Whenever we talk about documentation infrastructure, one of the most common pieces of feedback I hear from developers is that it’s too complicated to set up. There is just too much configuration, fiddling around and trying to make sure that the output is produced in way that is expected. That’s why back in June I set out to build a documentation CLI that allows one to produce docs with one liners.
When building documentation for your product, you will often encounter situations where you need to mix and match a bunch of content that comes from different sources. It becomes a bit more complex when you need to start dealing with different platforms, e.g. documenting APIs for Python, .NET and Java all in one place. We do all that and more on docs.microsoft.com, where we host documentation that is both hand-written and generated automatically from code - DocFX is a very powerful and versatile system that allows you to do that with the help of pre-defined contracts for structured and unstructured content.
For some time, at docs.microsoft.com, we’ve been using a non-standard way to document Java APIs. For example, if you take a look at this page, you will notice that it’s a regular API document. Behind the scenes, it was built with the help of Doxygen (generates structured docs from Java code), code2yaml (transforms Doxygen output into YAML) and DocFX (transforms YAML into static HTML). As we started documenting more APIs from across the company, we’ve encountered an interesting problem - Doxygen, while a versatile tool, relies on a set of conventions that are very much specific to its own stack and are less common in the Java developer community.
At GitHub Universe 2018, the team announced a new an exciting capability of the platform - GitHub Actions. At its core, this allows you to run "micro-CI" (or not so micro) within the repository itself. The benefit is two-fold: you can still plug in to other CI services, and you can also segment the workflow directly from the repository (there are some pretty interesting workflows out there already).
Thought I’d start a series of videos talking about documentation and anything related to it.