Writing TensorFlow Documentation

We welcome contributions to the TensorFlow documentation from the community. This document explains how you can contribute to that documentation. In particular, this document explains the following:

  • Where the documentation is located.
  • How to make conformant edits.

You can view TensorFlow documentation at tensorflow.org, and you can view and edit the raw files at the corresponding paths in the site/en directory.

We're publishing our docs on GitHub so everybody can contribute. Whatever gets checked in to tensorflow/docs/site/en will be published soon after on tensorflow.org.

Republishing TensorFlow documentation in different forms is absolutely allowed, but we are unlikely to accept other documentation formats (or the tooling to generate them) into our repository. If you do choose to republish our documentation in another form, please be sure to include:

  • The version of the API this represents (for example, r1.0, master, etc.)
  • The commit or version from which the documentation was generated
  • Where to get the latest documentation (that is, https://www.tensorflow.org)
  • The Apache 2.0 license.

Versions and branches

tensorflow.org, at root, shows documentation for the latest stable binary. This is the documentation you should be reading if you are using pip install tensorflow.

The default TensorFlow pip package is built from the stable branch rX.X in the main TensorFlow repository.

In contrast, to quickly publish fixes, the docs on the site are built from the docs/master branch.

Old versions of the documentation are available in the rX.X branches. An "old-version" branch will only be created when the next version is released: When r1.11 is released, we will create the r1.10 branch.

In the rare case that a there is a major update for a new feature that we do not wish to publish to the site in the mean time, the docs will be developed in a feature-branch, and merged to master when ready.

API documentation

The following reference documentation is automatically generated from comments in the code:

  • C++ API reference docs
  • Java API reference docs
  • Python API reference docs

To modify the reference documentation, you edit the appropriate code comments and doc strings. These are only updated with new releases, as they reflect the contents of the default installation.

The Python API documentation is generated from the main TensorFlow repository using the //tensorflow/tools/docs:generate bazel build target:

bazel run //tensorflow/tools/docs:generate -- --output_dir=/tmp/master_out

The C++ API documentation is generated from XML files generated via doxygen; however, those tools are not available in open source at this time.

Markdown and Notebooks

TensorFlow documentation is written in Markdown (.md) or Notebooks (.ipynb). With a few exceptions, TensorFlow uses the standard Markdown rules.

Use this template for TensorFlow notebooks.

This section explains the primary differences between standard Markdown rules and the Markdown rules that TensorFlow documentation uses.

Math in Markdown

You may use MathJax within TensorFlow when editing Markdown files, but note the following:

When writing MathJax, you can use $$ and \\( and \\) to surround your math. $$ guards will cause line breaks, so within text, use \\( \\) instead.

For links between files in this repository, use relative links and include the file extension.

[Eager Basics](../tutorials/eager/eager_basics)

Eager Basics

These links will work on GitHub (linking to the source file), and tensorflow.org (linking to the rendered page).

Links to the TensorFlow API documentation are converted when the site is published.

For the Python API, enclose the full symbol path in backticks:



For the C++ API, use the namespace path in backticks:



To link to source code, use a link starting with: https://github.com/tensorflow/tensorflow/blob/master, followed by the file path starting from the GitHub project root. (That is, don't repeat the name of the GitHub repository a second time).

[Example link to tensorflow/python/__init__.py,
in the TensorFlow repo](https://github.com/tensorflow/tensorflow/blob/master/tensorflow/python/__init__.py)

Example link to tensorflow/python/init.py, in the TensorFlow repo

Do not include any additional parameters or query strings in the Markdown URL.

Use regular Markdown links for:

  • external pages
  • pages on tensorflow.org that are not sourced in the tensorflow/docs repository
  • pages on tensorflow.org that are sourced from the tensorflow/docs repository, but from a non-Markdown file (for example, a .yaml file).

In these cases, follow the standard Markdown link syntax, and include the full URL.

Op documentation style guide

Long, descriptive module-level documentation for modules should go in the API Guides.

For classes and ops, ideally, you should provide the following information, in order of presentation:

  • A short sentence that describes what the op does.
  • A short description of what happens when you pass arguments to the op.
  • An example showing how the op works (pseudocode is best).
  • Requirements, caveats, important notes (if there are any).
  • Descriptions of inputs, outputs, and Attrs or other parameters of the op constructor.

Each of these is described in more detail below.

Write your text in Markdown format. A basic syntax reference is here. You are allowed to use MathJax notation for equations (see above for restrictions).

