Generate Sphinx friendly docstrings for Python functions in Emacs
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What is it?

sphinx-doc is an emacs minor mode for inserting docstring skeleton for Python functions and methods. The structure of the docstring is as per the requirement of the Sphinx documentation generator.


This package can be installed from MELPA. To do so, run M-x package-list-packages, then search for "sphinx-doc". Mark it with i and finally press x to install.

To install manually, download and copy the sphinx-doc.el file somewhere in the load path.


Add the following line to your .emacs (or the equivalent config file)

    (add-hook 'python-mode-hook (lambda ()
                                  (require 'sphinx-doc)
                                  (sphinx-doc-mode t)))

This will enable the sphinx-doc-mode and bind the interactive function sphinx-doc to C-c M-d.


Inside a Python file, move the cursor to some function/method definition and hit C-c M-d (see gif demo below).



Known Issues

  • When calling the function interactively, if the cursor is not on the head of a function definition (ie. the keyword def, function name or the parenthesized list of the formal parameters) it either shows a "search failed" message in the minibuffer or inserts documentation for a valid function definition closer to the current line! Although both behaviours are quite harmless, it's annoying and definitely needs to be fixed. Patches welcome!

See also

  • The autodoc extension needs to be enabled for the sphinx instance in order to generate documentation from the docstrings.

  • If anyone's interested, there is a similar functionality I wrote to generate docstrings for Javscript functions based on the style of Natural Docs. It's not packaged as a mode but can be installed manually. Natural Docs for Javascript in Emacs