# Getting Started¶

This page describes how to get started with the MyST parser, with a focus on enabling it in the Sphinx documentation engine.

## Installation¶

• A MyST-to-docutils parser and renderer.

• A Sphinx parser that utilizes the above tool in building your documentation.

To install the MyST parser, run the following in a Conda environment (recommended):

conda install -c conda-forge myst-parser


or

pip install myst-parser


## Enable MyST in Sphinx¶

Sphinx is a documentation generator for building a website or book from multiple source documents and assets. To get started with Sphinx, see their Quickstart Guide.

To use the MyST parser in Sphinx, simply add: extensions = ["myst_parser"] to your conf.py and all documents with the .md extension will be parsed as MyST.

Naturally this site is generated with Sphinx and MyST!

You can use both MyST and reStructuredText

Activating the MyST parser will simply enable parsing markdown files with MyST, and the rST parser that ships with Sphinx by default will still work the same way. You can have combinations of both markdown and rST files in your documentation, and Sphinx will choose the right parser based on each file’s extension. Sphinx features like cross-references will work just fine between the pages.

You can even inject raw rST into Markdown files! (see this explanation)

See also MyST-NB, our complimentary parser and execution engine, for ipynb and text-based notebooks.

## How does MyST parser relate to Sphinx?¶

The Sphinx documentation engine supports a number of different input types. By default, Sphinx reads reStructuredText (.rst) files. Sphinx uses a parser to parse input files into its own internal document model (which is provided by a core Python project, docutils).

Developers can extend Sphinx to support other kinds of input files. Any content file can be read into the Sphinx document structure, provided that somebody writes a parser for that file. Once a content file has been parsed into Sphinx, it behaves nearly the same way as any other content file, regardless of the language in which it was written.

The MyST-parser is a Sphinx parser for the MyST markdown language. When you use it, Sphinx will know how to parse content files that contain MyST markdown (by default, Sphinx will assume any files ending in .md are written in MyST markdown).

Note

Sphinx will still be able to parse files written in .rst. Activating this parser simply adds another parser, and Sphinx will still be able to use its default parser for .rst files.

## Writing MyST in Sphinx¶

Once you’ve enabled the myst-parser in Sphinx, it will be able to parse your MyST markdown documents. This means that you can use the .md extension for your pages, and write MyST markdown in these pages.

Note

MyST markdown is a mixture of two flavors of markdown:

It supports all the syntax of CommonMark Markdown at its base. This is a community standard flavor of markdown used across many projects.

In addition, it includes several extensions to CommonMark (often described as MyST Markdown syntax). These add extra syntax features designed to work with the Sphinx ecosystem (and inspired by reStructuredText)

Tip

If you want to parse your files as only strict CommonMark (no extensions), then you can set the conf.py option myst_commonmark_only=True.

The following sections cover a few core syntax patterns in MyST markdown, you can find a more exhaustive list in The MyST Syntax Guide.

### Block-level directives with MyST markdown¶

The most important functionality available with MyST markdown is writing directives. Directives are kind-of like functions that are designed for writing content. Sphinx and reStructuredText use directives extensively. Here’s how a directive looks in MyST markdown:

{directivename} <directive arguments>
:optionname: <valuename>

<directive content>



MyST vs. rST

For those who are familiar with reStructuredText, here is the equivalent in rST:

.. directivename: <directive-arguments>
:optionname: <valuename>

<directive content>


Note that almost all documentation in the Sphinx ecosystem is written with reStructuredText (MyST is only a few months old). That means you’ll likely see examples that have rST structure. You can modify any rST to work with MyST. Use this page, and the syntax page to help guide you.

As seen above, there are four main parts to consider when writing directives.

• the directive name is kind of like the function name. Different names trigger different functionality. They are wrapped in {} brackets.

• directive arguments come just after the directive name. They can be used to trigger behavior in the directive.

• directive options come just after the first line of the directive. They also control behavior of the directive.

• directive content is markdown that you put inside the directive. The directive often displays the content in a special way.

