All configurations take place in your project’s file.


Add sphinx_needs to your extensions.

extensions = ["sphinx_needs",]

Incremental build support

Sphinx does not use its incremental build feature, if you assign functions directly to Sphinx options. To avoid this, please use the Sphinx-Needs API to register functions directly.

This would allow Sphinx to perform incremental builds which are much faster as compared to full builds.

Example configuration


# Defining one or more functions in is fine
def my_custom_warning(need, log):
    # some checks
    return False

def my_dynamic_function(app, need, needs):
    return "some text"

# This assignment will deactivate incremental build support inside Sphinx
needs_warnings = {
   'my_warning_no_inc_build': my_custom_warning

# Better, register the function via Sphinx-Needs API
from sphinx_needs.api.configuration import add_warning, add_dynamic_function
def setup(app):
   add_warning(app, 'my_warning', my_custom_warning)
   add_dynamic_function(app, my_dynamic_function)


You are free to use e.g. needs_warnings and add_warning() together in a file. Sphinx-Needs creates internally a final list of elements defined by config-var and api-call.

However, you should not use the same id in a config-var and the related api-call, as this would create the related element twice.


All configuration options starts with the prefix needs_ for Sphinx-Needs.


Set this option to False, if no needs should be documented inside the generated documentation.

Default: True

needs_include_needs = False


This option defines the length of an automated generated ID (the length of the prefix does not count).

Default: 5

needs_id_length = 3


The option allows the setup of own need types like bugs, user_stories and more.

By default it is set to:

needs_types = [dict(directive="req", title="Requirement", prefix="R_", color="#BFD8D2", style="node"),
               dict(directive="spec", title="Specification", prefix="S_", color="#FEDCD2", style="node"),
               dict(directive="impl", title="Implementation", prefix="I_", color="#DF744A", style="node"),
               dict(directive="test", title="Test Case", prefix="T_", color="#DCB239", style="node"),
               # Kept for backwards compatibility
               dict(directive="need", title="Need", prefix="N_", color="#9856a5", style="node")

needs_types must be a list of dictionaries where each dictionary must contain the following items:

  • directive: Name of the directive. For instance, you can use “req” via .. req:: in documents

  • title: Title, used as human readable name in lists

  • prefix: A prefix for generated IDs, to easily identify that an ID belongs to a specific type. Can also be “”

  • color: A color as hex value. Used in diagrams and some days maybe in other representations as well. Can also be “”

  • style: A plantuml node type, like node, artifact, frame, storage or database. See plantuml documentation for more.


color can also be an empty string. This makes sense, if the PlantUMl configuration is mostly provided by using needs_flow_configs and the used colors shall not get overwritten by type specific values.


If a need type shall contain need_part / np and later be printed via needflow, the chosen PlantUML node type must support nested elements for this type.

Types who support nested elements are for instance: node, package, frame. Not supporting elements are for instance usecase, actor.

Please take a look into the PlantUML Manual for more details.


New in version 0.2.2.

The option allows the addition of extra options that you can specify on needs.

You can set needs_extra_options as a list inside as follows:

needs_extra_options = ['introduced', 'updated', 'impacts']

And use it like:

.. req:: My Requirement
   :status: open
   :introduced: Yes
   :updated: 2018/03/26
   :tags: important;complex;
   :impacts: really everything

Default value:

{'hidden': directives.unchanged}

The hidden option is a globally available option always hidden and used to easily execute Dynamic functions.

Extra options automatically appear in needs, if a value is set. By using needs_hide_options the output of such options can be hidden.


To filter on these options in needlist, needtable, etc. you must use the Filtering needs option.

Show example

from docutils.parsers.rst import directives

needs_extra_options = {
   "my_extra_option": directives.unchanged,
   "another_option": directives.unchanged,


.. req:: My requirement with custom options
   :id: xyz_123
   :status: open
   :my_extra_option: A new option
   :another_option: filter_me

   Some content

.. needfilter::
   :filter: "filter_me" in another_option


Requirement: My requirement with custom options xyz_123 _images/arrow-right-circle.svg
status: open
my_extra_option: A new option
another_option: filter_me

Some content


New in version 0.3.0.

Global options are set on global level for all needs, so that all needs get the same value for the configured option.

needs_global_options = {
   'global_option': 'Fix value'

Default value: {}

You can combine global options with Dynamic functions to automate data handling.

needs_global_options = {
      'global_option': '[[copy("id")]]'

Filter based global options

New in version 0.4.3.

You can set the value of a global_option if only a given Filter string passes. If the filter string does not pass, the option is not set or a given default value is set.

To use filters for global_options, the given value must be a tuple containing the following elements:

  1. value to set (required)

  2. filter string, which must pass (required)

  3. default value, if filter string does not pass (optional)

needs_global_options = {
   # Without default value
   'status': ('closed', 'status.lower() in ["done", "resolved", "closed"]')

   # Set Marco as author if security tag is used. In all other cases set Daniel as author.
   'author': ('Marco', '"security" in tags', 'Daniel)

   # Dynamic functions are allowed as well
   'req_id': ('[[copy("id")]]', 'id.startswith("REQ_")')

There are use cases, for which an option needs to get different values based on different filter. In this cases, you can provide a list of tuples.

needs_global_options = {
      # Without default value
      'status': [
            ('fulfilled', 'status.lower() in ["done", "resolved", "closed"]', 'type=="req"'),
            ('done', 'status.lower() in ["done", "resolved", "closed"]', 'type=="task"'),
            ('implemented', 'status.lower() in ["done", "resolved", "closed"]', 'type=="spec"')


The filter string gets executed against the current need only and has no access to other needs. That’s because the global_options get set during initialisation of the document and during this phase not every document has been already read by Sphinx.

