Documentation Style Guide

This document defines the standards for GitLab’s documentation content and files.

For broader information about the documentation, see the Documentation guidelines.

For programmatic help adhering to the guidelines, see Testing.

See the GitLab handbook for further writing style guidelines that apply to all GitLab content, not just documentation.

Documentation is the single source of truth (SSOT)

Why a single source of truth

The documentation of GitLab products and features is the SSOT for all information related to implementation, usage, and troubleshooting. It evolves continually, in keeping with new products and features, and with improvements for clarity, accuracy, and completeness.

This policy prevents information silos, ensuring that it remains easy to find information about GitLab products.

It also informs decisions about the kinds of content we include in our documentation.

All information

Include problem-solving actions that may address rare cases or be considered ‘risky’, so long as proper context is provided in the form of fully detailed warnings and caveats. This kind of content should be included as it could be helpful to others and, when properly explained, its benefits outweigh the risks. If you think you have found an exception to this rule, contact the Technical Writing team.

We will add all troubleshooting information to the documentation, no matter how unlikely a user is to encounter a situation. For the Troubleshooting sections, people in GitLab Support can merge additions themselves.

All media types

Include any media types/sources if the content is relevant to readers. You can freely include or link presentations, diagrams, videos, and so on; no matter who it was originally composed for, if it is helpful to any of our audiences, we can include it.

  • If you use an image that has a separate source file (for example, a vector or diagram format), link the image to the source file so that it may be reused or updated by anyone.
  • Do not copy and paste content from other sources unless it is a limited quotation with the source cited. Typically it is better to either rephrase relevant information in your own words or link out to the other source.

No special types

In the software industry, it is a best practice to organize documentation in different types. For example, Divio recommends:

  1. Tutorials
  2. How-to guides
  3. Explanation
  4. Reference (for example, a glossary)

At GitLab, we have so many product changes in our monthly releases that we can’t afford to continually update multiple types of information. If we have multiple types, the information will become outdated. Therefore, we have a single template for documentation.

We currently do not distinguish specific document types, although we are open to reconsidering this policy once the documentation has reached a future stage of maturity and quality. If you are reading this, then despite our continual improvement efforts, that point hasn’t been reached.

There is a temptation to summarize the information on another page. This will cause the information to live in two places. Instead, link to the SSOT and explain why it is important to consume the information.

Organize by topic, not by type

Beyond top-level audience-type folders (for example, administration), we organize content by topic, not by type, so that it can be located as easily as possible within the single-source-of-truth (SSOT) section for the subject matter.

For example, do not create groupings of similar media types. For example:

  • Glossaries.
  • FAQs.
  • Sets of all articles or videos.

Such grouping of content by type makes it difficult to browse for the information you need and difficult to maintain up-to-date content. Instead, organize content by its subject (for example, everything related to CI goes together) and cross-link between any related content.

Docs-first methodology

We employ a docs-first methodology to help ensure that the docs remain a complete and trusted resource, and to make communicating about the use of GitLab more efficient.

  • If the answer to a question exists in documentation, share the link to the docs instead of rephrasing the information.
  • When you encounter new information not available in GitLab’s documentation (for example, when working on a support case or testing a feature), your first step should be to create a merge request (MR) to add this information to the docs. You can then share the MR in order to communicate this information.

New information that would be useful toward the future usage or troubleshooting of GitLab should not be written directly in a forum or other messaging system, but added to a docs MR and then referenced, as described above. Note that among any other doc changes, you can either:

The more we reflexively add useful information to the docs, the more (and more successfully) the docs will be used to efficiently accomplish tasks and solve problems.

If you have questions when considering, authoring, or editing docs, ask the Technical Writing team on Slack in #docs or in GitLab by mentioning the writer for the applicable DevOps stage. Otherwise, forge ahead with your best effort. It does not need to be perfect; the team is happy to review and improve upon your content. Please review the Documentation guidelines before you begin your first documentation MR.

Having a knowledge base in any form that is separate from the documentation would be against the docs-first methodology because the content would overlap with the documentation.

Markdown

All GitLab documentation is written using Markdown.

The documentation website uses GitLab Kramdown as its Markdown rendering engine. For a complete Kramdown reference, see the GitLab Markdown Kramdown Guide.

The gitlab-kramdown Ruby gem will support all GFM markup in the future. That is, all markup supported for display in the GitLab application itself. For now, use regular Markdown markup, following the rules in the linked style guide.

Note that Kramdown-specific markup (for example, {:.class}) will not render properly on GitLab instances under /help.

HTML in Markdown

Hard-coded HTML is valid, although it’s discouraged from being used while we have /help. HTML is permitted as long as:

  • There’s no equivalent markup in Markdown.
  • Advanced tables are necessary.
  • Special styling is required.
  • Reviewed and approved by a technical writer.

Markdown Rules

GitLab ensures that the Markdown used across all documentation is consistent, as well as easy to review and maintain, by testing documentation changes with markdownlint. This lint test fails when any document has an issue with Markdown formatting that may cause the page to render incorrectly within GitLab. It will also fail when a document is using non-standard Markdown (which may render correctly, but is not the current standard for GitLab documentation).

Markdown rule MD044/proper-names (capitalization)

A rule that could cause confusion is MD044/proper-names, as it might not be immediately clear what caused markdownlint to fail, or how to correct the failure. This rule checks a list of known words, listed in the .markdownlint.json file in each project, to verify that proper capitalization and backticks are used. Words in backticks will be ignored by markdownlint.

In general, product names should follow the exact capitalization of the official names of the products, protocols, and so on.

Some examples that will fail if incorrect capitalization is used:

  • MinIO (needs capital IO)
  • NGINX (needs all capitals)
  • runit (needs lowercase r)

Additionally, commands, parameters, values, filenames, and so on must be included in backticks. For example:

  • “Change the needs keyword in your .gitlab.yml…”
    • needs is a parameter, and .gitlab.yml is a file, so both need backticks. Additionally, .gitlab.yml will fail markdownlint without backticks as it does not have capital G or L.
  • “Run git clone to clone a Git repository…”
    • git clone is a command, so it must be lowercase, while Git is the product, so it must have a capital G.

