A Step By Step Contribution to QGIS Documentation


This is user documentation for the QGIS website which explains how users can contribute changes to the QGIS documentation using Github. It’s intended for users who know little about Git or Github. The documentation was originally written using Sphinx and reStructuredText and is reproduced here in Markdown.

A Step By Step Contribution

Now that you know how to write documentation using reStructuredText and Sphinx, let’s dive into the process of sharing your changes with the community.

Using the GitHub web interface

The GitHub web interface allows you to do the following:

  • edit files
  • preview and commit your changes
  • make a pull request to have your changes inserted into the main repository
  • create, update, or delete branches

Read the GitHub Hello-world project to learn some basic vocabulary and actions that will be used below.

If you are fixing a reported issue

If you are making changes to fix an issue, add a comment to the issue report to assign it to yourself. This will prevent more than one person from working on the same issue.

1. Fork QGIS-Documentation

Assuming you already have a GitHub account, you first need to fork the source files of the documentation.

Navigate to the QGIS-Documentation repository page and click on the button in the upper right corner.

In your GitHub account you will find a QGIS-Documentation repository (https://github.com/<YourName>/QGIS-Documentation). This repository is a copy of the official QGIS-Documentation repository where you have full write access and you can make changes without affecting the official documentation.

2. Make changes

There are different ways to contribute to QGIS documentation. We show them separately below, but you can switch from one process to the other without any harm.

Alternative 1: Use the Fix Me shortcut

Pages on the QGIS website can be edited quickly and easily by clicking on the Fix Me link in the footer of each page.

  1. This will open the file in the qgis:master branch with a message at the top of the page telling you that you don’t have write access to this repo and your changes will be applied to a new branch of your repository.

  2. Make your changes following the writing guidelines.

  3. When you finish, make a short comment about your changes and click on Propose file change. This will generate a new branch (patch-xxx) in your repository.

  4. After you click on Propose file change github will navigate to the Comparing changes page.

    • If you’re done making changes, skip to Compare changes in the Share your changes via Pull Request section below.
    • If there are additional changes that you want to make before submitting them to QGIS, follow these steps:

      1. Navigate to your fork of QGIS-Documentation (https://github.com/<YourName>/QGIS-Documentation)
      2. Click on and search for the patch-xxx branch. Select this patch branch. The button will now say Branch: patch-xxx
      3. Jump down to Modify files below.

Alternative 2: Create an ad hoc branch in your documentation repository

You can edit files directly from your fork of the QGIS Documentation.

Click on in the upper left corner of your forked QGIS- Documentation repository and enter a unique name in the text field to create a new branch. The name of the new branch should relate to the problem you intend to fix. The button should now say Branch: branch_name.

Do your changes in an ad hoc branch, never in the master branch

By convention, avoid making changes in your master branch except when you merge the modifications from the master branch of qgis/QGIS-Documentation into your copy of the QGIS-Documentation repository. Separate branches allow you to work on multiple problems at the same time without interfering with other branches. If you make a mistake you can always delete a branch and start over by creating a new one from the master branch.

3. Modify files

  1. Browse the source files of your fork of QGIS-Documentation to the file that needs to be modified
  2. Make your modifications following the writing guidelines
  3. When you finish, navigate to the Commit Changes frame at the bottom of the page, make a short comment about your changes, and click on Commit Changes to commit the changes directly to your branch. Make sure Commit directly to the branch_name branch. is selected.
  4. Repeat the previous steps for any other file that needs to be updated to fix the issue

4. Share your changes via Pull Request

You need to make a pull request to integrate your changes into the official documentation.

If you used a Fix Me link

After you commit your changes GitHub will automatically open a new page comparing the changes you made in your patch-xxx branch to the qgis/QGIS-Documentation master branch.

Skip to Step 2 below.

1. Start a new pull request

Navigate to the main page of the QGIS-Documentation repository and click on New pull request.

2. Compare changes

If you see two dialog boxes, one that says base:master and the other compare:branch_name (see figure), this will only merge your changes from one of your branches to your master branch. To fix this click on the compare across forks link.

If your Comparing changes page looks like this, click on the compare across forks link.

You should see four drop-down menus. These will allow you to compare the changes that you have made in your branch with the master branch that you want to merge into. They are:

  • base fork: the fork that you want to merge your changes into
  • base: the branch of the base fork that you want to merge your changes into
  • head fork: the fork that has changes that you want to incorporate into the base fork
  • compare: the branch with those changes

Select qgis/QGIS-Documentation as the base fork with master as base, set the head fork to your repository <YourName>/QGIS-Documentation, and set compare to your modified branch.

Comparing changes between qgis/QGIS-Documentation and your repository

A green check with the words Able to merge shows that your changes can be merged into the official documentation without conflicts.

Click the Create pull request button.

If you see

This means that there are conflicts. The files that you are modifying are not up to date with the branch you are targeting because someone else has made a commit that conflicts with your changes. You can still create the pull request but you’ll need to fix any conflicts to complete the merge.

Though released and being translated, the documentation of QGIS 2.18 is still maintained and existing issues are fixed. If you are fixing issues for a different release, change base from master to the appropriate release_... branch in the steps above.

3. Describe your pull request

A text box will open. Add any relevant comments for the issue you are addressing.

If this relates to a particular issue, add the issue number to your comments. This is done by entering # and the issue number (e.g. #1234). If preceded by terms like fix or close, the concerned issue will be closed as soon as the pull request is merged.

Add links to any documentation pages that you are changing.

Click on Create pull request.

4. Make corrections

A new pull request will automatically be added to the Pull requests list. Other editors and administrators will review your pull request and they may make suggestions or ask for corrections.

A pull request will also trigger a Travis CI build which automatically checks your contribution for build errors. If Travis CI finds an error, a red cross will appear next to your commit. Click on the red cross or on Details in the summary section at the bottom of the pull request page to see the details of the error. You’ll have to fix any reported errors or warnings before your changes are committed to the qgis/QGIS-Documentation repository.

You can make modifications to your pull request until it is merged with the main repository, either to improve your request, to address requested modifications, or to fix a build error.

To make changes click on the tab in your pull request page and click the pencil button next to the filename that you want to modify.

Any additional changes will be automatically added to your pull request if you make those changes to the same branch that you submitted in your pull request. For this reason, you should only make additional changes if those changes relate to the issue that you intend to fix with that pull request.

If you want to fix another issue, create a new branch for those changes and repeat the steps above.

An administrator will merge your contribution after any build errors are corrected, and after you and the administrators are satisfied with your changes.

5. Review and comment pull request

You can make comments on the changes in a pull request. Navigate to the pull request page and click on the pull request that you want to comment on.

At the bottom of the page you will find a text box where you can leave general comments about a pull request.

To add comments about specific lines, click on and find the file you want to comment on. You may have to click on Load diff to see the changes. Scroll to the line you want to comment on and click on the . That will open a text box allowing you to leave a comment.

5. Delete your merged branch

You can delete the branch after your changes have been merged. Deleting old branches saves you from having unused and outdated branches in your repository.

Navigate to your fork of the QGIS-Documentation repository (https://github.com/<YourName>/QGIS-Documentation). Click on the Branches tab. Below Your branches you’ll see a list of your branches. Click on the Delete this branch icon to delete any unwanted branches.