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Pull Requests

You can contribute to Material for MkDocs by making a pull request that will be reviewed by maintainers and integrated into the main repository when the changes made are approved. You can contribute bug fixes, changes to the documentation, or new functionality you have developed.

Considering a pull request

Before deciding to spend effort on making changes and creating a pull request, please discuss what you intend to do. If you are responding to what you think might be a bug, please issue a bug report first. If you indend to work on documentation, create a documentation issue. If you want to work on a new feature, please create a change request.

Keep in mind the guidance given and let people advise you. It might be that there are easier solutions to the problem you perceive and want to address. It might be that what you want to achieve can already be done by configuration or customization.

Learning about pull requests

Pull requests are a concept layered on top of Git by services that provide Git hosting. Before you consider making a pull request, you should familiarize yourself with the documentation on GitHub, the service we are using. The following articles are of particular importance:

  1. Forking a repository
  2. Creating a pull request from a fork
  3. Creating a pull request

Note that they provide tailored documentation for different operating systems and different ways of interacting with GitHub. We do our best in the documentation here to describe the process as it applies to Material for MkDocs but cannot cover all possible combinations of tools and ways of doing things. It is also important that you understand the concept of a pull-request in general before continuing.

Pull request process

In the following, we describe the general process for making pull requests. The aim here is to provide the 30k ft overview before describing details later on.

Preparing changes and draft PR

The diagram below describes what typically happens to repositories in the process or preparing a pull request. We will be discussing the review-revise process below. It is important that you understand the overall process first before you worry about specific commands. This is why we cover this first before providing instructions below.

sequenceDiagram
  autonumber

  participant mkdocs-material
  participant PR
  participant fork
  participant local

  mkdocs-material ->> fork: fork on GitHub
  fork ->> local: clone to local
  local ->> local: branch
  loop prepare
    loop push
      loop edit
        local ->> local: commit
      end
      local ->> fork: push
    end
    mkdocs-material ->> fork: merge in any changes
    fork ->>+ PR: create draft PR
    PR ->> PR: review your changes
  end
  1. The first step is that you create a fork of the Material for MkDocs repository, either mkdocs-material or mkdocs-material-insiders (only accessible to sponsors). This provides you with a repository that you can push changes to. Note that it is not possible to have more than one fork of a given repository at any point in time. So, the fork you create will be the fork you have.

  2. Once it is made, clone it to your local machine so you can start working on your changes.

  3. All contributions should be made through a 'topic branch' with a name that describes the work being done. This allows you to have more than one piece of work in progress and, if you are working with the public version, also shows others clearly that the code contained is work in progress. The topic branch will be relatively short-lived and will disappear at the end, when your changes have been incorporated into the codebase.

  4. Next comes the iterative process of making edits, committing them to your clone. Please commit in sensible chunks that constitute a piece of work instead of committing everything in one go.

    Remember that fine-grained, incremental commits are much easier to review in than large changes all over the place and with many files involved. Try to keep your changes as small and localized as possible and keep the reviewer in mind when committing. In particular, make sure to write meaningful commit messages.

  5. Push your work up to your fork regularly.

  6. You should also keep an eye on changes in the Material for MkDocs repository you cloned. This is especially important if you work takes a while. Please try and merge any concurrent changes into your fork and into your branch regularly. You must do this at least once before creating a pull request, so make your life easier and do it more often so as to minimize the risk of conflicting changes.

  7. Once you are happy that your changes are in a state that you can describe them in a draft pull request, you should create this. Make sure to reference any previous discussions or issues that gave rise to your work. Creating a draft is a good way to get early feedback on your work from the maintainer or others. You can explicitly request reviews at points where you think this would be important.

  8. Review your work as if you were the reviewer and fix any issues with your work so far. Look critically at the diffs of the files that you have changed. In particular, pay attention to whether the changes are as small as possible and whether you have follow the general coding style used in the project. If you received feedback, iterate over the process so far as necessary.

    You should choose a number of projects to test your changes with. You should definitely make sure that the changes do not break the building of the documentation for Material for MkDocs, which you can find in the docs folder. You may also want to make sure that relevant examples from the examples repository still build fine.