Writing about code

Put backticks around these things when they're used in text:

  • Argument names (for example, input, x, tensor)
  • Returned tensor names (for example, output, idx, out)
  • Data types (for example, int32, float, uint8)
  • Other op names referenced in text (for example, list_diff(), shuffle())
  • Class names (for example, Tensor when you actually mean a Tensor object; don't capitalize or use backticks if you're just explaining what an op does to a tensor, or a graph, or an operation in general)
  • File names (for example, image_ops.py, or /path-to-your-data/xml/example-name)
  • Math expressions or conditions (for example, -1-input.dims() <= dim <= input.dims())

Put three backticks around sample code and pseudocode examples. And use # ==> instead of a single equal sign when you want to show what an op returns. For example:

# 'input' is a tensor of shape [2, 3, 5]
(tf.expand_dims(input, 0))  # ==> [1, 2, 3, 5]

If you're providing a Python code sample, add the python style label to ensure proper syntax highlighting:

``` python
# some Python code

Two notes about backticks for code samples in Markdown:

  1. You can use backticks for pretty printing languages other than Python, if necessary. A full list of languages is available here.
  2. Markdown also allows you to indent four spaces to specify a code sample. However, do NOT indent four spaces and use backticks simultaneously. Use one or the other.

Tensor dimensions

When you're talking about a tensor in general, don't capitalize the word tensor. When you're talking about the specific object that's provided to an op as an argument or returned by an op, then you should capitalize the word Tensor and add backticks around it because you're talking about a Tensor object.

Don't use the word Tensors to describe multiple Tensor objects unless you really are talking about a Tensors object. Better to say "a list of Tensor objects."

Use the term "dimensions" to refer to the shape of a tensor. If you need to be specific about the size, use these conventions:

  • Refer to a scalar as a "0-D tensor"
  • Refer to a vector as a "1-D tensor"
  • Refer to a matrix as a "2-D tensor"
  • Refer to tensors with 3 or more dimensions as 3-D tensors or n-D tensors. Use the word "rank" only if it's unambiguous in that context. Never use the word "order" to describe the size of a tensor.

Use the word "shape" to detail the dimensions of a tensor, and show the shape in square brackets with backticks. For example:

If `input` is a 3-D tensor with shape `[3, 4, 3]`, this operation
returns a 3-D tensor with shape `[6, 8, 6]`.

Ops defined in C++

All Ops defined in C++ (and accessible from other languages) must be documented with a REGISTER_OP declaration. The docstring in the C++ file is processed to automatically add some information for the input types, output types, and Attr types and default values.

For example:

  .Input("contents: string")
  .Attr("channels: int = 0")
  .Output("image: uint8")
Decodes the contents of a PNG file into a uint8 tensor.

contents: PNG file contents.
channels: Number of color channels, or 0 to autodetect based on the input.
  Must be 0 for autodetect, 1 for grayscale, 3 for RGB, or 4 for RGBA.
  If the input has a different number of channels, it will be transformed
image:= A 3-D uint8 tensor of shape `[height, width, channels]`.
  If `channels` is 0, the last dimension is determined
  from the png contents.

Results in this piece of Markdown:

### tf.image.png_decode(contents, channels=None, name=None) {#png_decode}

Decodes the contents of a PNG file into a uint8 tensor.

#### Args:

*  **contents**: A string Tensor. PNG file contents.
*  **channels**: An optional int. Defaults to 0.
   Number of color channels, or 0 to autodetect based on the input.
   Must be 0 for autodetect, 1 for grayscale, 3 for RGB, or 4 for RGBA.  If the
   input has a different number of channels, it will be transformed accordingly.
*  **name**: A name for the operation (optional).

#### Returns:
A 3-D uint8 tensor of shape `[height, width, channels]`.  If `channels` is
0, the last dimension is determined from the png contents.

Much of the argument description is added automatically. In particular, the doc generator automatically adds the name and type of all inputs, attrs, and outputs. In the above example, contents: A string Tensor. was added automatically. You should write your additional text to flow naturally after that description.

For inputs and output, you can prefix your additional text with an equal sign to prevent the automatically added name and type. In the above example, the description for the output named image starts with = to prevent the addition of A uint8 Tensor. before our text A 3-D uint8 Tensor.... You cannot prevent the addition of the name, type, and default value of attrs this way, so write your text carefully.

Ops defined in Python

If your op is defined in a python/ops/*.py file, then you need to provide text for all of the arguments and output (returned) tensors. The doc generator does not auto-generate any text for ops that are defined in Python, so what you write is what you get.

You should conform to the usual Python docstring conventions, except that you should use Markdown in the docstring.

Here's a simple example:

def foo(x, y, name="bar"):
  """Computes foo.

