Gitlab hero border pattern left svg Gitlab hero border pattern right svg

About the Handbook

History of the handbook

The handbook started when GitLab was a company of just ten people to make sharing information efficient and easy. We knew that future GitLab team-members wouldn't be able to see emails about process changes that were being sent before they joined and that most of the people who would eventually join GitLab likely hadn't even heard of us yet. The handbook was our way of ensuring that all of our company information was accessible to everyone regardless of when they became part of the team.


At GitLab our handbook is extensive and keeping it relevant is an important part of everyone's job. It is a vital part of who we are and how we communicate. We established these processes because we saw these benefits:

  1. Reading is much faster than listening.
  2. Reading is async, you don't have to interrupt someone or wait for them to become available.
  3. Recruiting is easier if people can see what we stand for and how we operate.
  4. Retention is better if people know what they are getting into before they join.
  5. On-boarding is easier if you can find all relevant information spelled out.
  6. Teamwork is easier if you can read how other parts of the company work.
  7. Discussing changes is easier if you can read what the current process is.
  8. Communicating change is easier if you can just point to the diff.
  9. Everyone can contribute to it by proposing a change via a merge request.

One common concern newcomers to the handbook express is that the strict documentation makes the company more rigid. In fact, writing down our current process in the handbook has the effect of empowering contributors to propose change. As a result, this handbook is far from rigid. You only need to look at the handbook changelog to see the evidence.

Count handbook pages

It's easy to see that the handbook is large, but have you ever wondered just how large? If it were printed in 12-point, single-spaced Arial it would be well over three thousand pages long and that's not even counting the images. That's a lot of good info!

Historical Word and Page Counts

Date Words Pages
2018-11-01 901,267 2,002
2019-05-28 1,331,972 2,960
2019-07-15 1,429,287 3,176
2019-09-30 1,667,320 3,705
2020-03-17 2,422,131 5,383


Page counts are determined through a simple two-step process:

  1. Count the number of words in the handbook. This can be done by running find source/handbook -type f | xargs wc -w from the root directory of the repository.
  2. Submit the word count to WordCounter for conversion to a page count.

More about the handbook

We've gathered some information about the handbook here, but there's still more elsewhere.