So avoid any references to other needs in the filter string.

If you need access to other needs for complex filtering, you can maybe provide your own Dynamic functions and perform the filtering there.

New in version 0.3.11.

Allows the definition of additional link types.

Each configured link should define:

  • option: The name of the option. Example “blocks”.

  • incoming: Incoming text, to use for incoming links. E.g. “is blocked by”.

  • outgoing: Outgoing text, to use for outgoing links. E.g. “blocks”.

  • copy (optional): True/False. If True, the links will be copied also to the common link-list (link type links). Default: True

  • allow_dead_links (optional): True/False. If True, dead links are allowed and do not throw a warning. See allow_dead_links for details. Default: False.

  • style (optional): A plantuml style description, e.g. “#FFCC00”. Used for needflow. See style / style_part.

  • style_part (optional): Same as style, but get used if link is connected to a need_part / np. See style / style_part.

Configuration example:

needs_extra_links = [
      "option": "checks",
      "incoming": "is checked by",
      "outgoing": "checks",
      "option": "triggers",
      "incoming": "is triggered by",
      "outgoing": "triggers",
      "copy": False,
      "allow_dead_links": True,
      "style": "#00AA00",
      "style_part": "#00AA00",
      "style_start": "-",
      "style_end": "--o",

The above example configuration allows the following usage:


.. req:: My requirement
  :id: EXTRA_REQ_001

.. test:: Test of requirements
  :id: EXTRA_TEST_001
  :triggers: DEAD_LINK


Requirement: My requirement EXTRA_REQ_001 _images/arrow-right-circle.svg
is checked by: EXTRA_TEST_001
Test Case: Test of requirements EXTRA_TEST_001 _images/arrow-right-circle.svg
has_dead_links: True
has_forbidden_dead_links: True
triggers: DEAD_LINK


The used option name can not be reused in the configuration of needs_global_options.

Link types with option-name links and parent_needs are added by default. You are free to overwrite the default config by defining your own type with option name links or parent_needs. This type will be used as default configuration for all links.

New in version 0.6.3.

By setting allow_dead_links to True, referenced, but not found needs do not throw a warning. Instead the same text gets printed as log message on level INFO.


Need objects have the two attributes has_dead_links and has_forbidden_dead_links. has_dead_links gets set to True, if any dead link was found in the need. And has_forbidden_dead_links is set to True only, if dead links were not allowed (so allow_dead_links was set to False for at least one link type with dead links).

HTML style

Also dead links get specific CSS attributes on the HTML output: needs_dead_link for all found dead links and an additional forbidden for link_types with allow_dead_links not set or set to False.

By default not allowed dead links will be shown in red , allowed ones in gray (see above example).

style / style_part

The style string can contain the following comma separated information:

  • color: #ffcc00 or red

  • line style: dotted, dashed, bold

Valid configuration examples are:

  • #ffcc00

  • dashed

  • dotted,#red

An empty string uses the default plantuml settings.

style_start / style_end

These two options can define the arrow type, line type and line length.

See Plantuml documentation page for details about supported formats.

Here are some examples:










Both sides, dotted line



Deeper level / longer line



Use style_start and style_end like this:

needs_extra_links = [
      "option": "tests",
      "incoming": "is tested by",
      "outgoing": "tests",
      "copy": False,
      "style_start": "<-",
      "style_end": "down-->",
      "style": "#00AA00",
      "style_part": "dotted,#00AA00",


Some plantuml diagrams have restrictions in the order of color (style) and orientation (left, rigth, up and down). We suggest to set the orientation in style_end like in the example above, as this is more often supported.


This option allows to use custom data inside a Filter string.

Configuration example:

def custom_defined_func():
    return "my_tag"

needs_filter_data = {
    "current_variant": "project_x",
    "sphinx_tag": custom_defined_func(),

The defined needs_filter_data must be a dictionary. Its values can be a string variable or a custom defined function. The function get executed during config loading and must return a string.

The value of needs_filter_data will be available as data inside Filter string and can be very powerful together with internal needs information to filter needs.

The defined extra filter data can be used like this:

.. needextend:: type == "req" and sphinx_tag in tags
   :+tags: my_external_tag

or if project has needs_extra_options defined like:

needs_extra_options = ['variant']

The defined extra filter data can also be used like:

.. needlist::
   :filter: variant != current_variant

.. needextract::
   :filter: type == "story" and variant == current_variant
   :layout: clean
   :style: green_border

New in version 0.3.11.

Used to de/activate the output of link type names beside the connection in the needflow directive:

needs_flow_show_links = True

Default value: False

Can be configured also for each needflow directive via show_link_names.

New in version 0.3.11.

Defines the link_types to show in a needflow diagram:

needs_flow_link_types = ['links', 'blocks', 'tests']

You can define this setting on each specific needflow by using the needflow directive option link_types. See also link_types for more details.

