Dartdoc Sample Generation

The Flutter API documentation contains code blocks that help provide context or a good starting point when learning to use any of Flutter's APIs.

To generate these code blocks, Flutter uses dartdoc tools to turn documentation in the source code into API documentation, as seen on https://api.flutter.dev/.

Table of Contents

Types of code blocks

There are three kinds of code blocks.

  • A snippet, which is a more or less context-free code snippet that we magically determine how to analyze.

  • A dartpad sample, which gets placed into a full-fledged application, and can be executed inline in the documentation on the web page using DartPad.

  • A sample, which gets placed into a full-fledged application, but isn't placed into DartPad in the documentation because it doesn't make sense to do so.

Ideally, every sample is a DartPad sample, but some samples don't have any visual representation and some just don't make sense that way (for example, sample code for setting the system UI's notification area color on Android won't do anything on the web).

Snippet Tool

Code snippet image

The code snippet tool generates a block containing a description and example code. Here is an example of the code snippet tool in use:

/// {@tool snippet}
///
/// If the avatar is to have an image, the image should be specified in the
/// [backgroundImage] property:
///
/// ```dart
/// CircleAvatar(
///   backgroundImage: NetworkImage(userAvatarUrl),
/// )
/// ```
/// {@end-tool}

This will generate sample code that can be copied to the clipboard and added to existing applications.

This uses the skeleton for snippet snippets when generating the HTML to put into the Dart docs. You can find this template in the Flutter repo.

Analysis

The analyze_sample_code.dart script finds code inside the @tool snippet sections and uses the Dart analyzer to check them.

There are several kinds of sample code you can specify:

  • Constructor calls, typically showing what might exist in a build method. These will be inserted into an assignment expression assigning to a variable of type "dynamic" and followed by a semicolon, for analysis.

  • Class definitions. These start with "class", and are analyzed verbatim.

  • Other code. It gets included verbatim, though any line that says // ... is considered to separate the block into multiple blocks to be processed individually.

The above means that it's tricky to include verbatim imperative code (e.g. a call to a method) since it won't be valid to have such code at the top level. Instead, wrap it in a function or even a whole class, or make it a valid variable declaration.

You can declare code that should be included in the analysis but not shown in the API docs by adding a comment "// Examples can assume:" to the file (usually at the top of the file, after the imports), following by one or more commented-out lines of code. That code is included verbatim in the analysis. For example:

// Examples can assume:
// final BuildContext context;
// final String userAvatarUrl;

You can assume that the entire Flutter framework and most common dart:* packages are imported and in scope; dart:math as math and dart:ui as ui.

Sample Tool

Code sample image

The code sample and dartpad tools can expand sample code into full Flutter applications. These sample applications can be directly copied and used to demonstrate the API's functionality in a sample application, or used with the flutter create command to create a local project with the sample code. The dartpad samples are embedded into the API docs web page and are live applications in the API documentation.

/// {@tool sample --template=stateless_widget_material}
/// This example shows how to make a simple [FloatingActionButton] in a
/// [Scaffold], with a pink [backgroundColor] and a thumbs up [Icon].
///
/// ```dart
/// Widget build(BuildContext context) {
///   return Scaffold(
///     appBar: AppBar(
///       title: Text('Floating Action Button Sample'),
///     ),
///     body: Center(
///       child: Text('Press the button below!')
///     ),
///     floatingActionButton: FloatingActionButton(
///       onPressed: () {
///         // Add your onPressed code here!
///       },
///       child: Icon(Icons.thumb_up),
///       backgroundColor: Colors.pink,
///     ),
///   );
/// }
/// ```
/// {@end-tool}

This uses the skeleton for application snippets in the Flutter repo.

The sample and dartpad tools also allow for quick Flutter app generation using the following command:

flutter create --sample=[directory.File.sampleNumber] [name_of_project_directory]

This command is displayed as part of the sample in the API docs.

Templates

To support showing an entire app when you click on the right tab of the code sample UI, we have to be able to insert the sample or dartpad block into the template and instantiate the right parts.

To do this, there is a templates directory that contains a list of templates. These templates represent an entire app that the sample or dartpad can be placed into, basically a replacement for lib/main.dart in a flutter app package.

For more information about how to create, use, or update templates, see the templates README.md.

Analysis

The ../bots/analyze_sample_code.dart script finds code inside the @tool sample sections and uses the Dart analyzer to check them after applying the specified template.

Skeletons

A skeleton (concerning this tool) is an HTML template into which the Dart code blocks and descriptions are interpolated.

There is currently one skeleton for application samples, one for dartpad, and one for snippet code samples, but there could be more.

Skeletons use mustache notation (e.g. {{code}}) to mark where components will be interpolated into the template. It doesn't use the mustache package since these are simple string substitutions, but it uses the same syntax.

The code block generation tools that process the source input and emit HTML for output, which dartdoc places back into the documentation. Any options given to the {@tool ...} directive are passed on verbatim to the tool.

The snippets tool renders these examples through a combination of markdown and HTML using the {@inject-html} dartdoc directive.

Test Doc Generation Workflow

If you are making changes to an existing code block or are creating a new code block, follow these steps to generate a local copy of the API docs and verify that your code blocks are showing up correctly:

  1. Make an update to a code block or create a new code block.
  2. From the root directory, run ./dev/bots/docs.sh. This should start generating a local copy of the API documentation.
  3. Once complete, check ./dev/docs/doc to check your API documentation. The search bar will not work locally, so open ./dev/docs/doc/index.html to navigate through the documentation, or search ./dev/docs/doc/flutter for your page of interest.

Note that generating the sample output will not allow you to run your code in DartPad, because DartPad pulls the code it runs from the appropriate docs server (master or stable).

Copy the generated code and paste it into a regular DartPad instance to test if it runs in DartPad. To get the code that will be produced by your documentation changes, run sample analysis locally (see the next section) and paste the output into a DartPad at https://dartpad.dartlang.org.

Running sample analysis locally

If all you want to do is analyze the sample code you have written locally, then generating the entire docs output takes a long time.

Instead, you can run the analysis locally with this command from the Flutter root:

TMPDIR=/tmp bin/cache/dart-sdk/bin/dart dev/bots/analyze_sample_code.dart --temp=samples

This will analyze the samples, and leave the generated files in /tmp/samples

You can find the sample you are working on in /tmp/samples. It is named using the path to the file it is in, and the line of the file that the {@tool ...} directive is on.

For example, the file sample.src.widgets.animated_list.52.dart points to the sample in packages/flutter/src/widgets/animated_list.dart at line 52. You can then take the contents of that file, and paste it into Dartpad and see if it works. If the sample relies on new features that have just landed, it may not work until the features make it into the dev branch.

Libraries

analysis
configuration
data_types
flutter_sample_editor
import_sorter
interval_tree
snippet_generator
snippet_parser
snippets
util