A command line tool for generating usage docs based on css comments
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Topdoc Build Status codecov Dependency Status npm version

A tool for generating usage and styles guides for html components using css block comments.

Quick Intro

By adding a Topdoc block to your css you can describe an html/css component and that information can be used to generate a styleguide.

Here's an example component:

/* topdoc
name: Select
description: a dropdown select
markup: |
  <select name="select">
    <option value="value1">Value 1</option>
    <option value="value2" selected>Value 2</option>
    <option value="value3">Value 3</option>
  - desktop
  - mobile
  - select
.select {
  /* all your css junk here */

Why create another css block comment format?

Topdoc was originally created for Topcoat and the one feature missing from other generators was support for any and all custom properties. Topdoc is extremely tolerant of custom properties, it just passes them to the template which defines what to do with it.

The only required properties are name and markup, other than that, use whatever you need.


Install with npm. It's meant to be command line tool, so you probably want to install it globally (with -g).

npm install -g topdoc

You can also use it as a npm script without install it globally. Super helpful for automating your styleguide building:

npm install --save-dev topdoc

In your package.json file use a script to call the topdoc cli too:

"scripts": {
  "docs": "topdoc css/main.css"

With it setup you can then run it from the command line using:

npm run docs


Comment Format

Topdoc uses PostCSS to divide asunder your css document and find all the relevant component information.

Below is an example of a Topdoc comment.

/* topdoc
name: Button
description: A simple button
  :active: Active state
  .is-active: Simulates an active state on mobile devices
  :disabled: Disabled state
  .is-disabled: Simulates a disabled state on mobile devices
markup: |
  <a class="topcoat-button">Button</a>
  <a class="topcoat-button is-active">Button</a>
  <a class="topcoat-button is-disabled">Button</a>
example: http://codepen.io/
  - desktop
  - light
  - mobile
  - button
  - quiet
blarg: very true
.topcoat-button--large--cta {
  /* all your css junk here */

Topdoc comments are identified by the topdoc keyword on the first comment line.

The rest of the data uses a YAML friendly syntax.

The fields can be in any order, but this is a good example for consistency sake.

The following are recommend and/or required fields:

  • name (required): The full name of the component. Feel free to use spaces, punctuation, etc (name: Sir Button III, esq.)
  • description: Something more descriptive then the title alone.
  • modifiers: These can be pseudo classes, or addition rules applied to the component. This must be a YAML mapping (*modifier*:*description*) which becomes a js hash
  • markup (required): This is the magic; it's the html that will be used to display the component in the docs. As most markup fields are long, make sure to use the | for multiline values.
    /* topdoc
    name: Button
    markup: |
      <a class="topcoat-button">Button</a>
      <a class="topcoat-button is-active">Button</a>
      <a class="topcoat-button is-disabled">Button</a>
  • tags: Just some obligatory metadata.
  • blarg: Since Topdoc uses a flexible YAML syntax, feel free to add any additional custom data you might need for your template.


Topdoc assumes everything between two Topdoc comments, and everything after the last Topdoc comment, is a component. Put anything that isn't a component (general styles) above the first Topdoc comment.

However, the idea of css components is pretty loose because it is rare to have all the required styles for a component in one place.

Originally Topdoc was designed to split up the css into components to then use that css in the styleguild to show as a snippet, but honestly that snippet wasn't enough to make the component by itself so it really is only interesting as reference.


The output of the help command.

$ topdoc --help

  Usage: topdoc topdoc [<css-file> | <directory> [default: src]] [options]

  Generate usage guides for css


    -h, --help                                                                          output usage information
    -d, --destination <directory> [default: docs]                                       directory where the usage guides will be written.
        Like all the options, source can be definied in the config or package.json file.
    -s, --stdout                                                                        outputs the parsed topdoc information as json in the console.
    -t, --template <directory> | <npm-package-name> [default: topdoc-default-template]  path to template directory or package name.
        Note: Template argument is resolved using the 'resolve' package.
    -p, --project <title> [default: <cwd name>]                                         title for your project.
    -c, --clobber                                                                       Deletes destination directory before running.
    -i, --ignore-assets [<file> | <list of files>]                                      A file or comma delimeted list of files in the asset directory that should be
        ignored when copying them over.
    -a, --asset-directory <path>                                                        Path to directory of assets to copy to destination. Defaults to template directory.
        Set to false to not copy any assets.
    -V, --version                                                                       output the version number

Command Line


Specify a source directory with -s or --source. Defaults to src/.

topdoc -s release/css/


Specify a destination with -d or --destination. Defaults to docs/.

topdoc -d topdocs/


Specify a template with -t or --template. A default template is included in Topdoc if one is not provided.

The template can be a single jade file:

topdoc -t template/template.jade

or a directory (it will duplicate the whole template directory and look for index.jade in the template folder provided):

topdoc -t /template

This includes npm installed templates

topdoc -t node_modules/topdoc-theme

Project Title

The project title will be passed through to the jade template file.

topdoc -p Awesome

In the jade file it is project.title:




package.json Configuration

All the options can be configured in the package.json file. This is super helpful if you are always using the same configuration. It will look in the package.json file if it exists, but can be overridden by the command line options.