Default value: ['links']


New in version 0.5.2.

needs_flow_configs must be a dictionary which can store multiple PlantUML configurations. These configs can then be selected when using needflow.

needs_flow_configs = {
   'my_config': """
       skinparam monochrome true
       skinparam componentStyle uml2
   'another_config': """
       skinparam class {
           BackgroundColor PaleGreen
           ArrowColor SeaGreen
           BorderColor SpringGreen

This configurations can then be used like this:


.. needflow::
   :tags: flow_example
   :types: spec
   :config: my_config



' Config

skinparam monochrome true
skinparam componentStyle uml2

' Nodes definition 

node "<size:12>Specification</size>\n**A specification**\n<size:10>spec_flow_001</size>" as spec_flow_001 [[../directives/needflow.html#spec_flow_001]] #FEDCD2{
rectangle "<size:12>Specification (part)</size>\n**A testable part**\n**of the**\n**specification**\n<size:10>spec_flow_001.**subspec_1**</size>" as spec_flow_001.subspec_1 [[../directives/needflow.html#spec_flow_001.subspec_1]] #FEDCD2
rectangle "<size:12>Specification (part)</size>\n**Another**\n**testable part**\n**of the**\n**specification**\n<size:10>spec_flow_001.**subspec_2**</size>" as spec_flow_001.subspec_2 [[../directives/needflow.html#spec_flow_001.subspec_2]] #FEDCD2
'child needs:
node "<size:12>Specification</size>\n**A child**\n**specification**\n<size:10>spec_flow_003</size>" as spec_flow_003 [[../directives/needflow.html#spec_flow_003]] #FEDCD2
node "<size:12>Specification</size>\n**Another**\n**specification**\n<size:10>spec_flow_002</size>" as spec_flow_002 [[../directives/needflow.html#spec_flow_002]] #FEDCD2

' Connection definition 

spec_flow_002 --> spec_flow_001
spec_flow_002 -[#AA0000]-o spec_flow_001


See needflow config option for more details and already available configurations.


New in version 1.0.1.

You can customize the layout of needreport using Jinja.

Set the value of needs_report_template to the path of the template you want to use.


The path must be an absolute path based on the directory. Example: needs_report_template = '/needs_templates/report_template.need'

The template file should be a plain file with any of the following file extensions: .rst, .need, or .txt.

If you do not set needs_report_template, the default template used is:

{# Output for needs_types #}
{% if types|length != 0 %}
.. dropdown:: Need Types
   :class: needs_report_table

   .. list-table::
     :widths: 40 20 20 20
     :header-rows: 1

     * - TITLE
       - DIRECTIVE
       - PREFIX
       - STYLE
     {% for type in types %}
     * - {{ type.title }}
       - {{ type.directive }}
       - `{{ type.prefix }}`
       - {{ }}
     {% endfor %}
{% endif %}
{# Output for needs_types #}

{# Output for needs_extra_links #}
{% if links|length != 0 %}
.. dropdown:: Need Extra Links
   :class: needs_report_table

   .. list-table::
     :widths: 10 30 30 5 20
     :header-rows: 1

     * - OPTION
       - INCOMING
       - OUTGOING
       - COPY
     {% for link in links %}
     * - {{ link.option | capitalize }}
       - {{ link.incoming | capitalize }}
       - {{ link.outgoing | capitalize }}
       - {{ link.get('copy', None) | capitalize }}
       - {{ link.get('allow_dead_links', False) | capitalize }}
     {% endfor %}
{% endif %}
{# Output for needs_extra_links #}

{# Output for needs_options #}
{% if options|length != 0 %}
.. dropdown:: Need Extra Options
   :class: needs_report_table

   {% for option in options %}
   * {{ option }}
   {% endfor %}
{% endif %}
{# Output for needs_options #}

{# Output for needs metrics #}
{% if usage|length != 0 %}
.. dropdown:: Need Metrics

   .. list-table::
      :widths: 40 40
      :header-rows: 1

      * - NEEDS TYPES
        - NEEDS PER TYPE
      {% for k, v in usage["needs_types"].items() %}
      * - {{ k | capitalize }}
        - {{ v }}
      {% endfor %}
      * - **Total Needs Amount**
        - {{ usage.get("needs_amount") }}
{% endif %}
{# Output for needs metrics #}

The plugin provides the following variables which you can use in your custom Jinja template:

  • types - list of need types

  • links - list of extra need links

  • options - list of extra need options

  • usage - a dictionary object containing information about the following:
    • needs_amount -> total amount of need objects in the project

    • needs_types -> number of need objects per needs type


This option allows to control the content of diagram elements which get automatically generated by using .. needflow:: / needflow.

This function is based on plantuml, so that each supported style can be used.

The rendered template is used inside the following plantuml syntax and must care about leaving the final string valid:

'node "YOUR_TEMPLATE" as need_id [[need_link]]'

By default the following template is used:

{%- if is_need -%}
<size:12>{{type_name}}</size>\\n**{{title|wordwrap(15, wrapstring='**\\\\n**')}}**\\n<size:10>{{id}}</size>
{%- else -%}
<size:12>{{type_name}} (part)</size>\\n**{{content|wordwrap(15, wrapstring='**\\\\n**')}}**\\n<size:10>{{id_parent}}.**{{id}}**</size>
{%- endif -%}


New in version 0.1.19.

Forces the user to set an ID for each need, which gets defined.

So no ID is autogenerated any more, if this option is set to True:

needs_id_required = True

By default this option is set to False.

If an ID is missing Sphinx throws the exception “NeedsNoIdException” and stops the build.


.. With needs_id_required = True

.. req:: Working Requirement
   :id: R_001

.. req:: **Not working**, because :id: is not set.

.. With needs_id_required = False

.. req:: This works now!


Generates needs ID from title. By default, this setting is set to False.

When no need ID is given by the user, and needs_id_from_title is set to True, then a need ID will be calculated based on the current need directive prefix, title, and a hased value from title.


.. req:: Group big short

The calculated need ID will be: R_GROUP_BIG_SHORT_{hashed value}, if the need ID length doesn’t exceed the setting from needs_id_length.


The user needs to ensure the uniqueness of the given title, and also match the settings of needs_id_length and needs_id_regex.


New in version 0.2.3.

