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How-To Contribute

Chinese proverb

Ink is better than the best memory.

In this section you will find information about the technical setup of this documentation, the content rules that apply, the Git workflow, and specific ways to contribute.

Your contributions are highly welcome. This can range from fixing typos, improving the phrasing and wording to adopting examples, command lines and adding new content. Our goal is to provide a general, consistent and up to date documentation. Thus, it is by no means a static documentation. Moreover, is is constantly reviewed and updated.

Technical Setup

This documentation is written in markdown and translated into static html pages using mkdocs. The single configuration file mkdocs.yml contains the page structure as well as the specification of the theme and extensions.

We manage all essential files (markdown pages, graphics, configuration, theme, etc.) within a public Git repository, allowing for collaborative working and revision control. GitLab's features offer different possibilities of contribution and ensure up-to-date and consistent content by including a review process. There are three possible ways how you can contribute to this documentation. These are described below.

Before you start

Before you start your very first commit, please make sure that you are familiar with our Git workflow and that you have at least skimmed through the Content Rules.

Git Workflow

We employ a so-called Git feature workflow with a development branch. In our case, the working branch is called preview and is kept in parallel to the main branch.

All contributions, e.g., new content, improved wording, fixed typos, etc., are added to separate feature branches which base on preview. If the contribution is ready, you will have to create a merge request back to the preview branch. A member of the ZIH team will review the changes (four-eyes principle) and finally merge your changes to preview. All contributions need to pass through the CI pipeline consisting of several checks to ensure compliance with the content rules. Please, don't worry too much about the checks. The ZIH staff will help you with that. You can find more information about the CI/CD pipeline in the eponymous subsection.

In order to publish the updates and make them visible in the compendium, the changes on preview branch are either automatically merged into the main branch on every Monday via a pipeline schedule, or manually by admin staff. Moreover, the main branch is deployed to and always reflects a production-ready state. Manual interventions are only necessary in case of merge conflicts. This process is handled by the admins.

Graphic on Git workflow

The applied Git workflow is depicted in the following graphic. Here, two feature branches foo and bar are created basing on preview. Three individual commits are added to branch foo before it is ready and merged back to preview. The contributions on bar consist only one commit. In the end, all contribution are merged to the main branch.

%% Issues:
%% - showCommitLabel: false does not work; workaround is to use `commit id: " "`%%
%% - Changing the theme does not effect the rendered output. %%
%%{init: { 'logLevel': 'debug', 'theme': 'base', 'gitGraph': {'showCommitLabel': false} }%%
    branch preview
    checkout preview
    branch foo
    checkout foo
    checkout preview
    branch bar
    checkout bar
    checkout preview
    merge bar
    checkout foo
    checkout preview
    merge foo
    checkout main
    merge preview

Content Rules

To ensure a high-quality and consistent documentation, and to make it easier for readers to understand all content, we have established Content rules. Please follow these rules regarding markdown syntax and writing style when contributing! Furthermore, reviewing your changes takes less time and your improvements appear faster on the official documentation.


If you contribute, you are fully and solely responsible for the content you create and have to ensure that you have the right to create it under applicable laws.

Contribute via Issue

You can contribute to the documentation using GitLab's issue tracking system. For that, open an issue to report typos and missing documentation or request for more precise wording etc. ZIH staff will get in touch with you to resolve the issue and improve the documentation.

Create an issue in GitLab

GIF showing how to create an issue in GitLab

HPC support

Non-documentation issues and requests need to be send as ticket to

Contribute via Web IDE

If you have a web browser (most probably you are using it to read this page) and want to contribute to the documentation, you are good to go. GitLab offers a rich and versatile web interface for working with repositories. To start fixing typos and edit source files, you can find more information on the page Contributing via web browser.

Contribute via Local Clone

For experienced Git users, we provide a Docker container that includes all the checks of the CI engine used in the backend. Using them should ensure that merge requests are not blocked due to automatic checks. The page Contributing via local clone provides you with the details about how to set up and use your local clone of the repository.

CI/CD Pipeline

All contributions need to pass through the CI pipeline which consists of various checks to ensure that the content rules have been followed.

The stages of the CI/CD pipeline are defined in a .gitlab.yaml file. For security reasons, this file is maintained in a second, private repository.