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Adding documentational information to ECLiPSe files.
- Comment type
- Information for Type
The comment/2 predicate allows documentational information to be added to
ECLiPSe modules which can then be extracted and processed automatically by
using the document tools in the document library. Please note that any
reference to `comment' in the rest of this description means the comment
predicate, not the normal ECLiPSe comment (% and /* ... */).
Operationally, comment/2 always succeeds, so it is a no-op and is
ignored by ECLiPSe when executed. In order to be processed by the
document tools, it should appear as a directive in the program, i.e. as
:- comment(Type, Information).
A comment directive provides information on various aspects of the module
in which the comment occurs. The Type argument specifies what the aspect
is, and Information gives the information associated with that aspect. Some
restrictions should be observed to the placement of comments to allow automatic
processing to correctly process the comments. These are listed at the end.
The documentation generation tools and the tkeclipse library browser tool
make use of the comments to generate documentations for modules. They
recognise several comment types as specified by the Type argument and
extract the information accordingly.
The comments can occur in any order inside the module, and none
are compulsory; if they are missing, then the information they could have
provided is simply not used in the documentation generation. Most comment
type should only occur at most once per module unless marked *multiple* in
the following description. In the case of *multiple*, all occurrence of the
comments of the type are processed by the documentation tools. Otherwise,
only the first textual occurrence will be used.
The documentation tools recognise the following module-level comments:
In addition, it is possible to comment individual predicates and
structures, using comment directives of the form:
- comment(summary, String)
- String is a short (one line) summary of the module.
- comment(desc, Description)
- Description is a longer Text (see below) describing the module in more
detail than summary.
- comment(alias, String) *once* per file
- String is used to override the module name used by the document
processing for the comments in the file. This allows the user to
generate groupings of comments in the documentation other than the
module in which the comments resides.
- comment(status, String)
- String is a single word, describing the status of the library.
Classification used in ECLiPSe: prototype, evolving, stable, phase_out,
- comment(author, String)
- String is the name of author(s) of the module.
- comment(copyright, String)
- String is the copyright notice that the documentation library will
generate for the documentations it produce from the comments.
- comment(date, String)
- This is designed for version control. String is a time-stamp
for the file. With CVS version control software, the string can
initially be set to "$Date$", which will be expanded by
CVS into the actual date each time the file is checked in.
- comment(include, FileNames) *multiple*
- FileNames is either one file name or a list of file names. The file
name is either a string or an atom. These are names of files in which
additional comments for the module are located. They are only processed
by the document library tools.
- comment(index, ListOfStrings)
- The strings are used by the documentation generation process to provide
pointers in the document index to the module: each string is added to
the index pointing at the module description. This is used to add extra
entries in the index in addition to the ones that are automatically
- comment(categories, ListOfStrings)
- A list of strings describing into which categories the library
belongs. This is used to generate a classified index page.
While the category names can be freely chosen, it is recommended
to stick to the predefined ones: "Algorithms", "Compatibility",
"Constraints", "Data Structures", "Development Tools",
"Interfacing", "Programming Utilities", "Techniques",
In these comments, the ListOfProperties is a list of properties of the form:
- comment(Name/Arity, ListofProperties) *once* for each Name/Arity
- Name and Arity are the specification for a predicate in the module and
ListofProperties is a list of information for the predicate. The entries
are described below.
Instead of a list of properties, the atom 'hidden' can be specified.
This will prevent an undocumented, exported predicate from showing up
in the generated library documentation.
- comment(struct(Name), ListofProperties) *once* for each structure
- Name is the name of a structure and ListofProperties is a list
of information for the structure. The entries are described below
(admissible properties are: summary, fields, desc, see_also,
The properties can occur in any order in the list.
The following ones are recognized by the document tools:
Note that only the 'summary' property is compulsory, and apart from
'amode', each property should occur at most once.
- amode: FunctorTemplate *multiple*
- FunctorTemplate is a structure corresponding to the functor of
the predicate with the arguments filled in with the modes admissible
for a call to the predicate. The valid modes are those generally
recognised by ECLiPSe (++, +, -, ?), with the following meaning:
++ ground (fully instantiated, not containing variables)
+ instantiated (not a variable)
The amode field can also be used to specify the determinism of a
call with a specific mode. In this case, the format is
amode:(FunctorTemplate is Determinism)
where FunctorTemplate is as above, and Determinism is an atom specifying
the determinism behaviour of a call with the particular mode. Determinism
can be one of: erroneous, failure, det, semidet, multi, nondet. Their
meaning is as defined for the Mercury programming language and can be
summarised as follows:
| Maximum number of solutions
Can fail? | 0 1 > 1
no | erroneous det multi
yes | failure semidet nondet
The amode property can occur multiple times, each giving a
different mode for the predicate. The document tools
will generate the multiple modes description in the detail
description of the predicate, but will combine the modes by
generalising all the amodes to produce a general template
for the predicate in any summary description of the predicate.
- args: ListofArgs
- ListofArgs is a list of the argument descriptions describing the
argument. The length of the list should correspond to the arity of the
predicate. The argument description is of the form:
where both ArgName and Description are strings. If present, ArgName will
be used in the mode template.
