It’s surprisingly difficult to document large Python classes in a way that’s
easy for users to navigate. Most projects use the
autodoc Sphinx plugin,
which simply puts the complete documentation for each class member one after
another. While this does fully document the class, it doesn’t give the user a
quick way to see everything the class can do. This makes classes of even
moderate complexity difficult to navigate. It also encourages projects to be
stingy about which class members to include in the documentation (e.g.
excluding special methods, inherited methods, private methods, and/or
undocumented methods), to the further detriment of the user.
What’s needed is for each class to have a succinct table of contents (TOC) that:
Is organized into sections that will be meaningful to the user. Different projects and classes may call for different sections, e.g. public/private methods, methods that share a decorator, methods with a common prefix, etc.
Includes every method of the class (so that the documentation is complete), while still making it easy for the user to get a sense for what the class does and find what they’re looking for.
Collapses inherited methods. Complex classes in particular can inherit a lot of methods from their parent classes, and while these methods should be present in the TOC (since they’re part of the class), collapsing them makes it easier for the user to grok the functionality provided by the class itself.
autoclasstoc provides a new Restructured Text directive that is all of
these things. It also works well with
autogen, and should
be easy to incorporate into any existing project.