Normally a title is required to follow the need directive as follows:

.. req:: This is the required title
    :id: R_9999

By default this option is set to False.

When this option is set to True, a title does not need to be provided, but either some content or an :id: element will be required. If a title is not provided and no ID is provided, then an ID will be generated based on the content of the requirement.

It is important to note in these scenarios that titles will not be available in other directives such as needtable, needlist, needflow.

A title can be auto-generated for a requirement by either setting needs_title_from_content to True or providing the flag :title_from_content: as follows:


.. req::

    This will be my title.  Anything after the first sentence will not be
    part of the title.

The resulting requirement would have the title derived from the first sentence of the requirement.


Requirement: This will be my title R_D8F29 _images/arrow-right-circle.svg

This will be my title. Anything after the first sentence will not be part of the title.


New in version 0.2.3.

This setting defaults to False. When set to True and a need does not provide a title, then a title will be generated using the first sentence in the content of the requirement. The length of the title will adhere to the needs_max_title_length setting (which is not limited by default).


When using this setting be sure to exercise caution that special formatting that you would not want in the title (bulleted lists, nested directives, etc.) do not appear in the first sentence.

If a title is specified for an individual requirement, then that title will be used over the generated title.


.. req::

    The tool must have error logging.  All critical errors must be
    written to the console.

This will render the first sentence as the title

Requirement: R_34265 _images/arrow-right-circle.svg

The tool must have error logging. All critical errors must be written to the console.


This option is used in conjunction with auto-generated titles as controlled by needs_title_from_content and title_from_content. By default, there is no limit to the length of a title.

If you provide a maximum length and the generated title exceeds that limit, then we use an elided version of the title.

When generating a requirement ID from the title, the full generated title will still be used.


Requirement: This is a requirement with a very long title that will need to be R_565A6 _images/arrow-right-circle.svg

This is a requirement with a very long title that will need to be shortened to prevent our titles from being too long. Additional content can be provided in the requirement and not be part of the title.

New in version 0.1.27.

This option mostly affects the roles need_outgoing and need_incoming by showing the type beside the ID of the linked need.

Can be combined with needs_show_link_title.

Activate it by setting it on True in your

needs_show_link_type = True

New in version 0.1.27.

This option mostly affects the roles need_outgoing and need_incoming by showing the title beside the ID of the linked need.

Can be combined with needs_show_link_type.

Activate it by setting it on True in your

needs_show_link_title = True

New in version 1.0.3.

This option mostly affects the roles need_outgoing and need_incoming by showing the ID of the linked need.

Can be combined with needs_show_link_type and needs_show_link_title.

needs_show_link_id = True


New in version 0.1.30.

Defines the location of a JSON file, which is used by the builder needs as input source. Default value: needs.json.


New in version 0.1.41.

Defines a set of valid statuses, which are allowed to be used inside documentation. If we detect a status not defined, an error is thrown and the build stops. The checks are case sensitive.

Activate it by setting it like this:

needs_statuses = [
    dict(name="open", description="Nothing done yet"),
    dict(name="in progress", description="Someone is working on it"),
    dict(name="implemented", description="Work is done and implemented"),

If parameter is not set or set to False, no checks will be performed.

Default value: [].


New in version 0.1.41.

Defines a set of valid tags, which are allowed to be used inside documentation. If we detect a tag not defined, an error is thrown and the build stops. The checks are case sensitive.

Activate it by setting it like this:

needs_tags = [
    dict(name="new", description="new needs"),
    dict(name="security", description="tag for security needs"),

If parameter is not set or set to [], no checks will be performed.

Default value: [].


New in version 0.1.42.

Defines the location of a CSS file, which will be added during documentation build.

If path is relative, Sphinx-Needs will search for related file in its own CSS-folder only! Currently supported CSS files:

  • blank.css : CSS file with empty styles

  • modern.css: modern styles for a need (default)

  • dark.css: styles for dark page backgrounds

Use it like this:

needs_css = "blank.css"

To provide your own CSS file, the path must be absolute. Example:

import os

conf_py_folder = os.path.dirname(__file__)
needs_css =  os.path.join(conf_py_folder, "my_styles.css")

See Sphinx-needs CSS option for available CSS selectors and more.


New in version 0.1.48.

Provides a way of changing the text representation of a referenced need.

If you use the role need, Sphinx-Needs will create a text representation of the referenced need. By default a referenced need is described by the following string:

{title} ({id})

By using needs_role_need_template this representation can be easily adjusted to own requirements.

Here are some ideas, how it could be used inside the file:

needs_role_need_template = "[{id}]: {title}"
needs_role_need_template = "-{id}-"
needs_role_need_template = "{type}: {title} ({status})"
needs_role_need_template = "{title} ({tags})"
needs_role_need_template = "{title:*^20s} - {content:.30}"
needs_role_need_template = "[{id}] {title} ({status}) {type_name}/{type} - {tags} - {links} - {links_back} - {content}"

needs_role_need_template must be a string, which supports the following placeholders:

  • id

  • type (short version)

  • type_name (long, human readable version)

  • title

  • status

  • tags, joined by “;”

  • links, joined by “;”

  • links_back, joined by “;”

  • content

All options of Python’s .format() function are supported. Please see for more information.

RST-attributes like **bold** are not supported.


New in version 0.3.14.

Defines the maximum length of need title that is shown in need references.

By default, need titles that are longer than 30 characters are shortened when shown in need text representation and “…” is added at end. By using needs_role_need_max_title_length, it is possible to change this maximum length.

If set to -1 the title will never be shortened.

needs_role_need_max_title_length = 45


New in version 0.2.0.