Structure

Because we want documentation to be a SSOT, we should organize by topic, not by type.

Folder structure overview

The documentation is separated by top-level audience folders user, administration, and development (contributing) folders.

Beyond that, we primarily follow the structure of the GitLab user interface or API.

Our goal is to have a clear hierarchical structure with meaningful URLs like docs.gitlab.com/user/project/merge_requests/. With this pattern, you can immediately tell that you are navigating to user-related documentation about Project features; specifically about Merge Requests. Our site’s paths match those of our repository, so the clear structure also makes documentation easier to update.

The table below shows what kind of documentation goes where.

DirectoryWhat belongs here
doc/user/User related documentation. Anything that can be done within the GitLab UI goes here, including usage of the /admin interface.
doc/administration/Documentation that requires the user to have access to the server where GitLab is installed. The admin settings that can be accessed via GitLab’s interface exist under doc/user/admin_area/.
doc/api/API related documentation.
doc/development/Documentation related to the development of GitLab, whether contributing code or docs. Related process and style guides should go here.
doc/legal/Legal documents about contributing to GitLab.
doc/install/Contains instructions for installing GitLab.
doc/update/Contains instructions for updating GitLab.
doc/topics/Indexes per topic (doc/topics/topic-name/index.md): all resources for that topic.

Work with directories and files

  1. When you create a new directory, always start with an index.md file. Do not use another file name and do not create README.md files.
  2. Do not use special characters and spaces, or capital letters in file names, directory names, branch names, and anything that generates a path.
  3. When creating a new document and it has more than one word in its name, make sure to use underscores instead of spaces or dashes (-). For example, a proper naming would be import_projects_from_github.md. The same rule applies to images.
  4. For image files, do not exceed 100KB.
  5. Do not upload video files to the product repositories. Link or embed videos instead.
  6. There are four main directories, user, administration, api and development.
  7. The doc/user/ directory has five main subdirectories: project/, group/, profile/, dashboard/ and admin_area/.
    1. doc/user/project/ should contain all project related documentation.
    2. doc/user/group/ should contain all group related documentation.
    3. doc/user/profile/ should contain all profile related documentation. Every page you would navigate under /profile should have its own document, for example, account.md, applications.md, or emails.md.
    4. doc/user/dashboard/ should contain all dashboard related documentation.
    5. doc/user/admin_area/ should contain all admin related documentation describing what can be achieved by accessing GitLab’s admin interface (not to be confused with doc/administration where server access is required).
      1. Every category under /admin/application_settings/ should have its own document located at doc/user/admin_area/settings/. For example, the Visibility and Access Controls category should have a document located at doc/user/admin_area/settings/visibility_and_access_controls.md.
  8. The doc/topics/ directory holds topic-related technical content. Create doc/topics/topic-name/subtopic-name/index.md when subtopics become necessary. General user- and admin- related documentation, should be placed accordingly.
  9. The directories /workflow/, /university/, and /articles/ have been deprecated and the majority their docs have been moved to their correct location in small iterations.

If you are unsure where a document or a content addition should live, this should not stop you from authoring and contributing. You can use your best judgment and then ask the reviewer of your MR to confirm your decision, and/or ask a technical writer at any stage in the process. The technical writing team will review all documentation changes, regardless, and can move content if there is a better place for it.

Avoid duplication

Do not include the same information in multiple places. Link to a SSOT instead.

References across documents

  • Give each folder an index.md page that introduces the topic, introduces the pages within, and links to the pages within (including to the index pages of any next-level subpaths).
  • To ensure discoverability, ensure each new or renamed doc is linked from its higher-level index page and other related pages.
  • When making reference to other GitLab products and features, link to their respective docs, at least on first mention.
  • When making reference to third-party products or technologies, link out to their external sites, documentation, and resources.

Structure within documents

  • Include any and all applicable subsections as described on the structure and template page.
  • Structure content in alphabetical order in tables, lists, and so on, unless there is a logical reason not to (for example, when mirroring the UI or an otherwise ordered sequence).

Language

GitLab documentation should be clear and easy to understand.

  • Be clear, concise, and stick to the goal of the documentation.
  • Write in US English with US grammar.
  • Use inclusive language.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Avoid uncommon words.
  • Don’t write in the first person singular.
    • Instead of “I” or “me,” use “we,” “you,” “us,” or “one.”

Point of view

In most cases, it’s appropriate to use the second-person (you, yours) point of view, because it’s friendly and easy to understand.

Capitalization

  • Capitalize “G” and “L” in GitLab.
  • Use sentence case for:
    • Titles.
    • Labels.
    • Menu items.
    • Buttons.
    • Headings. Don’t capitalize other words in the title, unless it refers to a product feature. For example:
      • Capitalizing “issues” is acceptable in ## What you can do with GitLab Issues, but not in ## Closing multiple issues.
  • Use title case when referring to:
    • GitLab Features. For example, Issue Board, Geo, and Runner.
    • GitLab product tiers. For example, GitLab Core and GitLab Ultimate.
    • Third-party products. For example, Prometheus, Kubernetes, and Git.
    • Methods or methodologies. For example, Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, Scrum, and Agile.

      Note: Some features are also objects. For example, “GitLab’s Merge Requests support X” and “Create a new merge request for Z.”
  • Avoid use of the future tense:
    • Instead of “after you execute this command, GitLab will display the result”, use “after you execute this command, GitLab displays the result”.
    • Only use the future tense to convey when the action or result will actually occur at a future time.
  • Do not use slashes to clump different words together or as a replacement for the word “or”:
    • Instead of “and/or,” consider using “or,” or use another sensible construction.
    • Other examples include “clone/fetch,” author/assignee,” and “namespace/repository name.” Break apart any such instances in an appropriate way.
    • Exceptions to this rule include commonly accepted technical terms such as CI/CD, TCP/IP, and so on.
  • Do not use “may” and “might” interchangeably:
    • Use “might” to indicate the probability of something occurring. “If you skip this step, the import process might fail.”
    • Use “may” to indicate giving permission for someone to do something, or consider using “can” instead. “You may select either option on this screen.” Or, “you can select either option on this screen.”
  • We discourage use of Latin abbreviations, such as “e.g.,” “i.e.,” or “etc.,” as even native users of English might misunderstand them.
    • Instead of “i.e.,” use “that is.”
    • Instead of “e.g.,” use “for example,” “such as,” “for instance,” or “like.”
    • Instead of “etc.,” either use “and so on” or consider editing it out, since it can be vague.

