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This is a documentation generator plugin for the Google Protocol Buffers compiler (protoc). The plugin can generate HTML, JSON, DocBook and Markdown documentation from comments in your .proto files.

It supports proto2 and proto3, and can handle having both in the same context (see examples for proof).


There is a Docker image available (docker pull pseudomuto/protoc-gen-doc) that has everything you need to generate documentation from your protos.

If you'd like to install this locally, you can go get it.

go get -u

Invoking the Plugin

The plugin is invoked by passing the --doc_out, and --doc_opt options to the protoc compiler. The option has the following format:


The format may be one of the built-in ones ( docbook, html, markdown or json) or the name of a file containing a custom Go template.

Using the Docker Image (Recommended)

The docker image has two volumes: /out and /protos which are the directory to write the documentation to and the directory containing your proto files.

You could generate HTML docs for the examples by running the following:

docker run --rm \
  -v $(pwd)/examples/doc:/out \
  -v $(pwd)/examples/proto:/protos \

By default HTML documentation is generated in /out/index.html for all .proto files in the /protos volume. This can be changed by passing the --doc_opt parameter to the container.

For example, to generate Markdown for all the examples:

docker run --rm \
  -v $(pwd)/examples/doc:/out \
  -v $(pwd)/examples/proto:/protos \
  pseudomuto/protoc-gen-doc --doc_opt=markdown,

You can also generate documentation for a single file. This can be done by passing the file(s) to the command:

docker run --rm \
  -v $(pwd)/examples/doc:/out \
  -v $(pwd)/examples/proto:/protos \
  pseudomuto/protoc-gen-doc --doc_opt=markdown, /protos/Booking.proto [OPTIONALLY LIST MORE FILES]

You can also exclude proto files that match specific path expressions. This is done by passing a second option delimited by :. For example, you can pass any number of comma separated patterns as the second option:

docker run --rm \
  -v $(pwd)/examples/doc:/out \
  -v $(pwd)/examples/proto:/protos \
  pseudomuto/protoc-gen-doc --doc_opt=:google/*,somepath/*

Remember: Paths should be from within the container, not the host!

NOTE: Due to the way wildcard expansion works with docker you cannot use a wildcard path (e.g. protos/*.proto) in the file list. To get around this, if no files are passed, the container will generate docs for protos/*.proto, which can be changed by mounting different volumes.

Simple Usage

For example, to generate HTML documentation for all .proto files in the proto directory into doc/index.html, type:

protoc --doc_out=./doc --doc_opt=html,index.html proto/*.proto

The plugin executable must be in PATH for this to work.

Using a precompiled binary

Alternatively, you can specify a pre-built/not in PATH binary using the --plugin option.

protoc \
  --plugin=protoc-gen-doc=./protoc-gen-doc \
  --doc_out=./doc \
  --doc_opt=html,index.html \

With a Custom Template

If you'd like to use your own template, simply use the path to the template file rather than the type.

protoc --doc_out=./doc --doc_opt=/path/to/template.tmpl,index.txt proto/*.proto

For information about the available template arguments and functions, see Custom Templates. If you just want to customize the look of the HTML output, put your CSS in stylesheet.css next to the output file and it will be picked up.

Writing Documentation

Messages, Fields, Services (and their methods), Enums (and their values), Extensions, and Files can be documented. Generally speaking, comments come in 2 forms: leading and trailing.

Leading comments

Leading comments can be used everywhere.

 * This is a leading comment for a message
message SomeMessage {
  // this is another leading comment
  string value = 1;

NOTE: File level comments should be leading comments on the syntax directive.

Trailing comments

Fields, Service Methods, Enum Values and Extensions support trailing comments.

enum MyEnum {
  DEFAULT = 0; // the default value
  OTHER   = 1; // the other value

Excluding comments

If you want to have some comment in your proto files, but don't want them to be part of the docs, you can simply prefix the comment with @exclude.

Example: include only the comment for the id field

 * @exclude
 * This comment won't be rendered
message ExcludedMessage {
  string id   = 1; // the id of this message.
  string name = 2; // @exclude the name of this message

  /* @exclude the value of this message. */
  int32 value = 3;

Check out the example protos to see all the options.

Output Example

With the input .proto files

the plugin gives the output

Check out the examples task in the Makefile to see how these were generated.