Documentation Update Instructions

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These instructions describe the process to change both the Tutorial & Concepts Guide and the Help manuals as well as other parts of GnuCash documentation.

If you are interested in translating the documentation, you should read Translating the GnuCash Guide and Help, too.

Preface and Introduction -- What to expect

The documentation update process uses the same software management tools that are used for updating the program itself. This ensures that changes are made consistently and reliably. It does, however, require that documentation contributors learn and use several tools to engage the process. The tools and the process are outlined in this page.

Since others could be making changes to the documentation at the same time you are, the GnuCash documentation process employs a version control system (VCS), called git to coordinate the disparate contributions. Git ensures that your changes and those of any others are incorporated efficiently into one final set of source files.

Before you begin editing the documentation, you need to inform others of your intention to edit the documentation. You do this for GnuCash documentation by submitting a bug using the online bug tracking system, bugzilla. There, you add a Documentation bug for GnuCash, which allows others to see what the problem is, and to offer insight or suggestions on fixes.

To actually begin editing, you must first obtain a copy of the full set of the most recent documentation. You can obtain a full set using git (see below). Once you have all the documentation you can make changes in any part of the documents that might need them. The most current documents can be seen at

Any changes you make will be inserted into your local copies of the source documentation files and subsequently transferred to the main documentation set. These source files use a special markup in XML to provide structure. Later in the process, the XML files are converted to other versions (HTML, PDF, etc.) for viewing. As a documentation support person, your task is to shepherd your modifications through all stages from start to finish.

At each stage, you must validate your changes to assure that they are both valid and have the intended effect, and you must address any errors or unexpected changes that are found.

Since your changes will be carried out by software, there is a difference determination process that identifies exactly what and where changes will be made. This process permits you to be sure that only what you intend will actually be installed. After your changes have been validated locally, you will submit your changes to the project either through a "patch," or by a git "pull request" (both of which will be explained later).

For quality control, any changes you submit will be reviewed by a developer before your changes become official. If everything is accepted without requiring further work, your changes will be applied to the main set of documentation by a developer and you will be notified of that action.

The above brief description outlines the general documentation update process.

It may be helpful to become familiar with the references given in the REFERENCES section below.

The Make Utility

Like the programs, the documentation is built using the make utility.

In the make build system there are three important directories:

  • the source directory
  • the build directory
  • the installation directory (which can also be more than one directory all under a special directory called the prefix-directory)

The source directory is where your source files are. I.e. gnucash-docs (the clone of our github repository) with all its subdirectories on your system for documentation. If you want to make changes to the documentation source, you do this in the source directory structure, not the build directory structure.

The build directory is a directory used by the build system to store all files/objects that are generated by the build system. make is always executed in the build directory or a sub-directory of the build directory. Each make recipe results in at least one such file or object.

The installation directory is the location where the generated objects should finally end up when using make install.

For the GnuCash documentation, the make command must be used with a target argument which determines which type(s) of the documentation are built. E.g. make html builds the html files which allow the documentation to be viewed in a web browser. (If no target is specified, make does nothing because the xml files are both the source and the target which yelp needs to display the documentation.) What make actually does is specified in the contents of make files. These are files called Makefile (or and exist in multiple directories of the documentation repository. What they do depends on which directory is current when the make command is executed. In general, the lower down the build directory tree, the more specific the scope. By changing the current directory, make can build:

  • Both the Help & Guide
  • Either the Help or Guide
  • Just the Help or Guide for a specific language

As building the documentation can take a while, it is best to only build what is needed for your changes.

Typical targets of the make target command used for the documentation are:

 make check                # use xmllint to validate xml files
 make html                 # use xsltproc to build the html (web browser) documentation
 make pdf                  # use xsltproc to build the pdf documentation
 make mobi                 # use xsltproc to build the mobi documentation
 make epub                 # use xsltproc to build the mobi documentation

There are additional installation dependencies required for building the pdf and mobi formats. See [1].

To install the built documentation where it can be used for testing the interaction with GnuCash programs:

 make install              # See #Step 11 Test Documentation in Linux.