Also, additional data can be passed through to the jade template. Below is an example:

  "name": "topcoat-test",
  "version": "0.4.1",
  "description": "CSS for clean and fast web apps",
  "main": "Gruntfile.js",
  "dependencies": {
    "topdoc": "0.0.12"
  "topdoc": {
    "source": "release/css/",
    "destination": "topdocs/",
    "template": "node_modules/topdoc-theme",
    "templateData": {
      "title": "Topcoat",
      "subtitle": "CSS for clean and fast web apps",
      "download": {
        "url": "#",
        "label": "Download version 0.4"
      "homeURL": "http://topcoat.io",
      "siteNav": [
          "url": "http://www.garthdb.com",
          "text": "Usage Guidelines"
          "url": "http://bench.topcoat.io/",
          "text": "Benchmarks"
          "url": "http://topcoat.io/blog",
          "text": "Blog"

In the jade template the data is accessible using templateData:



<p>CSS for clean and fast web apps</p>


The jade template has data passed through by default:

Document Object

The document object contains relevant information about just the current document being generated below is an example:

  "title": "Button",
  "filename": "button.css",
  "source": "test/cases/button.css",
  "template": "lib/template.jade",
  "url": "index.html",
  "components": [
      "name": "Button",
      "slug": "button",
      "details": ":active - Active state\n.is-active - Simulates an active state on mobile devices\n:disabled - Disabled state\n.is-disabled - Simulates a disabled state on mobile devices",
      "markup": "<a class=\"topcoat-button\">Button</a>\n<a class=\"topcoat-button is-active\">Button</a>\n<a class=\"topcoat-button is-disabled\">Button</a>",
      "css": ".topcoat-button,\n.topcoat-button--quiet,\n.topcoat-button--large,\n.topcoat-button--large--quiet,\n.topcoat-button--cta,\n.topcoat-button--large--cta {\n  position: relative;\n  display: inline-block;\n  vertical-align: top;\n  -webkit-box-sizing: border-box;\n  -moz-box-sizing: border-box;\n  box-sizing: border-box;\n  -webkit-background-clip: padding;\n  -moz-background-clip: padding;\n  background-clip: padding-box;\n  padding: 0;\n  margin: 0;\n  font: inherit;\n  color: inherit;\n  background: transparent;\n  border: none;\n  cursor: default;\n  -webkit-user-select: none;\n  -moz-user-select: none;\n  -ms-user-select: none;\n  user-select: none;\n  -o-text-overflow: ellipsis;\n  text-overflow: ellipsis;\n  white-space: nowrap;\n  overflow: hidden;\n  padding: 0 1.16rem;\n  font-size: 12px;\n  line-height: 2rem;\n  letter-spacing: 1px;\n  color: #c6c8c8;\n  text-shadow: 0 -1px rgba(0,0,0,0.69);\n  vertical-align: top;\n  background-color: #595b5b;\n  -webkit-box-shadow: inset 0 1px rgba(255,255,255,0.12);\n  box-shadow: inset 0 1px rgba(255,255,255,0.12);\n  border: 1px solid rgba(0,0,0,0.36);\n  -webkit-border-radius: 3px;\n  border-radius: 3px;\n}\n.topcoat-button:active,\n.topcoat-button.is-active,\n.topcoat-button--large:active,\n.topcoat-button--large.is-active {\n  background-color: #404141;\n  -webkit-box-shadow: inset 0 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.18);\n  box-shadow: inset 0 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.18);\n}\n.topcoat-button:disabled,\n.topcoat-button.is-disabled {\n  opacity: 0.3;\n  cursor: default;\n  pointer-events: none;\n}\n"
      "name": "Quiet Button",
      "slug": "quiet-button",
      "details": ":active - Quiet button active state\n.is-active - Simulates active state for a quiet button on touch interfaces\n:disabled - Disabled state\n.is-disabled - Simulates disabled state",
      "markup": "<a class=\"topcoat-button--quiet\">Button</a>\n<a class=\"topcoat-button--quiet is-active\">Button</a>\n<a class=\"topcoat-button--quiet is-disabled\">Button</a>",
      "css": ".topcoat-button--quiet {\n  background: transparent;\n  border: 1px solid transparent;\n  -webkit-box-shadow: none;\n  box-shadow: none;\n}\n.topcoat-button--quiet:active,\n.topcoat-button--quiet.is-active,\n.topcoat-button--large--quiet:active,\n.topcoat-button--large--quiet.is-active {\n  color: #c6c8c8;\n  text-shadow: 0 -1px rgba(0,0,0,0.69);\n  background-color: #404141;\n  border: 1px solid rgba(0,0,0,0.36);\n  -webkit-box-shadow: inset 0 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.18);\n  box-shadow: inset 0 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.18);\n}\n.topcoat-button--quiet:disabled,\n.topcoat-button--quiet.is-disabled {\n  opacity: 0.3;\n  cursor: default;\n  pointer-events: none;\n}\n"

Nav Object

The nav object contains names and urls to all the generated html files. In the jade template this can utilized to create a navigation to the other pages.

nav.site: ul
  - each item in nav
    - if(item.url == document.url)
      li.selected: a(href=item.url)=item.text
    - else
      li: a(href=item.url)=item.text

Project Object

The project object contains relevant project information. Currently it only contains the title property. (passed through the command line -p option, or through the package.json information).


TemplateData Object

As mentioned above, additional data can be passed through to the template in the package.json file. This is accessible in the template as the templateData object. See the example above.