Writing guideLinks and cross references

Links and cross references

Hugo has built-in shortcodes for creating links to documents. The ref and relref shortcodes display the absolute and relative permalinks to a document, respectively.

Note: For Hugo’s purposes, you can’t address other versions of the docs, such as a version-specific archived docs set (https://grafana.com/docs/grafana/v8.5/, etc.) or /next/ docs for links in content residing in /latest/, using Hugo references. Hugo references addressed across different products’ docs, such as from /docs/grafana/ to /docs/loki/ and vice-versa, as well as references from docs addressed to other Hugo-published content on grafana.com, can also be unpredictably addressed.

To avoid broken links in these situations on grafana.com, use regular Markdown link syntax ([link text](/docs/repo/version/folder/file/)) instead of Hugo references. To ensure the links work in local builds, staging environments, and the live website, you shouldn’t use a fully qualified URL with https://grafana.com for links to other content on grafana.com. Unlike references, Hugo does not confirm that these link destinations exist during its build, so manually confirm that the published links in a local build and on the published website point correctly.

Relative references

Relative references are the most common references in Grafana technical documentation. This is the Hugo shortcode: {{< relref "<RELATIVE FILE/URL PATH>" >}}

There are two forms of relative references:

  • File path based: resolved using file paths.
  • URL path based: resolved using URL paths.

Typically, file path based relative references include a .md suffix and no trailing slash. Conversely, URL path based relative references don’t have a file suffix, but might have a trailing slash.

Determine relrefs

How Hugo resolves relative references can cause confusion because of how they interact with Page Bundles. Hugo resolves URL path based relrefs from the page bundle, and not the page itself.

For example, the following directory structure:

└── sources
    ├── branch
    │   └── _index.md
    │   └── other.md
    └── leaf
        └── index.md

It produces the following website pages:


All of the URL path based relrefs between these pages are are follows:

Source pageDestination pagerelref
/docs/technical-documentation/branch//docs/technical-documentation/branch/other/{{< relref "other" >}}
/docs/technical-documentation/branch//docs/technical-documentation/leaf/{{< relref "../leaf" >}}
/docs/technical-documentation/leaf//docs/technical-documentation/branch/{{< relref "../branch" >}}
/docs/technical-documentation/leaf//docs/technical-documentation/branch/other/{{< relref "../branch/other" >}}
/docs/technical-documentation/branch/other//docs/technical-documentation/branch/{{< relref "./" >}}
/docs/technical-documentation/branch/other//docs/technical-documentation/leaf/{{< relref "../leaf" >}}

You can refer to the table below for all file path based relrefs between these files.

Source fileDestination filerelref
/docs/sources/branch/_index.md/docs/sources/branch/other.md{{< relref "other.md" >}}
/docs/sources/branch/_index.md/docs/sources/leaf/index.md{{< relref "../leaf/index.md" >}}
/docs/sources/leaf/index.md/docs/sources/branch/_index.md{{< relref "../branch/_index.md" >}}
/docs/sources/leaf/index.md/docs/sources/branch/other.md{{< relref "../branch/other.md" >}}
/docs/sources/branch/other.md/docs/sources/branch/_index.md{{< relref "_index.md" >}}
/docs/sources/branch/other.md/docs/sources/leaf/index.md{{< relref "../leaf/index.md" >}}


In a reference, you can optionally include an anchor to a heading in the referenced page. Specify and anchor at the end of the reference # followed by the normalized heading.

Hugo normalizes headings to make anchors. To convert a heading to an anchor, Hugo makes the following changes:

  1. Convert to lower case.
  2. Remove any period characters (.).
  3. Replace any character that’s not a lower cased letter, a number, or an underscore (_) with dashes (-).
  4. Trim any preceding or proceeding dashes (-).


Hugo generates HTML link tags for properly formatted but incorrectly addressed references, such as those targeting a document Hugo can’t resolve. This doesn’t break the docs build, neither locally nor in the publishing process’s continuous integration (CI) pipeline. In the generated source, Hugo leaves the hypertext reference (href) attribute unexpectedly empty:

<a href="">Link text</a>

When clicking the resulting link in a browser, the browser loads the page that contains the link. In other words, the browser takes the user nowhere. Such links don’t appear on 404 reports because the resulting links don’t point to a technically invalid destination.

Hugo emits REF_NOT_FOUND warnings indicating the filename and location of such references when building the docs, for example with make docs in grafana/grafana or make server-quick in grafana/website:

WARN 2022/08/04 21:35:37 [en] REF_NOT_FOUND: Ref "../../enterprise/": "/hugo/content/docs/grafana/next/administration/roles-and-permissions/access-control/assign-rbac-roles.md:14:47": page not found

In this example,

  • Ref "../../enterprise/" is the destination of the reference that Hugo can’t resolve
  • /hugo/content/docs/grafana/next/administration/roles-and-permissions/access-control/assign-rbac-roles.md is the document containing the reference, where the path after /next/ is relative to the documentation root of the component repository
  • :14 represents the line number containing the unresolved reference
  • :47 represents the character in that line where the unresolved reference begins

If the reference’s destination appears to be invalid, for example due to a typo in the reference or relref directory traversal depth, then you should be able to resolve this by correcting the reference target.

However, if the reference’s destination appears to be valid, it might not be referencing a unique document, or a sufficiently specific or correct path. You might need to use a different or more specific destination, or use a ref to reference the document’s unique identifier if it has one.

A document’s filename can serve as unique identifiers, but they must be unique across all documents Hugo is processing. For the live grafana.com website, this means the document or an alias must be unique across all component docs sets—for example, across the combination of grafana/grafana docs, and grafana/mimir docs, and grafana/cloud-docs, and non-docs content such as /tutorials/ and /blogs/, etc.

If the affected link is from a product’s documentation to another product’s documentation, to a specific version of the same product’s docs, or to non-docs content on grafana.com, replace the Hugo ref with a Markdown link relative to the current domain: [link text](/docs/repo/version/folder/file/).