Contributing to JupyterLab

This page provides general information about contributing to the project.

Writing Documentation

This section provides information about writing documentation for JupyterLab. See our Contributor Guide for details on installation and testing.

Writing Style

  • The documentation should be written in the second person, referring to the reader as “you” and not using the first person plural “we.” The author of the documentation is not sitting next to the user, so using “we” can lead to frustration when things don’t work as expected.
  • Avoid words that trivialize using JupyterLab such as “simply” or “just.” Tasks that developers find simple or easy may not be for users.
  • Write in the active tense, so “drag the notebook cells…” rather than “notebook cells can be dragged…”
  • The beginning of each section should begin with a short (1-2 sentence) high-level description of the topic, feature or component.
  • Use “enable” rather than “allow” to indicate what JupyterLab makes possible for users. Using “allow” connotes that we are giving them permission, whereas “enable” connotes empowerment.

User Interface Naming Conventions

Documents, Files, and Activities

Files are referrred to as either files or documents, depending on the context.

Documents are more human centered. If human viewing, interpretation, interaction is an important part of the experience, it is a document in that context. For example, notebooks and markdown files will often be referring to as documents unless referring to the file-ness aspect of it (e.g., the notebook filename).

Files are used in a less human-focused context. For example, we refer to files in relation to a file system or file name.

Activities can be either a document or another UI panel that is not file backed, such as terminals, consoles or the inspector. An open document or file is an activity in that it is represented by a panel that you can interact with.

Element Names

  • The generic content area of a tabbed UI is a panel, but prefer to refer to the more specific name, such as “File browser.” Tab bars have tabs which toggle panels.
  • The menu bar contains menu items, which have their own submenus.
  • The main work area can be referred to as the work area when the name is unambiguous.
  • When describing elements in the UI, colloquial names are preferred (e.g., “File browser” instead of “Files panel”).

The majority of names are written in lower case. These names include:

  • tab
  • panel
  • menu bar
  • sidebar
  • file
  • document
  • activity
  • tab bar
  • main work area
  • file browser
  • command palette
  • cell inspector
  • code console

The following sections of the user interface should be in title case, directly quoting a word in the UI:

  • File menu
  • Files tab
  • Running panel
  • Tabs panel
  • Single-Document Mode

The capitalized words match the label of the UI element the user is clicking on because there does not exist a good colloquial name for the tool, such as “file browser” or “command palette”.

See The JupyterLab Interface for descriptions of elements in the UI.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Typeset keyboard shortcuts as follows:

  • Monospace typeface, with spaces between individual keys: Shift Enter.
  • For modifiers, use the platform independent word describing key: Shift.
  • For the Accel key use the phrase: Command/Ctrl.
  • Don’t use platform specific icons for modifier keys, as they are difficult to display in a platform specific way on Sphinx/RTD.

Screenshots and Animations

Our documentation should contain screenshots and animations that illustrate and demonstrate the software. Here are some guidelines for preparing them:

  • Make sure the screenshot does not contain copyrighted material (preferable), or the license is allowed in our documentation and clearly stated.
  • If taking a png screenshot, use the Firefox or Chrome developer tools to do the following:
    • set the browser viewport to 1280x720 pixels
    • set the device pixel ratio to 1:1 (i.e., non-hidpi, non-retina)
    • screenshot the entire viewport using the browser developer tools. Screenshots should not include any browser elements such as the browser address bar, browser title bar, etc., and should not contain any desktop background.
  • If creating a movie, adjust the settings as above (1280x720 viewport resolution, non-hidpi) and use a screen capture utility of your choice to capture just the browser viewport.
  • For PNGs, reduce their size using pngquant --speed 1 <filename>. The resulting filename will have -fs8 appended, so make sure to rename it and use the resulting file. Commit the optimized png file to the main repository. Each png file should be no more than a few hundred kilobytes.
  • For movies, upload them to the IPython/Jupyter YouTube channel and add them to the jupyterlab-media repository. To embed a movie in the documentation, use the website, which can be found by clicking on the ‘privacy-enhanced’ embedding option in the Share dialog on YouTube. Add the following parameters the end of the URL ?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0. This disables the video title and related video suggestions.
  • Screenshots or animations should be preceded by a sentence describing the content, such as “To open a file, double-click on its name in the File Browser:”.
  • We have custom CSS that will add box shadows, and proper sizing of screenshots and embedded YouTube videos. See examples in the documentation for how to embed these assets.

To help us organize screenshots and animations, please name the files with a prefix that matches the names of the source file in which they are used:


This will help us to keep track of the images as documentation content evolves.