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kernel-doc nano-HOWTO
Many places in the source tree have extractable documentation in the
form of block comments above functions. The components of this system
- scripts/kernel-doc
This is a perl script that hunts for the block comments and can mark
them up directly into DocBook, man, text, and HTML. (No, not
- Documentation/DocBook/*.tmpl
These are SGML template files, which are normal SGML files with
special place-holders for where the extracted documentation should
- scripts/docproc.c
This is a program for converting SGML template files into SGML
files. When a file is referenced it is searched for symbols
exported (EXPORT_SYMBOL), to be able to distinguish between internal
and external functions.
It invokes kernel-doc, giving it the list of functions that
are to be documented.
Additionally it is used to scan the SGML template files to locate
all the files referenced herein. This is used to generate dependency
information as used by make.
- Makefile
The targets 'sgmldocs', 'psdocs', 'pdfdocs', and 'htmldocs' are used
to build DocBook files, PostScript files, PDF files, and html files
in Documentation/DocBook.
- Documentation/DocBook/Makefile
This is where C files are associated with SGML templates.
How to extract the documentation
If you just want to read the ready-made books on the various
subsystems (see Documentation/DocBook/*.tmpl), just type 'make
psdocs', or 'make pdfdocs', or 'make htmldocs', depending on your
preference. If you would rather read a different format, you can type
'make sgmldocs' and then use DocBook tools to convert
Documentation/DocBook/*.sgml to a format of your choice (for example,
'db2html ...' if 'make htmldocs' was not defined).
If you want to see man pages instead, you can do this:
$ cd linux
$ scripts/kernel-doc -man $(find -name '*.c') | /tmp/man
$ scripts/kernel-doc -man $(find -name '*.h') | /tmp/man
Here is
if ($#ARGV < 0) {
die "where do I put the results?\n";
mkdir $ARGV[0],0777;
$state = 0;
while (<STDIN>) {
if (/^\.TH \"[^\"]*\" 4 \"([^\"]*)\"/) {
if ($state == 1) { close OUT }
$state = 1;
$fn = "$ARGV[0]/$1.4";
print STDERR "Creating $fn\n";
open OUT, ">$fn" or die "can't open $fn: $!\n";
print OUT $_;
} elsif ($state != 0) {
print OUT $_;
close OUT;
If you just want to view the documentation for one function in one
file, you can do this:
$ scripts/kernel-doc -man -function fn file | nroff -man | less
or this:
$ scripts/kernel-doc -text -function fn file
How to add extractable documentation to your source files
The format of the block comment is like this:
* function_name(:)? (- short description)?
(* @parameterx: (description of parameter x)?)*
(* a blank line)?
* (Description:)? (Description of function)?
* (section header: (section description)? )*
The short function description cannot be multiline, but the other
descriptions can be (and they can contain blank lines). Avoid putting a
spurious blank line after the function name, or else the description will
be repeated!
All descriptive text is further processed, scanning for the following special
patterns, which are highlighted appropriately.
'funcname()' - function
'$ENVVAR' - environment variable
'&struct_name' - name of a structure (up to two words including 'struct')
'@parameter' - name of a parameter
'%CONST' - name of a constant.
Take a look around the source tree for examples.
kernel-doc for structs, unions, enums, and typedefs
Beside functions you can also write documentation for structs, unions,
enums and typedefs. Instead of the function name you must write the name
of the declaration; the struct/union/enum/typedef must always precede
the name. Nesting of declarations is not supported.
Use the argument mechanism to document members or constants.
Inside a struct description, you can use the "private:" and "public:"
comment tags. Structure fields that are inside a "private:" area
are not listed in the generated output documentation.
* struct my_struct - short description
* @a: first member
* @b: second member
* Longer description
struct my_struct {
int a;
int b;
/* private: */
int c;
How to make new SGML template files
SGML template files (*.tmpl) are like normal SGML files, except that
they can contain escape sequences where extracted documentation should
be inserted.
!E<filename> is replaced by the documentation, in <filename>, for
functions that are exported using EXPORT_SYMBOL: the function list is
collected from files listed in Documentation/DocBook/Makefile.
!I<filename> is replaced by the documentation for functions that are
_not_ exported using EXPORT_SYMBOL.
!D<filename> is used to name additional files to search for functions
exported using EXPORT_SYMBOL.
!F<filename> <function [functions...]> is replaced by the
documentation, in <filename>, for the functions listed.
*/ <>