The init command

There is some minimal boilerplate that is the same for every new book. It’s for this purpose that mdBook includes an init command.

The init command is used like this:

mdbook init

When using the init command for the first time, a couple of files will be set up for you:

book-test/
├── book
└── src
    ├── chapter_1.md
    └── SUMMARY.md
  • The src directory is were you write your book in markdown. It contains all the source files, configuration files, etc.

  • The book directory is where your book is rendered. All the output is ready to be uploaded to a server to be seen by your audience.

  • The SUMMARY.md file is the most important file, it’s the skeleton of your book and is discussed in more detail in another chapter

Tip: Generate chapters from SUMMARY.md

When a SUMMARY.md file already exists, the init command will first parse it and generate the missing files according to the paths used in the SUMMARY.md. This allows you to think and create the whole structure of your book and then let mdBook generate it for you.

Specify a directory

The init command can take a directory as an argument to use as the book’s root instead of the current working directory.

mdbook init path/to/book

--theme

When you use the --theme flag, the default theme will be copied into a directory called theme in your source directory so that you can modify it.

The theme is selectively overwritten, this means that if you don’t want to overwrite a specific file, just delete it and the default file will be used.