autodoc

Doc generation on steroids

npm install autodoc
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Autodoc

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Autodoc lets you write tests in comments just above your JavaScript functions, then run those tests from the command line and auto-generate documentation with the same tests embedded and executing right in the browser.

Introduction

Here, we'll start with something simple: a function that checks whether a value is an integer. We'll define the function in a file called numbers.js and write out a bunch of example cases in a block comment:

/**
 * @private
 * @examples
 * isInteger(5)     // => true
 * isInteger(5.0)   // => true
 * isInteger(-5)    // => true
 * isInteger(3.14)  // => false
 * isInteger('foo') // => false
 * isInteger(NaN)   // => false
 */
function isInteger(x) {
  return x === Math.floor(x);
}

Notice the @private tag. This is necessary because we're doing nothing to expose this function (i.e., there's no module.exports for Node); so it lets Autodoc know: "This function is not exposed publicly but I want to test it anyway."

Now, without doing anything else, right away we can use Autodoc to test this function against our examples.

$ autodoc --test --verbose numbers.js

[private]

    isInteger
        isInteger(5) => true
        isInteger(5.0) => true
        isInteger(-5) => true
        isInteger(3.14) => false
        isInteger('foo') => false
        isInteger(NaN) => false

Finished in 0.006 seconds
6 tests, 6 assertions, 0 failures, 0 skipped

OK, sweet. Now let's say we've just thought up another possible implementation. Let's add that to the file:

/**
 * @private
 * @benchmarks
 * isInteger(123456789)     // using Math.floor
 * isIntegerLike(123456789) // using RegExp: ^\d+$
 */
function isIntegerLike(x) {
  return (/^\d+$/).test(String(x));
}

Now we can also use Autodoc to quickly race these two implementations against one another:

$ autodoc --perf numbers.js

isIntegerLike - using Math.floor   x 112  - 2,157,257.568 ops/second
isIntegerLike - using RegExp: ^d+$ x 104  - 1,820,548.837 ops/second

Results:

| Function      | Benchmark          | Ops/second    |
------------------------------------------------------
| isIntegerLike | using Math.floor   | 2,157,257.568 |
| isIntegerLike | using RegExp: ^d+$ | 1,820,548.837 |

All righty. Let's say we're completely delusional and actually think this library is useful, so we want to share it with the world. We'll add some simple comments describing what each function does, remove the @private tags, and wrap the library up in a semi-reasonable way so it runs in either Node or the browser:

/**
 * Just some simple number helpers.
 */
(function(Numbers) {

  /**
   * Checks if a number is an integer. Returns false for anything that isn't an
   * integer, including non-numbers.
   *
   * [...]
   */
  Numbers.isInteger = function(x) { /*...*/ };

  /**
   * Checks if a value looks like an integer. Returns true for both integers and
   * strings that represent integers, false for everything else.
   *
   * [...]
   */
  Numbers.isIntegerLike = function(x) { /*...*/ };

}(typeof module === 'object' ? (module.exports = {}) : (this.Numbers = {})));

Now that we've done that, let's go ahead and generate our API documentation. This is Autodoc's bread and butter:

$ autodoc numbers.js

Docs screenshot

Would you look at that? API docs, with the our examples and benchmarks, executing directly in the browser.

If you're sold that this is a good idea, read on for more details on how Autodoc works and how to use it. Keep in mind that as this is a brand new project, a lot of this stuff is in flux and I'm frequently changing my mind about things. So if you plan to use this tool right now you'll want to follow the project closely on GitHub to find out when things break, new features get added, etc.

Conventions

By default, the autodoc command will put the following files in the autodoc folder:

autodoc/
    index.html
    docs.js
    docs.css

You can change which folder you want this stuff dumped to w/ the -o or --output option.

To spice up your API docs with some custom JavaScript, add a file called doc_helper.js to the output folder. Autodoc will automatically detect it there and add a <script> tag referencing it to the resulting HTML. You can add other arbitrary JavaScript files by providing a comma-delimited list via the --javascripts option.

You can also specify your own template (currently only Mustache templates are supported, though that will change) using the --template option. This way you can give your docs a unique look. (Note that if you're using your own template, some other features are not guaranteed to work; e.g., Autodoc will not magically know where to add <script> tags linking to doc_helper.js or other custom JavaScript files. You'd need to put those into your custom template yourself.)

Other Options

To only generate documentation for functions with certain tags, you can specify those tags as a comma-separated list via the --tags option. By default, if you don't specify any tags, but your comments do include some functions with the @public tag, then Autodoc will assume you only want those public methods included in the API docs. Otherwise it will include everything in the docs. (Think this is a stupid idea? Let me know!)

If you just want to run specs for certain methods you can use the --grep option, which does just what you think.

To see a list of all available options, run autodoc --help. I'm pretty sure the list will change pretty regularly in the near term, so that's a better resource for now than this README will be.