Contractions

  • Use common contractions when it helps create a friendly and informal tone, especially in tutorials, instructional documentation, and UIs.
DoDon’t
it’sit is
can’tcannot
wouldn’twould not
you’reyou are
you’veyou have
haven’thave not
don’tdo not
we’rewe are
that’sthat is
won’twill not
  • Avoid less common contractions:
DoDon’t
he wouldhe’d
it willit’ll
should haveshould’ve
there wouldthere’d
  • Do not use contractions with a proper noun and a verb. For example:
DoDon’t
GitLab is creating XGitLab’s creating X
  • Do not use contractions when you need to emphasize a negative. For example:
DoDon’t
Do not install X with YDon’t install X with Y
  • Do not use contractions in reference documentation. For example:
DoDon’t
Do not set a limit greater than 1000Don’t set a limit greater than 1000
For parameter1, the default is 10For parameter1, the default’s 10
  • Avoid contractions in error messages. Examples:
DoDon’t
Requests to localhost are not allowedRequests to localhost aren’t allowed
Specified URL cannot be usedSpecified URL can’t be used

Text

  • Write in Markdown.
  • Splitting long lines (preferably up to 100 characters) can make it easier to provide feedback on small chunks of text.
  • Insert an empty line for new paragraphs.
  • Insert an empty line between different markups (for example, after every paragraph, header, list, and so on). Example:

    ## Header
    
    Paragraph.
    
    - List item 1
    - List item 2
    

Emphasis

  • Use double asterisks (**) to mark a word or text in bold (**bold**).
  • Use underscore (_) for text in italics (_italic_).
  • Use greater than (>) for blockquotes.

Punctuation

Check the general punctuation rules for the GitLab documentation on the table below. Check specific punctuation rules for lists below.

RuleExample
Always end full sentences with a period.For a complete overview, read through this document.
Always add a space after a period when beginning a new sentence.For a complete overview, check this doc. For other references, check out this guide.
Do not use double spaces.
Do not use tabs for indentation. Use spaces instead. You can configure your code editor to output spaces instead of tabs when pressing the tab key.
Use serial commas (“Oxford commas”) before the final ‘and/or’ in a list.You can create new issues, merge requests, and milestones.
Always add a space before and after dashes when using it in a sentence (for replacing a comma, for example).You should try this - or not.
Always use lowercase after a colon.Related Issues: a way to create a relationship between issues.

Placeholder text

Often in examples, a writer will provide a command or configuration that is complete apart from a value specific to the reader.

In these cases, use < and > to call out where a reader must replace text with their own value.

For example:

cp <your_source_directory> <your_destination_directory>

Lists

  • Always start list items with a capital letter, unless they are parameters or commands that are in backticks, or similar.
  • Always leave a blank line before and after a list.
  • Begin a line with spaces (not tabs) to denote a nested subitem.

Ordered vs. unordered lists

Only use ordered lists when their items describe a sequence of steps to follow.

Do:

These are the steps to do something:

1. First, do the first step.
1. Then, do the next step.
1. Finally, do the last step.

Don’t:

This is a list of available features:

1. Feature 1
1. Feature 2
1. Feature 3

Markup

  • Use dashes (-) for unordered lists instead of asterisks (*).
  • Prefix 1. to every item in an ordered list. When rendered, the list items will appear with sequential numbering automatically.

Punctuation

  • Do not add commas (,) or semicolons (;) to the end of list items.
  • Only add periods to the end of a list item if the item consists of a complete sentence. The definition of full sentence is: “a complete sentence always contains a verb, expresses a complete idea, and makes sense standing alone”.
  • Be consistent throughout the list: if the majority of the items do not end in a period, do not end any of the items in a period, even if they consist of a complete sentence. The opposite is also valid: if the majority of the items end with a period, end all with a period.
  • Separate list items from explanatory text with a colon (:). For example:

    The list is as follows:
    
    - First item: this explains the first item.
    - Second item: this explains the second item.
    

Examples:

Do:

  • First list item
  • Second list item
  • Third list item

Don’t:

  • First list item
  • Second list item
  • Third list item.

Do:

  • Let’s say this is a complete sentence.
  • Let’s say this is also a complete sentence.
  • Not a complete sentence.

Don’t (vary use of periods; majority rules):

  • Let’s say this is a complete sentence.
  • Let’s say this is also a complete sentence.
  • Not a complete sentence

Nesting inside a list item

It is possible to nest items under a list item, so that they render with the same indentation as the list item. This can be done with:

Items nested in lists should always align with the first character of the list item. In unordered lists (using -), this means two spaces for each level of indentation:

- Unordered list item 1

  A line nested using 2 spaces to align with the `U` above.

- Unordered list item 2

  > A quote block that will nest
  > inside list item 2.

- Unordered list item 3

  ```text
  a codeblock that will next inside list item 3
  ```

- Unordered list item 4

  ![an image that will nest inside list item 4](image.png)

For ordered lists, use three spaces for each level of indentation:

1. Ordered list item 1

   A line nested using 3 spaces to align with the `O` above.

1. Ordered list item 2

   > A quote block that will nest
   > inside list item 2.

1. Ordered list item 3

   ```text
   a codeblock that will next inside list item 3
   ```

1. Ordered list item 4

   ![an image that will nest inside list item 4](image.png)

You can nest full lists inside other lists using the same rules as above. If you wish to mix types, that is also possible, as long as you don’t mix items at the same level:

1. Ordered list item one.
1. Ordered list item two.
   - Nested unordered list item one.
   - Nested unordered list item two.
1. Ordered list item three.

- Unordered list item one.
- Unordered list item two.
  1. Nested ordered list item one.
  1. Nested ordered list item two.
- Unordered list item three.

Quotes

Valid for Markdown content only, not for frontmatter entries:

  • Standard quotes: double quotes ("). Example: “This is wrapped in double quotes”.
  • Quote within a quote: double quotes (") wrap single quotes ('). Example: “I am ‘quoting’ something within a quote”.

