Mozilla brings Python-style project documentation to JavaScript

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19 July 2017 | 0

Wanting a more full-featured documentation tool for large JavaScript projects, Mozilla has unveiled Sphinx-js, a plug-in that pulls JSDoc-formatted JavaScript documentation into the Sphinx documentation tool used in the Python world.

Sphinx-js consumes documents and tags from the JSDoc mark-up language used to document JavaScript APIs and libraries. Sphinx-js delegates the parsing to JSDoc itself. The Sphinx tool, meanwhile, is used to initialise a docs folder in the root folder of your project, whereupon the plug-in is activated and you document your code using the reStructuredText plain text mark-up syntax and parser system.

Wanting a more full-featured documentation tool for large JavaScript projects, Mozilla has unveiled Sphinx-js, a plug-in that pulls JSDoc-formatted JavaScript documentation into the Sphinx documentation tool used in the Python world.

Sphinx-js consumes documents and tags from the JSDoc mark-up language used to document JavaScript APIs and libraries. Sphinx-js delegates the parsing to JSDoc itself. The Sphinx tool, meanwhile, is used to initialise a docs folder in the root folder of your project, whereupon the plug-in is activated and you document your code using the reStructuredText plain text mark-up syntax and parser system.

“When it comes time to call in some extracted documentation, you use one of Sphinx-js’s special directives, modelled after the Python-centric autodoc’s mature example,” Mozilla’s Erik Rose said. Documentation stays compatible with JavaScript tooling.

Developers can add long examples that reside in reStructuredText files and comprise a manual. Sphinx-js also features a directive for classes, either from ECMAScript 2015 or functions-as-directors. The tool can optionally iterate over class members, documenting along the way. Order can be controlled as well. References are supported for same-named JavaScript entities that might collide otherwise.

The Sphinx-js plugin is freely downloadable from the Python Package Index. Sphinx-js was born out of a desire for JavaScript documentation tooling beyond what JSDoc supports. Rose said JSDoc has had benefits including well-defined tags to describe common structures and tooling like Closure Compiler to hook into those tags. Still, the output is just an alphabetical list of what is in a project. Functions are flattened, leaving new users to infer relationships and sort them. This might work for tiny libraries but does not work for large libraries such as the Fathom framework.

 

 

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