Defines the default style for each table. Can be overridden for specific tables by setting parameter style of directive needtable.

needs_table_style = "datatables"

Default value: "datatables"

Supported values:

  • table: Default Sphinx table

  • datatables: Table with activated DataTables functions (Sort, search, export, …).


New in version 0.2.0.

Defines the default columns for each table. Can be overridden for specific tables by setting parameter columns of directive needtable.

needs_table_columns = "title;status;tags"

Default value: "id;title;status;type;outgoing;tags"

Supported values:

  • id

  • title

  • status

  • type

  • tags

  • incoming

  • outgoing


New in version 0.2.0.

Defines a regular expression used to validate all manually set IDs and to generate valid IDs for needs without a given ID.

Default value: ^[A-Z0-9_]{5,}

By default, an ID is allowed to contain upper characters, numbers and underscore only. The ID length must be at least 3 characters.


An automatically generated ID of needs without a manually given ID must match the default value of needs_id_regex only.

If you change the regular expression, you should also set needs_id_required so that authors are forced to set an valid ID.


A jinja-string defines a custom need ID for IDE Support snippets.

Default value: ""

needs_ide_snippets_id provides two jinja functions to generate need ID:

  • from_title(): replaces all whitespaces with _ and converts all to lowevercase from need title

  • random(): generates a random string

It also supports Pre/Postfix.

If needs_ide_snippets_id is not configured or empty, then a random string will be generated for IDE Support snippets id.


needs_ide_snippets_id = "{{random()}}"


needs_ide_snippets_id = "Test_{{random()}}_Test"


needs_ide_snippets_id = "{{from_title()}}"


needs_ide_snippets_id = "TEST_{{from_title()}}_TEST"


Allows to define customized directive snippets for IDE Support.

Default value: {}

In your file, use it like this:

needs_ide_directive_snippets = {
"req": """\
.. req:: REQ Example
   :id: ID

   random content.
"test": """\
.. test:: Test Title
   :id: TEST_
   :status: open
   :custom_option: something

   test directive content.

If needs_ide_directive_snippets is not configured or empty, the default directive snippets will be used.


The snippets are not automatically synced with the need definitions in and it is up to the user to keep them in sync.


New in version 0.3.0.

Used to register own dynamic functions.

Must be a list of python functions.

Default value: []

Inside your file use it like this:

needs_functions == [my_own_function]

def my_own_function(app, need, needs):
    return "Awesome"

See Dynamic functions for more information.


Assigning a function to a Sphinx option will deactivate the incremental build feature of Sphinx. Please use the Sphinx-Needs API and read Incremental build support for details.

It is better to use the following way in your file:

from sphinx_needs.api import add_dynamic_function

   def my_function(app, need, needs, *args, **kwargs):
       # Do magic here
       return "some data"

   def setup(app):
         add_dynamic_function(app, my_function)


New in version 0.3.6.

String used as prefix for need_part / np output in tables.

Default value: u'\u2192\u00a0'

The default value contains an arrow right and a non breaking space.

needs_part_prefix = u'\u2192\u00a0'

See show_parts for an example output.


New in version 0.5.0.

needs_warnings allows the definition of warnings which all needs must avoid during a Sphinx build.

A raised warning will print a sphinx-warning during build time.

Use -W in your Sphinx build command to stop the whole build, if a warning is raised. This will handle all warnings as exceptions.

def my_custom_warning_check(need, log):
    if need["status"] == "open":"{need['id']} status must not be 'open'.")
        return True
    return False

needs_warnings = {
  # req need must not have an empty status field
  'req_with_no_status': "type == 'req' and not status",

  # status must be open or closed
  'invalid_status' : "status not in ['open', 'closed']",

  # user defined filter code function
  'type_match': my_custom_warning_check,

needs_warnings must be a dictionary. The dictionary key is used as identifier and gets printed in log outputs. The value must be a valid filter string or a custom defined filter code function and defines a not allowed behavior.

So use the filter string or filter code function to define how needs are not allowed to be configured/used. The defined filter code function must return True or False.


Assigning a function to a Sphinx option will deactivate the incremental build feature of Sphinx. Please use the Sphinx-Needs API and read Incremental build support for details.

Example output:

looking for now-outdated files... none found
pickling environment... done
checking consistency... WARNING: Sphinx-Needs warnings were raised. See console / log output for details.

Checking Sphinx-Needs warnings
  type_check: passed
  invalid_status: failed
      failed needs: 11 (STYLE_005, EX_ROW_1, EX_ROW_3, copy_2, clv_1, clv_2, clv_3, clv_4, clv_5, T_C3893, R_AD4A0)
      used filter: status not in ["open", "in progress", "closed", "done"] and status is not None

  type_match: failed
      failed needs: 1 (TC_001)
      used filter: <function my_custom_warning_check at 0x7faf3fbcd1f0>

Due to the nature of Sphinx logging, a sphinx-warning may be printed wherever in the log.


If set to True, will allow you to log needs_warnings not passed into a given file if using your Sphinx build command with -w.

Default: False.

For example, set this option to True:

needs_warnings_always_warn = True

Using Sphinx build command sphinx-build -M html {srcdir} {outdir} -w error.log, all the needs_warnings not passed will be logged into a error.log file as you specified.

If you use sphinx-build -M html {srcdir} {outdir} -W -w error.log, the first needs_warnings not passed will stop the build and be logged into the file error.log.


New in version 0.5.0.

You can use needs_layouts to define custom grid-based layouts with custom data.

