Guide

Package Guide

Documenter is designed to do one thing – combine markdown files and inline docstrings from Julia's docsystem into a single inter-linked document. What follows is a step-by-step guide to creating a simple document.

Installation

Documenter can be installed using the Julia package manager. From the Julia REPL, type ] to enter the Pkg REPL mode and run

pkg> add Documenter

Setting up the Folder Structure

Note

The function DocumenterTools.generate from the DocumenterTools package can generate the basic structure that Documenter expects.

Firstly, we need a Julia module to document. This could be a package generated via PkgDev.generate or a single .jl script accessible via Julia's LOAD_PATH. For this guide we'll be using a package called Example.jl that has the following directory layout:

Example/
    src/
        Example.jl
    ...

Note that the ... just represent unimportant files and folders.

We must decide on a location where we'd like to store the documentation for this package. It's recommended to use a folder named docs/ in the toplevel of the package, like so

Example/
    docs/
        ...
    src/
        Example.jl
    ...

Inside the docs/ folder we need to add two things. A source folder which will contain the markdown files that will be used to build the finished document and a Julia script that will be used to control the build process. The following names are recommended

docs/
    src/
    make.jl

Building an Empty Document

With our docs/ directory now setup we're going to build our first document. It'll just be a single empty file at the moment, but we'll be adding to it later on.

Add the following to your make.jl file

using Documenter, Example

makedocs(sitename="My Documentation")

This assumes you've installed Documenter as discussed in Installation and that your Example.jl package can be found by Julia.

Note

If your source directory is not accessible through Julia's LOAD_PATH, you might wish to add the following line at the top of make.jl

push!(LOAD_PATH,"../src/")

Now add an index.md file to the src/ directory. The name has no particular significance though and you may name it whatever you like. We'll stick to index.md for this guide.

Leave the newly added file empty and then run the following command from the docs/ directory

$ julia make.jl

Note that $ just represents the prompt character. You don't need to type that.

If you'd like to see the output from this command in color use

$ julia --color=yes make.jl

When you run that you should see the following output

Documenter: setting up build directory.
Documenter: expanding markdown templates.
Documenter: building cross-references.
Documenter: running document checks.
 > checking for missing docstrings.
 > running doctests.
 > checking footnote links.
Documenter: populating indices.
Documenter: rendering document.

The docs/ folder should contain a new directory – called build/. It's structure should look like the following

build/
    assets/
        arrow.svg
        documenter.css
        documenter.js
        search.js
    index.html
    search/index.html
    search_index.js
Note

By default, Documenter has pretty URLs enabled, which means that src/foo.md is turned into src/foo/index.html, instead of simply src/foo.html, which is the preferred way when creating a set of HTML to be hosted on a web server.

However, this can be a hindrance when browsing the documentation locally as browsers do not resolve directory URLs like foo/ to foo/index.html for local files. You have two options:

  1. You can run a local web server out of the docs/build directory. If you have Python installed, you can simple start one with python3 -m http.server --bind localhost (or python -m SimpleHTTPServer with Python 2).

  2. You can disable the pretty URLs feature by passing prettyurls = false with the Documenter.HTML plugin:

    makedocs(..., Documenter.HTML(prettyurls = false))

    Alternatively, if your goal is to eventually set up automatic documentation deployment with Travis CI (see Hosting Documentation), you can also use their environment variables to determine Documenter's behavior in make.jl on the fly:

    makedocs(...,
        Documenter.HTML(
            prettyurls = get(ENV, "CI", nothing) == "true"
        )
    )
Warning

Never git commit the contents of build (or any other content generated by Documenter) to your repository's master branch. Always commit generated files to the gh-pages branch of your repository. This helps to avoid including unnecessary changes for anyone reviewing commits that happen to include documentation changes.

See the Hosting Documentation section for details regarding how you should go about setting this up correctly.

At this point build/index.html should be an empty page since src/index.md is empty. You can try adding some text to src/index.md and re-running the make.jl file to see the changes.

Adding Some Docstrings

Next we'll splice a docstring defined in the Example module into the index.md file. To do this first document a function in that module:

module Example

export func

"""
    func(x)

Returns double the number `x` plus `1`.
"""
func(x) = 2x + 1

end

Then in the src/index.md file add the following

# Example.jl Documentation

```@docs
func(x)
```

When we next run make.jl the docstring for Example.func(x) should appear in place of the @docs block in build/index.md. Note that more than one object can be referenced inside a @docs block – just place each one on a separate line.

Note that a @docs block is evaluated in the Main module. This means that each object listed in the block must be visible there. The module can be changed to something else on a per-page basis with a @meta block as in the following

# Example.jl Documentation

```@meta
CurrentModule = Example
```

```@docs
func(x)
```

Filtering included docstrings

In some cases you may want to include a docstring for a Method that extends a Function from a different module – such as Base. In the following example we extend Base.length with a new definition for the struct T and also add a docstring:

struct T
    # ...
end

"""
Custom `length` docs for `T`.
"""
Base.length(::T) = 1

When trying to include this docstring with

```@docs
length
```

all the docs for length will be included – even those from other modules. There are two ways to solve this problem. Either include the type in the signature with

```@docs
length(::T)
```

or declare the specific modules that makedocs should include with

makedocs(
    # options
    modules = [MyModule]
)

Cross Referencing

It may be necessary to refer to a particular docstring or section of your document from elsewhere in the document. To do this we can make use of Documenter's cross-referencing syntax which looks pretty similar to normal markdown link syntax. Replace the contents of src/index.md with the following

# Example.jl Documentation

```@docs
func(x)
```

- link to [Example.jl Documentation](@ref)
- link to [`func(x)`](@ref)

So we just have to replace each link's url with @ref and write the name of the thing we'd link to cross-reference. For document headers it's just plain text that matches the name of the header and for docstrings enclose the object in backticks.

This also works across different pages in the same way. Note that these sections and docstrings must be unique within a document.

Navigation

Documenter can auto-generate tables of contents and docstring indexes for your document with the following syntax. We'll illustrate these features using our index.md file from the previous sections. Add the following to that file

# Example.jl Documentation

```@contents
```

## Functions

```@docs
func(x)
```

## Index

```@index
```

The @contents block will generate a nested list of links to all the section headers in the document. By default it will gather all the level 1 and 2 headers from every page in the document, but this can be adjusted using Pages and Depth settings as in the following

```@contents
Pages = ["foo.md", "bar.md"]
Depth = 3
```

The @index block will generate a flat list of links to all the docs that that have been spliced into the document using @docs blocks. As with the @contents block the pages to be included can be set with a Pages = [...] line. Since the list is not nested Depth is not supported for @index.

Pages in the Sidebar

By default all the pages (.md files) in your source directory get added to the sidebar, sorted by their filenames. However, in most cases you want to use the pages argument to makedocs to control how the sidebar looks like. The basic usage is as follows:

makedocs(
    ...,
    pages = [
        "page.md",
        "Page title" => "page2.md",
        "Subsection" => [
            ...
        ]
    ]
)

Using the pages argument you can organize your pages into subsections and hide some pages from the sidebar with the help of the hide functions.