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Generating Reference Documentation for kubectl Commands

This page shows how to automatically generate reference pages for the commands provided by the kubectl tool.

Note: This topic shows how to generate reference documentation for kubectl commands like kubectl apply and kubectl taint. This topic does not show how to generate the kubectl options reference page. For instructions on how to generate the kubectl options reference page, see Generating Reference Pages for Kubernetes Components and Tools.

Before you begin

Setting up the local repositories

Create a local workspace and set your GOPATH.

mkdir -p $HOME/<workspace>

export GOPATH=$HOME/<workspace>

Get a local clone of the following repositories:

go get -u
go get -u
go get -u
go get -u kubernetes-incubator/reference-docs

If you don’t already have the kubernetes/website repository, get it now:

git clone<your-username>/website $GOPATH/src/<your-username>/website

Get a clone of the kubernetes/kubernetes repository as

git clone $GOPATH/src/

Remove the spf13 package from $GOPATH/src/

rm -rf $GOPATH/src/

The kubernetes/kubernetes repository provides access to the kubectl and kustomize source code.

In your local repository, check out the branch of interest, and make sure it is up to date. For example, if you want to generate docs for Kubernetes 1.15, you could use these commands:

cd <k8s-base>
git checkout release-1.15
git pull release-1.15

If you do not need to edit the kubectl source code, follow the instructions to Edit the Makefile.

Editing the kubectl source code

The kubectl command reference documentation is automatically generated from the kubectl source code. If you want to change the reference documentation, the first step is to change one or more comments in the kubectl source code. Make the change in your local kubernetes/kubernetes repository, and then submit a pull request to the master branch of

PR 56673 is an example of a pull request that fixes a typo in the kubectl source code.

Monitor your pull request, and respond to reviewer comments. Continue to monitor your pull request until it is merged into the master branch of the kubernetes/kubernetes repository.

Cherry picking your change into a release branch

Your change is now in the master branch, which is used for development of the next Kubernetes release. If you want your change to appear in the docs for a Kubernetes version that has already been released, you need to propose that your change be cherry picked into the release branch.

For example, suppose the master branch is being used to develop Kubernetes 1.10, and you want to backport your change to the release-1.15 branch. For instructions on how to do this, see Propose a Cherry Pick.

Monitor your cherry-pick pull request until it is merged into the release branch.

Note: Proposing a cherry pick requires that you have permission to set a label and a milestone in your pull request. If you don’t have those permissions, you will need to work with someone who can set the label and milestone for you.

Editing Makefile

Go to <rdocs-base>, and open the Makefile for editing:

For example, update the following variables:


Creating a version directory

The version directory is a staging area for the kubectl command reference build. The YAML files in this directory are used to create the structure and navigation of the kubectl command reference.

In the <rdocs-base>/gen-kubectldocs/generators directory, if you do not already have a directory named v1_<MINOR_VERSION>, create one now by copying the directory for the previous version. For example, suppose you want to generate docs for Kubernetes 1.15, but you don’t already have a v1_15 directory. Then you could create and populate a v1_15 directory by running these commands:

mkdir gen-kubectldocs/generators/v1_15
cp -r gen-kubectldocs/generators/v1_14/* gen-kubectldocs/generators/v1_15

Checking out a branch in

In your local repository, checkout the branch that has the version of Kubernetes that you want to document. For example, if you want to generate docs for Kubernetes 1.15, checkout the release-1.15 branch. Make sure you local branch is up to date.

cd <k8s-base>
git checkout release-1.15
git pull release-1.15

Running the doc generation code

In your local kubernetes-incubator/reference-docs repository, build and run the kubectl command reference generation code. You might need to run the command as root:

cd <rdocs-base>
make copycli

The copycli command will clean the staging directories, generate the kubectl command files, and copy the collated kubectl reference HTML page and assets to <web-base>.

Locate the generated files

Verify that these two files have been generated:

[ -e "<rdocs-base>/gen-kubectldocs/generators/build/index.html" ] && echo "index.html built" || echo "no index.html"
[ -e "<rdocs-base>/gen-kubectldocs/generators/build/navData.js" ] && echo "navData.js built" || echo "no navData.js"

Locate the copied files

Verify that all generated files have been copied to your <web-base>:

cd <web-base>
git status

The output should include the modified files:


Additionally, the output might show the modified files:


Locally test the documentation

Build the Kubernetes documentation in your local <web-base>.

cd <web-base>
make docker-serve

View the local preview.

Adding and committing changes in kubernetes/website

Run git add and git commit to commit the files.

Creating a pull request

Create a pull request to the kubernetes/website repository. Monitor your pull request, and respond to review comments as needed. Continue to monitor your pull request until it is merged.

A few minutes after your pull request is merged, your updated reference topics will be visible in the published documentation.

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