Please read Layouts & Styles for a lot more detailed information.

needs_layouts must be a dictionary and each key represents a layout. A layout must define the used grid-system and a layout-structure.


needs_layouts = {
    'my_layout': {
        'grid': 'simple',
        'layout': {
            'head': ['my custom head'],
            'meta': ['my first meta line',
                     'my second meta line']


Sphinx-Needs provides some default layouts. These layouts cannot be overwritten. See layout list for more information.


New in version 0.5.0.

needs_default_layout defines the layout to use by default.

The name of the layout must have been provided by Sphinx-Needs or by user via configuration needs_layouts.

Default value of needs_default_layout is clean.

needs_default_layout = 'my_own_layout'


New in version 0.5.0.

The value of needs_default_style is used as default value for each need which does not define its own style information via :style: option.

See Styles for a list of default style names.

needs_default_layout = 'border_yellow'

A combination of multiple styles is possible:

needs_default_style = 'blue, green_border'

Custom values can be set as well, if your projects provides the needed CSS-files for it.


New in version 0.5.2.

needs_template_folder allows the definition of your own Sphinx-Needs template folder. By default this is needs_templates/.

The folder must already exist, otherwise an exception gets thrown, if a need tries to use a template.

Read also need_template option description for information of how to use templates.


New in version 0.5.5.

Used to define option to store duration information for needgantt.

See also duration_option, which overrides this value for specific needgantt charts.

Default: duration


New in version 0.5.5.

Used to define option to store completion information for needgantt.

See also completion_option, which overrides this value for specific needgantt charts.

Default: completion


New in version 0.6.0.

Takes extra configuration options for Services:

needs_services = {
    'jira': {
        'url': '',
    'git': {
        'url': '',
    'my_service': {
        'class': MyServiceClass,
        'config_1': 'value_x',

Each key-value-pair in needs_services describes a service specific configuration.

Own services can be registered by setting class as additional option.

Config options are service specific and are described by Services.

See also needservice.


New in version 0.6.0.

If set to True, data for options which are unknown, is added as string to the need content. If False, unknown option data is not shown anywhere.

Default: False.

needs_service_all_data = True


New in version 0.7.0.

Allows to reference and use external needs without having their representation in your own documentation. (Unlike needimport, which creates need-objects from a local needs.json only).

needs_external_needs = [
    'base_url': 'http://mydocs/my_project',
    'json_url':  'http://mydocs/my_project/needs.json',
    'version': '1.0',
    'id_prefix': 'ext_',
    'css_class': 'external_link',
    'base_url': 'http://mydocs/another_project/',
    'json_path':  'my_folder/needs.json',
    'version': '2.5',
    'id_prefix': 'other_',
    'css_class': 'project_x',
    'base_url': '<relative_path_from_my_build_html_to_my_project>/<relative_path_to_another_project_build_html>',
    'json_path':  'my_folder/needs.json',
    'version': '2.5',
    'id_prefix': 'ext_',
    'css_class': 'project_x',
    "base_url": "",
    "target_url": "issue/{{need['id']}}",
    "json_path": "needs_test.json",
    "id_prefix": "ext_need_id_",
    "base_url": "",
    "target_url": "issue/{{need['type']|upper()}}",
    "json_path": "needs_test.json",
    "id_prefix": "ext_need_type_",
    "base_url": "",
    "target_url": "issue/fixed_string",
    "json_path": "needs_test.json",
    "id_prefix": "ext_string_",

needs_external_needs must be a list of dictionary elements and each dictionary must/can have the following keys:


Base url which is used to calculate the final, specific need url. Normally the path under which the index.html is provided. Base url supports also relative path, which starts from project build html folder (normally where index.html is located).


Allows to config the final caculated need url. (optional)
If provided, target_url will be appended to base_url as the final calculate need url, e.g. base_url/target_url. If not, the external need url uses the default calculated base_url.
The target_url supports Jinja context {{need[]}}, need option used as key, e.g {{need['id']}} or {{need['type']}}.


An url, which can be used to download the needs.json (or similar) file.


The path to a needs.json file located inside your documentation project. Can not be used together with json_url.
The value must be a relative path, which is relative to the project configuration folder (where the is stored). (Since version 0.7.1)


Defines the version to use inside the needs.json file (optional).


Prefix as string, which will be added to all id of external needs. Needed, if there is the risk that needs from different projects may have the same id (optional).


A class name as string, which gets set in link representations like needtable. The related CSS class definition must be done by the user, e.g. by Own CSS file on sphinx level. (optional) (default: external_link)


New in version 1.0.3.

needs_needextend_strict allows you to deactivate or activate the strict option behaviour for all needextend directives.


New in version 0.7.2.

Allows to define custom CSS classes which get set for the HTML tables of need and needtable. This may be needed to avoid custom table handling of some specific Sphinx theme like ReadTheDocs.

needs_table_classes = ['my_custom_class', 'another_class']

Default: ['rtd-exclude-wy-table', 'no-sphinx-material-strip']

This classes are not set for needtables using the table style, which is using the normal Sphinx table layout and therefore must be handled by themes.

The following themes support the following table classes to deactivate their specific handling:








The deactivation of theme specific table handling is quite a new feature in most themes. Please be sure to use the newest theme version or even the nightly build.


New in version 0.7.2.

Defines a Filter string used to filter needs for the builder needs.

Default is 'is_external==False', so all locally defined need objects are taken into account. Need objects imported via needs_external_needs get sorted out.

needs_builder_filter = 'status=="open"'

New in version 0.7.4.

Transforms a given option value to a link.

Helpful e.g. to generate a link to a ticket system based on the given ticket number only.

needs_string_links = {
    'custom_name': {
        'regex': "...",
        'link_url' : "...",
        'link_name': '...'
        'options': ['status', '...']