Installing make

  • Linux: make is usually already installed as part of the default installation packages.
  • Mac OS X: make and git are provided by either Xcode or the Xcode command-line tools. To update the documentation, it is not necessary to install the full Xcode package which is currently a download of over 4 GBs. On MacOS 10.8 and later the system should offer to Install just the command line tools when you issue a command that they supply; make or git issued in Terminal should do it. If that doesn't work you'll need to download the appropriate command-line tools package from Apple\'s developer website where you'll need to sign in with your Apple ID and agree to some terms and conditions if you haven't already set up a developer account.
  • Windows: It is probably possible but complicated to update the documentation in Windows. Windows/Development may help. It may be easier to install Linux in a virtual machine like VirtualBox instead.

The Documentation Change Process -- What and How it happens

To write GnuCash documentation the following steps must be completed in the order given. When executing any command listed, do not use quotations of any sort around the commands.

N.B.: The instructions below are for a non-committer preparing a patch. If you have commit privileges in the gnucash-docs repository, the git commands you use will be somewhat different. Please see Git. If you're not familiar with using git, you'll find more details on basic commands and links to documentation there as well. You may prefer one of the many Git GUIs to the command-line instructions here, especially if you use Microsoft Windows.

Step 1 Create a Bugzilla Bug for the Documentation Change

  1. Create a bugzilla bug if one does not already exist
    • At this URL, register yourself to create an account.
    • After your account has been created, Login to the section of bugzilla reserved for GnuCash.
    • Enter your userid and password and press 'login'.
    • After logging in you are at this page and you can start the bug creation process by answering the questions on the page.
      • For Bug Version, most commonly use git-maint, which is used to update the documentation on existing GnuCash features. If you are documenting a new feature (for example, a feature only in a future stable release), use git-master. See Git - Branches for more on this.
      • In the comment box, explain the nature of the bug fix.
    • When you press commit, bugzilla creates the bug and a unique id for it.
  2. Note the bug number. You will be listed as wanting to be notified any time there is an update to the bug. You can monitor it until it is confirmed and installed.

Step 2 Clone the Documentation

Cloning the documentation copies the most current version of the documentation to your local computer, where you will be able to make your edits. GnuCash uses git to manage this.

Note: In order to use these instructions, you must have [git] installed.

  • If you are on a Linux computer, the system will instruct you to download and install the package.
  • If you are on Windows, you will see something like:
'git' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.

If you are new to using git, you may find it useful to read Git For Newbies for more information about specific git commands, how they are used in the process of modifying GnuCash, and how to submit changes for review using pull requests (preferred) instead of patches. If you already familiar with git, The Git for GnuCash page may be more suitable.

For simplicity, this page assumes the local repository will be in folder /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs, but it can be wherever the user prefers.

First, change to your preferred local source code folder.

 cd /home/$USER/code

Next, use the git clone command to download a full set of documentation files from github to your own computer.

 git clone gnucash-docs

This will copy the documentation to your computer into the folder gnucash-docs.

Step 3 Generate configure Script

This step checks that various make utilities (autoconf, libtoolize & automake) are installed and builds the configure script and the files from the and files. files are pseudo Makefile's used by the configure script with lots of variables that still need final setting.

 cd /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs
 ./   # is *always* run in the top-level *source* directory is platform independent and is used to initiate the whole build system for a given project.

The first time is run, it may complain about missing packages autoconf, libtoolize or automake. You can usually install the generic packages of the same name using your distribution's package manager. You'll probably also need to install xsltproc. For example, in Ubuntu:

 sudo apt-get install autoconf libtoolize automake xsltproc

As a rule of thumb, should be run

  • the first time you want to initialize the build system and sometimes
    • you updated at least one of the in sudo apt from above mentioned packages or
    • after changes are made in or files. Frequently those changes are auto detected though.

Running when it's not necessary doesn't do harm but it will make the next build take longer.

