This chapter provides a detailed description how to write
documentation using one of the supported formats. It is aimed at both
PEAR developers that are already maintaining packages in PEAR and at
people who are planning to contribute a new package.
DocBook is an XML dialect
that is used by a wide range of projects to maintain their
documentation. Examples for DocBook usage in OpenSource projects are
the documentations of KDE and
PHP. PEAR has opted for using
DocBook, because we believe that it provides a solid foundation for
the technical documentation for PEAR packages.
The trade-off for using DocBook is that it is relatively hard to
use. Testing documentation requires a number of tools to be
installed and one needs to learn a (not very complicated) XML
dialect. Once one is familiar with how DocBook works, they will
enjoy writing documentation with it though.
The book [DocBook: The
Definitive Guide], written by Norman Walsh and
Leonard Muellner and published by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., is available online and it
makes up a great resource for people interested in learning DocBook.
Definitely check out the book's "DocBook Element Reference" section.
This portion provides detailed information about
each element, including which elements
can (and must) be used as parents and children.
Even if DocBook XML can (like any other XML file) be written using
a normal text editor, it is optimal for users
to install some software on their
machine in order to test the validity of the documenting
efforts. A list of the required software and a installation
instruction can be found in the
HOWTO. Apart from providing information about the software,
this HOWTO also provides a ton of other useful
information that goes far beyond this chapter. One is encouraged to
completely read it. (Chapter II can be skipped, because it only
contains information that is very PHP specific.)
Unfortunately, installing that software can be difficult
under some circumstances. If you are unable to get it
working, don't use that as an excuse for not writing
documentation. There are two test servers that every
two hours automatically download peardoc from CVS and
build the manual. Any parsing errors your changes cause
will show up in the logs the next time the build happens:
(time zone: EET = UTC+2, EEST = UTC+3)
(time zone: CET = UTC+1, CEST = UTC+2)
These automatic builds also give you
an idea of what your changes will look like in
the actual manual. This is helpful because the
manual on the PEAR website is only built once
per week (Sundays ~12:00 UTC).
The manual on the PEAR website is built only once
per week. Any XML validation errors will cause the
build to fail. If the main build fails, the old
version remains in place, meaning the manual will
be out of date. Therefore, always
check the test build logs to ensure your changes are
valid. More importantly, do not commit
updates shortly before the main build happens
(Sundays ~12:00 UTC).
Once the necessary software is in place, one has to get the latest
version of the XML sources from PEAR's CVS repository:
$ cvs -d :pserver:<user>@cvs.php.net:/repository login
$ cvs co peardoc
If you do not own an account for cvs.php.net, please choose
cvsread as the username. When asked for the
password, type phpfi.
After that the directory ./peardoc will
contain a local copy ("sandbox") of the latest
sources. If you are not yet familiar with CVS, then the online
book "Open Source Development
with CVS" will provide you with all the necessary
This chapter will not describe all the details about the directory
structure, because one can find out the essentials about it by
browsing the previously created directory
peardoc. As a starting point for package
documentors peardoc/en/package/ fits well. If
one has further questions concerning the directory structure, they
can ask on the documentation
Instead of a long and boring description for writing documentation
using DocBook, we would like to point you to a bunch of
"reference documents", from which you should be
able to learn quickly:
The CVS tree has a complete set of DocBook XML templates.
These files provide the standard of how PEAR
documentation should look.
The simplest way to utilize them is to copy them to
your working directory, rename them accordingly, edit
the contents to match the reality of your program and
then upload them to your package's directory in the
The documentation for HTTP_Request, which
is a relatively small package, only consists of a bunch of
end-user documentation, which describes all of the basic
features of the package. Each feature description includes at
least one example. For small packages with only a handful of
methods this documentation type is absolutely enough.
XML_Beautifier is a package that is also
relatively compact, but which supports different configuration
options. These options are described in the documentation
Additionally the documentation gives usage examples and
(unlike HTTP_Request) also
includes API documentation for its methods.
DB is a large PEAR package and has
excellent documentation, including usage examples.
The DB docs carefully adhere
to the formatting specified in peardoc/authoring.
The link above goes to the DocBook source code in
the CVS repository. It might be helpful to examine
the HTML generated therefrom.
In addition to the examples above, you will find much more
documentation examples by browsing the peardoc
directory, which contains your local version of the CVS
tree. Especially the directory
peardoc/en/packages/ should be of interest for
you. You can also browse the CVS module using the web interface, including the raw
XML for the file you are presently reading.
Translating documentation is another important task.
Not only does new documentation need to be translated
into the existing languages, additional languages are
welcome. Also, existing translations need to be brought
up to date because the English versions have been changed.
Help on how to perform the translation process is in the Revision Tracking
section of the manual.
We are well aware that we cannot cover all questions about writing
DocBook documentation in this chapter. If you have more questions
or problems, do not hesitate to get in touch with the documentation
team at email@example.com.
To join the pear-doc list send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.