Must be a valid regular expression. Named capture groups are supported.


The final url as string. Supports Jinja.


The final link name as string. Supports Jinja.


List of option names, for which the regex shall be checked.

link_name and link_url support the Jinja2 syntax. All named capture group values get injected, so that parts of the option-value can be reused for link name and url.



needs_string_links = {
    # Adds link to the Sphinx-Needs configuration page
    'config_link': {
        'regex': r'^(?P<value>\w+)$',
        'link_url': '{{value | replace("_", "-")}}',
        'link_name': 'Sphinx-Needs docs for {{value | replace("_", "-") }}',
        'options': ['config']
    # Links to the related github issue
    'github_link': {
        'regex': r'^(?P<value>\w+)$',
        'link_url': '{{value}}',
        'link_name': 'GitHub #{{value}}',
        'options': ['github']


.. spec:: Use needs_string_links
   :config: needs_string_links
   :github: 404,652

   Replaces the string from ``:config:`` and ``:github:`` with a link to the related website.



You must define the options specified under needs_string_links inside needs_extra_options as well.


New in version 0.7.6.

Builds a needs.json file during other builds, like html.

This allows to have one single Sphinx-Build for two output formats, which may save some time.

All other needs.json related configuration values, like needs_file, are taken into account.

Default: False


needs_build_json = True


The created needs.json file gets stored in the outdir of the current builder. So if html is used as builder, the final location is e.g. _build/html/needs.json.


Exports needuml data during each build.

This option works like needs_build_json. But the value of needs_build_needumls should be a string, not a boolean. Default value of is: "".

This value of this option shall be a relative folder path, which specifies and creates the relative folder in the outdir of the current builder.


needs_build_needumls = "my_needumls"

As a result, all the needuml data will be exported into folder in the outdir of the current builder, e.g. _build/html/my_needumls/.

The option specifies the name of the permalink html file, which will be copied to the html build directory during build.

The permalink web site will load a needs.json file as specified by needs_permalink_data and re-direct the web browser to the html document of the need, which is specified by appending the need ID as a query parameter, e.g., http://localhost:8000/permalink.html?id=REQ_4711.


needs_permalink_file = "my_permalink.html"

Results in a file my_permalink.html in the html build directory. If this directory is served on localhost:8000, then the file will be available at http://localhost:8000/my_permalink.html.

Default value: permalink.html

This options sets the location of a needs.json file. This file is used to create permanent links for needs as described in needs_permalink_file.

The path can be a relative path (relative to the permalink html file), an absolute path (on the web server) or an URL.

Default value: needs.json


New in version 1.0.1.

needs_constraints = {

    "critical": {
        "check_0": "'critical' in tags",
        "check_1": "'security_req' in links",
        "severity": "CRITICAL"

    "security": {
        "check_0": "'security' in tags",
        "severity": "HIGH"

    "team": {
        "check_0": "author == \"Bob\"",
        "severity": "LOW"


needs_constraints needs to be enabled by adding “constraints” to needs_extra_options

needs_constraints contains a dictionary which contains dictionaries describing a single constraint. A single constraint’s name serves as the key for the inner dictionary. Inside there are (multiple) checks and a severity. Each check describes an executable constraint which allows to set conditions the specific need has to fulfill. Depending on the severity, different behaviours in case of failure can be configured. See needs_constraint_failed_options

Each need now contains additional attributes named “constraints_passed” and “constraints_results”.

constraints_passed is a bool showing if ALL constraints of a corresponding need were passed.

constraints_results is a dictionary similar in structure to needs_constraints above. Instead of executable python statements, inner values contain a bool describing if check_0, check_1 … passed successfully.

.. req::

    This is a requirement describing security processes.

.. req::
    :tags: critical
    :links: SECURITY_REQ
    :constraints: critical

    Example of a successful constraint.

.. req::
    :id: FAIL_01
    :author: "Alice"
    :constraints: team

    Example of a failed constraint with medium severity. Note the style from :ref:`needs_constraint_failed_options`
Requirement: SECURITY_REQ _images/arrow-right-circle.svg
links incoming: R_8987B

This is a requirement describing security processes.

Requirement: R_8987B _images/arrow-right-circle.svg
tags: critical
links outgoing: SECURITY_REQ

Example of a successful constraint.

Requirement: FAIL_01 _images/arrow-right-circle.svg
style: yellow_bar,
author: "Alice"

Example of a failed constraint with medium severity. Note the style from needs_constraint_failed_options


needs_constraint_failed_options = {
    "CRITICAL": {
        "on_fail": ["warn"],
        "style": ["red_bar"],
        "force_style": True

    "HIGH": {
        "on_fail": ["warn"],
        "style": ["orange_bar"],
        "force_style": True

    "MEDIUM": {
        "on_fail": ["warn"],
        "style": ["yellow_bar"],
        "force_style": False

    "LOW": {
        "on_fail": [],
        "style": ["yellow_bar"],
        "force_style": False

needs_constraint_failed_options must be a dictionary which stores what to do if a certain constraint fails. Dictionary keys correspond to the severity set when creating a constraint. Each entry describes in an “on_fail” action what to do:

  • “break” breaks the build process and raises a NeedsConstraintFailed Exception when a constraint is not met.

  • “warn” creates a warning in the sphinx.logger if a constraint is not met. Use -W in your Sphinx build command to stop the whole build, if a warning is raised. This will handle all warnings as exceptions.

“style” sets the style of the failed object see Styles for available styles. Please be aware of conflicting styles!

If “force style” is set, all other styles are removed and just the constraint_failed style remains.