For other punctuation rules, please refer to the GitLab UX guide.

Headings

  • Add only one H1 in each document, by adding # at the beginning of it (when using Markdown). The h1 will be the document <title>.
  • Start with an h2 (##), and respect the order h2 > h3 > h4 > h5 > h6. Never skip the hierarchy level, such as h2 > h4
  • Avoid putting numbers in headings. Numbers shift, hence documentation anchor links shift too, which eventually leads to dead links. If you think it is compelling to add numbers in headings, make sure to at least discuss it with someone in the Merge Request.
  • Avoid using symbols and special chars in headers. Whenever possible, they should be plain and short text.
  • Avoid adding things that show ephemeral statuses. For example, if a feature is considered beta or experimental, put this information in a note, not in the heading.
  • When introducing a new document, be careful for the headings to be grammatically and syntactically correct. Mention an assigned technical writer (TW) for review. This is to ensure that no document with wrong heading is going live without an audit, thus preventing dead links and redirection issues when corrected.
  • Leave exactly one blank line before and after a heading.
  • Do not use links in headings.
  • Add the corresponding product badge according to the tier the feature belongs.
  • Our docs site search engine prioritizes words used in headings and subheadings. Make you subheading titles clear, descriptive, and complete to help users find the right example, as shown in the section on heading titles.
  • See Capitalization for guidelines on capitalizing headings.

Heading titles

Keep heading titles clear and direct. Make every word count. To accommodate search engine optimization (SEO), use the imperative, where possible.

DoDon’t
Configure GDKConfiguring GDK
GitLab Release and Maintenance PolicyThis section covers GitLab’s Release and Maintenance Policy
Backport to older releasesBackporting to older releases
GitLab Pages examplesExamples

For guidelines on capitalizing headings, see the section on capitalization.

Note: If you change an existing title, be careful. Any such changes may affect not only links within the page, but may also affect links from GitLab itself, as well as external links, to GitLab documentation.

Headings generate anchor links automatically when rendered. ## This is an example generates the anchor #this-is-an-example.

Keep in mind that the GitLab UI links to a large number of docs and respective anchor links to take the user to the right spot. Therefore, when you change a heading, search doc/*, app/views/*, and ee/app/views/* for the old anchor to make sure you’re not breaking an anchor linked from other docs nor from the GitLab UI. If you find the old anchor, make sure to replace it with the new one.

Important:

  • Avoid crosslinking docs to headings unless you need to link to a specific section of the document. This will avoid breaking anchors in the future in case the heading is changed.
  • If possible, avoid changing headings since they’re not only linked internally. There are various links to GitLab documentation on the internet, such as tutorials, presentations, StackOverflow posts, and other sources.
  • Do not link to h1 headings.

Note that, with Kramdown, it is possible to add a custom ID to an HTML element with Markdown markup, but they do not work in GitLab’s /help. Therefore, do not use this option until further notice.

Links are important in GitLab documentation. They allow you to link instead of summarizing to help preserve an SSoT within GitLab documentation.

We include guidance for links in the following categories:

  • Use inline link Markdown markup [Text](https://example.com). It’s easier to read, review, and maintain. Do not use [Text][identifier].

  • Use meaningful anchor texts. For example, instead of writing something like Read more about GitLab Issue Boards [here](LINK), write Read more about [GitLab Issue Boards](LINK).

Note: Internal refers to documentation in the same project. When linking to documentation in separate projects (for example, linking to Omnibus docs from GitLab docs), you must use absolute URLs.

To link to internal documentation:

  • Use relative links to Markdown files in the same repository.
  • Do not use absolute URLs or URLs from docs.gitlab.com.
  • Use ../ to navigate to higher-level directories.
  • Do not link relative to root. For example, /ee/user/gitlab_com/index.md.

    Don’t:

    • https://docs.gitlab.com/ee/administration/geo/replication/troubleshooting.html
    • /ee/administration/geo/replication/troubleshooting.md

    Do: ../../geo/replication/troubleshooting.md

  • Always add the file name file.md at the end of the link with the .md extension, not .html.

    Don’t:

    • ../../merge_requests/
    • ../../issues/tags.html
    • ../../issues/tags.html#stages

    Do:

    • ../../merge_requests/index.md
    • ../../issues/tags.md
    • ../../issues/tags.md#stages
Note: Using the Markdown extension is necessary for the /help section of GitLab.

Don’t link directly to:

These will fail for:

  • Those without sufficient permissions.
  • Automated link checkers.

Instead:

  • To reduce confusion, mention in the text that the information is either:
    • Contained in a confidential issue.
    • Requires special permission to a project to view.
  • Provide a link in back ticks (`) so that those with access to the issue can easily navigate to it.

Example:

For more information, see the [confidential issue](../../user/project/issues/confidential_issues.md) `https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-foss/issues/<issue_number>`.

When linking to specifics lines within a file, link to a commit instead of to the branch. Lines of code change through time, therefore, linking to a line by using the commit link ensures the user lands on the line you’re referring to.

  • Do: [link to line 3](https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/-/blob/11f17c56d8b7f0b752562d78a4298a3a95b5ce66/.gitlab/issue_templates/Feature%20proposal.md#L3)
  • Don’t: [link to line 3](https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/-/blob/master/.gitlab/issue_templates/Feature%20proposal.md#L3).

If that linked expression is no longer in that line of the file due to further commits, you can still search the file for that query. In this case, update the document to ensure it links to the most recent version of the file.

To indicate the steps of navigation through the UI:

  • Use the exact word as shown in the UI, including any capital letters as-is.
  • Use bold text for navigation items and the char “greater than” (>) as separator (for example, Navigate to your project's **Settings > CI/CD** ).
  • If there are any expandable menus, make sure to mention that the user needs to expand the tab to find the settings you’re referring to (for example, Navigate to your project's **Settings > CI/CD** and expand **General pipelines**).

