Docutils HTML writers



html is an alias for the default Docutils HTML writer. Currently, html is mapped to html4css1.

The target may change with the development of HTML, browsers, Docutils, and the web.


aliases:html4, html,
config:[html4css1 writer]

The HTML Writer module, docutils/writers/, started as a proof-of-concept reference implementation. It is the first Docutils writer and was up to release 0.13 the only official HTML writer.

The output conforms to the XHTML 1 Transitional specification. It does not validate as HTML 4.01 Transitional due to the closing of empty tags required in XML but not allowed in HTML 4. However, the output follows the HTML Compatibility Guidelines for proper rendering on most HTML user agents.

Correct rendering depends on a CSS style sheet. A reference style sheet, html4css1.css, is provided and used by default.

To support the Internet Explorer (with a market share of about 90% around 2002, the time this writer was written), documents contain some hard-coded formatting hints and are tagged as "text/html" (instead of "application/xhtml+xml"). [1]

[1]Conformance to CSS 2.1 has been added in IE 8 (2009), support for XHTML in IE 9 (2011).

config:[pep_html writer]

This is a special writer for the generation of Python Enhancement Proposals (PEPs). It inherits from html4css1 and adds some PEP-specific options, a style sheet and template. The front-end uses also a specialised reader.


config:[s5_html writer]

The s5 writer inherits from html4css1. It produces XHTML for use with S5, the “Simple Standards-based Slide Show System” by Eric Meyer. See Easy Slide Shows With reST & S5 for details.


config:[html5 writer]

The html5_polyglot writer generates polyglot HTML output, valid XML that is compatible with HTML5 (cf. Benefits of polyglot XHTML5). New features and elements will only be used if they are widely supported to make documents viewable with any browser.

There is no hard-coded formatting information in the HTML document. Correct rendering of elements not directly supported by HTML depends on a CSS style sheet. The provided style sheets minimal.css and plain.css define required and optional styling rules respectively. Adaption of the layout is possible with custom style sheets.

New in Docutils 0.13

HTML writers in the sandbox

There are two more HTML writers in the sandbox:


aliases:xhtml, html4strict
config:[xhtml11 writer]

XHTML 1.1 is the latest version of the XML based extensible Hypertext Markup Language with an official DTD.

The xhtml11 writer lives in the Docutils sandbox since 2008. The output conforms to the strict requirements of XHTML 1.1.


The HTML writer for lightweight browsers lives in the Docutils sandbox (sandbox/html4trans) since 2008. It removes the dependency on CSS. The output conforms to XHTML 1 Transitional and contains sufficient formatting information for rendering without style sheet. (Of course, this has some drawbacks.)


name alias(es) front-end HTML version CSS version
html4css1 html4, html XHTML 1 Transitional CSS 1
pep_html XHTML 1 Transitional CSS 1
s5_html s5 XHTML 1 Transitional CSS 1
html5_polyglot html5 HTML5 CSS 3
xhtml11 xhtml, html4strict XHTML 1.1 CSS 3
html4trans ..   rst2html_trans XHTML 1 Transitional no CSS required


HTML5, A vocabulary and associated APIs for HTML and XHTML, W3C Recommendation, 28 October 2014.
XHTML™ 1.1 - Module-based XHTML - Second Edition, W3C Recommendation, 23 November 2010.
XHTML 1 Transitional
Transitional version of: XHTML™ 1.0 The Extensible HyperText Markup Language (Second Edition), A Reformulation of HTML 4 in XML 1.0, W3C Recommendation, 26 January 2000, revised 1 August 2002.
XHTML™ Basic 1.1 - Second Edition, W3C Recommendation, 23 November 2010.
HTML 4.01 Transitional
Transitional version of: HTML 4.01 Specification, W3C Recommendation 24 December 1999.
CSS Level 1:
The features defined in the CSS1 specification, but using the syntax and definitions in the CSS 2.1 specification.
CSS 2.1 Cascading Style Sheets Level 2 Revision 1 (CSS 2.1) Specification,
W3C Recommendation 07 June 2011.
CSS 3:

CSS Level 3 builds on CSS Level 2 module by module, using the CSS2.1 specification as its core.