New in version 1.0.2.

needs_variants configuration option must be a dictionary which has pre-defined variants assigned to “filter strings”. The filter string defines which variant a need belongs in the current situations.



needs_variants = {
  "var_a": "'var_a' in sphinx_tags"  # filter_string
  "var_b": "assignee == 'me'"

The dictionary consists of key-value pairs where the key is a string used as a reference to the value. The value is a string which consists of a Python-supported “filter string”.

Default: {}


New in version 1.0.2.

needs_variant_options must be a list which consists of the options to apply variants handling. You can specify the names of the options you want to check for variants.



needs_variant_options = ["author", "status", "tags"]

From the example above, we apply variants handling to only the options specified.

Default: []


  1. You must ensure the options in needs_variant_options are either default need options or specified in extra options or extra links.

  2. By default, if needs_variant_options is empty, we deactivate variants handling for need options.


New in version 1.0.3.

This option allows you to use custom data as context when rendering Jinja templates or strings.

Configuration example:

def custom_defined_func():
    return "my_tag"

def sum_example(number_1, number_2):
    return number_1 + number_2

needs_render_context = {
    "custom_data_1": "Project_X",
    "custom_data_2": custom_defined_func(),
    "custom_data_3": True,
    "custom_data_4": [("Daniel", 811982), ("Marco", 234232)],
    "sum_example": sum_example

The``needs_render_context`` configuration option must be a dictionary. The dictionary consists of key-value pairs where the key is a string used as reference to the value. The value can be any data type (string, integer, list, dict, etc.) or a custom defined function, which return value is used or the function itself can be used (see sum_example).

The data passed via needs_render_context will be available as variable(s) when rendering Jinja templates or strings. You can use the data passed via needs_render_context as shown below:


.. req:: Need with jinja_content enabled
   :id: JINJA1D8913
   :jinja_content: true

   Need with alias {{ custom_data_1 }} and ``jinja_content`` option set to {{ custom_data_3 }}.

   4 + 5 = {{ sum_example(4,5) }}

   {{ custom_data_2 }}
   {% for author in custom_data_4 %}
      * author[0]
        + author[1]
   {% endfor %}
Requirement: Need with jinja_content enabled JINJA1D8913 _images/arrow-right-circle.svg
jinja_content: True

Need with alias Project_X and jinja_content option set to True.

List of contributors:

  • Daniel –> ID-811982

  • Marco –> ID-234232

Removed options

The following options are no longer supported in the latest versions of Sphinx-Needs.


removed: 0.3.0

The layout of needs can be fully customized by using jinja.

If nothing is set, the following default template is used:

.. _{{id}}:

{% if hide == false -%}
.. role:: needs_tag
.. role:: needs_status
.. role:: needs_type
.. role:: needs_id
.. role:: needs_title

.. rst-class:: need
.. rst-class:: need_{{type_name}}

.. dropdown::
   :class: need

    :needs_type:`{{type_name}}`: :needs_title:`{{title}}` :needs_id:`{{id}}`
        {%- if status and  status|upper != "NONE" and not hide_status %}
        | status: :needs_status:`{{status}}`
        {%- endif -%}
        {%- if tags and not hide_tags %}
        | tags: :needs_tag:`{{tags|join("` :needs_tag:`")}}`
        {%- endif %}
        | links incoming: :need_incoming:`{{id}}`
        | links outgoing: :need_outgoing:`{{id}}`

        {{content|indent(8) }}

{% endif -%}

Available jinja variables are:

  • type

  • type_name

  • type_prefix

  • status

  • tags

  • id

  • links

  • title

  • content

  • hide


You must add a reference like .. _{{id}}: to the template. Otherwise linking will not work!


removed: 0.3.0

Defines a template used for a need with active option collapse.

Default value:

 .. _{{id}}:

 {% if hide == false -%}
.. role:: needs_tag
.. role:: needs_status
.. role:: needs_type
.. role:: needs_id
.. role:: needs_title
.. rst-class:: need
.. rst-class:: need_{{type_name}}

.. dropdown::
   :class: need

            :needs_type:`{{type_name}}`: :needs_title:`{{title}}` :needs_id:`{{id}}`
            :needs_type:`{{type_name}}`: :needs_title:`{{title}}` :needs_id:`{{id}}`
        {%- if status and  status|upper != "NONE" and not hide_status %}
        | status: :needs_status:`{{status}}`
        {%- endif -%}
        {%- if tags and not hide_tags %}
        | tags: :needs_tag:`{{tags|join("` :needs_tag:`")}}`
        {%- endif %}
        | links incoming: :need_incoming:`{{id}}`
        | links outgoing: :need_outgoing:`{{id}}`

    {{content|indent(4) }}

{% endif -%}

For more details please see needs_template.


New in version 0.3.0.

removed: 0.5.0


To remove options from output in Sphinx-Needs version >= 0.5.0 you must provide your own layout, which does not include these options. See :ref:layouts_styles for more information.

Can be used to hide specific options from general output in rendered document:

needs_hide_options = ['tags', 'global_option']

Works with local set options, extra options and global options.

Default value: ['hidden']

The hidden option is a globally available option, which is always hidden and can be used to easily execute Dynamic functions.

Combined with Dynamic functions and needs_global_options this configuration can be used to perform complex calculations in the background and hide any output.


New in version 0.2.0.

removed: 0.5.0


Starting with version 0.5.0 the used layout decides what the default behavior is. To customize this behavior, you have to create your own layout.

If true, need options like status, tags or links are collapsed and shown only after a click on the arrow close to the need title.

needs_collapse_details = False

Default value: True

Can be overwritten for each single need by setting collapse.