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build_site() is a convenient wrapper around six functions:

See the documentation for the each function to learn how to control that aspect of the site. This page documents options that affect the whole site.


  pkg = ".",
  examples = TRUE,
  run_dont_run = FALSE,
  seed = 1014,
  lazy = FALSE,
  override = list(),
  preview = NA,
  devel = FALSE,
  new_process = !devel,
  install = !devel,
  document = "DEPRECATED"



Path to package.


Run examples?


Run examples that are surrounded in \dontrun?


Seed used to initialize so that random examples are reproducible.


If TRUE, will only rebuild articles and reference pages if the source is newer than the destination.


An optional named list used to temporarily override values in _pkgdown.yml


If TRUE, or && interactive(), will preview freshly generated section in browser.


Use development or deployment process?

If TRUE, uses lighter-weight process suitable for rapid iteration; it will run examples and vignettes in the current process, and will load code with pkgload::load_all().

If FALSE, will first install the package to a temporary library, and will run all examples and vignettes in a new process.

build_site() defaults to devel = FALSE so that you get high fidelity outputs when you building the complete site; build_reference(), build_home() and friends default to devel = TRUE so that you can rapidly iterate during development.


If TRUE, will run build_site() in a separate process. This enhances reproducibility by ensuring nothing that you have loaded in the current process affects the build process.


If TRUE, will install the package in a temporary library so it is available for vignettes.


Deprecated Use devel instead.

General config

  • destination controls where the site will be generated, defaulting to docs/. Paths are relative to the package root.

  • url is optional, but strongly recommended.


    It specifies where the site will be published and is used to allow other pkgdown sites to link to your site when needed (vignette("linking")), generate a sitemap.xml, automatically generate a CNAME when deploying to github, generate the metadata needed rich social "media cards" (vignette("metadata")), and more.

  • title overrides the default site title, which is the package name. It's used in the page title and default navbar.

Development mode

The development field allows you to generate different sites for the development and released versions of your package. To use it, you first need to set the development mode:

  mode: auto

Setting development mode

The development mode of a site controls where the site is built, the colour of the package version in the navbar, the version tooltip, and whether or not the site is indexed by search engines. There are four possible modes:

  • automatic (mode: auto): automatically determines the mode based on the version number:

    • (0.0.0.*): unreleased.

    • four version components: development.

    • everything else -> release.

  • release (mode: release), the default. Site is written to docs/. Version in navbar gets the default colouring.

  • development (mode: devel). Site is written to docs/dev/. The navbar version gets a "danger" class and a tooltip stating these are docs for an in-development version of the package. The noindex meta tag is used to ensure that these packages are not indexed by search engines.

  • unreleased (mode: unreleased). Site is written to docs/. Version in navbar gets the "danger" class, and a message indicating the package is not yet on CRAN.

You can override the mode specified in the _pkgdown.yml by setting by setting PKGDOWN_DEV_MODE to devel or release.

Selective HTML

You can selectively show HTML only on the devel or release site by adding class pkgdown-devel or pkgdown-release. This is most easily accessed from .Rmd files where you can use pandoc's <div> syntax to control where a block of markdown will display. For example, you can use the following markdown in your README to only show GitHub install instructions on the development version of your site:

::: {.pkgdown-devel}
You can install the development version of pkgdown from GitHub with:

You can use a similar technique to control where badges are displayed. This markdown show the CRAN status badge on the site for the released package and the GitHub check status for the development package:

[![CRAN Status](]

Other options

There are three other options that you can control:

  destination: dev
  version_label: danger
  version_tooltip: "Custom message here"

destination allows you to override the default subdirectory used for the development site; it defaults to dev/. version_label allows you to override the style used for development (and unreleased) versions of the package. It defaults to "danger", but you can set to "default", "info", or "warning" instead. (The precise colours are determined by your bootstrap theme, but become progressively more eye catching as you go from default to danger). Finally, you can choose to override the default tooltip with version_tooltip.

You can customise the navigation bar that appears at the top of the page with the navbar field. It's made up of two pieces: structure, which defines the overall layout, and components, which defines what each piece looks like. This organisation makes it easy to mix and match pkgdown defaults with your own customisations.

This is the default structure:

    left:  [intro, reference, articles, tutorials, news]
    right: [search, github]

It makes use of the the six built-in components:

  • intro: "Get Started", which links to a vignette with the same name as the package.

  • reference, if there are any .Rd files.

  • articles, if there are any vignettes or articles.

  • tutorials, if there any tutorials.

  • news, if exists.

  • search, the search box (see vignette("search") for more details).

  • github, a link to the source repository (with an icon), if it can be automatically determined from the DESCRIPTION.

You can use the structure field to reorganise the navbar without changing the default contents:

    left:  [search]
    right: [reference, articles]

You can use components to override the default content. For example, this yaml provides a custom articles menu:

    text: Articles
    - text: Category A
    - text: Title A1
      href: articles/a1.html
    - text: Title A2
      href: articles/a2.html
    - text: -------
    - text: "Category B"
    - text: Article B1
      href: articles/b1.html

Components uses the same syntax as RMarkdown menus. The elements of menu can be:

  • A link (text + href)

  • A heading (just text)

  • A separator (text: ——–)

Instead of text, you can also use the name of an icons from fontawesome. You should also provide a textual description in the aria-label field for screenreader users.

