SecureDrop’s documentation for end users (sources, journalists and administrators)
is available at https://docs.securedrop.org. It is written in reStructuredText
(reST) and hosted by Freedom of the Press Foundation using a theme by
Read the Docs. The documentation files are stored in the
docs/ directory of the
SecureDrop docs repository.
SecureDrop maintains two versions of its end user documentation:
stable (appropriate for end users)
and latest (appropriate for developers).
stable is the default, and is built from our latest signed git tag.
latest is built from the head of the
main git branch
of the securedrop-docs repository.
The developer documentation at https://developers.securedrop.org/
is published only in a single version. When changes are merged into
main branch of the securedrop-dev-docs repository,
a new version of the documentation is built immediately.
To get started editing the docs:
Clone the SecureDrop documentation repository.
For the end user documentation:
git clone https://github.com/freedomofpress/securedrop-docs.git
For the developer documentation:
git clone https://github.com/freedomofpress/securedrop-dev-docs.git
Install Poetry, which is used to manage the Python dependencies of the project.
If you are not already using Poetry, follow the installation guide to set up Poetry on your operating system.
Install the Python dependencies of the project.
We use the version of Python included with the most recent stable release of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution. The project configuration therefore specifies that this version of Python is required.
If you receive a warning that the required version of Python cannot be found, you may need to install it. If necessary, you can use pyenv to manage multiple versions of Python alongside each other.
Build the docs for viewing in your web browser:
You can then preview the documentation at http://127.0.0.1:8000. Navigate to the
docs/directory to make changes to the documentation rendered on https://docs.securedrop.org or https://developers.securedrop.org/. The documentation pages will automatically rebuild in the browser window, as you make changes; you don’t need to refresh the page manually.
After performing lint checks, open a PR against the
mainbranch of the appropriate repository.
Testing Documentation Changes
You can check for formatting violations by running the linting option:
make docs command will display warnings if mistakes are found, but will
still build the documentation. Using
make docs-lint will convert any warnings
to errors, causing the build to fail.
To test the documentation for broken links, run the following command from a reliable internet connection:
Project maintainers will need to approve the PR before it can be merged.
It is generally good practice to maintain a clean git history by reducing the number of commits to a reasonable minimum. You can do this by squashing closely related commits through an interactive rebase once your PR is close to being merged. If you are unfamiliar with how to squash commits with rebase, check out this blog post.
If you would like a project maintainer to help you with squashing commits in a PR, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment requesting assistance.
Pushing to a contributor fork
As a maintainer, you can push directly to a contributor fork, as long as there
is an active Pull Request corresponding to the branch you are pushing to, and
you have added the contributor remote with authentication enabled (i.e. the
.git/config starts with
The user guides for SecureDrop contain screenshots of the web applications. To update these screenshots automatically you can run this command from within your main SecureDrop repository checkout:
DOCS_REPO_DIR=/path/to/docs make update-user-guides
This will generate screenshots for each page in the web application and copy
them to the folder
docs/images/manual/screenshots in your documentation
repository checkout, where they will replace the existing screenshots. Stage for
commit any screenshots you wish to update. If you wish to update all screenshots,
simply stage for commit all changed files in that directory.
Prior to generating screenshots as part of a release update:
Ensure that the version string shown in the screenshots is the version that will be released. You can manually edit
securedrop/version.pyin your SecureDrop repository checkout if it currently contains a release candidate string.
Configure the New York World sample instance logo. Because the functional tests used to generate the logo may themselves update the logo, it is safest to temporarily overwrite the stock logo in
securedrop/static/i/logo.pngin your SecureDrop repository checkout.
The automated screenshots update does not update screenshots for Tails, the Tor Browser UI, the firewall captive portal, etc. If you notice discrepancies in those screenshots, please open issues so they can be addressed at a later point.
Updating Upgrade Guides
We ship an upgrade guide for each release. As part of updating the documentation for a release:
Create a new upgrade guide copied from the most recent one and add it to the index.
Ensure that the
latest_upgrade_guidereference at the top of the document is only present in the latest upgrade guide.
If this is a major-level or minor-level release, remove the oldest upgrade guide and associated patch-level guides from the documentation.
Example: If you are adding a guide to upgrade from 4.5.0 to 4.6.0, and the oldest guide present is from 4.2.0 to 4.3.0, remove it along with any guides for 4.2.1, 4.2.2, etc.).
If this is a major-level or minor-level release, make sure to include the reminders in
docs/includes/backup-and-update-reminders.txttowards the end of the document.
If you are not also the release manager, check with them about any other pertinent release-specific instructions that should be included.
Finally, ensure that mentions of the current version are up to date. You can use the
update_version.shconvenience script to do so.
Example: If you are adding a guide to upgrade to 2.4.2, you can run
./update_version.sh 2.4.2, then verify that the version changes are pertinent and save them.
Please see the reStructuredText Primer by the Sphinx project as a reference for writing in the markup language used for this documentation.
Ensure that example commands in codeblocks are easy to copy and paste.
Do not prepend the
$ shell prompt indicator to example commands:
In the context of a terminal session with both typed commands and printed
output text, use
$ before the typed commands:
$ echo hello hello $ echo sunshine sunshine
Follow AP guidelines for formatting dates. Don’t use the ISO format for adding dates to the documentation.
To avoid confusion, format dates in the documentation as Month_Name Day, Year:
October 13, 2020
not13 October, 2020 13/10/2020 10/13/2020 10/13/20 2020-10-13 2020-Oct-13
Cloning the SecureDrop git repository creates a directory
securedrop directory also contains a
securedrop subdirectory for app code.
│ ├── securedrop
To avoid confusion, paths to files anywhere inside the SecureDrop git repository
should be written as
. is the top level directory
of the SecureDrop repo.
Use absolute paths when referring to files outside the SecureDrop repository:
Text taken directly from a user interface is in bold face.
“Once you’re sure you have the right drive, click Format Drive.”
SecureDrop-specific glossary is in italics.
“To get started, you’ll need two Tails drives: one for the Admin Workstation and one for the Secure Viewing Station.”
When referring to virtual machines in the development environment, use lowercase for the name:
Lines in the plain-text documentation files should wrap at 80 characters. (Some exceptions: complex code blocks showing example commands, or long URLs.)
Usage and Style
To avoid confusion, lists should include the “Oxford comma”:
“You will need an email address, a public GPG key for that address, and the fingerprint for that key.”
Capitalize all section headings in title case:
Before You Begin ================ Set up the Environment ----------------------
notBefore you begin ================ Set up the environment ----------------------