Images

  • Place images in a separate directory named img/ in the same directory where the .md document that you’re working on is located.
  • Images should have a specific, non-generic name that will differentiate and describe them properly.
  • For screenshots of GitLab software, append the GitLab version the screenshot was taken from to the file name. Use the following format: image_name_vX_Y.png.
  • For example, for a screenshot taken from the pipelines page of GitLab 11.1, a valid name is pipelines_v11_1.png. If you’re adding an illustration that does not include parts of the UI, add the release number corresponding to the release the image was added to. Example, for an MR added to 11.1’s milestone, a valid name for an illustration is devops_diagram_v11_1.png.
  • Keep all file names in lower case.
  • Consider using PNG images instead of JPEG.
  • Compress all PNG images.
  • Compress gifs with https://ezgif.com/optimize or similar tool.
  • Images should be used (only when necessary) to illustrate the description of a process, not to replace it.
  • Max image size: 100KB (gifs included).
  • See also how to link and embed videos to illustrate the docs.

Inside the document:

  • The Markdown way of using an image inside a document is: ![Proper description what the image is about](img/document_image_title_vX_Y.png)
  • Always use a proper description for what the image is about. That way, when a browser fails to show the image, this text will be used as an alternative description.
  • If a heading is placed right after an image, always add three dashes (---) between the image and the heading.

Remove image shadow

All images displayed on the GitLab Docs site have a box shadow by default. To remove the box shadow, use the image class .image-noshadow applied directly to an HTML img tag:

<img src="path/to/image.jpg" alt="Alt text (required)" class="image-noshadow">

Compress images

You should always compress any new images you add to the documentation. One known tool is pngquant, which is cross-platform and open source. Install it by visiting the official website and following the instructions for your OS.

GitLab has a raketask that you can use to automate the process. In the root directory of your local copy of https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab, run in a terminal:

  • Before compressing, if you want, check that all documentation PNG images have been compressed:

    bundle exec rake pngquant:lint
    
  • Compress all documentation PNG images using pngquant:

    bundle exec rake pngquant:compress
    

The only caveat is that the task runs on all images under doc/, not only the ones you might have included in a merge request. In that case, you can run the compress task and only commit the images that are relevant to your merge request.

Videos

Adding GitLab’s existing YouTube video tutorials to the documentation is highly encouraged, unless the video is outdated. Videos should not replace documentation, but complement or illustrate it. If content in a video is fundamental to a feature and its key use cases, but this is not adequately covered in the documentation, add this detail to the documentation text or create an issue to review the video and do so.

Do not upload videos to the product repositories. Link or embed them instead.

To link out to a video, include a YouTube icon so that readers can quickly and easily scan the page for videos before reading:

<i class="fa fa-youtube-play youtube" aria-hidden="true"></i>
For an overview, see [Video Title](link-to-video).

You can link any up-to-date video that is useful to the GitLab user.

Embed videos

Introduced in GitLab 12.1.

The GitLab Docs site supports embedded videos.

You can only embed videos from GitLab’s official YouTube account. For videos from other sources, link them instead.

In most cases, it is better to link to video instead, because an embed takes up a lot of space on the page and can be distracting to readers.

To embed a video, follow the instructions below and make sure you have your MR reviewed and approved by a technical writer.

  1. Copy the code below and paste it into your Markdown file. Leave a blank line above and below it. Do NOT edit the code (don’t remove or add any spaces).
  2. On YouTube, visit the video URL you want to display. Copy the regular URL from your browser (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIDEO-ID) and replace the video title and link in the line under <div class="video-fallback">.
  3. On YouTube, click Share, then Embed.
  4. Copy the <iframe> source (src) URL only (https://www.youtube.com/embed/VIDEO-ID), and paste it, replacing the content of the src field in the iframe tag.
leave a blank line here
<div class="video-fallback">
  See the video: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqL6BMOySIQ">Video title</a>.
</div>
<figure class="video-container">
  <iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MqL6BMOySIQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="true"> </iframe>
</figure>
leave a blank line here

This is how it renders on the GitLab Docs site:

See the video: What is GitLab.

Notes:

  • The figure tag is required for semantic SEO and the video_container class is necessary to make sure the video is responsive and displays nicely on different mobile devices.
  • The <div class="video-fallback"> is a fallback necessary for GitLab’s /help, as GitLab’s Markdown processor does not support iframes. It’s hidden on the docs site but will be displayed on GitLab’s /help.

Code blocks

  • Always wrap code added to a sentence in inline code blocks (`). For example, .gitlab-ci.yml, git add ., CODEOWNERS, or only: [master]. File names, commands, entries, and anything that refers to code should be added to code blocks. To make things easier for the user, always add a full code block for things that can be useful to copy and paste, as they can easily do it with the button on code blocks.
  • Add a blank line above and below code blocks.
  • When providing a shell command and its output, prefix the shell command with $ and leave a blank line between the command and the output.
  • When providing a command without output, don’t prefix the shell command with $.
  • If you need to include triple backticks inside a code block, use four backticks for the codeblock fences instead of three.
  • For regular fenced code blocks, always use a highlighting class corresponding to the language for better readability. Examples:

    ```ruby
    Ruby code
    ```
    
    ```javascript
    JavaScript code
    ```
    
    ```markdown
    [Markdown code example](example.md)
    ```
    
    ```plaintext
    Code or text for which no specific highlighting class is available.
    ```
    

Syntax highlighting is required for fenced code blocks added to the GitLab documentation. Refer to the table below for the most common language classes, or check the complete list of language classes available.

Preferred language tagsLanguage aliases and notes
asciidoc 
dockerfileAlias: docker.
elixir 
erb 
golangAlias: go.
graphql 
haml 
html 
iniFor some simple config files that are not in TOML format.
javascriptAlias js.
json 
markdownAlias: md.
mermaid 
nginx 
perl 
php 
plaintextExamples with no defined language, such as output from shell commands or API calls. If a codeblock has no language, it defaults to plaintext. Alias: text.
prometheusPrometheus configuration examples.
python 
rubyAlias: rb.
shellAliases: bash or sh.
sql 
tomlRunner configuration examples, and other toml formatted configuration files.
typescriptAlias: ts.
xml 
yamlAlias: yml.

For a complete reference on code blocks, check the Kramdown guide.

GitLab SVG icons

Introduced in GitLab 12.7.

You can use icons from the GitLab SVG library directly in the documentation.

This way, you can achieve a consistent look when writing about interacting with GitLab UI elements.