Step 4 Make a Build Directory Structure and the Makefiles

Create a build directory structure to keep the built documentation files separate from the repository directories. This page assumes the build directory is called build and is a subdirectory of the repository but that does not have to be so. It can be called whatever suits you, and even be wherever it suits you. Some people create it as a subdirectory to the source directory. Others have it in a completely different location, say to have all builds together under one directory. That is a matter of preference.

 cd /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs
 mkdir build    # only needed if not previously created
 cd build       # configure must be run from the "build" directory

Note: If you intend to test invoking help from GnuCash programs, you should add the --prefix=... option to the configure command below now to save having to rerun it later. See #Step 11 Test Documentation in Linux.

If your build directory is a subdirectory of your repository


Otherwise (depending on where your repository is)

 /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs/configure   # or use a relative path to run your repository configure script

The ../configure command above will recreate the gnucash-docs directory structure under the current directory (build) but without the source files. It then looks up the installation location for all tools and libraries used and creates the required Makefiles from the files. It can enable or disable certain options in the Makefiles based on its findings. configure can also take extra command line options that can alter what it will include in the Makefiles. You can see these options by running configure --help. Most of them are not relevant for us, except for the few we invented ourselves like --with-mobi.

configure must be run right after Running it when not really required has no negative side-effect other than that the next build may take longer because more objects will be rebuilt.

Step 5 Find Update Location

Find the place in the documentation that you want to change (in the repository, not the build directories); identify the file(s) that need to be changed to accomplish your documentation objective. Your changes should roughly follow the GNOME Documentation Style Guide of the GNOME Documentation Project.

This means you have to read the documentation to find exactly where the error is or the best place to insert the additional information that improves the understanding of how the feature works or what its purpose is in the software.

The English Help Manual source XML files are in


The English Tutorial and Concepts Guide source XML files are in


The non-english files are in the corresponding locations with C replaced by a 2 character language code.

It will be useful to have either a printed copy or a PDF copy [3] of the documentation available for reference. The PDF is often useful, because it allows using FIND (ctrl-F) to search for key words. This can be important to assure yourself that you have covered the existing places in the documentation where the issue you are interested in has already had a mention or treatment.

Step 6 Draft your Update in a Text File

If your changes are few and easily formulated, you should be able to skip this step and proceed to #Step 7 - place the draft changes in XML files.

For substantive changes to the documentation it is frequently helpful to develop your ideas in a separate temporary text file. Use a text editor such as jEdit, which is available for both Linux and Windows operating systems. jEdit has an XML plugin so can also be used for editing XML files.

Step 7 Place the Draft Changes in XML Files

Insert your changes into the XML file(s) affected.

Note: Edit the source files in the repository directories, not in the build directories. The various make commands (run from the build directories), will copy the files from the repository to the build directories.

Make your changes fit the XML tags in the manner of the existing documentation. Adjust your XML tag structure so that the finished structure appears properly and as you intended in the HTML version of the documentation. Doing this might be easier by using a specific XML Editor. Serna-Free is a more-or-less free DocBook editor which is much easier to use than a plain XML editor, but it introduces a lot of extraneous changes which must be removed before preparing a commit or patch You may have to return to this step should step 8 reveal a less than desirable arrangement of the data.

It is not necessary to use comments to denote the start or end of your source modifications. The version control system is used to track changes. One can use the git history to see what has changed. There are graphical tools like gitk or the github website that help you visualize these changes.

Because the source documents are saved in XML - or to be more precise DocBook - code, all changes need to be added to the source modules in that manner. Small changes can be made directly into the XML file itself. Larger and extensive changes may first be prepared in a text editor and later inserted into the module(s) in their proper places. Resources for XML are listed in the References section for this step.

Review the inserted and corrected text to verify that it is presented within the proper XML tags, using existing tags as a guide.

If text exceeds the vertical text border guides, you should not be alarmed that text outside the vertical border guides would be lost. These border guides show up when the XML module is opened, but are length of line indicators and not warnings that text should be moved within the guides.

Apply the modules structural concepts to your own text after you have cut and pasted it into the XML file. This is done by using the various XML tags in the existing text: chapter, segment, sect1, sect2, orderedlist, list item, para (to name just a few) and the corresponding closing tags. You should also use the Definitions <!ENTITY ...> from the main file where ever possible.