Finalizing

Once you are happy with your changes, you can move to the next step, finalizing your pull request and asking for a more formal and detailed review. The diagram below shows the process:

sequenceDiagram
  autonumber
  participant mkdocs-material
  participant PR
  participant fork
  participant local

  activate PR
  PR ->> PR : finalize PR
  loop review
    loop discuss
      PR ->> PR: request review
      PR ->> PR: discussion
      local ->> fork: push futher changes
    end
    PR ->> mkdocs-material: merge (and squash)
    deactivate PR
    fork ->> fork: delete branch
    mkdocs-material ->> fork: pull
    local ->> local: delete branch
    fork ->> local: pull
  end
  1. When you are happy that the changes you made amount to a contribution that the maintainer(s) could integrate into the codebase, finalize the pull request. This signals to everyone that consider the work 'done' and that it can be reviewed with a view to accepting and integrating it.

  2. Request a review from the maintainer, @squidfunk.

  3. The maintainer may make comments on your code, which you should discuss with them. Bear in mind when doing this that the maintainer may have a different point of view compared to yours. They will often take a more long-term perspective of maintaining the project in the years to come while you may be more focused on the specific issue or feature that you worked on. Please keep the discussion respectful at all times.

    It is important to note that not all pull requests get incorporated int the codebase. The reasons can vary. The work may bring to light other issues that block integration of the pull request. Sometimes it helps uncover better ways of doing things or shows that a more general approach is needed. All of this is fine and helps the project progress, even if specific changes are not, ultimately, accepted.

  4. Make any requested changes by committing them to your local clone and pushing them up to your fork. This will automatically update the pull request. It may well take a few iterations to get your contributions to an acceptable state. You can help the process along by carefully reading comments made and making changes with care.

  5. Once the reviewer is fully satisfied with the changes, they can merge them into the main branch (or 'master'). In the process, they may 'squash' your commits together into a smaller number of commits and may edit the messages that describe them. Congratulations, you have now contributed to this project and should see the changes in the main branch under your name.

  6. You can now delete the fork and your local repository and start afresh again next time around. Alternatively, you can keep the repository and local clone around but it is important that you keep them in sync with the upstream repository for any subsequent work. We recommend that you start by deleting the branch you used on your fork.

  7. To make sure you have the changes you produced, pull them from the main repository into the main branch of your fork.

  8. Similarly, delete the topic branch from your local clone and...

  9. pull the changes to its master branch.

Steps

Now that the overall process is outlined, here are specific instructions and tips. There are many choices to be made when describing a process for contributing to a project via a pull request. In the following, we assume that you are working with the Git command-line tools. For most alternatives (such as using IDEs or using functionality provided through the GitHub web interface), the translation from the command-line instructions should be simple enough. We will add notes only where really necessary to keep the complexity of this to a reasonable level.

Forking the repository

To make changes to Material for MkDocs, you would first fork one of its repositories on GitHub. This is so that you have a repository on GitHub that you can push changes to (only maintainers and collaborators have write access to the original repositories).

Fork the repository for the public version if you want to make changes to code that is in the public version or if you want to make changes to the documentation. It is a good idea to change the name of the repository by appending -fork so that people who come across it know that they have found a temporary fork rather then the original or a permanent fork of the project. You may also want to add a description that clarifies what the repository is for.

To make changes to functionality available only within the Insiders version, fork the Insiders repository. Note that the fork will be a private repository. Please respect the terms of the Insiders program and the spirit of the Sponsorware approach used to maintain and develop Material for MkDocs.

Setting up a development environment

From this point onwards, please follow the instructions for setting up the development environment. They will take you through the process of setting up an environment in which you can make changes and review/test them.

Making changes

When you make changes to the code or the documentation please follow the established style used in the project. Doing so increases readability and also helps with making diffs easier to read for those who will review the pull request. Avoid making any large-scale style changes such as asking your IDE to re-format all code.

Study the code that you are modifying well to ensure that you fully understand how it works before you try to change it. This will not only help you solve the problem you are trying to address but also minimize the risks of creating unintended side effects.

Committing to a branch

Development for pull requests is best done in a topic branch separate from the master branch. Create a new local branch with git switch -c <name> and commit your changes to this branch.

