Docutils Runtime Settings

Author: David Goodger
Date: $Date$
Revision: $Revision$
Copyright: This document has been placed in the public domain.



Docutils runtime settings are assembled from several sources: component settings specifications, application settings specifications, configuration files, and command-line options. Docutils overlays default and explicitly specified values from these sources such that settings behave the way we want and expect them to behave.

To understand how Docutils deals with runtime settings, the attributes and parameters involved must first be understood. Begin with the the docstrings of the attributes of the docutils.SettingsSpec base class (in the docutils/ module):

Next, several convenience function parameters are also significant (described in the docutils.core.publish_programmatically function docstring):

Runtime Settings Processing for Command-Line Tools

Following along with the actual code is recommended. The docutils/, docutils/, and modules are described.

  1. A command-line front-end tool imports and calls docutils.core.publish_cmdline. The relevant convenience function parameters are described above.

  2. docutils.core.publish_cmdline initializes a docutils.core.Publisher object, then calls its publish method.

  3. The docutils.core.Publisher object's publish method checks its settings attribute to see if it's defined. If it is, no further runtime settings processing is done.

    If settings is not defined, self.process_command_line is called with the following relevant arguments:

    • settings_spec
    • config_section
    • settings_overrides (in the form of excess keyword arguments, collected in the defaults parameter)
  4. self.process_command_line calls self.setup_option_parser, passing settings_spec, config_section, and defaults.

  5. self.setup_option_parser checks its config_section parameter; if defined, it adds that config file section to settings_spec (or to a new, empty docutils.SettingsSpec object), replacing anything defined earlier. (See Docutils Configuration Files for details.) Then it instantiates a new docutils.frontend.OptionParser object, passing the following relevant arguments:

    • components: A tuple of docutils.SettingsSpec objects, (self.parser, self.reader, self.writer, settings_spec)
    • defaults (originally from settings_overrides)
  6. The docutils.frontend.OptionParser object's __init__ method calls self.populate_from_components with self.components, which consists of self prepended to the components tuple it received. self (docutils.frontend.OptionParser) defines general Docutils settings.

  7. In self.populate_from_components, for each component passed, component.settings_spec is processed and component.settings_defaults is applied. Then, for each component, component.settings_default_overrides is applied. This two-loop process ensures that component.settings_default_overrides can override the default settings of any other component.

  8. Back in docutils.frontend.OptionParser.__init__, the defaults parameter (derived from the settings_overrides parameter of docutils.core.Publisher.publish) is overlaid over self.defaults. So settings_overrides has priority over all SettingsSpec data.

  9. Next, docutils.frontend.OptionParser.__init__ checks if configuration files are enabled (its read_config_files parameter is true, and self.defaults['_disable_config'] is false). If they are enabled (and normally, they are), self.get_standard_config_settings is called. This reads the docutils configuration files, and returns a dictionary of settings. This is then overlaid on self.defaults. So configuration file settings have priority over all software-defined defaults.

  10. Back in the docutils.core.Publisher object, self.setup_option_parser returns the option_parser object to its caller, self.process_command_line.

  11. self.process_command_line calls option_parser.parse_args, which parses all command line options and returns a docutils.frontend.Values object. This is assigned to the docutils.core.Publisher object's self.settings. So command-line options have priority over configuration file settings.

    When option_parser.parse_args is called, the source and destination command-line arguments are also parsed, and assigned to the _source and _destination attributes of what becomes the docutils.core.Publisher object's self.settings.

  12. From docutils.core.Publisher.publish, self.set_io is called with no arguments. If either self.source or self.destination are not set, the corresponding self.set_source and self.set_destination are called, effectively with no arguments.

  13. self.set_source checks for a source_path parameter, and if there is none (which is the case for command-line use), it is taken from self.settings._source. self.source is set by instantiating a self.source_class object. For command-line front-end tools, the default self.source_class is used,

  14. self.set_destination does the same job for the destination that self.set_source does for the source (the default self.destination_class is

Runtime Settings Processing From Applications

Applications process runtime settings in a different way than command-line tools do. Instead of calling publish_cmdline, the application calls one of publish_file, publish_string, or publish_parts. These in turn call publish_programmatically, which implements a generic programmatic interface. Although an application may also call publish_programmatically directly, it is not recommended (if it does seem to be necessary, please write to the Docutils-develop mailing list).

publish_programmatically accepts the same convenience function parameters as publish_cmdline. Where things differ is that programmatic use does no command-line processing. Instead of calling docutils.Publisher.process_command_line (as publish_cmdline does, via docutils.Publisher.publish), docutils.Publisher.process_programmatic_settings is called to set up the runtime settings.