Your First Set of Documentation


The goal of this tutorial is to introduce you to writing and subsequently generating effective documentation with phpDocumentor.

Writing a DocBlock

A DocBlock is a piece of documentation in your source code that informs you what the function of a certain class, method or other Structural Element is.

Which elements can be documented?

Before we discuss what a DocBlock looks like, let's first zoom in on what you can document with them. PhpDocumentor follows the PHPDoc definition and recognizes the following Structural Elements:

In addition to the above, the PHPDoc standard also supports DocBlocks for Files and include/require statements, even though PHP itself does not know this concept.

Each of these elements can have exactly one DocBlock associated with it, which directly precedes it. No code or comments may be between a DocBlock and the start of an element's definition.

What does a DocBlock look like?

DocBlocks are always enclosed in a particular comment-type, called DocComment. A DocComment starts with /** (opener) and ends with */ (closer). Each line in between the DocComment opener and its closer should start with an asterisk (*). Every DocBlock precedes exactly one Structural Element and all contents of the DocBlock apply to that associated element.

For example:

 * This is a DocBlock.
function associatedFunction()


DocBlocks are divided into the following three parts. Each of these parts is optional, except that a Description may not exist without a Summary.

Summary The Summary, sometimes called a short description, provides a brief introduction into the function of the associated element. A Summary ends when it encounters either of the below situations:

* a period ``.``, followed by a line break
* or a blank (comment) line.

Description The Description, sometimes called the long description, can provide more information. Examples of additional information are: a description of a function's algorithm, a usage example or a description of how a class fits in the whole of the application's architecture. The description ends when the first tag is encountered on a new line or when the DocBlock is closed.

Tags and Annotations These provide a way to succinctly and uniformly provide meta-information about the associated element. Tags can, for example, describe the type of information that is returned by a method or function. Each tag is preceded by an at-sign (@) and starts on a new line.


A DocBlock looks like this:

 * A summary informing the user what the associated element does.
 * A *description*, that can span multiple lines, to go _in-depth_ into
 * the details of this element and to provide some background information
 * or textual references.
 * @param string $myArgument With a *description* of this argument,
 *                           these may also span multiple lines.
 * @return void
 function myFunction($myArgument)

Let's go through this example line by line and discuss which is which,

Line 2 shows that a DocBlock starts with the opening sequence /**.

Line 3 has an example of a Summary. This is, usually, a single line but may cover multiple lines as long as the end of the summary, as defined in the previous chapter, is not reached.

Line 5, 6 and 7 show an example of a Description, which may span multiple lines and can be formatted using the Markdown markup language. Using Markdown you can make text bold, italic, add numbered lists and even provide code examples.

Line 9 and 12 show that you can include tags in your DocBlocks to provide additional information about the succeeding element. In this example, we declare that the argument $myArgument is of type string, with a description what this argument represents, and we declare that the return value for this method is void, which means that no value will be returned.

Line 13 shows the closing sequence */, which is the same as that for a multi-line comment (/* .. */).

If you'd like to know more about what DocBlocks do for you, visit the chapter Inside DocBlocks for more in-depth information.

Running phpDocumentor

After you have installed phpDocumentor you can use the phpdoc command to generate your documentation.

Throughout this documentation we expect that the phpdoc command is available; thus whenever we ask you to run a command, it will be in the following form:

$ phpdoc


The basic usage of phpDocumentor is to provide an input location using the command line options (-d for a directory, -f for a file) and tell it to output your documentation to a folder of your liking (-t).

For example:

$ phpdoc -d ./src -t ./docs/api

What the above example does, is scan all files in the src directory and its subdirectories, perform an analysis and generate a website containing the documentation in the folder docs/api. If you want, you can omit the -t option, in which case the output will be written to a subfolder called output.

Read more

PhpDocumentor features several templates with which you can change the appearance of your documentation. See the chapter Changing the Look and Feel for more information on how to switch between templates.

There are a lot more options to phpDocumentor. To maintain consistent documentation, it is good practice to define them all in a Configuration file and to include that in your project.

If you'd like to know more on running phpDocumentor; see the guide on Running phpDocumentor for more information.

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