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See also: Doxygen, Sphinx, and Epydoc

What is rosdoc_lite?

rosdoc_lite is a simple program that runs an external documentation tool, like Doxygen, Epydoc, or Sphinx, on a single ROS package. It was built as a light-weight replacement to the rosdoc tool and uses the same rosdoc.yaml file format to assist in porting. We recommend trying rosdoc_lite instead of attempting to setup those tools manually, as it provides shortcuts for configuring those tools and can also import additional ROS information. Configuring your package to be documented by rosdoc_lite also has the additional benefit of allowing your package to be indexed for inclusion on the ROS wiki.

rosdoc_lite makes a best effort at providing good default settings to these tools, and in some cases allows these settings to be customized further.

In general, tools like Doxygen search all of the source code in a code tree for structured comments, and then use these comments as well as the API of the code to generate HTML files documenting the package. Doxygen and Sphinx also provide additional tools for authoring documentation that is not tied to code API.

By default, rosdoc_lite will use Doxygen to generate the documentation for a package. If you wish to use another tool, like Epydoc or Sphinx, you must use a rosdoc configuration file. This is described below. For C/C++, only Doxygen is advised.

The documentation that is generated will depend on which tool is used, as each tool behaves differently. For example, Doxygen will extract API details from all source files found in the package (see Doxygen for more).

rosdoc_lite is used as part of an automated process for updating documentation on ros.org. It is frequently run on repositories that have rosinstall files listed in the rosdistro repository, with the resulting documentation linked to in the "Code API" link of many packages' on wiki.ros.org.

rosdoc_lite contains some additional functionality for generating machine-readable documentation files, as well as msg/srv documentation, that are used by the ros.org wiki system and elsewhere. This functionality is mainly only of use to those maintaining documentation Web sites.



apt-get install ros-$ROS_DISTRO-rosdoc-lite

Generate document locally

You can use rosdoc_lite to generate local copies of documentation. When you run the rosdoc_lite command, it will generate documentation into the 'doc' folder of the local directory.

Usage: rosdoc_lite [options] [package_path]

  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -q, --quiet           Suppress doxygen errors.
  -o OUTPUT_DIRECTORY   The directory to write documentation to.
  -t TAGFILE, --tagfile=TAGFILE
                        Path to tag configuration file for Doxygen cross
                        referencing support. Ex: /home/user/tagfiles_list.yaml
                        If specified, will generate a doxygen tagfile in this
                        location. Ex: /home/user/tags/package.tag

Generate documentation for a package:

rosdoc_lite <path_of_package>

Create rosdoc configuration files (to use Epydoc, Sphinx)

rosdoc supports a YAML-based configuration file that lets you:

For more details, please see one of these pages:

Enabling via package.xml

In order to enable the rosdoc configuration file, simply have a rosdoc.yaml file in the root of your package. If you wish to name it something else, you must place the following tag in the <export>...</export> section of the package.xml, but this behavior is old:

  <rosdoc config="rosdoc.yaml" />

Basic Syntax

The YAML configuration file should contain a list of dictionaries, where each dictionary has the following standard keys:

Each builder may specify additional configuration keys.

Here is an example from the roslib package, which performs both C++ and Python API documentation:

 - builder: epydoc
   output_dir: python
 - builder: doxygen
   name: C++ API
   output_dir: c++
   file_patterns: '*.c *.cpp *.h *.cc *.hh *.dox'

Builder: Doxygen

The "doxygen" builder will enable running Doxygen on a package. As Doxygen is the default builder for any package, it is only necessary to configure this option if:

The "doxygen" builder may specify the following additional keys:

Simple example:

Builder: Epydoc

The "epydoc" builder will enable running Epydoc on a package.

Note: Epydoc's "introspection" capability currently breaks when trying to process some ros python modules, so this feature should not be enabled in a custom epydoc config file.

The "epydoc" builder may specify the following additional keys:

Simple example:

Builder: Sphinx

The "sphinx" builder will enable running Sphinx on a package.

The "sphinx" builder may specify the following additional keys:

Simple example:

Builder: external

The "external" builder specifies that you wish to link to externally generated documentation. rosdoc_lite will generate a landing page with the link to the specified URL.

The "external" builder takes in the following additional keys:

(Option) Using Doxygen Tag Files

rosdoc_lite provides support for cross-referencing with external Doxygen documentation using tag files. For more information on using tag files with Doxygen to link to external documentation, see this page.

Generating a Tag File

To generate a tag file during a documentation run, simply pass the -g option to rosdoc lite with a path to the desired location of the tagfile. For example:

rosdoc_lite -o doc -g doc/tags/my_package.tag /path/to/my/package

(Option) Using External Tag Files

rosdoc_lite can be passed a yaml file containing a list of tagfiles with the -t option. This yaml file should contain a list of dictionaries, where each dictionary has the following standard keys:

An example tags (example_tags.yaml) file is shown below:

 - docs_url: doc/api/package_name/html
   location: file:///path/to/package_name/doc/tags/package_name.tag
 - docs_url: doc/api/package_name2/html
   location: doc/api/package_name2/tags/package_name2.tag

Running rosdoc_lite with this file to get cross references might look something like this:

rosdoc_lite -o doc -t /path/to/example_tags.yaml

Linking to External Third Party Documentation

For third party packages, rosdoc_lite can automatically create a doxygen main page for the package, that includes a link to the third party documentation. To do so, you must add a line to your manifest.xml

  <doxymaker external="http://link.to.external/page.html"/>

Automatically Generated Online Documentation on ros.org

rosdoc_lite is automatically run for packages in repositories that have rosinstall files listed in the rosdistro repository. The resulting documentation is uploaded to ros.org and is linked in the "Code API" links that you see on various package pages, like rospy.

Even if rosdoc_lite is automatically generated for your package, we recommend regularly running rosdoc_lite on your own computer to verify what your documentation looks like before checking it in.

rosdoc_lite is used automatically generate documentation on the ros.org web server. Frequent updates are made to:

It is also used to generate the data for the PackageHeader, StackHeader and MsgSrvDoc wiki macros that you see on many of the ros.org wiki pages.


The rosdoc_lite tool itself is stable, though it has many internal features and functionality that are changed to support the documentation needs of ros.org. In the future, the rosdoc_lite tool will hopefully be evolved to better support the configuration requirements of the documentation tools it invokes (i.e. Doxygen).

The code API of rosdoc_lite should not be used as it is an internal library that is frequently changed.

2024-07-20 14:44