Generated Documentation, part 2

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

As I noted previously, I’ve been using our static analysis tools to generate documentation for the Mozilla string classes.

All of the code to generate this documentation is now checked in to mozilla-central. To regenerate documentation or hack the scripts, you will first need to build with static-checking enabled. Then, simply run the following command:

make -C xpcom/analysis classapi

To automatically upload the documentation to the Mozilla Developer Center, run the following command:

MDC_USER="Your Username" MDC_PASSWORD="YourPassword" make -C xpcom/analysis upload_classapi

One of the really exciting things about the Dehydra static-analysis project is that the analysis is not baked into any compiler. You can version your analysis scripts as part of your source code, run them from within your build system, and change them as your analysis needs change.

For example, I decided that a class inheritance diagram would help people understand the Mozilla string classes. So I modified the documentation script to produce graphviz output in addition to the standard XML markup. I then process the graphviz output to PNG with an imagemap and upload it to MDC along with the other output as an attachment1.

The output is available now. I’m still looking for volunteers to improve the output as well as the source comments to make it all clearer!

1. There is a MediaWiki extension so you can put graphviz markup directly in a wiki page and it will be transformed automatically. However, this extension currently doesn’t work on the Mozilla Developer Center. It’s being tracked in bug 463464 if you’re interested. ^

Generating Documentation With Dehydra

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

One of the common complaints about the Mozilla string code is that it’s very difficult to know what methods are available on a given class. Reading the code is very difficult because it’s hidden behind a complex set of #defines, it’s parameterized for both narrow and wide strings, and because we have a deep and complex string hierarchy. The Mozilla Developer Center has a string guide, but not any useful reference documentation.

With a little hand-holding, static analysis tools can produce very useful reference documentation, which other tools simply cannot make. For example, because a static analysis tool knows the accessibility of methods, you can create a reference document that contains only the public API of a class. I spent parts of yesterday and today tweaking a Dehydra script to produce a string reference. I’m working with Eric Shepherd to figure out the best way to automatically upload the data to the Mozilla Developer Center, but I wanted to post a sample for comment. This is the public API of nsACString:

I am trying to keep the format of this document similar to the format we use for interfaces on MDC. It’s a bit challenging, because C++ classes have overloaded method names and frequently have many methods. In the method summary, I have grouped together all the methods with the same name.

Once the output and format are tweaked, I can actually hook the entire generation and upload process to a makefile target, and either run it on my local machine or hook it up to a buildbot. I used E4X to do the actual XML generation. It was a learning experience… I don’t think I’m a fan. I want Genshi for JavaScript. Making conditional constructs in E4X is slightly ugly, and making looping constructs is really painful: my kingdom for an XML generator so that I don’t have to loop and append to an XMLList.