Usage examples:

  • Icon with default size (16px): **{icon-name}**

    Example: **{tanuki}** renders as: .

  • Icon with custom size: **{icon-name, size}**

    Available sizes (in px): 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 24, 32, 48, and 72

    Example: **{tanuki, 24}** renders as: .

  • Icon with custom size and class: **{icon-name, size, class-name}**.

    You can access any class available to this element in GitLab docs CSS.

    Example with float-right, a Bootstrap utility class: **{tanuki, 32, float-right}** renders as:

Use GitLab SVGs to describe UI elements

When using GitLab SVGs to describe screen elements, also include the name or tooltip of the element as text.

For example, for references to the Admin Area:

  • Correct: **{admin}** **Admin Area > Settings** ( Admin Area > Settings)
  • Incorrect: **{admin}** **> Settings** ( > Settings)

This will ensure that the source Markdown remains readable and should help with accessibility.

The following are examples of source Markdown for menu items with their published output:

1. Go to **{home}** **Project overview > Details**
1. Go to **{doc-text}** **Repository > Branches**
1. Go to **{issues}** **Issues > List**
1. Go to **{merge-request}** **Merge Requests**
1. Go to **{rocket}** **CI/CD > Pipelines**
1. Go to **{shield}** **Security & Compliance > Configuration**
1. Go to **{cloud-gear}** **Operations > Metrics**
1. Go to **{package}** **Packages > Container Registry**
1. Go to **{chart}** **Project Analytics > Code Review**
1. Go to **{book}** **Wiki**
1. Go to **{snippet}** **Snippets**
1. Go to **{users}** **Members**
1. Select the **More actions** **{ellipsis_v}** icon  > **Hide stage**
  1. Go to Project overview > Details
  2. Go to Repository > Branches
  3. Go to Issues > List
  4. Go to Merge Requests
  5. Go to CI/CD > Pipelines
  6. Go to Security & Compliance > Configuration
  7. Go to Operations > Metrics
  8. Go to Packages > Container Registry
  9. Go to Project Analytics > Code Review
  10. Go to Wiki
  11. Go to Snippets
  12. Go to Members
  13. Select the More actions icon > Hide stage

Alert boxes

Whenever you need to call special attention to particular sentences, use the following markup for highlighting.

Note that the alert boxes only work for one paragraph only. Multiple paragraphs, lists, headers and so on, will not render correctly. For multiple lines, use blockquotes instead.

Alert boxes only render on the GitLab Docs site (https://docs.gitlab.com). Within GitLab itself, they will appear as plain Markdown text (like the examples above the rendered versions, below).

Note

Notes catch the eye of most readers, and therefore should be used very sparingly. In most cases, content considered for a note should be included:

  • As just another sentence in the previous paragraph or the most-relevant paragraph.
  • As its own standalone paragraph.
  • As content under a new subheading that introduces the topic, making it more visible/findable.

When to use

Use a note when there is a reason that most or all readers who browse the section should see the content. That is, if missed, it’s likely to cause major trouble for a minority of users or significant trouble for a majority of users.

Weigh the costs of distracting users to whom the content is not relevant against the cost of users missing the content if it were not expressed as a note.

NOTE: **Note:**
This is something to note.

How it renders on the GitLab Docs site:

Note: This is something to note.

Tip

TIP: **Tip:**
This is a tip.

How it renders on the GitLab Docs site:

Tip: This is a tip.

Caution

CAUTION: **Caution:**
This is something to be cautious about.

How it renders on the GitLab Docs site:

Caution: This is something to be cautious about.

Danger

DANGER: **Danger:**
This is a breaking change, a bug, or something very important to note.

How it renders on the GitLab Docs site:

Danger: This is a breaking change, a bug, or something very important to note.

Blockquotes

For highlighting a text within a blue blockquote, use this format:

> This is a blockquote.

which renders on the GitLab Docs site as:

This is a blockquote.

If the text spans across multiple lines it’s OK to split the line.

For multiple paragraphs, use the symbol > before every line:

> This is the first paragraph.
>
> This is the second paragraph.
>
> - This is a list item
> - Second item in the list

Which renders to:

This is the first paragraph.

This is the second paragraph.

  • This is a list item
  • Second item in the list

Terms

To maintain consistency through GitLab documentation, the following guides documentation authors on agreed styles and usage of terms.

Merge Requests (MRs)

Merge requests allow you to exchange changes you made to source code and collaborate with other people on the same project. You’ll see this term used in the following ways:

  • If you’re referring to the feature, use Merge Request.
  • In any other context, use merge request.

As noted in our corporate Writing Style Guidelines, if you use the MR acronym, expand it at least once per document page. For example, the first time you specify a MR, specify either Merge Request (MR) or merge request (MR).

Examples:

  • “We prefer GitLab Merge Requests”.
  • “Open a merge request to fix a broken link”.
  • “After you open a merge request (MR), submit your MR for review and approval”.

Describe UI elements

The following are styles to follow when describing UI elements on a screen:

  • For elements with a visible label, use that label in bold with matching case. For example, the **Cancel** button.
  • For elements with a tooltip or hover label, use that label in bold with matching case. For example, the **Add status emoji** button.

Verbs for UI elements

The following are recommended verbs for specific uses.

RecommendedUsed forAlternatives
“click”buttons, links, menu items“hit”, “press”, “select”
“check”checkboxes“enable”, “click”, “press”
“select”dropdowns“pick”
“expand”expandable sections“open”

Other Verbs

RecommendedUsed forAlternatives
“go”making a browser go to location“navigate”, “open”

GitLab versions and tiers

Tagged and released versions of GitLab documentation are available:

The version introducing a new feature is added to the top of the topic in the documentation to provide a helpful link back to how the feature was developed.

