
  • -, for sections
  • ~, for subsections
  • ^, for subsubsections
  • ', for paragraphs






This convention has be introduced from the conversion of the original LaTex source to reST, as pandoc has created reST file with this section markers (except of parts, which are not created at all).

The part section header is not used at all by us.

All our regular documents starts with a section heading underlined by =.

Therefore the specific names part, chapter, section … might not match the actual context. Generally we speak about ‘’sections’’ (or ‘’section headings’’ or ‘’section markers’‘).


With reST, there is no leaving out a section level. If you write a chapter it is not possible to continue with a paragraph. Instead the next section must be of the type section.

If you try to do it overwise (chapter 1 = -> paragraph '), the ‘’paragraph’’ is treated as a section. And if you continue by another chapter (in the same file) (chapter 2 = -> section -), sphinx-build got confused and at least produces a warning (Title level inconsistent) and possibly renders the result incorrectly.

Explicit Markup

“Explicit markup” is used in reST for most constructs that need special handling, such as footnotes, specially-highlighted paragraphs, comments, and generic directives.

An explicit markup block begins with a line starting with .. followed by whitespace and is terminated by the next paragraph at the same level of indentation. (There needs to be a blank line between explicit markup and normal paragraphs. This may all sound a bit complicated, but it is intuitive enough when you write it.)


A directive is a generic block of explicit markup. Besides roles, it is one of the extension mechanisms of reST, and Sphinx makes heavy use of it.

Basically, a directive consists of a name, arguments, options and content. (Keep this terminology in mind, it is used in the next chapter describing custom directives.) Looking at this example,

.. function:: foo(x)
              foo(y, z)
   :bar: no

 Return a line of text input from the user.

function is the directive name. It is given two arguments here, the remainder of the first line and the second line, as well as one option bar (as you can see, options are given in the lines immediately following the arguments and indicated by the colons).

The directive content follows after a blank line and is indented relative to the directive start.


Every explicit markup block which isn’t a valid markup construct (like the footnotes above) is regarded as a comment.

However, it must have some text in the “.. ” line, otherwise it is ignored, and content will be displayed (indented).


File and directories (or generally paths) are formated by :file: inline markup.

Backslashes (Windows paths) \ have to written as \\:


The formatting looks a follows:

  * :file:`filename.txt`
  * :file:`/path/filename.txt`
  * :file:`/path/subdir/` (ends with a ``/``)
  * :file:`C:\\ProgramData\\Bareos\\`
  * :file:`C:\\ProgramData\\Bareos\\bareos-fd.conf`


  • filename.txt
  • /path/filename.txt
  • /path/subdir/ (ends with a /)
  • C:\ProgramData\Bareos\
  • C:\ProgramData\Bareos\bareos-fd.conf


If you want to display a note, the following formatting should be used:

.. note::

   It is important to ...

The output should look like this:


It is important to …


If you want to display a warning, the following formatting should be used:

.. warning::

   This record ignores retention periods!

The output should look like this:


This record ignores retention periods!


If you want to quote a certain text, the following formatting should be used:

"Application Managed"

The output should look like this:

“Application Managed”


.. index::

Some roles and directives do already create indices automatically.

However, there is also an explicit directive available, to make the index more comprehensive and enable index entries in documents where information is not mainly contained in information units.

The directive is index and contains one or more index entries. Each entry consists of a type and a value, separated by a colon.

For example:

.. index::
   single: execution; context
   triple: module; search; path

This directive contains five entries, which will be converted to entries in the generated index which link to the exact location of the index statement (or, in case of offline media, the corresponding page number).

Since index directives generate cross-reference targets at their location in the source, it makes sense to put them before the thing they refer to – e.g. a heading, as in the example above.

The possible entry types are:

Creates a single index entry. Can be made a subentry by separating the subentry text with a semicolon (this notation is also used below to describe what entries are created).
pair: loop; statement is a shortcut that creates two index entries, namely loop; statement and statement; loop.
Likewise, triple: T1; T2; T3 is a shortcut that creates three index entries, which are T1; T2 T3, T2; T3, T1 and T3; T1 T2. Generally, this should be avoided.
see: entry; other creates an index entry that refers from entry to other.
Like see, but inserts “see also” instead of “see”.

Sphinx indices, at least in HTML, are only structured in up to two level. More level will only be combined into the second level.

You can mark up “main” index entries by prefixing them with an exclamation mark. The references to “main” entries are emphasized in the generated index. For example, if two pages contain

.. index:: Python

and one page contains

.. index:: ! Python

then the backlink to the latter page is emphasized among the three backlinks.

For index directives containing only “single” entries, there is a shorthand notation:

.. index:: BNF, grammar, syntax, notation

This creates four index entries.


While the index directive is a block-level markup and links to the beginning of the next paragraph, there is also a corresponding role that sets the link target directly where it is used.

The content of the role can be a simple phrase, which is then kept in the text and used as an index entry. It can also be a combination of text and index entry, styled like with explicit targets of cross-references. In that case, the “target” part can be a full entry as described for the directive above. For example:

This is a normal reST :index:`paragraph` that contains several
:index:`index entries <pair: index; entry>`.


The :index: role must contain text. This text will be printed and referenced by the index.

Converted (Latex2Sphinx) Indices

Neither of .. index:: nor :index: correspond well to a Latex \index.

A Latex index will not be printed and the index will refer to the exact location. In the Latex documentation indices have also been used inside of other structures (e.g. tables), which prevents an easy automatic conversation to .. index::.

To work around these problem, following substitution have been used:


is substituted by:

:index:`\ <single: Console; Command; restore>`

The backslash + space sequence create a invisible string. When the Sphinx Bareos Manual is edited manually, these entries can be replaced to some better fitting indices.


Image can be included by:

.. image:: /include/images/bareos-webui-jobs.*
   :caption: Bareos WebUI: Job Overview
   :width: 80.0%

All images should be located in the /include/images/ directory. Sphinx supports a number of image format. With the file extension .* Sphinx chooses the best one. In general, images should be stored as SVG.


Sphinx offers multiple methods to create tables, see

Choose whatever sucks least.

For simple tables csv-table is a good choice.


.. csv-table:: Example :rst:dir:`csv-table`
   :header: "Header Text 1", "Header Text 2", "Header Text 3"

   "Data 1.1",               "Data 1.2",      "Data 1.3"
   "Data 2.1",               "Data 2.2",      "Data 2.3"
   "Data 3.1",               ,                "Data 1.3 (Data 1.2 left out)"
   "Data 4.1",               "Data 4.2 (Data 4.3 left out)"

This will be displayed as:

Example csv-table
Header Text 1 Header Text 2 Header Text 3
Data 1.1 Data 1.2 Data 1.3
Data 2.1 Data 2.2 Data 2.3
Data 3.1   Data 1.3 (Data 1.2 left out)
Data 4.1 Data 4.2 (Data 4.3 left out)