If you are adding or deleting an XML file, for example adding a new chapter or appendix, you also need to update files [guide|help]/[language]/gnucash-{guide|help}.xml and [guide|help]/[language]/, then rerun and ../ There is no need to update as this is generated by running

if your update adds new modules to the full set of documentation, you should review all modules in the directory in which you are working (gnucash-docs/help/C or gnucash-docs/guide/C) to determine what changes,if any, need to be made to modules outside your original assessment in step 2.

You can find an introduction to DocBook in Creating DocBook Documents.

Step 8 Validate XML Changes

xmllint (invoked by make check in the appropriate build directory or sub-directory) is used to test that your xml file has no syntax errors or incorrect references to internal sections. The program xmllint is part of the package libxml.

xmllint starts with the main file gnucash-{guide|help}.xml. The main file references the other xml files in the directory so all are checked.

In a Terminal, change directory to the place in the build directory structure where the changed modules are located:

For example, if you had downloaded the documentation files to a directory called /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs and created a build directory called /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs/build:

To validate all the guide xml files for only the C (English) language:

 cd /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs/build/guide/C

To validate all the guide xml files for all languages:

 cd /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs/build/guide

To validate all the guide and help xml files:

 cd /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs/build


 make check

If there are any errors, fix them and repeat this step until no errors are found.

If you are unable to fix an XML error, then go to Mailing_Lists and subscribe to the developers email list If you are not a subscriber, then your email will wait for the list manager to find the time to address emails received from non-subscribers and you will not receive replies from developers unless they explicitly copy you. Send an email to asking for help. Provide as much information as possible, including the results of the xmllint command (I.e. the output from make check).

If your module(s) are free of XML errors, then the command returns no errors or warnings (if running in a terminal) or an empty file (if redirecting output to a file).

Step 9 Ensure Only the Changes you Expect Have Been Made

This following command will show any changes to unstaged files

 git diff

Git status will list all files with differences to the last commit, in categories staged, unstaged, and unknown to git but not matching an ignore pattern.

 git status

Step 10 Proofread in HTML

After the XML has been tested for integrity using xmllint (make check) and the difference file has been determined to contain correct changes and only those, then the Guide or Help must be recreated in HTML and the results examined in your browser to verify that the online version presents an appearance and reads as expected.

Build the Guide or Help file in HTML. Use this command exactly as written in a terminal, from the appropriate directory within the build directory structure:

 cd [appropriate directory or sub-directory within the build directory structure]
 make html

The above make command will run xsltproc and use an XSL stylesheet (.../xsl/general-customization.xsl) to turn the raw input XML into the output HTML that comprises the online version of the Guide or Help.

The built html files with be placed in an automatically created directory, which if using the example directories will be:


Review the results in your browser; if you need to make changes, do so, then check, rebuild and review again.

It's amazing how errors which are obscure in XML--everything is obscure in XML--become blindingly obvious when rendered in the browser. Look for spelling errors, formatting oddness, incomplete tags, and missing or incorrect entities.

To view the results in a web browser, in a file manager (or for Windows: Windows Explorer/File Explorer) double click on either:




Once your inspection shows that the online Guide/Help is now acceptable in all respects, you should make certain that the build directory and its contents are not included in any respect in your patch.

If you are using build as the name of your build subdirectory in your repository directory, as in this example, it is not necessary to remove the build directory as the <repository>/.gitignore file includes build*, so git will ignore it.

To remove the build directory structure, before building the patch, use this terminal command:

 rm -rf "/home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs/build"

Step 11 Test Documentation in Linux

For our purposes, “Linux” means any system that’s not Windows or Mac OS X. GnuCash uses Yelp, the GNOME documentation browser, to display its help--both the User Manual and the Concepts Guide. This documentation gets installed in the standard GNOME help directory hierarchy. Although not tested, it's very likely that a cygwin environment on Windows or a fink/homebrew/macports environment on OS X can equally be configured to run these documentation tests. GnuCash as installed from the Windows Installer package or the OS X/Quarz dmg on the other hand can not.

Aside from the above limitations you can test the documentation changes with any installed gnucash, version 2.6 or higher. Of course if you have written context help for a feature that is not present in your installed version of gnucash, you won't be able to test the direct context help button for that feature. You will however still be able to open the new help or guide in general from your installed (2.6+) version of gnucash.

