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MkDocs vs Sphinx: What are the differences?


MkDocs and Sphinx are both popular documentation generators for creating websites. While they serve a similar purpose, there are several key differences between the two.

1. Markup Language Support: MkDocs uses Markdown as its default markup language, making it straightforward and easy to use. On the other hand, Sphinx supports reStructuredText as its primary markup language, which is more powerful but has a steeper learning curve.

2. Themes and Customization: MkDocs provides a limited number of themes, but they are highly customizable using CSS and Jinja2 templates, allowing for a personalized look and feel. Sphinx, on the other hand, offers a wide range of themes and templates out of the box, providing more pre-built options for customization.

3. Plugin Ecosystem: MkDocs has a smaller plugin ecosystem compared to Sphinx, limiting the extensibility and functionality that can be added. Sphinx, being more mature and widely adopted, offers a vast collection of plugins that enhance its capabilities, such as automatic API documentation generation and support for different programming languages.

4. Documentation Structure: MkDocs follows a simple folder-based documentation structure, where each Markdown file corresponds to a single page on the website. Sphinx, on the other hand, supports a more complex documentation structure, allowing for the creation of multiple pages per file and more extensive hierarchies.

5. Build Process and Output: MkDocs generates static HTML files, making it easy to deploy and host on various platforms without any additional dependencies. Sphinx, on the other hand, generates HTML files as well but also provides options for generating other output formats, such as PDF and ePub, giving more flexibility for multi-format publishing.

6. Community and Support: MkDocs has a growing community and provides decent support, but it may not be as extensive as Sphinx's large community and active development. Sphinx benefits from being used in many large-scale projects and has a dedicated team that continuously improves and maintains it.

In Summary, MkDocs and Sphinx differ in their markup language support, theme customization options, plugin ecosystems, documentation structures, build processes, and community support. Choose MkDocs for a simpler and lightweight documentation generator with Markdown support, or opt for Sphinx if you require more advanced features, extensive customization options, and a larger community presence.

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Pros of MkDocs
Pros of Sphinx
  • 5
  • 4
    Gitlab integration
  • 3
  • 2
  • 16
  • 9
    Simple deployment
  • 6
    Open source
  • 1
    Lots of extentions

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Cons of MkDocs
Cons of Sphinx
  • 1
    Build time increases exponentially as site grows
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    What is MkDocs?

    It builds completely static HTML sites that you can host on GitHub pages, Amazon S3, or anywhere else you choose. There's a stack of good looking themes available. The built-in dev-server allows you to preview your documentation as you're writing it. It will even auto-reload and refresh your browser whenever you save your changes.

    What is Sphinx?

    It lets you either batch index and search data stored in an SQL database, NoSQL storage, or just files quickly and easily — or index and search data on the fly, working with it pretty much as with a database server.

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    What companies use MkDocs?
    What companies use Sphinx?
    See which teams inside your own company are using MkDocs or Sphinx.
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    What tools integrate with MkDocs?
    What tools integrate with Sphinx?

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    What are some alternatives to MkDocs and Sphinx?
    It is a modern documentation platform where teams can document everything from products, to APIs and internal knowledge-bases. It is a place to think and track ideas for you & your team.
    Think of Jekyll as a file-based CMS, without all the complexity. Jekyll takes your content, renders Markdown and Liquid templates, and spits out a complete, static website ready to be served by Apache, Nginx or another web server. Jekyll is the engine behind GitHub Pages, which you can use to host sites right from your GitHub repositories.
    Docsify generates your documentation website on the fly without generating static html files. Instead, it loads and parses your Markdown files and displays them as a website.
    Hugo is a static site generator written in Go. It is optimized for speed, easy use and configurability. Hugo takes a directory with content and templates and renders them into a full html website. Hugo makes use of markdown files with front matter for meta data.
    Docusaurus is a project for easily building, deploying, and maintaining open source project websites.
    See all alternatives