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This page describes concepts that are introduced with Spotify's docs-like-code solution in Backstage.

Generating TechDocs Steps

TechDocs Preparer

Preparing is the first step of generating documentation for an entity. It fetches the source markdown files from the source code hosting provider (GitHub, GitLab, etc.) and passes the files to the generator for next steps.

There are two kinds of preparers available -

  1. Common Git Preparer - Uses git clone on any repository URL.
  2. URL Reader - Uses source code hosting provider's API to download files. (Faster and recommended)

TechDocs Generator

Generating is the second step after preparing the markdown source files. This step either runs the TechDocs container (defined below) or runs mkdocs CLI to generate static HTML files and its assets.

TechDocs Publisher

Publishing is the third and final step after preparing and generating docs. TechDocs Publisher uploads the generated files to a storage.

The techdocs-backend plugin currently comes with two publishers - Google Cloud Storage and Local Filesystem. You can configure them in your Backstage app. See here.

A TechDocs publisher is responsible for two things (two-way communication between techdocs-backend and the storage)

  1. Publish generated static files to a storage (Configured by techdocs.builder)
  2. Read files from the storage when users visit a TechDocs site

TechDocs Backend

TechDocs Build Strategy

To accommodate more complex logic surrounding whether or not to build TechDocs, the TechDocs backend supports selecting a Build Strategy. The Build Strategy is responsible for deciding whether the documentation requested should be built locally by the TechDocs backend or not. Customization of the Build Strategy allows for more complex behaviour regarding whether the TechDocs backend is responsible for building TechDocs, whether an external process is responsible, or whether a combination of local builds and an external process is responsible, on an entity-by-entity basis.

The default Build Strategy results in the TechDocs backend building documentation locally if the techdocs.builder configuration option is set to 'local', and skipping any building otherwise. However any logic that satisfies the Build Strategy interface can be implemented, using the Backstage config as well as the entity being processed to make a decision.

For an example of how the Build Strategy can be used to implement a 'hybrid' build model, refer to the How to implement a hybrid build strategy guide.

TechDocs Container

The TechDocs container is a Docker container available at DockerHub. It builds static HTML pages, including stylesheets and scripts from Python flavored Markdown, through MkDocs.

TechDocs Container

TechDocs Core Plugin

The TechDocs Core Plugin is an MkDocs plugin created as a wrapper around multiple MkDocs plugins and Python Markdown extensions to standardize the configuration of MkDocs used for TechDocs.

TechDocs Core

TechDocs CLI

The TechDocs CLI was created to make it easy to write, generate and preview documentation for publishing. Currently it mostly acts as a wrapper around the TechDocs container and provides an easy-to-use interface for our docker container.

TechDocs CLI

TechDocs Reader

Documentation generated by TechDocs is generated as static HTML sites. The TechDocs Reader was therefore created to be able to integrate pre-generated HTML sites with the Backstage UI.

TechDocs Reader


Transformers are different pieces of functionality used inside the TechDocs Reader. The reason why transformers were introduced was to provide a way to transform the HTML content on pre and post render (e.g. rewrite docs links or modify css).

Transformers API docs

TechDocs Addons

Addons (introduced in Backstage v1.2) are client-side, React-based extensions that can be used to augment the TechDocs experience at read-time. They offer a mechanism for configuring the TechDocs Reader to better suit your organization's needs.

Addons can dynamically load and display information anywhere in the TechDocs Reader, including within the statically generated content itself.

Addons should not be confused with mkdocs plugins, which may be used to customize a TechDocs site's content at build-time. While it's possible to take advantage of some mkdocs plugins, not all such plugins play well with TechDocs (primarily, but not exclusively, for security reasons). Addons offer an alternative.