If you want to test the changes you just made to the documentation without interfering with the already-installed versions, you need to install a development version of GnuCash locally first.

To test the changes, (1) install the changed documentation locally, and (2) tell your (locally) installed (2.6+) version of gnucash where to find it.

If you don’t want to test interaction with GnuCash, see below for a way to do that.

11.1 Install Development GnuCash Locally

Remember this can be skipped if you prefer and have version 2.6+ of gnucash installed. It's only required to run context help tests.

Without any special configuration the default installation directory will be /usr/local/... on Linux based systems. This is usually not a good location during development (or documentation changing), because this would interfere with your stable, running system and that's generally not what you want on a modern system where installing software is usually done via a package manager. So for development purposes we need to tell the build system to use another final location. This is done by running configure with the --prefix option. The installation directory should meet the following requirements:

  • it should be a writable location for the user that runs make install
  • it should not be in the default paths /usr or /usr/local

Build and install GnuCash locally as per Building. Let's say you've installed GnuCash in


11.2 Install Updated Documentation Locally

Let's say you wish to build your modified documentation in


These are the commands for that:

 $ cd /home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs
 $ ./ # First time only, when building from repository copy
 $ ./configure --prefix=/home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs-install # Add any other needed options...
 $ make install

11.3 Tell Development GnuCash Where to Find Docs

 $ GCASH=/home/$USER/code/gnucash-install          # For convenience if you built gnucash yourself, otherwise:
 $ GCASH=/usr                                      # For convenience if you use a default installed gnucash
 $ GCASHDOCS=/home/$USER/code/gnucash-docs-install # For convenience
 $ XDG_DATA_DIRS="$GCASHDOCS/share:$XDG_DATA_DIRS:/usr/local/share:/usr/share" $GCASH/bin/gnucash &

That last line, with XDG_DATA_DIRS, is the crux of it. That environment variable tells GnuCash, among other things, where to look for the documentation. In fact, it tells any tool which uses Yelp (and Yelp itself) where to look for documentation. For example, try the following:

 $ XDG_DATA_DIRS="$GCASHDOCS/share:$XDG_DATA_DIRS" yelp ghelp:gnucash-help &

That should open up your development-version GnuCash docs without first starting GnuCash itself. Handy if you don’t need to test GnuCash along with the docs--i.e., if you’re just updating sections that are already in the docs.

11.4 Conclusion

Now you can update both your local GnuCash and GnuCash docs freely and test their interaction.

Step 12 Add any Extra Files

Git automatically tracks changes to files it knows are part of the repository. If you have added any files (xml or others e.g. illustrations) that should be included in your commit, add (stage) them by:

 git add path/to/file

Note: Do NOT add file(s) from your build directory structure.

Here is another way to check your changes. Unless you're a programmer, you're probably not well practiced at examining diffs. If you have touched several files, the first thing to check is

 git status -uno

The -uno tells it to show only the repository files affected by your changes; all of the build products are ignored. Of course, if you've made a new file, that's ignored too, so make sure that all of the files you worked on and only those files are in the list. You can add new files with

 git add path/to/new-file

and revert files that you didn't mean to change with

 git checkout path/to/ignored-file

Step 13 Commit your Changes

Once you're satisfied with your changes, it's time to commit them. You can commit everything that's been changed with

git commit -a
(-a also causes git to notice and commit any deleted files)

or you can commit a few files at a time with

git add path/to/file
git commit

If you need to make further changes, you can update your commit instead of creating a new one with

 git commit -a --amend

But --amend should only be used as long, as you did not publish your commit by pushing it to some public github repository.

There are even finer-grained ways to pick out bits and pieces to group into a commit, but they're beyond the scope of this tutorial.

When you make a commit git will open a screen editor; which one depends on how you set your environment. The default on most Unixes is vi, but you can select a different one with the $EDITOR environment variable. Use the editor to make a good commit message. It should have a one-line (< 80 character) summary followed by a blank line, and a brief description of the change and its motivation. Don't get carried away here: If you need more than a couple of lines it should have been a smaller change.

