What is code documentation?
Code documentation is written text that accompanies computer source code. It is usually written by the programmers who created the program, and it is meant to help other programmers understand how the program works and how to use it. Documentation is important for users of the code, especially if it is complex or challenging to understand. Good code documentation can help developers and other users save time by providing clear and concise information about the code's purpose, function, and operation.
Code documentation can take many forms, including comments within the source code, separate documentation files, and online documentation. The level of detail and format of code documentation varies depending on the audience and purpose. In general, though, code documentation should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. It should provide enough information to help users understand the code, without overwhelming them with unnecessary details.
Why should you document your code?
There are several reasons why you should document your code. Firstly, it makes it easier for others to understand what your code does. Secondly, documentation can help you debug your code if there are errors. And finally, documentation can help you keep track of changes to your code over time. By documenting your code, you can make sure that your code is understandable, error-free, and up-to-date.
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Common documentation mistakes
There are many common documentation mistakes that can occur when writing documentation for software projects. Three of the most common mistakes include:
- Relying on tests to document code
Code under-documentation generally refers to any form of documentation that makes it difficult or impossible for developers to understand and work with code. This can include out-of-date or incorrect information, insufficient detail, or a lack of clarity.
Bad code documentation can have a number of negative consequences. It can make code more difficult to maintain and update, which can lead to bugs and security vulnerabilities. It can also make it harder for new developers to join a project, as they may struggle to understand the codebase. In extreme cases, bad code documentation can even make it impossible to continue developing a project, as the original developers may be the only ones who understand it.
While over-documentation can sometimes be very helpful, the extra documentation can also be time-consuming and difficult to create. For this reason, many programmers choose to only document the parts of their programs that they think are most likely to be useful to other programmers.
In addition, over-documented code is often outdated soon after it is written, since programs tend to change over time. For these reasons, it is important to carefully consider whether more documentation is necessary before spending the time to create it.
5 tools for code documentation
Tools play an important role in code documentation. They can help you automatically generate documentation, and they can also help you format and manage your code documentation. Let's take a look at some of the most popular tools for code documentation and how they can help you.
Doxygen is a free and open source documentation generator for C++, C, Java, Objective-C, Python, PHP, SQL and other programming languages. It can generate an online class browser (in HTML) and/or an offline reference manual (in LaTeX or RTF) from a set of documented source files. There is also support for generating output in PostScript, hyperlinked PDF, compressed HTML, and Unix man pages. The documentation generated by Doxygen can be used to generate both internal and external documentation.
Javadoc is a documentation generator created by Sun Microsystems for the Java programming language. Javadoc generates HTML pages of API documentation from Java source files. The HTML pages can then be viewed with a web browser. Javadoc also provides an embedded tool called javadocsearch that enables one to search all the documentation from a web browser.
Javadoc comment tags start with /** and end with */. Anything between these two tags is part of the Javadoc comment. A typical Javadoc comment contains two parts: a description and one or more tags. The description can be plain text or HTML.
Natural Docs is an open-source documentation generator for multiple programming languages. Natural Docs generates HTML, LaTeX, RTF, and XML documentation from comments in over 25 programming languages. It supports both single-file and multi-file documentation projects, with the ability to cross-reference between them.
phpDocumentor is a documentation generator for PHP, written in PHP. phpDocumentor can be used from the command line or integrated directly into an IDE such as PHPStorm, NetBeans or Eclipse.
phpDocumentor generates documentation in HTML, PDF and CHM format from PHP source code files. The documentation generated by phpDocumentor includes class diagrams, source code cross-references and tutorials.
pydoc is a tool that automatically generates documentation for Python modules. pydoc can be used to generate documentation in HTML, PDF, PostScript or text formats from Python source files.
pydoc can also be used to generate documentation for Python scripts and packages. To use pydoc, simply type "pydoc" followed by the name of the Python module or package you want to document. For example, to generate documentation for the "urllib" module, you would type: pydoc urllib
At Rare Crew, we always keep best practices in mind, which is why we believe proper code documentation is so important. Keep it clean, keep it concise, and keep it easy to understand, and you’re set.
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