Global navigation

Introduced in November 2018 for GitLab 11.6.

The global nav adds to the left sidebar the ability to navigate and explore the contents of GitLab's documentation.

The global nav should be maintained consistent through time to allow the users to locate their most-visited links easily to facilitate navigation. Therefore, any updates must be carefully considered by the technical writers.

Adding new items to the global nav

To add a new doc to the nav, first and foremost, check with the technical writing team:

  • If it's applicable
  • What's the exact position the doc will be added to the nav

Once you get their approval and their guidance in regards to the position on the nav, read trhough this page to understand how it works, and submit a merge request to the docs site, adding the doc you wish to include in the nav into the global nav data file.

Don't forget to ask a technical writer to review your changes before merging.

How it works

The global nav has 3 components:

  • Section
    • Category
      • Doc

The available sections are described on the table below:

Section Description
User Documentation for the GitLab's user UI.
Administrator Documentation for the GitLab's admin area.
Contributor Documentation for developing GitLab.

The majority of the links available on the nav were added according to the UI. The match is not perfect, as for some UI nav items the documentation doesn't apply, and there are also other links to help the new users to discover the documentation. The docs under Administration are ordered alphabetically for clarity.

To see the improvements planned, check the global nav epic.

CAUTION: Attention! Do not add items to the global nav without the consent of one of the technical writers.


The global nav is built from two files:

The data file feeds the layout with the links to the docs. The layout organizes the data among the nav in containers properly styled.

Data file

The data file is structured in three components: sections, categories, and docs.


Each section represents the higher-level nav item. It's composed by title and URL:

  - section_title: Text
    section_url: 'link'

The section can stand alone or contain categories within.


Each category within a section composes the second level of the nav. It includes the category title and link. It can stand alone in the nav or contain a third level of sub-items.

Example of section with one stand-alone category:

- section_title: Section title
  section_url: 'section-link'
    - category_title: Category title
      category_url: 'category-link'

Example of section with two stand-alone categories:

- section_title: Section title
  section_url: 'section-link'
    - category_title: Category 1 title
      category_url: 'category-1-link'

    - category_title: Category 2 title
      category_url: 'category-2-link'

For clarity, always add a blank line between categories.

If a category URL is not present in CE (it's an EE-only document), add the attribute ee_only: true below the category link. Example:

- category_title: Category title
  category_url: 'category-link'
  ee_only: true

If the category links to an external URL, e.g., GitLab Design System, add the attribute external_url: true below the category title. Example:

- category_title: GitLab Design System
  category_url: ''
  external_url: true


Each doc represents the third level of nav links. They must be always added within a category.

Example with one doc link:

- category_title: Category title
  category_url: 'category-link'
    - doc_title: Document title
      doc_url: 'doc-link'

A category supports as many docs as necessary, but, for clarity, try to not overpopulate a category.

Example with multiple docs:

- category_title: Category title
  category_url: 'category-link'
    - doc_title: Document 1 title
      doc_url: 'doc-1-link'
    - doc_title: Document 2 title
      doc_url: 'doc-2-link'

Whenever a document is only present in EE, add the attribute ee-only: true below the doc link. Example:

- doc_title: Document 2 title
  doc_url: 'doc-2-link'
  ee_only: true

If you need to add a document in an external URL, add the attribute external_url below the doc link:

- doc_title: Document 2 title
  doc_url: 'doc-2-link'
  external_url: true

All nav links are clickable. If the higher-level link does not have a link of its own, it must link to its first sub-item link, mimicking GitLab's navigation. This must be avoided so that we don't have duplicated links nor two .active links at the same time.


- category_title: Operations
  category_url: 'user/project/integrations/prometheus_library/'
  # until we have a link to operations, the first doc link is
  # repeated in the category link
    - doc_title: Metrics
      doc_url: 'user/project/integrations/prometheus_library/'


For all components (sections, categories, and docs), respect the indentation and the following syntax rules.

