Inclusion deadlines for ImpishString Freeze: September 16, 2021 / Non-language packs: September 30, 2021

About The Repository

The documentation sources for the project reside in Bazaar, a revision management system created by Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. The repository is the hub of the core document development effort. Revision control helps us to work on the same files simultaneously without “clobbering” each others work. Any author wanting to contribute to the documentation effort can checkout their own branch or working copy of the documentation sources and make changes to this copy.

If you have never worked with a version control system, don't be nervous - you cannot break anything in the repository, only your local, working copy. This is because you will be working as an anonymous user and therefore do not have the permissions to change anything in the repository. Only people with commit access can make changes to the repository. People are given access once they have consistently provided contributions and demonstrated commitment.

Key Bzr Branches

A complete list of the key Doc Team Bazaar branches is available on Launchpad.

The key branches which will be of most interest are:

Name of Branch



Ubuntu desktop help


Xubuntu desktop help


Ubuntu Server Guide

Generally you should use the development version for each branch.

For details on setting up and contributing, please refer to either the Ubuntu Desktop Guide Single Page or the Ubuntu ServerGuide Single Page as appropriate. (xubuntu ?)

Tools for Ubuntu Documentation Work Flow

To be able to contribute to Ubuntu Documentation some tools will be required. So we will start by installing the following:

sudo apt install bzr xsltproc libxml2-utils yelp-tools yelp-xsl make

The command will install the following software (and possibly many additional dependent packages):

  • bzr – distributed version control. Bazaar, a new way of working with packages for Ubuntu that will make it easy for many developers to collaborate and work on the same code while keeping it trivial to merge each other’s work.
  • xsltproc - XSLT command line processor.
  • libxml2-utils - XML utilities.
  • yelp-tools - Yelp documentation tools.
  • yelp-xsl - XSL stylesheets for the yelp help browser.
  • make - a utility for Directing compilation.

Since 17.10 the Desktop documentation mostly uses the gnome docs, directly from their related packages. Therefore a full multi-language build of the html is typically done on a desktop computer with all languages installed:

sudo apt install gnome-user-docs* gnome-getting-started-docs*

Xubuntu and the Serverguide use Docbook, and therefore require additional packages:

sudo apt install docbook docbook-xsl
  • docbook - standard SGML representation system for technical documents
  • docbook-xsl - stylesheets for processing DocBook XML to various output formats

Additionally only the serverguide project requires another couple of packages:

sudo apt install fop gnome-doc-utils
  • fop - XML formatter driven by XSL Formatting Objects
  • gnome-doc-utils - collection of documentation utilities for the GNOME project

Create your SSH key

SSH stands for Secure Shell, and it is a protocol that allows you to exchange data in a secure way over a network. It is common to use SSH to access and open a shell on another computer, and to use it to securely transfer files. For our purposes, we will mainly be using SSH to securely upload source packages to Launchpad.

No previous SSH key
To generate an SSH key, enter:

ssh-keygen -t rsa

Accept the default file name id_rsa. For security purposes, it is highly recommended that you use a pass-phrase.

SSH key generated previously
If you already have an id_rsa SSH key that you use for some other purpose but accessing Launchpad, there are two options:

  1. Don't generate another key, but copy the public key from the already existing when asked to upload your key to Launchpad.

  2. Generate a custom SSH key for Launchpad.

Get set up to work with Launchpad

Launchpad is a system used to keep track of many aspects of open-source development. Launchpad's features include code hosting, bug tracking, translation, feature blueprints and a community-based answer tracker. This section will outline how to get setup with Launchpad to allow you to contribute the Ubuntu.

To find out more about Launchpad click here

Get a Launchpad account

The following steps will guide you through creating a Launchpad account:

  • Visit the Login/Register Page

  • Enter your email and select "I am a new Ubuntu One user:"
  • Enter your details as requested, agree to the "Terms of Service" and click "Create Account:
  • Confirm your account by clicking on the link given in a confirmation email set to the email you provided

It is encouraged for you to use your real name here so that your Ubuntu developer colleagues will be able to get to know you better. You are now ready to contribute to Ubuntu through Launchpad!

Upload your SSH key to Launchpad

Open in a web browser, also open ~/.ssh/ in a text editor. This is the public part of your SSH key, so it is safe to share it with Launchpad. Copy the contents of the file and paste them into the text box on the web page that says “Add an SSH key”. Now click “Import Public Key”. For more information on this process, visit the creating an SSH keypair page on Launchpad.

Configure Bazaar

Bazaar is the tool we use to store code changes in a logical way, to exchange proposed changes and merge them, even if development is done concurrently. It is used for the new Ubuntu Distributed Development method of working with Ubuntu packages. Use bzr whoami and bzr launchpad-login to tell Bazaar who you are. For example:

bzr whoami "Bob Dobbs <>"
bzr launchpad-login subgenius

bzr whoami will tell Bazaar which name and email address it should use for your commit messages. With bzr launchpad-login you set your Launchpad ID. This way code that you publish in Launchpad will be associated with you. Note: If you can not remember the ID, go to and see where it redirects you. The part after the “~” in the URL is your Launchpad ID.

Bazaar Explorer

Even if the rest of this page describes terminal commands for working with Bazaar branches, there are GUI applications available that appeal to some contributors. One such application that you may want to try is Bazaar Explorer.

sudo apt install bzr-explorer

Additional information

See the Bazaar Documentation website for comprehensive documentation. There is also a useful quick-start guide.

Getting the docs

To make changes to documentation held in a Bazaar branch, you first need to download a copy onto your computer.

The first step is to identify the particular Bazaar branch which you want to download. The Doc Team works with several different branches. A list is at the top of this page. Choose your branch, and follow these instructions.

  1. On a GUI based system, open a Terminal by pressing Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal. Of course, a server based system only has terminals.

  2. Type mkdir ubuntu_bzr and press enter. This will create a new directory called ubuntu_bzr in your Home directory. Of course, you can create a directory with a different name and in a different location.

  3. Type cd ubuntu_bzr to change to the new directory.

  4. Type bzr lp:name_of_branch into the Terminal. This will download the whole of the branch, which you will then be able to modify using a text editor.

    • You can get the name of the branch which you want from the list on Launchpad. The current development branches for each flavor of Ubuntu appear with a star by their name in that list.

    • Current development examples:
    • $ bzr branch lp:ubuntu-docs

    • $ bzr branch lp:serverguide

    • $ bzr branch lp:xubuntu-docs

    • Previous release examples:
    • $ bzr branch lp:ubuntu-docs/precise

    • $ bzr branch lp:serverguide/precise

    • $ bzr branch lp:xubuntu-docs/precise

    • This process may take quite a while, as it downloads the whole of the revision history in the branch. See Advanced below for ways to speed up this process.

Updating a check-out

You will probably want to keep up-to-date with changes made to the documentation. To download the latest updates to a branch:

  1. Open a Terminal.
  2. Change to the directory which contains your original checkout (e.g. ubuntu_bzr/name_of_branch, as above).
  3. Type bzr update and any updates will be downloaded.

Next steps

Once you have downloaded a branch, the next step is to view and edit the documents contained within it. Read on to the Editing page.

Some tips for people who have been granted permissions to upload directly to the system documentation branches (by becoming members of the ubuntu-core-doc team) can be found at the /Members page. If you are just getting started with Ubuntu documentation, you don't need to read that page yet.


DocumentationTeam/SystemDocumentation/Repository (last edited 2014-07-02 21:05:36 by belkinsa)