- desc: Description
- Description is a Text (see below) giving a long description of the
- eg: Description
- Description is a Text (see below) for examples of using the
predicate. This is used to generate the Examples section of the
- exceptions: ListofErrors
- ListofErrors is a list of error description of the form:
where Int is a error code for an error that can occur with the predicate
and Text describes the error. This is used to generate the
`Exceptions' section of the predicate description.
- fail_if: Text
- Text is a string describing the fail conditions for the predicate. It
is used to generate the `Fail Conditions' section of the predicate
- fields: ListofFields *structures only*
- ListofFields is a list of the field descriptions describing the
structure fields. A field description is of the form:
where FieldName is an atom or string and Description is a Text.
- index: ListofStrings
- Each string in ListofString will be added to the index generated by the
document tools, pointing at the predicate. This is used to add
additional index entries for the predicate in addition to the predicate
names that is generated automatically.
- resat: Resatisfiable
- Resatisfiable is either yes or no, specifying if the predicate is
resatisfiable. This is used to generate the `Resatisfiable' section of
the predicate description.
- see_also: ListofSpecs
- ListofSpecs is a list of items, referring to other predicates
and libraries which are related to the commented predicate. This
is used to generate the `See Also' section of the predicate description.
The specs can be of the form Name/Arity, LibName:Name/Arity,
library(LibName). Name, Arity and LibName can be uninstantiated,
in which case links to every matching predicate or library will be
generated. The form link(URL,Text) can be used to insert arbitrary
- summary: String *compulsory*
- String is a short (one line) summary of the predicate.
- template: String or list of strings
- This is normally not needed. It is only useful to override
the most general default template that will otherwise be
automatically generated from the predicate name, the arguments and
and the amode information.
- kind: ListofKinds
- ListofKinds is a list of 'kind' information about the commented
predicate. Unlike the other fields, the kind information is not intended
for the generated documentation for the predicate, but instead, it is
intended for producing meta-information about the predicate that can
then be processed by ECLiPSe programs. Each item in the ListofKinds
has the following form:
where Kind is an atom specifying some classification of the predicate
(e.g. constraint). Info is a list of further information about the
predicate, and can be the following:
where Root is an atom, the name of the 'root' module for the predicate.
If it is not specified, the root module is taken to be the module in
which the predicate is defined.
Extra is a list of Kind-specific information about the predicate.
Each item in the ListofKinds will be processed by the document tools into
an ECLiPSe fact, and facts gathered from all the processed comment files
will be placed into a file after the processing. The fact is of the form:
kind(Kind, Name, Arity, Root, Module, Extra)
where Name and Arity is the name and arity of the predicate, and Module is
the module the predicate is defined in.
For the longer descriptions in the comments, a `Text' is allowed.
This is either a normal ascii string or a string in a document markup
language. In the latter case, the string must be enclosed in a
wrapper. Currently the following are supported:
In order to allow automatic processing, the following should be observed
with the placement of comments:
- String is in HTML format and can contain HTML tags.
Special characters must be written using HTML notation.
The string must be embeddable into an HTML document,
i.e. there should be no <html> .. </html> and
- String is in ascii format. It will be rendered using a proportional
font and spacing and line breaks will be lost.
- String is in ascii format. It can consist of multiple lines
and will be rendered using a fixed width font with all spacing and
line breaks being preserved.
(To break lines without inserting a significant line break,
precede the line break with a '\').
- The same as ascii_fmt(String), except in the 'eg' field
where it is interpreted as ascii(String).
Note that in addition to allowing automatic documentation generation, the
comment predicates can also be used to provide information on the module
itself when the user reads the program. Thus it can also act as comments in
the same way as the traditional comments, but in a more structured way.
- A comment should occur in a file.
- A comment must occur as a directive.
- A comment applies to a module, so it should occur textually inside
a module, i.e. after any module declarations. If the program does
not contain any module declarations, the file name (without suffix)
is assumed to be the module.
- The file containing comments should only have a single module defined.
Modes and Determinism
This predicate is sensitive to its module context (tool predicate, see @/2).
% comments for the document library
:- comment(summary, "Automatic document generation library").
:- comment(index, ["Literate programming",
"automatic documentation generation"]).
% comment for comment/2
:- comment(comment/2, [
summary: "Adding documentational information to ECLiPSe files.",
index: ["Literate programming"],
args: ["Type": "Comment type",
"Information": "Information for Type"],
fail_if: "None. Always succeed.",
desc: html(" The comment/2 predicate allows documentational information to be added to
% comments for the document library
:- comment(summary, \"Automatic document generation library\").
....the other examples you are seeing now
]). % end of comment directive for comment/2
% other examples
:- comment(fcompile/2, [
summary: "Generates an object file from the ECLiPSe source File in module Module.",
args: ["File":"Name of source file (Atom or string)",
"Module":"Name of module (Atom)"],
:- comment(atom_string/2, [
summary: "Conversion between an atom and a string.",
args: ["Atom": "Atom or variable",
"String": "String or variable"],
amode:(atom_string(+,-) is det),
amode:(atom_string(-,+) is det),
If Atom is instantiated, converts it to a string String.
If String is instantiated, converts it to an atom Atom.",
Fails if the string String does not unify with the string version of the
exceptions: [5: "Atom is instantiated, but not to an atom.",
5: "String is instantiated, but not to a string.",
4: "Neither Atom nor String are instantiated."]
document : icompile / 1, document : icompile / 2, document : eci_to_html / 3, document : ecis_to_htmls / 0, document : ecis_to_htmls / 3