When you want to push commits to your fork, you can do so with git push -u origin <name>. The -u argument is the short version of --set-upstream, which makes the newly created branch 'track' the branch with the same <name> in your fork. This means that then pull and push commands will work against that branch in your fork by default.

Merging concurrent changes

If the work you do takes some time then the chances increase that changes will be made to the main repository while you work.It is probably a good idea to set up the original Material for MkDocs repository as an upstream repository for your local clone.

This is what it might look like:

$ git remote -v
origin  git@github.com:<your_username>/mkdocs-material-fork.git (fetch)
origin  git@github.com:<your_username>/mkdocs-material-fork.git (push)
$ git remote add upstream https://github.com/squidfunk/mkdocs-material.git
$ git remote -v
origin  git@github.com:alexvoss/mkdocs-material-fork.git (fetch)
origin  git@github.com:alexvoss/mkdocs-material-fork.git (push)
upstream    https://github.com/squidfunk/mkdocs-material.git (fetch)
upstream    https://github.com/squidfunk/mkdocs-material.git (push)

After you have done this, you can pull any concurrent changes from the upstream repository directly into your clone and do any necessary merges there, then push them up to your fork. You will need to be explicit about which remote repository you want to use when you are doing a pull:

# making and committing some local changes
push pull upstream master

This fetches changes from the master branch into your topic branch and merges them.

Testing and reviewing changes

Before you commit any changes, you should make sure that they work as expected and do not create any unintended side effects. You should test them on at least these three smoke tests:

  • The documentation of Material for MkDocs itself. If you set up and run the development environment as outlined in the instructions for setting up the development environment, mkdocs serve should be running and continuously building the documentation. Check that there are no error messages and, ideally, no (new) warnings.

  • Test on a project that represents the problem or a test for a newly developed feature. You may already have this if you have filed a bug report and created a minimal reproduction. If you are working on a new feature then you may need to build a project to serve as a test suite. It can double as documentation that shows how your new feature is meant to work.

  • Test with relevant examples from the Material for MkDocs Examples repository. Note that to build all examples in one go you need the projects plugin from Insiders but you can always build the examples individually using the public version.

  • Ideally, also test the examples in the examples repository. If you are working on the Insiders edition of Material for MkDocs, you can simply start a build at the top level and the projects plugin will build all of the examples for you. If you are on the public version, you will need to build each sub-project individually. We appreciate that this is a growing collection of examples and you may want to prioritize those that are most relevant to the functionality you change.

Creating the pull request

Initially, create the pull request as a draft. You do this through the various interfaces that GitHub provides. Which one you use is entirely up to you. We do not provide specific instructions for using the interfaces as GitHub provide all the information that should be necessary.

Commits, messages, mistakes and 'squash'

Deleting branches

Once the pull request has been merged into the master branch of the Material for MkDocs repository, you should remove the branch both from the fork on GitHub and from the local clone on your computer. This avoids possible confusion about the state of development.

First, switch back to the master branch with git switch master and then delete the branch used for the PR using git branch -d <name>.

Subsequent Pull Requests

It is important that subsequent pull requests are started from an up-to-date history of the master branch. One way to achieve this is to delete the fork and start with an entirely new one next time round.

If you contribute to Material for MkDocs more often or just happen to be doing two or more pull requests in succession, you can also just make sure to sync your fork (using the GitHub UI) and pull from it into your local repository. So, just delete the topic branch you created (both locally and in your fork) and pull from the main repository's master branch into your master branch before starting work on a new pull request.

Dos and Don'ts

  1. Don't just create a pull request with changes that are not explained.

  2. Do discuss what you intend to do with people in the discussions so that the rational for any changes is clear before you write or modify code.

  3. Do link to the discussion or any issues to provide the context for a pull request.

  4. Do ask questions if you are uncertain about anything.

  5. Do ask yourself if what you are doing benefits the wider community and makes Material for MkDocs a better product.

  6. Do ask yourself if the cost of making the changes stands in a good relation to the benefits they will bring. Some otherwise sensible changes can add complexity for comparatively little gain, might break existing behaviour or might be brittle when other changes need to be made.

  7. Do merge in concurrent changes frequently to minimize the chance of conflicting changes that may be difficult to resolve.