Rebuild Sphinx documentation on changes, with live-reload in the browser.

preview screenshot


sphinx-autobuild is available on PyPI. It can be installed using pip:

pip install sphinx-autobuild


To build a classical Sphinx documentation set, run:

sphinx-autobuild docs docs/_build/html

This will start a server at and start watching for changes in the docs/ directory. When a change is detected in docs/, the documentation is rebuilt and any open browser windows are reloaded automatically. KeyboardInterrupt (ctrl+c) will stop the server.

Command line options

sphinx-autobuild accepts the same arguments as sphinx-build (these get passed to sphinx-build on each build). It also has a few additional options, which can seen by running sphinx-autobuild --help:

$ sphinx-autobuild --help
usage: sphinx-autobuild [-h] [--port PORT] [--host HOST] [--re-ignore RE_IGNORE] [--ignore IGNORE] [--no-initial] [--open-browser]
                        [--delay DELAY] [--watch DIR] [--pre-build COMMAND] [--version]
                        sourcedir outdir [filenames [filenames ...]]

positional arguments:
  sourcedir             source directory
  outdir                output directory for built documentation
  filenames             specific files to rebuild on each run (default: None)

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --port PORT           port to serve documentation on. 0 means find and use a free port (default: 8000)
  --host HOST           hostname to serve documentation on (default:
  --re-ignore RE_IGNORE
                        regular expression for files to ignore, when watching for changes (default: [])
  --ignore IGNORE       glob expression for files to ignore, when watching for changes (default: [])
  --no-initial          skip the initial build (default: False)
  --open-browser        open the browser after building documentation (default: False)
  --delay DELAY         how long to wait before opening the browser (default: 5)
  --watch DIR           additional directories to watch (default: [])
  --pre-build COMMAND   additional command(s) to run prior to building the documentation (default: [])
  --version             show program's version number and exit

sphinx's arguments:
  The following arguments are forwarded as-is to Sphinx. Please look at `sphinx --help` for more information.
    -b=builder, -a, -E, -d=path, -j=N, -c=path, -C, -D=setting=value, -t=tag, -A=name=value, -n, -v, -q, -Q, -w=file, -W, -T, -N, -P

Using with Makefile

FYI: Sphinx is planning to move away from using Makefile.

To use sphinx-autobuild with the Makefile generated by Sphinx, add the following to the end of the Makefile:

	sphinx-autobuild "$(SOURCEDIR)" "$(BUILDDIR)" $(SPHINXOPTS) $(O)

make livehtml will now invoke sphinx-autobuild.

If you generated the Makefile with an older version of sphinx, this syntax might not work for you. Consider updating to the newer Makefile structure.

Automatically opening the browser

sphinx-autobuild can open the homepage of the generated documentation in your default browser. Passing --open-browser will enable this behaviour.

Automatically selecting a port

sphinx-autobuild asks the operating system for a free port number and use that for its server. Passing --port=0 will enable this behaviour.

Workflow suggestions

Working on a Sphinx HTML theme

When working on a Sphinx HTML theme, add the source directory of the theme as a watch directory. It is also recommended to disable Sphinx’s incremental builds by passing the -a option to sphinx-autobuild.

sphinx-autobuild -a docs docs/_build/html --watch path/to/theme

This results in slower builds, but it ensures that all pages are built from the same state of the HTML theme. It also works around a known issue in Sphinx which causes significant problems during theme development.

Working on multiple projects

When working on multiple Sphinx documentation projects simultaneously, it is required to use different output directories for each project. It is also recommended to use --port=0 and --open-browser to avoid needing to manually manage ports and opening browser windows (which can get tedious quickly).

sphinx-autobuild --port=0 --open-browser pikachu/docs pikachu/docs/_build/html &
sphinx-autobuild --port=0 --open-browser magickarp/docs magickarp/docs/_build/html &

Relevant Sphinx Bugs

Sphinx does not detect changes in non-document files in incremental mode, like theme files, static files and source code used with autodoc.

At the time of writing, the only known workaround is to instruct Sphinx to rebuild the relevant pages. This can be done by disabling incremental mode (with -a) or passing relevant filenames in addition to source and output directory in the CLI.


This project stands on the shoulders of giants like Sphinx, LiveReload and python-livereload, without whom this project would not be possible.

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed code as well as participated in discussions on the issue tracker. This project is better thanks to your contribution.