For example, here’s an admonition directive:

{admonition} Here's my title
:class: warning




As you can see, we’ve used each of the four pieces described above to configure this directive. Here’s how it looks when rendered:

Here’s my title

### In-line roles with MyST Markdown¶

Roles are another core Sphinx tool. They behave similarly to directives, but are given in-line with text instead of in a separate block. They have the following form:

{rolename}role content


For those who are familiar with reStructuredText, here is the equivalent in rST:

:rolename:role content


As you can see, roles are a bit more simple than directives, though some roles allow for more complex syntax inside their content area. For example, the ref role is used to make references to other sections of your documentation, and allows you to specify the displayed text as well as the reference itself within the role:

{ref}My displayed text <my-ref>


For example, the following reference role: {ref}Check out this reference <syntax/roles> will be rendered as Check out this reference.

Tip

Check out the MyST-Markdown VS Code extension, for MyST extended syntax highlighting.

# Sphinx configuration options¶

You can control the behaviour of the MyST parser in Sphinx by modifying your conf.py file. To do so, use the keywords beginning myst_.

Option

Default

Description

myst_commonmark_only

False

If True convert text as strict CommonMark (all options below are then ignored). Note that strict CommonMark is unable to parse any directives, including the toctree directive, thus limiting MyST parser to single-page documentations. Use in conjunction with sphinx-external-toc Sphinx extension to counter this limitation.

myst_disable_syntax

()

List of markdown syntax elements to disable, see the markdown-it parser guide.

myst_enable_extensions

["dollarmath"]

Enable Markdown extensions, see here for details.

myst_url_schemes

None

URI schemes that will be recognised as external URLs in [](scheme:loc) syntax, or set None to recognise all. Other links will be resolved as internal cross-references.

myst_heading_anchors

None

Enable auto-generated heading anchors, up to a maximum level, see here for details.

myst_substitutions

{}

A mapping of keys to substitutions, used globally for all MyST documents when the “substitution” extension is enabled.

myst_html_meta

{}

A mapping of keys to HTML metadata, used globally for all MyST documents. See Setting HTML Metadata.

myst_footnote_transition

True

Place a transition before any footnotes.

myst_words_per_minute

200

Reading speed used to calculate {sub-ref}wordcount-minutes

List of extensions:

• “amsmath”: enable direct parsing of amsmath LaTeX equations

• “colon_fence”: Enable code fences using ::: delimiters, see here for details

• “deflist”

• “dollarmath”: Enable parsing of dollar $ and $$ encapsulated math • “html_admonition”: Convert <div class="admonition"> elements to sphinx admonition nodes, see the HTML admonition syntax for details • “html_image”: Convert HTML <img> elements to sphinx image nodes, see the image syntax for details • “linkify”: automatically identify “bare” web URLs and add hyperlinks • “replacements”: automatically convert some common typographic texts • “smartquotes”: automatically convert standard quotations to their opening/closing variants • “substitution”: substitute keys, see the substitutions syntax for details • “tasklist”: add check-boxes to the start of list items, see the tasklist syntax for details Math specific, when "dollarmath" activated, see the Math syntax for more details: Option Default Description myst_dmath_double_inline False Allow display math (i.e. $$) within an inline context myst_dmath_allow_labels True Parse $$...$$ (label) syntax myst_dmath_allow_space True If False then inline math will only be parsed if there are no initial/final spaces, e.g. $a$ but not $ a$ or $a $ myst_dmath_allow_digits True If False then inline math will only be parsed if there are no initial/final digits, e.g. $a$ but not 1$a$ or $a$2 (this is useful for using $ as currency)

myst_amsmath_enable

False

Enable direct parsing of amsmath LaTeX environments

myst_update_mathjax

True

If using sphinx.ext.mathjax (the default) then mathjax_config will be updated, to ignore \$ delimiters and LaTeX environments, which should instead be handled by myst_dmath_enable and myst_amsmath_enable respectively.

## Disable markdown syntax for the parser¶

If you’d like to either enable or disable custom markdown syntax, use myst_disable_syntax. Anything in this list will no longer be parsed by the MyST parser.

For example, to disable the emphasis in-line syntax, use this configuration:

myst_disable_syntax = ["emphasis"]


emphasis syntax will now be disabled. For example, the following will be rendered without any italics:

*emphasis is now disabled*


For a list of all the syntax elements you can disable, see the markdown-it parser guide.