  • Use sentence case, capitalizing feature names.
  • There's no need to wrap the titles, unless there's a special char in it. E.g., in GitLab CI/CD, there's a / present, therefore, it must be wrapped in quotes. As convention, wrap the titles in double quotes: category_title: "GitLab CI/CD".
  • As convention, always wrap URLs in single quotes 'url'.
  • Always use relative paths against the home of CE and EE. Examples:
    • For, the relative URL is README.html.
    • For, the relative URL is user/project/cycle_analytics.html
  • For README.html files, add the complete path path/to/README.html.
  • For index.html files, use the clean (canonical) URL: path/to/.
  • For EE-only docs, use the same relative path, but add the attribute ee_only: true below the doc_url or category_url, as explained above. This will guarantee that when the user is looking at the CE docs, it will link to the EE docs. It also displays an "info" icon on the CE nav to make the user aware that it's a different link.

DANGER: Important! All links present on the data file must end in .html, not .md. Do not start any relative link with a forward slash /.


- category_title: Issues
  category_url: 'user/project/issues/'
  # note that the above URL does not start with a slash and 
  # does not include index.html at the end

    - doc_title: Service Desk
      doc_url: 'user/project/service_desk.html'
      ee_only: true
      # note that the URL above ends in html and, as the
      # document is EE-only, the attribute ee_only is set to true.

Layout file (logic)

The layout is fed by the data file, builds the global nav, and is rendered by the default layout.

There are three main considerations on the logic built for the nav:

  • Path: first-level directories underneath
  • EE-only: documentation only available in /ee/, not on /ce/, e.g.:
  • Default URL: between CE and EE docs, the default is ee, therefore, all docs should link to /ee/ unless if on /ce/ linking internally to ce.


To use relative paths in the data file, we defined the variable dir from the root's first-child directory, which defines the path to build all the nav links to other pages:

<% dir = @item.identifier.to_s[%r{(?<=/)[^/]+}] %>

For instance, for, dir == ce, and for, dir == omnibus.

Default URL

The default and canonical URL for GitLab documentation is, thus, all links in the docs site should link to /ee/ except when linking among /ce/ docs themselves.

Therefore, if the user is looking at /ee/, /omnibus/, /runner/, or any other highest-level dir, the nav should point to /ee/ docs.

On the other hand, if the user is looking at /ce/ docs, all the links in the CE nav should link internally to /ce/ files, except for ee-only docs.

<% if dir != 'ce' %>
  <a href="/ee/<%= sec[:section_url] %>">...</a>
  <% else %>
    <a href="/<%= dir %>/<%= sec[:section_url] %>">...</a>
  <% end %>
<% end %>

This also allows the nav to be displayed on other highest-level dirs (/omnibus/, /runner/, etc), linking them back to /ee/.

The same logic is applied to all sections (sec[:section_url]), categories (cat[:category_url]), and docs (doc[:doc_url]) URLs.

ee-only docs

If the user is looking at the CE nav, a given doc is present only in /ee/, it's tagged in the data file by ee-only, linking it directly to /ee/.

<% if dir == 'ce' && cat[:ee_only] %>
   <a href="/ee/<%= cat[:category_url] %>">...</a>
<% end %>

To make it clear that it it's a different link, an icon is displayed on the nav link indicating that the ee-only doc is not available in CE.

The ee-only attribute is available for categories (<% if dir == 'ce' && cat[:ee_only] %>) and docs (<% if dir == 'ce' && doc[:ee_only] %>), but not for sections.

CSS classes

The nav is styled in the general stylesheet.scss. To change its styles, keep them grouped for better development among the team.

The URL components have their unique styles set by the CSS classes .level-0, .level-1, and .level-2. To adjust the link's font size, padding, color, etc, use these classes. This way we guarantee that the rules for each link do not conflict with other rules in the stylesheets.