Ubuntu Documentation - Desktop Getting Started


Ubuntu is all about community collaboration and the work we do together in order to produce a reliable world-class operating system. The same standards that apply to contributing to Ubuntu generally apply to contributing to Ubuntu Documentation.

Ubuntu Documentation is maintained by the Ubuntu Documentation Contributors Team with commit rights and administration by the Documentation Committers team and this page describes how you can start the journey of contributing to Ubuntu Documentation.

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-get 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.

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

sudo apt-get 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-get 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 id_rsa.pub when asked to upload your key to Launchpad.

  2. Generate a custom SSH key for Launchpad.

Get set up to work with Launchpad

With a basic local configuration in place, your next step will be to configure your system to work with Launchpad. This section will focus on the following topics: What Launchpad is and creating a Launchpad account Uploading your GPG and SSH keys to Launchpad Configuring Bazaar to work with Launchpad Configuring Bash to work with Bazaar

About Launchpad

Launchpad is the central piece of infrastructure we use in Ubuntu. It not only stores our packages and our code, but also things like translations, bug reports, and information about the people who work on Ubuntu and their team memberships. You will also use Launchpad to publish your proposed fixes, and get other Ubuntu developers to review and sponsor them. You will need to register with Launchpad and provide a minimal amount of information. This will allow you to download and upload code, submit bug reports, and more. Besides hosting Ubuntu, Launchpad can host any Free Software project. For more information see the Launchpad Help wiki.

Get a Launchpad account

If you don’t already have a Launchpad account, you can easily create one. If you have a Launchpad account but cannot remember your Launchpad id, you can find this out by going to https://launchpad.net/~ and looking for the part after the ~ in the URL. Launchpad’s registration process will ask you to choose a display name. 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. When you register a new account, Launchpad will send you an email with a link you need to open in your browser in order to verify your email address. If you don’t receive it, check in your spam folder. The new account help page on Launchpad has more information about the process and additional settings you can change.

Upload your SSH key to Launchpad

Open https://launchpad.net/~/+editsshkeys in a web browser, also open ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub 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. To tell Bazaar who you are, simply run:

bzr whoami "Bob Dobbs <subgenius@example.com>"
bzr launchpad-login subgenius

whoami will tell Bazaar which name and email address it should use for your commit messages. With 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 https://launchpad.net/~ 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-get install bzr-explorer

Additional information

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

Getting a copy of the documentation development branch

The first step you will want to take to begin working on Ubuntu Documentation is to download a copy of the development branch of Ubuntu Documentation using Bazaar:

bzr branch lp:ubuntu-docs

Now that you have a local copy of Ubuntu Documentation you will want to become familiar with the anatomy of the Ubuntu Documentation branch. Mallard files will always be found in the path


Building html version of the docs

If you wish to just build the documentation as html to review them, follow these steps with your checked out branch:

cd ubuntu-docs/html/

The resulting documentation will end up in ~/ubuntu-docs/html/build/en/ which you can view in your web browser. More information on building the docs.

Editing Documentation Files

Improving Ubuntu Documentation is often as simple as opening the Mallard files in a command-line based text editor and reviewing them for minor changes like updating version numbers to the upcoming release number or checking for spelling and grammar.

In other cases for topic-oriented pages, it may be necessary to ensure that features have not significantly changed and if they have then update the documentation accordingly to reflect those changes.

Submit your changes for review

The next step you will want to take is to commit your changes using Bazaar by running the following commands:

bzr commit -m 'Brief one sentence summary of change goes here'

or if there is a related launchpad bug it can be linked in also:

bzr commit --fixes lp:123456 -m 'Brief one sentence summary of change goes here; LP: #123456'

or if there are multiple related launchpad bugs in this one commit, they can be linked:

bzr commit --fixes lp:123456 --fixes lp:123457 --fixes lp:123458 -m 'Brief one sentence summary of changes goes here; LP: #123456 LP: #123457 LP: #123458'

Then you will want to use Bazaar to push your changes to Launchpad:

bzr push lp:~bkerensa/ubuntu-docs/fix-for-foo

(fix-for-foo can also be fix-for-bugnumber if related to a bug or something else.)

Finally, you can propose your changes for merging by going to the Code section of your Launchpad account, select the appropriate branch, and submit a merge proposal ("Propose for merging"), or by running:

bzr lp-propose

(This command will open your default web browser and, if you have granted Bazaar permission to interact with Launchpad, it will complete the process of opening a Merge Proposal that Ubuntu Documentation Committers can review.)

Creating Personal Sandbox Branch

If you log in to Launchpad and click the Code link at the top of the page, it will give you a bzr push command you can use to upload your sandbox work. Change BRANCHNAME in that command to whatever you want to call the sandbox you'd like to upload.

Since uploading to your own repo is standard practice for folks who aren't part of the core committers team, under "Submit your changes for review" there can be a note after `bzr push' saying that this can be used for simply "saving" your work in your own branch prior to merging as well.

What's next

This documentation is intended to be introductory but you can learn much more about Mallard through their own tutorials. You can always ask for help on Ubuntu Documentation Team’s mailing list or on #ubuntu-doc on Freenode IRC.

We look forward to seeing your contributions to Ubuntu Documentation and answering any questions that you may have.

DocumentationTeam/SystemDocumentation/UbuntuDesktopGuide (last edited 2015-02-28 16:53:25 by gunnarhj)