  Given two 1-D tensors `x` and `y`, this operation computes the foo.


  # x is [1, 1]
  # y is [2, 2]
  tf.foo(x, y) ==> [3, 3]
    x: A `Tensor` of type `int32`.
    y: A `Tensor` of type `int32`.
    name: A name for the operation (optional).

    A `Tensor` of type `int32` that is the foo of `x` and `y`.

    ValueError: If `x` or `y` are not of type `int32`.

Description of the docstring sections

This section details each of the elements in docstrings.

Short sentence describing what the op does


Concatenates tensors.
Flips an image horizontally from left to right.
Computes the Levenshtein distance between two sequences.
Saves a list of tensors to a file.
Extracts a slice from a tensor.

Short description of what happens when you pass arguments to the op


Given a tensor input of numerical type, this operation returns a tensor of
the same type and size with values reversed along dimension `seq_dim`. A
vector `seq_lengths` determines which elements are reversed for each index
within dimension 0 (usually the batch dimension).

This operation returns a tensor of type `dtype` and dimensions `shape`, with
all elements set to zero.

Example demonstrating the op

Good code samples are short and easy to understand, typically containing a brief snippet of code to clarify what the example is demonstrating. When an op manipulates the shape of a Tensor it is often useful to include an example of the before and after, as well.

The squeeze() op has a nice pseudocode example:

# 't' is a tensor of shape [1, 2, 1, 3, 1, 1]
shape(squeeze(t)) ==> [2, 3]

The tile() op provides a good example in descriptive text:

For example, tiling `[a, b, c, d]` by `[2]` produces `[a b c d a b c d]`.

It is often helpful to show code samples in Python. Never put them in the C++ Ops file, and avoid putting them in the Python Ops doc. We recommend, if possible, putting code samples in the API guides. Otherwise, add them to the module or class docstring where the Ops constructors are called out.

Here's an example from the module docstring in api_guides/python/math_ops.md:

## Segmentation

TensorFlow provides several operations that you can use to perform common
math computations on tensor segments.
In particular, a segmentation of a matrix tensor is a mapping of rows to

For example:

c = tf.constant([[1,2,3,4], [-1,-2,-3,-4], [5,6,7,8]])
tf.segment_sum(c, tf.constant([0, 0, 1]))
  ==>  [[0 0 0 0]
        [5 6 7 8]]

Requirements, caveats, important notes


This operation requires that: `-1-input.dims() <= dim <= input.dims()`
Note: This tensor will produce an error if evaluated. Its value must
be fed using the `feed_dict` optional argument to `Session.run()`,
`Tensor.eval()`, or `Operation.run()`.

Descriptions of arguments and output (returned) tensors.

Keep the descriptions brief and to the point. You should not have to explain how the operation works in the argument sections.

Mention if the Op has strong constraints on the dimensions of the input or output tensors. Remember that for C++ Ops, the type of the tensor is automatically added as either as "A ..type.. Tensor" or "A Tensor with type in {...list of types...}". In such cases, if the Op has a constraint on the dimensions either add text such as "Must be 4-D" or start the description with = (to prevent the tensor type to be added) and write something like "A 4-D float tensor".

For example, here are two ways to document an image argument of a C++ op (note the "=" sign):

image: Must be 4-D. The image to resize.
image:= A 4-D `float` tensor. The image to resize.

In the documentation, these will be rendered to Markdown as

image: A `float` Tensor. Must be 4-D. The image to resize.
image: A 4-D `float` Tensor. The image to resize.

Optional arguments descriptions ("attrs")

The doc generator always describes the type for each attr and their default value, if any. You cannot override that with an equal sign because the description is very different in the C++ and Python generated docs.

Phrase any additional attr description so that it flows well after the type and default value. The type and defaults are displayed first, and additional descriptions follow afterwards. Therefore, complete sentences are best.

Here's an example from image_ops.cc:

    .Input("contents: string")
    .Attr("channels: int = 0")
    .Attr("dtype: {uint8, uint16} = DT_UINT8")
    .Output("image: dtype")
Decode a PNG-encoded image to a uint8 or uint16 tensor.

The attr `channels` indicates the desired number of color channels for the
decoded image.

Accepted values are:

*   0: Use the number of channels in the PNG-encoded image.
*   1: output a grayscale image.
*   3: output an RGB image.
*   4: output an RGBA image.

If needed, the PNG-encoded image is transformed to match the requested
number of color channels.

contents: 0-D.  The PNG-encoded image.
channels: Number of color channels for the decoded image.
image: 3-D with shape `[height, width, channels]`.

This generates the following Args section in api_docs/python/tf/image/decode_png.md:

#### Args:

* **`contents`**: A `Tensor` of type `string`. 0-D.  The PNG-encoded
* **`channels`**: An optional `int`. Defaults to `0`. Number of color
  channels for the decoded image.
* **`dtype`**: An optional tf.DType from: `tf.uint8,
  tf.uint16`. Defaults to `tf.uint 8`.
* **`name`**: A name for the operation (optional).