The release announcement comes from commit messages, so include any information that should be passed on. You could even say This needs to be mentioned in the release announcement followed by the text you want in the announcement.

To add extra information to a previously pushed commit message, make some trivial change to a comment and write a commit message using the same subject line as the previous commit.

If required, you can check committed changes to a particular file with

 git log -p path/to/file

Step 14 Ensure your Local Copy of the Repository is the Same as on Github

A patch should always be made against the most recent revision of the gnucash-docs project in github, so the next step is to get the latest version and re-apply your changes to it:

 git pull --rebase

Most of the time this will work with no changes needed, but if someone else has committed a change in the same files that you did you'll get conflicts.

Conflict Resolution

git status will tell you which files have conflicts, and when you open one of them it will be marked with lines like

>>>>>>Your change summary

You'll have to edit each file with conflicts to remove those lines and get the section in between to read the way you want. After you've fixed up a file, use git add path/to/filename to register the changes and when you've fixed them all and added them to the index, use git commit to re-commit them. This time in the editor you'll see a line


followed by a list of the files with conflicts. Be sure to remove those lines from the file, since you've resolved the conflicts.

There are other tools that can simplify cleaning up conflicted files, but they're beyond the scope of this tutorial.

After resolving your conflicts and recommitting, it's wise to re-do steps 8 - 10 to make sure that everything wound up the way you want it.

Step 15 Prepare your Patch

Once everything is tested and committed, and you're confident that your changes are correct, you're ready to make a patch. A patch file needs to be created for each commit. Each patch file will be named '0001-<your-summary>', substituting the first line from your commit message for <your-summary>, with spaces replaced by hyphens. For example, if one of your commits had a summary "Better explanation of trading accounts", the corresponding patch file name would be 0001-Better-explanation-of-trading-accounts.patch.

Check how many commits you have made with

 git status

You can make patches, 1 for each commit, for all commits which are in the current branch but not in the origin branch, with

 git format-patch origin

Or if you have done only 1 commit, create a patch from your latest commit with

 git format-patch HEAD^

Or if you have done more than 1 commit, create a patch file for each commit with

 git format-patch -n

where n is the number of commits for which patches should be created.

Step 16 Publish your Authorship

The first page, which can also be shown as About of the document is in the file gnucash-{guide|help}-C.omf. OMF means Open Media Framework. Add a maintainer section with your data and check the other items like the date, which also needs an update.

Add your name and email address to the file AUTHORS. Create a separate patch for this change and ask to apply this patch also on gnucash/DOCUMENTERS - in both maint and master branches. The AUTHORS file can usually be shown in the packet manager while gnucash/DOCUMENTERS is shown in GnuCashs About->Credits->Documenters

Step 17 Attach Patch to Bug

Attach your patch file(s) to a [GnuCash bug report] and you're done! The relevant people will be automatically notified by email.

References to Supporting Technologies Used

Step 1


Step 2


Step 6


Step 7


[5] DocBook: The Definitive Guide

Some Distributions have it as a package named like docbook-tdg.




Screenshots and Images

Screenshots and images for GnuCash documentation must be submitted in .png format or in .svg where applicable. It is better if you can use a theme similar to "Clearlooks" for Linux, in order to maintain consistency with existing images. The Clearlooks engine has been the default theme of GNOME 2 since version 2.12.

Screenshots and images added to the GnuCash documentation must fit two purposes: video display (e.g. online) and paper printing (pdf creation). Each has its own way of determining width; video display defines image widths limits in terms of pixels, while print output sets limits on image size based on a ratio of image size and the image's dots per inch (dpi). To successfully prepare an image for each of these uses, you must use two <imageobject> tags, as shown below:

           <imageobject role="html">
             <imagedata fileref="figures/Help_Pref_AccntPeriod.png" format="PNG"
                        srccredit="Cristian Marchi" width="510px"></imagedata>
           <imageobject role="fo">
             <imagedata fileref="figures/Help_Pref_AccntPeriod.png" format="PNG"
                        srccredit="Cristian Marchi"></imagedata>
The "html" attribute refers to display presentation on screens (the width is limited to 510px), while the "fo" attribute refers to pdf printing.
When you take a screenshot for inclusion in the GnuCash documentation, it should not be resized to 510 pixels width. Instead you should leave it as is, and set the width attribute to 510 pixels for the "html" role. Note that the width tag is not necessary if the image has a width smaller than 510px.

