Intersphinx: easy linking

There is a common problem: you want to link to documentation in other sites, for example the documentation of list.sort. Isn’t it nice to have a structured way to do this so you don’t have to a) look up a URL yourself b) risk having links break? Well, what do you know, Sphinx has a native solution for this: Intersphinx.

Enable the extension

It’s built into Sphinx, and in the sphinx-lesson-template but commented out. Enable it:

intersphinx_mapping = {
  'python': ('', None),

Configuration details and how to link to other sites are found at the docs for intersphinx. For most Sphinx-documented projects, use the URL of the documentation base. See “Usage” below for how to verify the URLs.


Just like :doc: is a structured way to link to other documents, there are other domains of links, such as :py:class:, :py:meth:, and so on. So we can link to documentation of a class or method like this:

# Restructured Text
The :py:class:`list` class :py:meth:`sort <list.sort>` method.
# MyST markdown
The {py:class}`list` class {py:meth}`sort <list.sort>` method.

Note that this is structured information, and thus has no concept in Markdown, only MyST “markdown”. This is, in fact, a major reason why plain markdown is hardly suitable for serious documentation.

Available linking domains and roles

Of course, the domains are extendable. Presumably, when you use sphinx-lesson, you will be referring to other things. The most common roles in the Python domain are:

You can list all available reference targets at some doc using a command line command. You can get the URL from the file (and use this to verify URLs before you put it in the file):

# Note we need to append `objects.inv`:
python -m sphinx.ext.intersphinx
# In 'python': ('', None),

You usually use the fully qualified name of an object, for example matplotlib.pyplot.plot. In Python this is usually pretty obvious, due to clear namespacing. You’ll have to look at other languages yourself.

See also