Developer Guide for updating python SDK docs

Install Dependencies

pip install sphinx && pip install sphinx_rtd_theme

Since sphinx need to run the source code to generate the documentation, make sure you have installed the all the necessary dependencies needed by the project(see files).

How Works

  • Readthedocs need to run the Python code to generate the docs. So your dependencies need to exist on the machine that generates these docs.
  • Readthedocs can be configured via .readthedocs.yml under project root(not your Python library root). If you don’t need extra configurations, you don’t need .readthedocs.yml.
  • Readthedocs will generate documentations based on your .rst file. .rst file can be automatically generated or manually modified(see later sections).
  • Readthedocs doesn’t support complex dependencies, like Pypi packages with C modules. To address this, Readthedocs provides those common dependencies in their server but we need to enable it by setting system_packages: true
  • Dependencies can be specified by docs/requirements.txt file.
  • You don’t need to commit _build files. Those files will be generated by the servers.

How to Specify Dependencies

Readthedocs provides two ways of specifying dependencies. The first one is via the docs/requirements.txt file. This one will need to duplicate some of the information from the file. The benefit is we can pick only the dependencies that are needed by the execution of Readthedocs.

    - requirements: feathr_project/docs/requirements.txt

The second one is using This one avoids the duplication but have to install all dependencies. Readthedocs have poor support on importing complex dependencies, like Pandas can’t be imported. So this really doesn’t work for us.

    - method: setuptools
      path: feathr_project/

So using requirements.txt is used.

In the future, we should simplify the dependencies for user facing APIs. But it’s hard to do the same for developer-facing APIs. We still count on Readthedocs to simplify and address the dependency importing issues.

How to Edit Contents

You can edit the rst files to modify the structure and contents of the docs page.

Build the documentation html files

Then rebuild the html files:

make clean && make html

You will see new html files generated under _build/html/ directory and you can view _build/html/index.html in your browser locally.

Re-build the documentation html files

If you need to re-build the .rst files, run the following command to update them:

In docs directory:

sphinx-apidoc -f -o . ../feathr ../*setup*

(excluding files, and some other demo files, test files.)

Exposing the right namespace in Pydocs

Currently, the code is structured as this:

├── definition
│   ├──
│   ├──
├── protobuf
│   ├──
│   └──

When the end users need to import Feathr modules, for example aggegations, it should be straightforward for them to do so. Currently they should use:

from feathr import Aggregation

rather than

from feathr.definition import Aggregation

And this namespace should also be set correctly in the pydocs.

According to this answer in StackOverflow, we are doing the following:

  1. Add an __all__ section in (see code here). Every components that are included in the __all__ section is exposed to end users. Others are not exposed in the pydocs.
  2. In the rst file, just use a single module:
    .. automodule:: feathr

So that only this module is accessbile for end users.

Upload to

  • Login to
  • Click Import a Project
  • Click Import Manually on the right side
  • Fill in name, Repository URL(the url to feathr main), and Default branch(main or the branch you want to test).
  • Click Next


  • After you have imported your own branch, you can click Build version to test the build result of your latest code on the branch.
  • You can click on each panel to see the command message and warnings.
  • After the build is successful, it will show the docs page(like But they have a site cache issue. You have to refresh the site then you can see your new result.
  • Sometimes the python docs are not correctly formatted and you will see the build is successful, but you won’t see any docs (just blank pages). You will see error messages like below, though the build is successful. Please make sure you fix those errors.
/home/docs/checkouts/ of feathr.client.FeathrClient.register_features:5: ERROR: Unexpected indentation.

Debug and Known Issues

  • No module named xyz: Readthedocs need to run the code to generated the docs. So if your dependency is not specified in the docs/requirements.txt, it will fail on this. To fix it, specify the dependency in requirements.txt.

If your change will affect the Python Doc url link, please remember to check and update related links in feathr/docs folder.