Adjusting an Image's Dots Per Inch

You must take another step to prepare a screenshot for print output: you must set the dots per inch (dpi) correctly. The dpi defines an image's dot density, and thus its overall quality; the higher the dpi, the better the printed image quality. The printing size, dpi and image pixel dimensions are in this relation:

size = pixels / dpi
So if you have a screenshot that is 800x560 pixels with a dpi of 80 you will have the screenshot in the pdf output displayed as 800/80 x 560/80 inches = 10 x 7 inches = 25 x 17.5 cm. (1 inch is about 2.5 cm). The available space in the A4 format pdf output is a maximum of about 15 cm, so you can resize the screenshot by changing its dpi (Note that the US Letter size paper is slightly wider than A4, so images scaled for A4 will also fit on US Letter size paper). Normally if you take a screenshot when the GnuCash window is almost at its minimum, the dpi will be set to 144, which for our example screenshot will result in a print size of:
800/144 x 560/144 inches = 14 x 10 cm 
This will stay inside the available areas.
If the screenshot you are going to add to documentation is wider than 850 pixels, you should increase the dpi above 144 so that its printed size remains less than 15 cm.
The dpi of an image be changed in one of two ways:
  1. Open the screenshot in an image editor (like The Gimp) and select Image->Print Size. In the dialog that opens, set the X and Y resolution to the desired dpi (check that the unit value is set to the desired value - normally pixels/in). Press "Ok" and save the image.
  2. A faster approach uses Imagemagick, a library for image manipulation. From a terminal window, issue the following command:
 convert -units PixelsPerInch -density DPI IN OUT 
where DPI is the desired dpi value (e.g. 144), IN is the input image filename and OUT the output filename (that could be the same as IN).
To convert the dpi of a bunch of images do this from a terminal window:
ls *.png > list
for i in `cat list`; do convert -units PixelsPerInch -density 144 "$i" "$i"; done
The first line creates the file "list" with a list of all png files in the current directory
The second and third lines applies a dpi of 144 to all images listed in the "list" file
Imagemagick lets you also see sizes and pixels per inch from the command line:
 identify -format "%w x %h %x x %y" IMAGE_NAME.FORMAT
For your convenience the bash script has been included in the gnucash-docs repository that automatically calculates and assigns the right value of dpi to a list of png files. It is stored in the util subdirectory of the repository. To use it open a command line and run the script from the proper figures directory. For example:
 cd guide/pt/figures            # In the repo, NOT the build directory structure
To add your image to the List of Figures at the start of the Help or Tutorial and Concepts Guide, put your screenshot in a figure tag, then rerun ../configure from the build directory. For example:
 <figure pgwide="1">
   <title>This is the text that will appear in the List of Figures</title>


In this section are collected all the standards used to work on documentation.

Text conventions

  • There are variable definitions in the main file, which must be used e.g. for future changes to revision numbers, gnucash-guide.xml defines variable vers-stable
<!ENTITY vers-stable "2.6.6">
and appendixa.xml uses this variable like
The process works on &vers-stable; datafiles, and ought to
  • All accounts named must be tagged with <emphasis>: e.g. <emphasis>Expenses:Tax</emphasis>
  • Hyphens and dashes:
To represent a negative number or subtraction:
The typographically correct symbol to use is − (U+2212, &minus;). The ASCII hyphen-minus - (U+002d) is commonly used and is also fine. Whichever you use, be consistent, at least on the whole page.
Number negative 1 (−1): &minus;1
See for guidance on using English language punctuation, including &ndash; and &mdash;.
  • In the current state of this page there are many more. Have a look at the recently reworked chapters. If you have some free time, add them here.

Graphics conventions

all screenshots of the GnuCash windows must be captured under a GNOME Desktop environment with the following settings:

  • GNOME desktop environment
  • Clearlooks theme
  • text besides icon
  • font: Sans. 9 point for application and 11 point for window title