Introduction to pkgdown

The goal of pkgdown is to make it easy to make an elegant and useful package website with a minimum of work. You can get a basic website up and running in just a couple of minutes:

# Run once to configure package to use pkgdown
# Run to build the website

If you’re using GitHub, we also recommend setting up GitHub actions to automatically build and publish your site:


While you’ll get a decent website without any additional work, if you want a website that really pops, you’ll need to read the rest of this vignette. It starts by showing you how to configure pkgdown with a _pkgdown.yml. You’ll learn about the main components of the site (the home page, reference, articles, and news), and then how to publish and promote your site.


You can override pkgdown’s defaults with a YAML file called _pkgdown.yml1. The most important field is url, which gives the final location of the site:


url is used throughout the site to generate absolute urls where they are needed.

Another important option is template, which allows you to control the overall appearance of your site:

  bootstrap: 5
  bootswatch: cerulean

You can learn more about controlling the appearance of your site in vignette("customise").


If your documentation (.Rd and .Rmd) is written in a language other than English, declare it by setting setting lang to the two letter language code for your language:

lang: fr

This will be used to set the language of the web page and to translate the English words that pkgdown generates on your site. Current available translations are:

Home page

The contents of home page are automatically generated from or pkgdown tries them in order, so it’s possible to have a different display on GitHub and pkgdown by providing both files. The homepage also includes a sidebar full of useful links; see ?build_home for how these are generated and how you can customise them.


pkgdown creates a function reference in reference/ that includes one page for each .Rd help topic in man/. The translation of individual help topics from Rd to HTML is generally straightforward, but there are a couple of things you should bear in mind:

By default, pkgdown generates a reference index that is just an alphabetically-ordered list of functions. The index is much more useful with human curation because functions can be grouped and described in categories. To override the default, provide a reference field in _pkgdown.yml.

Each entry in reference can take one of three forms:

- title: "Connecting to Spark"
  desc: >
    Functions for installing Spark components and managing
    connections to Spark
  - spark_config
  - spark_connect
  - spark_disconnect
  - spark_install
  - spark_log
- title: "Reading and Writing Data"
  desc: "Functions for reading and writing Spark DataFrames."
  - starts_with("spark_read")
  - starts_with("spark_write")
  - matches("saveload")

Note the use of starts_with() to select all functions with a common prefix. You can also use ends_with() and matches(). See complete details in ?build_reference.

While iterating on the reference index you might want to run pkgdown::build_reference_index(). It just re-builds the index page, making it faster to quickly change _pkgdown.yaml and see how it affects your site.


pkgdown will automatically build all vignettes found in vignettes/, translating them to HTML files in articles/. Due to the way that pkgdown has to integrate RMarkdown generated HTML with its own HTML, relatively little control is available over the output format. You can see the details in ?build_articles.

If you want to include an article on the website but not in the package (e.g., because it’s large), you can either place it in a subdirectory of vignettes/ (e.g. vignettes/web_only) or add it to .Rbuildignore (and make sure that there’s no vignettes: section in the yaml header). In the extreme case where you want to produce only articles but not vignettes, you should add the complete vignettes/ directory to .Rbuildignore and ensure that DESCRIPTION does not have a VignetteBuilder field.


If is present, it will be rendered into a single-page changelog based on markdown level headings. pkgdown assumes your is formatted using level one headings (#) to specify package name and version number, and level two headings (##) to provide topical organization for each release.

# pkgdown 1.1.0

## Bug Fixes

* Lots of them

# pkgdown 1.0.0

* This is the first release of pkgdown.

See more suggestions for writing news bullets in the tidyverse style guide.

See ?build_news for more customisation options including how to:


If you use GitHub, there are two ways to publish your site on GitHub Pages:


Once your finalized site is built and published on the web, you should publicize its URL in a few places:

  1. The URL field of your package DESCRIPTION, alongside a link to its source:


    (usethis::use_pkgdown_github_pages() does this for you.)

  2. Your repository description on GitHub.

  3. On Twitter (make sure to include #rstats).

  1. You can also put it in pkgdown/_pkgdown.yml if you want to keep the package root clutter-free, or in inst/_pkgdown.yml if you want to make it available when your package is installed.↩︎