Text for documentation requiring version text

  • For features that need to declare the GitLab version that the feature was introduced. Text similar to the following should be added immediately below the heading as a blockquote:
    • > Introduced in GitLab 11.3..
  • Whenever possible, version text should have a link to the issue, merge request, or epic that introduced the feature. An issue is preferred over a merge request, and a merge request is preferred over an epic. For example:
    • > [Introduced](<link-to-issue>) in GitLab 11.3..
  • If the feature is only available in GitLab Enterprise Edition, mention the paid tier the feature is available in:
    • > [Introduced](<link-to-issue>) in [GitLab Starter](https://about.gitlab.com/pricing/) 11.3..
  • If listing information for multiple version as a feature evolves, add the information to a block-quoted bullet list. For example:

    > - [Introduced](<link-to-issue>) in GitLab 11.3.
    > - Enabled by default in GitLab 11.4.
    
  • If a feature is moved to another tier:

    > - [Introduced](<link-to-issue>) in [GitLab Premium](https://about.gitlab.com/pricing/) 11.5.
    > - [Moved](<link-to-issue>) to [GitLab Starter](https://about.gitlab.com/pricing/) in 11.8.
    > - [Moved](<link-to-issue>) to GitLab Core in 12.0.
    
Note: Version text must be on its own line and surounded by blank lines to render correctly.

Importance of referencing GitLab versions and tiers

Mentioning GitLab versions and tiers is important to all users and contributors to quickly have access to the issue or merge request that introduced the change for reference. Also, they can easily understand what features they have in their GitLab instance and version, given that the note has some key information.

[Introduced](link-to-issue) in [GitLab Premium](https://about.gitlab.com/pricing/) 12.7 links to the issue that introduced the feature, says which GitLab tier it belongs to, says the GitLab version that it became available in, and links to the pricing page in case the user wants to upgrade to a paid tier to use that feature.

For example, if you’re a regular user and you’re looking at the docs for a feature you haven’t used before, you can immediately see if that feature is available to you or not. Alternatively, if you’ve been using a certain feature for a long time and it changed in some way, it’s important to be able to spot when it changed and what’s new in that feature.

This is even more important as we don’t have a perfect process for shipping docs. Unfortunately, we still see features without docs and docs without features. So, for now, we cannot rely 100% on the docs site versions.

Over time, version text will reference a progressively older version of GitLab. In cases where version text refers to versions of GitLab four or more major versions back, you can consider removing the text if it’s irrelevant or confusing.

For example, if the current major version is 12.x, version text referencing versions of GitLab 8.x and older are candidates for removal if necessary for clearer or cleaner docs.

Product badges

When a feature is available in EE-only tiers, add the corresponding tier according to the feature availability:

  • For GitLab Core and GitLab.com Free: **(CORE)**.
  • For GitLab Starter and GitLab.com Bronze: **(STARTER)**.
  • For GitLab Premium and GitLab.com Silver: **(PREMIUM)**.
  • For GitLab Ultimate and GitLab.com Gold: **(ULTIMATE)**.

To exclude GitLab.com tiers (when the feature is not available in GitLab.com), add the keyword “only”:

  • For GitLab Core: **(CORE ONLY)**.
  • For GitLab Starter: **(STARTER ONLY)**.
  • For GitLab Premium: **(PREMIUM ONLY)**.
  • For GitLab Ultimate: **(ULTIMATE ONLY)**.

For GitLab.com only tiers (when the feature is not available for self-managed instances):

  • For GitLab Free and higher tiers: **(FREE ONLY)**.
  • For GitLab Bronze and higher tiers: **(BRONZE ONLY)**.
  • For GitLab Silver and higher tiers: **(SILVER ONLY)**.
  • For GitLab Gold: **(GOLD ONLY)**.

The tier should be ideally added to headers, so that the full badge will be displayed. However, it can be also mentioned from paragraphs, list items, and table cells. For these cases, the tier mention will be represented by an orange question mark that will show the tiers on hover.

Use the lowest tier at the page level, even if higher-level tiers exist on the page. For example, you might have a page that is marked as Starter but a section badged as Premium.

For example:

  • **(STARTER)** renders as
  • **(STARTER ONLY)** renders as
  • **(SILVER ONLY)** renders as

The absence of tiers’ mentions mean that the feature is available in GitLab Core, GitLab.com Free, and all higher tiers.

How it works

Introduced by !244, the special markup **(STARTER)** will generate a span element to trigger the badges and tooltips (<span class="badge-trigger starter">). When the keyword “only” is added, the corresponding GitLab.com badge will not be displayed.

Specific sections

Certain styles should be applied to specific sections. Styles for specific sections are outlined below.

GitLab restart

There are many cases that a restart/reconfigure of GitLab is required. To avoid duplication, link to the special document that can be found in doc/administration/restart_gitlab.md. Usually the text will read like:

Save the file and [reconfigure GitLab](../../administration/restart_gitlab.md)
for the changes to take effect.

If the document you are editing resides in a place other than the GitLab CE/EE doc/ directory, instead of the relative link, use the full path: https://docs.gitlab.com/ce/administration/restart_gitlab.html. Replace reconfigure with restart where appropriate.

Installation guide

Ruby: In step 2 of the installation guide, we install Ruby from source. Whenever there is a new version that needs to be updated, remember to change it throughout the codeblock and also replace the sha256sum (it can be found in the downloads page of the Ruby website).

Configuration documentation for source and Omnibus installations

GitLab currently officially supports two installation methods: installations from source and Omnibus packages installations.

Whenever there is a setting that is configurable for both installation methods, prefer to document it in the CE docs to avoid duplication.

Configuration settings include:

  1. Settings that touch configuration files in config/.
  2. NGINX settings and settings in lib/support/ in general.

When there is a list of steps to perform, usually that entails editing the configuration file and reconfiguring/restarting GitLab. In such case, follow the style below as a guide:

**For Omnibus installations**

1. Edit `/etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb`:

   ```ruby
   external_url "https://gitlab.example.com"
   ```

1. Save the file and [reconfigure] GitLab for the changes to take effect.

---

**For installations from source**

1. Edit `config/gitlab.yml`:

   ```yaml
   gitlab:
     host: "gitlab.example.com"
   ```

1. Save the file and [restart] GitLab for the changes to take effect.

[reconfigure]: path/to/administration/restart_gitlab.md#omnibus-gitlab-reconfigure
[restart]: path/to/administration/restart_gitlab.md#installations-from-source

In this case:

  • Before each step list the installation method is declared in bold.
  • Three dashes (---) are used to create a horizontal line and separate the two methods.
  • The code blocks are indented one or more spaces under the list item to render correctly.
  • Different highlighting languages are used for each config in the code block.
  • The GitLab Restart section is used to explain a required restart/reconfigure of GitLab.

