Recently, I was looking at an old post by William Lam did on Dash; an offline documentation browser which is very useful for holding offline copies of vSphere and other APIs. As automation of all things picks up momentum, there is every chance that sooner or later, you’ll find the need to keep offline but updated copies of API documentation. Sadly at the time, Dash was not available for Windows/Linux but William was hopeful that soon they will release a compatible version.

So, I did a quick check on their website and unfortunately, they still don’t have anything for Windows or Linux. However, as I was looking, I came across “Zeal“. Zeal is “an offline documentation browser inspired by Dash, available for Linux and Windows”. Basically, it’s an open-source version of Dash and for that reason, it does everything that Dash does e.g. offline viewing of documentation, integration with the same docsets and you can even create your own docsets should you wish to do that. Like Dash, another great feature is its integration with various editors and IDEs e.g. Sublime Text, VIM, Emacs etc.


Installation is pretty straight forward. To start, download the preferred version from the website and install as normal. After the installation, go to “File –> Options”

Zeal - Options General

Make sure that the “Check for update” checkbox is selected and the location mentioned in “Docset storage” is what you would prefer. The second thing to do is to go to “Docsets” (click on the image to see the bigger version):

Zeal - Downloading Docsets

In “Downloadable docsets” at the bottom, select the sets you would like to keep offline and click “Download”. As seen in the screenshot, it starts downloading the docsets and they immediately become available in the main screen to browse through whenever required. If you kept the checkbox “Check for update” selected earlier, it checks and any updates available are shown in the “Docsets” window, which you can then update if required.

Zeal - Update Available

Integration with Sublime Text:

Now while on the subject, I should also quickly mention how to integrate it with Sublime Text. First, go to this page and choose how you would like to install it. I chose the manual option but its just a personal preference. Once the required folder are in the “Packages” directory of Sublime Text, there is an edit you need to make to a couple of files. Otherwise, you see this message:

Zeal - Sublime Text Error

In order to do this, go here:

Zeal - Sublime Text Settings

You need to change the “zeal_command” option in both “Settings – Default” AND “Settings – User”. Note that the commented out path for Windows shown above, points to “Program Files”. Well, on my computer, it’s under “Program Files (x86)” and hence the slight difference in what I put in there (shown below):

Zeal - Sublime Text Settings Correct

Also, make sure you correctly use the double backslashes. The edit is picked up dynamically and thereafter, you can use “Shift + F1” to bring up a Zeal search bar directly in Sublime Text to search:

Zeal - Sublime Text - Shift F1

Also, F1 opens Zeal and goes directly to the selected word.

I think this is a great tool to keep offline documentation (especially API) and keeping it up-to-date. It will certainly allow me to free up some of my OneDrive space and most importantly, will relieve me from the worries of having outdated documentation. If you didn’t know about this before, now you do!

Hope this helps!