Documentation

API docs will be generated based on the comments above each function. This includes information from @param and @returns tags. See JsDoc for details. You can use Markdown to format your comments.

If you have a comment at the top of your file with the @name tag, Autodoc will use that as the name of your library. You can use the @fileOverview tag to provide a high-level description. Otherwise, Autodoc will just use the topmost comment block in the file, whatever it is.

Specs

Use the @examples (or just @example) tag to define specs above any function:

/**
 * @examples
 * trim(' foo') // => 'foo'
 * trim('foo ') // => 'foo'
 */
 function trim(str) { return str.replace(/^\s+|\s+$/g, ''); }

Default Handlers

Autodoc supports the following syntaxes for defining assertions:

// The result of calling foo() should be...

// ...equal to 'bar' (works for any legal expression)
foo() // => 'bar'

// ...either 1, 2, or 3
foo() // => one of [1, 2, 3]

// ...an array starting with [1, 2, 3]
foo() // => [1, 2, 3, ...]

// ...an array ending with ['x', 'y', 'z']
foo() // => [..., 'x', 'y', 'z']

// ... an array with the elements 'foo' and 'bar' (any order)
foo() // =~ ['foo', 'bar']

// ... an array containing 'foo' and 'bar' and possibly other elements
foo() // =~ ['foo', 'bar', ...]

// ...an object with the properties { foo: 1, bar: 2 } and possibly others
foo() // => { foo: 1, bar: 2, ... }

// ...a string matching the regular expression /foo/
foo() // =~ /foo/

// ...an instance of Foo
foo() // instanceof Foo

// After calling foo(), x should equal 5
foo() // x == 5

// After calling foo(), x should NOT equal 5
foo() // x != 5

// Calling foo() should throw an exception
foo() // throws

// Calling foo(callback) should in turn call callback() exactly once
foo(callback) // calls callback 1 time

// Calling foo(callback) should call callback() twice asynchronously
foo(callback) // calls callback 2 times asynchronously

Example Helpers

Any setup code you write before your first example will be included in the output. For instance:

/**
 * @private
 * @examples
 * var num = 5,
 *     str = '5';
 *
 * isInteger(num)          // => true
 * isInteger(str)          // => false
 * isInteger(Number(str)); // => true
 */
function isInteger(x) {
  return x === Math.floor(x);
}

In some cases you may find that you have multiple functions that all share the same setup code. It can be tedious to rewrite it every time; so for shared setup code that you want to provide to all examples, include the @exampleHelpers tag in any of your comments and it will be made available:

/**
 * @exampleHelpers
 * var num = 5,
 *     str = '5';
 */

Note that in the above example, what this means is that the variables num and str will be defined and visible (essentially global) to all your examples.

Custom Handlers

You can provide custom handlers if you need to do something a little more advanced. To do this, specify a path to custom handlers file with the --handlers option, and define an exampleHandlers array that looks like this:

this.exampleHandlers = [
  {
    pattern: /pattern 1/,
    template: 'template1'
  },
  {
    pattern: /pattern 2/,
    template: 'template2'
  },
  ...
];

For every example in your comments, the expected output (the part to the right of // =>) will first be checked against all of your custom handlers (in order) to see if there's a match. This means that if you can want you can override Autodoc's defaults.

The template property of each matcher should name a Mustache template file following the naming convention template_name.js.mustache (so the example above would require two files, template1.js.mustache and template2.js.mustache). You can specify where these templates are locate with the --partials option; otherwise, Autodoc will look in the output folder as well as output/handlers.

The data passed to the template property will include the properties { actual, actualEscaped, expected, expectedEscaped, match }.

  • actual: The literal string taken directly from the comment on the left of the // =>
  • actualEscaped: An escaped version of actual suitable for, e.g., putting inside a JavaScript string in your template
  • expected: The literal string taken from the comment on the right side of the // =>
  • expectedEscaped: Same as actualEscaped, but for expected
  • match: The match data captured by the pattern property of your custom handler

For even more control, you can also add a data function to your handler which accepts the match object from your pattern and returns any arbitrary data:

this.exampleHandlers = [
  {
    pattern: /advanced pattern/,
    template: 'advanced',
    data: function(match) {
      return {
        foo: match[1],
        bar: match[2]
      };
    }
  }
];

In this case the output from your function (a { foo, bar } object in the example above) will be passed into your template instead of match.

Benchmarks

This feature isn't really a focus right now, to be honest. At the moment I'm mainly concentrating on the test running and document generation. But anyway, the preliminary functionality is there.

Use the @benchmarks tag to specify cases you want to profile for performance. The format is similar to @examples:

/**
 * @benchmarks
 * doSomething(shortString)  // short string
 * doSomething(mediumString) // medium string
 * doSomething(longString)   // long string
 */
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