Troubleshooting

For troubleshooting sections, you should provide as much context as possible so users can identify the problem they are facing and resolve it on their own. You can facilitate this by making sure the troubleshooting content addresses:

  1. The problem the user needs to solve.
  2. How the user can confirm they have the problem.
  3. Steps the user can take towards resolution of the problem.

Feature flags

Sometimes features are shipped with feature flags, either:

  • On by default, but providing the option to turn the feature off.
  • Off by default, but providing the option to turn the feature on.

When documenting feature flags for a feature, include:

  • Why a feature flag is necessary. Some of the reasons are outlined in the handbook.
  • That administrative access is required to make a feature flag change.
  • What to ask for when requesting a change to a feature flag’s state.
Note: The Product Manager for the relevant group must review and approve the addition or removal of any mentions of using feature flags before the doc change is merged.

The following is sample text for adding feature flag documentation for a feature that is off by default:

### Enabling the feature

This feature comes with the `:feature_flag` feature flag disabled by default. In some cases,
this feature is incompatible with an old configuration. To turn on the feature,
ask a GitLab administrator with Rails console access to run the following command:

```ruby
Feature.enable(:feature_flag)
```

For guidance on developing with feature flags, see Feature flags in development of GitLab.

API

Here is a list of must-have items. Use them in the exact order that appears on this document. Further explanation is given below.

  • Every method must have the REST API request. For example:

    GET /projects/:id/repository/branches
    
  • Every method must have a detailed description of the parameters.
  • Every method must have a cURL example.
  • Every method must have a response body (in JSON format).

API topic template

The following can be used as a template to get started:

## Descriptive title

One or two sentence description of what endpoint does.

```text
METHOD /endpoint
```

| Attribute   | Type     | Required | Description           |
|:------------|:---------|:---------|:----------------------|
| `attribute` | datatype | yes/no   | Detailed description. |
| `attribute` | datatype | yes/no   | Detailed description. |

Example request:

```shell
curl --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>" 'https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/endpoint?parameters'
```

Example response:

```json
[
  {
  }
]
```

Fake user information

You may need to demonstrate an API call or a cURL command that includes the name and email address of a user. Don’t use real user information in API calls:

  • Email addresses: Use an email address ending in example.com.
  • Names: Use strings like Example Username. Alternatively, use diverse or non-gendered names with common surnames, such as Sidney Jones, Zhang Wei. or Maria Garcia.

Fake tokens

There may be times where a token is needed to demonstrate an API call using cURL or a variable used in CI. It is strongly advised not to use real tokens in documentation even if the probability of a token being exploited is low.

You can use the following fake tokens as examples.

Token typeToken value
Private user token<your_access_token>
Personal access tokenn671WNGecHugsdEDPsyo
Application ID2fcb195768c39e9a94cec2c2e32c59c0aad7a3365c10892e8116b5d83d4096b6
Application secret04f294d1eaca42b8692017b426d53bbc8fe75f827734f0260710b83a556082df
CI/CD variableLi8j-mLUVA3eZYjPfd_H
Specific Runner tokenyrnZW46BrtBFqM7xDzE7dddd
Shared Runner token6Vk7ZsosqQyfreAxXTZr
Trigger tokenbe20d8dcc028677c931e04f3871a9b
Webhook secret token6XhDroRcYPM5by_h-HLY
Health check tokenTu7BgjR9qeZTEyRzGG2P
Request profile token7VgpS4Ax5utVD2esNstz

Method description

Use the following table headers to describe the methods. Attributes should always be in code blocks using backticks (`).

| Attribute | Type | Required | Description |
|:----------|:-----|:---------|:------------|

Rendered example:

AttributeTypeRequiredDescription
userstringyesThe GitLab username

cURL commands

  • Use https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/ as an endpoint.
  • Wherever needed use this personal access token: <your_access_token>.
  • Always put the request first. GET is the default so you don’t have to include it.
  • Use double quotes to the URL when it includes additional parameters.
  • Prefer to use examples using the personal access token and don’t pass data of username and password.
MethodsDescription
--header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>"Use this method as is, whenever authentication needed
--request POSTUse this method when creating new objects
--request PUTUse this method when updating existing objects
--request DELETEUse this method when removing existing objects

cURL Examples

Below is a set of cURL examples that you can use in the API documentation.

Simple cURL command

Get the details of a group:

curl --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>" https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/groups/gitlab-org

cURL example with parameters passed in the URL

Create a new project under the authenticated user’s namespace:

curl --request POST --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>" "https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/projects?name=foo"

Post data using cURL’s --data

Instead of using --request POST and appending the parameters to the URI, you can use cURL’s --data option. The example below will create a new project foo under the authenticated user’s namespace.

curl --data "name=foo" --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>" "https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/projects"

Post data using JSON content

Note: In this example we create a new group. Watch carefully the single and double quotes.

curl --request POST --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>" --header "Content-Type: application/json" --data '{"path": "my-group", "name": "My group"}' https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/groups

Post data using form-data

Instead of using JSON or urlencode you can use multipart/form-data which properly handles data encoding:

curl --request POST --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>" --form "title=ssh-key" --form "key=ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EA..." https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/users/25/keys

The above example is run by and administrator and will add an SSH public key titled ssh-key to user’s account which has an id of 25.

Escape special characters

Spaces or slashes (/) may sometimes result to errors, thus it is recommended to escape them when possible. In the example below we create a new issue which contains spaces in its title. Observe how spaces are escaped using the %20 ASCII code.

curl --request POST --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>" "https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/projects/42/issues?title=Hello%20Dude"

Use %2F for slashes (/).

Pass arrays to API calls

The GitLab API sometimes accepts arrays of strings or integers. For example, to restrict the sign-up e-mail domains of a GitLab instance to *.example.com and example.net, you would do something like this:

curl --request PUT --header "PRIVATE-TOKEN: <your_access_token>" --data "domain_whitelist[]=*.example.com" --data "domain_whitelist[]=example.net" https://gitlab.example.com/api/v4/application/settings