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Support for using Sphinx on JSDoc-documented JS code

Project description


When you write a JavaScript library, how do you explain it to people? If it’s a small project in a domain your users are familiar with, JSDoc’s hierarchal list of routines might suffice. But what about for larger projects? How can you intersperse prose with your API docs without having to copy and paste things?

sphinx-js lets you use the industry-leading Sphinx documentation tool with JS projects. It provides a handful of directives, patterned after the Python-centric autodoc ones, for pulling JSDoc-formatted function and class documentation into reStructuredText pages. And, because you can keep using JSDoc in your code, you remain compatible with the rest of your JS tooling, like Google’s Closure Compiler.


  1. Install JSDoc using npm. jsdoc must be on your $PATH, so you might want to npm install -g jsdoc. We’re known to work with jsdoc 3.4.3.
  2. Install Sphinx. (TODO: Make this more explicit for non-Python people.)
  3. Make a documentation folder in your project using sphinx-quickstart.
  4. Add sphinx_js to extensions in the generated Sphinx
  5. Add js_source_path = '../somewhere/else' to, assuming the root of your JS source tree is at that path, relative to itself. The default is ../, which works well when there is a docs folder at the root of your project.


In short, use the directives below, then build your Sphinx docs as usual by running make html in your docs directory.


Document your JS code using standard JSDoc formatting:

 * Return the ratio of the inline text length of the links in an element to
 * the inline text length of the entire element.
 * @param {Node} node - Types or not: either works.
 * @throws {PartyError|Hearty} Multiple types work fine.
 * @returns {Number} Types and descriptions are both supported.
function linkDensity(node) {
    const length = node.flavors.get('paragraphish').inlineLength;
    const lengthWithoutLinks = inlineTextLength(node.element,
                                                element => element.tagName !== 'A');
    return (length - lengthWithoutLinks) / length;

Our directives work much like Sphinx’s standard autodoc ones. You can specify just a function:

.. js:autofunction:: someFunction

Or you can throw in your own explicit parameter list, if you want to note optional parameters:

.. js:autofunction:: someFunction(foo, bar[, baz])

You can even add additional content. If you do, it will appear just below any extracted documentation:

.. js:autofunction:: someFunction

    Here are some things that will appear...

    * Below
    * The
    * Extracted
    * Docs


Use JSDoc namepath syntax to disambiguate same-named entities:

.. js:autofunction:: SomeClass#someInstanceMethod

Behind the scenes, sphinx-js will changes those to dotted names so that…

  • Sphinx’s “shortening” syntax works: :func:`~InwardRhs.atMost` prints as merely atMost(). (For now, you should always use dots rather than other namepath separators: #~.)
  • Sphinx indexes more informatively, saying methods belong to their classes.

To save some keystrokes, you can set primary_domain = 'js' in and then say simply autofunction rather than js:autofunction.

js:autofunction has one option, :short-name:, which comes in handy for chained APIs whose implementation details you want to keep out of sight. When you use it on a class method, the containing class won’t be mentioned in the docs, the function will appear under its short name in indices, and cross references must use the short name as well (:func:`someFunction`):

.. js:autofunction:: someClass#someFunction


We provide a basic js:autoclass directive which pulls in class comments and constructor docstrings, concatenating them. It’s otherwise identical to js:autofunction and even takes the same :short-name: flag, which can come in handy for inner classes. It doesn’t yet autodocument class members, but you can pull them in one at a time by embedding js:autofunction.

.. js:autoclass:: SomeEs6Class(args, if, you[, wish])

   .. js:autofunction:: SomeEs6Class#someMethod

   Additional content can go here and appears below the in-code comments.


This is useful for documenting public properties:

class Fnode {
    constructor(element) {
         * The raw DOM element this wrapper describes
        this.element = element;

And then, in the docs…

.. autoclass:: Fnode

   .. autoattribute:: Fnode#element


A good example using most of sphinx-js’s functionality is the Fathom documentation. A particularly juicy page is Click the “View page source” link to see the raw directives.

Fathom also carries a Travis CI configuration and a deployment script for building docs with sphinx-js and publishing them to GitHub Pages. Feel free to borrow them. (ReadTheDocs, which is otherwise the canonical hosting platform for Sphinx docs, doesn’t work because it won’t run JSDoc for us, nor will it accept uploads of docs built externally.)


  • We don’t understand the inline JSDoc constructs like {@link foo}; you have to use Sphinx-style equivalents for now, like :js:func:`foo` (or simply :func:`foo` if you have set primary_domain = 'js' in
  • So far, we understand and convert only the JSDoc block tags @param, @returns, @throws, and their synonyms. Other ones will go poof into the ether.


Run python test. Run tox to test across Python versions.

Version History

  • Tolerate @args and other info field lines that are wrapped in the source code.
  • Cite the file and line of the source comment in Sphinx-emitted warnings and errors.
  • Add autoattribute directive.
  • Always do full rebuilds; don’t leave pages stale when JS code has changed but the RSTs have not.
  • Make Python-3-compatible.
  • Add basic autoclass directive.
  • Add :short-name: option.
  • Initial release, with just js:autofunction

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