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dbt docs generate & serve: Command Usage and Examples


dbt is a command-line tool that enables data analysts and engineers to transform data in their warehouses more effectively. One of the key features of dbt is its ability to generate documentation for your data models, which is where the dbt docs command comes into play. This tutorial will guide you through the process of generating and serving your project documentation using dbt.

Understanding the dbt docs Command

The dbt docs command has two subcommands: generate and serve. The generate command is used to create your project’s documentation, while the serve command is used to view this documentation in a web browser.

Generating Documentation with dbt docs generate

To generate documentation for your dbt project, navigate to the root of your dbt project in your terminal and run the following command:

dbt docs generate

This command will create a static site with documentation for your project. The site includes information about your models, tests, sources, and more.

Serving Documentation Locally with

After generating the documentation, you can view it locally using the serve command. Run the following command in your terminal:

dbt docs serve

This will start a web server and open the documentation in your default web browser. You can navigate through the documentation to view information about your dbt project.

Exploring the Documentation

The generated documentation provides a wealth of information about your dbt project. You can switch between a view of your project’s folder hierarchy and a database-focused collection of tables and views using the Project/Database toggle. You can also use the search bar to find specific models in your project.

Visualizing Data Lineage

One of the powerful features of dbt docs is its ability to visualize the relationships between your models. You can access this feature by clicking on the “Lineage” tab in the model’s page. This will show a graph of all the models that are upstream or downstream of the selected model, providing a clear view of your data’s lineage.

Uploading Documentation to re_cloud

If you want to share your documentation with others, you can upload it to re_cloud. To do this, you need to set up re_cloud and run the following command in your dbt project directory:

re_cloud upload dbt-docs --name your_project_name

This will upload your generated documentation to re_cloud, where it can be accessed by others in your organization.

dbt docs Example

Assume we have a dbt project with a simple model that transforms raw sales data into a more useful format. The model is defined in a file called sales.sql:

-- models/sales.sql
{{ config(materialized='table') }}

  quantity * price as total_price,    

from raw.sales

We also have a schema.yml file that describes this model:

# models/schema.yml
version: 2

  - name: sales    
  description: This table contains transformed sales data.    

    - name: order_id        
    description: The unique identifier for each order.      

    - name: product_id        
    description: The unique identifier for each product.      

    - name: customer_id        
    description: The unique identifier for each customer.      

    - name: quantity        
    description: The quantity of the product sold in the order.      

    - name: price        
    description: The price of the product.      

    - name: total_price        
    description: The total price of the order, calculated as quantity * price.      

    - name: order_date        
    description: The date the order was placed.

Now, we can generate documentation for this model using dbt docs generate. In your terminal, navigate to the root of your dbt project and run:

dbt docs generate

This command will generate a target directory in your dbt project. Inside this directory, you’ll find a manifest.json file and a catalog.json file. These files contain metadata about your dbt project and are used to generate the documentation website.

Next, you can serve the documentation locally using dbt docs serve:

dbt docs serve

This command will start a web server and open your default web browser to the documentation site. Here, you’ll see a page for the sales model with all the column descriptions and other information you defined in the schema.yml file.


The dbt docs command is a powerful tool for generating and serving documentation for your dbt projects. By using this command, you can ensure that your team and other stakeholders have access to up-to-date, accurate information about your data models.