Writing Salt documentation (rST guide)#

Version 1.1 - last updated February 2022


Welcome to the Salt documentation guide. All of the Salt Project documentation is written in reStructured Text (rST), a flavor of Markdown that is specifically designed to work with Python-based projects. This guide will explain how to format your rST in the Salt Project documentation.

This guide:

  • Links out to a general guide for basic rST formatting guidelines.
  • Lists the specific rST formatting guidelines that we want to highlight for use in Salt documentation projects.

For additional help, see:


Want to see how this page looks in raw rST? Click Show Source at the bottom of the page. The link is in the footer.

General reStructured text (rST) guides#

To learn about how to format rST in general, see the official reStructuredText Primer.

However, an even better guide is the TYPO3 reStructured Text & Sphinx guide, especially the reST & Sphinx cheat sheet.

These two guides explain some aspects of rST that are not covered in the rest of this rST guide such as:

  • Formatting text as bold or italicized
  • Formatting in-line commands or code examples
  • Other general information about rST

The rest of this guide highlights how we want you to format various rST elements in Salt documentation.


In general, Salt only uses three levels of headings:

  • Heading 1 (h1) for topic or page titles, which uses = with both overlining and underlining
  • Heading 2 (h2) for section headings, which uses = underlining only
  • Heading 3 (h3) for subsection headings, which uses - underlining only


Do not use a heading level lower than h3.

The following callout shows how to format the three heading levels:

Heading 1 - Topic/page titles

Heading 2 - Section titles

Heading 3 - Subsection titles

Line endings#

To make it easier to review rST files in merge requests, insert a hard return at 80 characters and start a new line, per Google’s docstring guidelines.

To make life easier, consider setting your code editor to display the 80 character preferred line length.

Code blocks#

Inline code, commands, file paths, and file names should be formatted using double backticks (``). For longer code snippets, use a full code block.

The syntax to include a code block is:

.. code-block:: bash

    Your code example goes here

In the previous example, the part that follows the double-colon (::) indicates the type of code highlighting that should be applied. The code highlighting we use most commonly in Salt documentation includes:

  • yaml for YAML configuration files
  • bash for CLI commands
  • sls for Salt states
  • text for generic examples

Many different code highlighters are available for rST. See TYPO3’s guide to Code blocks with syntax highlighting for more information, along with Pygments list of available lexers.

When you’re writing YAML code examples, we require you to include the file path for the configuration file in the Salt Project. Use the :caption: element to show the file path. For example:

.. code-block:: yaml
   :caption: /etc/salt/master.d/grains.conf

   autosign_grains_dir: /etc/salt/autosign_grains

This renders as:

autosign_grains_dir: /etc/salt/autosign_grains

If your code block contains an executed command, remove any command prompts such as $.

Tabbed content#

In some cases, you might want to provide examples of how to run the same command in different operating systems or languages. The best way to represent alternative command syntax is to use tabbed content.

For example, you might want to show the syntax to run a script running in yum-based operating systems (such as RHEL) or in apt-based operating systems (such as Debian/Ubuntu).

In this case, you can use tabbed content to show the same script with different syntax. For example:

.. tabs::

   .. tab:: RHEL

      .. code-block:: bash

          yum check-update

   .. tab:: Debian/Ubuntu

      .. code-block:: bash

          apt update
          apt-get update

This renders as:

yum check-update

Be aware that getting the indentation and spacing right on tabs can sometimes prove difficult. As always, it’s a good idea to preview your changes locally before opening a merge request. See Contributing to Salt documentation for more information.


The core Salt docs do not yet support tabs. Currently you can only use them in the salt-user-guide and salt-install-guide repositories.

Admonitions (tips, note boxes, warnings)#

Admonitions help draw readers’ attention to important notes or warnings. The following admonitions are the most commonly used in Salt documentation:

  • Note
  • Tip
  • Danger
  • Warning

The typical format for an admonition is:

.. Note::
    Your admonition goes here

In the previous example, you could swap out Note for one of the other admonition types.

These admonitions render as follows:


This is a note admonition.


This is a tip admonition.


This is a danger admonition.


This is a warning admonition.

If you want to create custom text for the admonition title, use the following syntax:

.. Admonition:: Your custom admonition title

   The admonition text goes here.

This admonition renders as:

Your custom admonition title

The admonition text goes here.


For unordered lists (bullet lists), use asterisks (*). For example:

* Unordered list item 1
* Unordered list item 2
* Unordered list item 3

For ordered lists, use the pound sign (#), followed by a period. Include white space between each item for easier editing. For example:

#. Ordered list item 1

#. Ordered list item 2

#. Ordered list item 3

When an unordered or ordered list breaks over more than one line, indent the list item to align with the text in the first line. For example:

* Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod
  tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam,
  quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo
* Duis aute irure dolor en reprehenderit en voluptate velit esse cillum dolore
  eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident,
  sunt en culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim it est laborum.


For convenience in editing, Salt documentation uses the list style for tables in rST. The syntax is as follows:

.. list-table::
  :widths: 25 75
  :header-rows: 1

  * - Field
    - Description

  * - Example field
    - Example description

This renders as:

Field Description
Example field Example description


Store images in the docs/_static/img/ folder.

The syntax for images is as follows:

.. image:: ../_static/img/image-name.png
   :align: right
   :alt: Salt grains

Always assign an alternate image name to improve accessibility.


Sphinx provides the ability to add footnotes to a section of text.

In the body of your text where you want the footnote to appear, use this syntax:

Text preceding first footnote. [#f1]_
Text preceding second footnote. [#f2]_

Then place this reference in the text where you want the footnote reference to appear:

.. [#f1] Text of the first footnote.

.. [#f2] Text of the second footnote.

These footnotes render as:

Text preceding first footnote. [1]

Text preceding second footnote. [2]

[1]Text of the first footnote.
[2]Text of the second footnote.