To add a new component to the navbar, you need to modify both structure and components. For example, the following yaml adds a new "twitter" component that appears to the left of the github icon.

    right: [twitter, github]
      icon: fa-twitter
      aria-label: Twitter

Finally, you can add arbitrary HTML to three locations in the navbar:

    before_title: <!-- inserted before the package title in the header ->
    before_navbar: <!-- inserted before the navbar links -->
    after_navbar: <!-- inserted after the navbar links -->

These includes will appear on all screen sizes, and will not be collapsed into the the navbar drop down.

You can also customise the colour scheme of the navbar by using the type and bg parameters. See vignette("customise") for more details.

You can customise the footer with the footer field. It's made up of two pieces: structure, which defines the overall layout, and components, which defines what each piece looks like. This organisation makes it easy to mix and match the pkgdown defaults with your own customisations.

This is the default structure:

    left: developed_by
    right: built_with

Which uses two of the three built-in components:

  • developed_by, a sentence describing the main authors of the package. (See ?build_home if you want to tweak which authors appear in the footer.)

  • built_with, a sentence advertising pkgdown.

  • package, the name of the package.

You can override these defaults with the footer field. The example below puts the authors' information on the right along with a legal disclaimer, and puts the pkgdown link on the left.

    left: pkgdown
    right: [authors, legal]
    legal: Provided without **any warranty**.

Each side is pasted into a single string (separated by " ") and then converted from markdown to HTML.

The search field controls the built-in search. See vignette("search") for details.


The template field is mostly used to control the appearance of the site. See vignette("customise") for details.

There are two other template fields that control other aspects of the site:

  • noindex: true will suppress indexing of your pages by search engines:

        noindex: true

  • google_site_verification allows you to verify your site with google:

        google_site_verification: _nn6ile-a6x6lctOW

  • trailing_slash_redirect: true will automatically redirect to, using a JS script added to the <head> of the home page. This is useful in certain redirect scenarios.

      trailing_slash_redirect: true


To capture usage of your site with a web analytics platform, you can make use of the includes field to add the HTML supplied to you by the platform. Typically these are either placed after_body or in_header. I include a few examples below, but I highly recommend getting the recommended HTML directly from the platform.

  • GoatCounter:

        after_body: >
          <script data-goatcounter="https://{YOUR CODE}" data-goatcounter-settings="{YOUR SETTINGS}" async src=""></script>

  • Google analytics:

        in_header: |
           <!-- Global site tag (gtag.js) - Google Analytics -->
           <script async src="{YOUR TRACKING ID}"#' ></script>
             window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
             function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
             gtag('js', new Date());
             gtag('config', '{YOUR TRACKING ID}');


        in_header: |
          <script defer data-domain="{YOUR DOMAIN}" src=""></script>

Source repository

Use the repo field to override pkgdown's automatically discovery of your source repository. This is used in the navbar, on the homepage, in articles and reference topics, and in the changelog (to link to issue numbers and user names). pkgdown can automatically figure out the necessary URLs if you link to a GitHub or GitLab repo in your BugReports or URL field.

Otherwise, you can supply your own in the repo field:


  • home: path to package home on source code repository.

  • source:: path to source of individual file in default branch.

  • issue: path to individual issue.

  • user: path to user.

The varying components (e.g. path, issue number, user name) are pasted on the end of these URLs so they should have trailing /s.

pkgdown can automatically link to Jira issues as well if specify both a custom issue URL as well Jira project names to auto-link in jira_projects. You can specify as many projects as you would like:

  jira_projects: [this_project, another_project]

pkgdown defaults to using the "HEAD" branch for source file URLs. This can be configured to use a specific branch when linking to source files by specifying a branch name:

  branch: devel

Deployment (deploy)

There is a single deploy field

  • install_metadata allows you to install package index metadata into the package itself. Normally this metadata is made available on the published site; installing it into your package means that it's available for autolinking even if your website is not reachable at build time (e.g. because behind a firewall or requires auth).

      install_metadata: true


If you change the structure of your documentation (by renaming vignettes or help topics) you can setup redirects from the old content to the new content. One or several now-absent pages can be redirected to a new page (or to a new section of a new page). This works by creating a html page that performs a "meta refresh", which isn't the best way of doing a redirect but works everywhere that you might deploy your site.

The syntax is the following, with old paths on the left, and new paths or URLs on the right.

  - ["articles/old-vignette-name.html", "articles/new-vignette-name.html"]
  - ["articles/another-old-vignette-name.html", "articles/new-vignette-name.html"]
  - ["articles/yet-another-old-vignette-name.html", ""]

If for some reason you choose to redirect an existing page make sure to exclude it from the search index, see ?build_search.


Users with limited internet connectivity can disable CRAN checks by setting options(pkgdown.internet = FALSE). This will also disable some features from pkgdown that requires an internet connectivity. However, if it is used to build docs for a package that requires internet connectivity in examples or vignettes, this connection is required as this option won't apply on them.

Users can set a timeout for build_site(new_process = TRUE) with options(pkgdown.timeout = Inf), which is useful to prevent stalled builds from hanging in cron jobs.


if (FALSE) {

build_site(override = list(destination = tempdir()))