Knife plugin to document cookbooks
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This is a knife plugin to help create and maintain a for a cookbook. As much as possible the plugin makes use of the same metadata as used by chef when generating the documentation. The plugin will also scan the source files for annotations present in comments. Users can also add fragments of markdown into the doc/ directory to merge into the generated file.

The goal is to keep the code as the authoritative source of information. The hope is that keeping the documentation close to the code will help to maintain it's currency.

Getting Started

Step 1

Populate the metadata.rb of your cookbook according to Opscode's documentation. Particular attention should be paid to documenting the platform compatibility and cookbook requirements (i.e. depends, recommends, suggests etc). Documentation for attributes and recipes can either be derived from scanning the source code or by explicit declaration in metadata.rb.

Step 2

At the top of each recipe, add a detailed documentation section such as;

The recipe is awesome. It does thing 1, thing 2 and thing 3!

If the user has not specified documentation for the recipe in metadata.rb then the tool takes the first sentence of the detailed documentation as the summary to use in the table of contents.

Step 3

If the user has not specified documentation for the attributes in metadata.rb then the tool scans the attribute files and uses the documentation block preceding the attribute.

#<> MyApp Admin Group: The group allowed to manage MyApp.
default['myapp']['group'] = 'myapp-admin'

Step 4

In each LWRP, add detailed documentation such as;

This creates and destroy the awesome service.

@action create  Create the awesome service.
@action destroy Destroy the awesome service.

@section Examples

    # An example of my awesome service
    mycookbook_awesome_service "my_service" do
      port 80


#<> @attribute port The port on which the HTTP service will bind.
attribute :port, :kind_of => Integer, :default => 8080

It should be noted that the documentation of the LWRP requires that the user document the actions, using @action <action> <description> and the attributes using @attribute <attribute> <description>. This allows meaningful descriptions for the actions and attributes to be added to the README.

The other text will be added at the start of the LWRP documentation except if marked with @section <heading>, in which case it will be added to the end of the LWRP documentation.

Starting with Chef >12.5, properties will replace attributes in custom resources. For compatibility, @property may be used interchangibly with @attribute. Both will be handled completely identical by the plugin.

Step 5

In each definition add documentation like:

    This definition does something useful.

    @param user User to run as.
    @param group User group to run as.

    @section Examples

        # An example of my awesome definition
        mycookbook_awesome_definition "app resources" do
          user 'appuser'
          group 'appgroup'

Step 6

Finally the user should add some documentation fragments into the doc/ dir. Most importantly you should add doc/ which will replace the first Description section of the readme. You should also add a doc/ which will replace the last 'License and Maintainer' section in the readme. Under Requirements section in readme file, platform and cookbooks are rendered from metadata.rb but if you need to place anything else like environemnt or databags, you need to create doc/ which will add the content to Requirements section. The remaining fragments will be included at the end of the readme in lexicographic order of the filename.


You can install the plugin via RubyGems:

$ gem install knife-cookbook-doc

Alternatively, you can install the plugin from source:

$ git clone git://
$ cd knife-cookbook-doc/
$ bundle install
$ bundle exec rake install

Afterwards, the new knife command knife cookbook doc DIR will be available.


knife cookbook doc COOKBOOK_DIR (options)

    -o, --output-file FILE           Set the output file to render to relative to cookbook dir. Defaults to
    -t, --template FILE              Set template file used to render


    knife cookbook doc path/to/cookbook
    knife cookbook doc path/to/cookbook --template

Alternatively, you can execute cookbook doc directly from your Rakefile:

require 'knife_cookbook_doc/rake_task'

# With default options

# Example with custom options do |t|
  t.options[:cookbook_dir] = './'
  t.options[:constraints] = true
  t.options[:output_file] = ''
  t.options[:template_file] = "#{File.dirname(__FILE__)}/templates/"

Further Details

Documentation in comments

The documentation stored in comments comes in three forms;

Single line comments

#<> This is some documentation

Multi-line comments using begin/end

This is some documentation

Multi-line comments without using begin/end

# This is some documentation

Version Testing and Support Matrix

This knife plugin is tested against multiple MRI Ruby versions and multiple Chef versions. We aim to test against the lastest patch version of each minor version of Chef Client's knife. See the .travis.yml for more complete detail.

|   Chef   | MRI Ruby |         |         |
| version  |   2.0    |   2.1   |   2.2   |
| master   | perhaps  | perhaps | perhaps |
| 12.4.1   | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 12.3.0   | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 12.2.1   | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 12.1.2   | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 12.0.3   | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 11.18.12 | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 11.16.4  | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 11.14.6  | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 11.12.8  | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 11.10.4  | yes      | yes     | yes     |
| 11.8.2   | yes      | yes     | no      |
| 11.6.2   | yes      | yes     | no      |
| 11.4.4   | yes      | yes     | no      |
| 11.2.0   | yes      | yes     | no      |
| 11.0.0   | yes      | yes     | no      |


The plugin was originally written by Mathias Lafeldt as a way to create initial from the metadata.rb. It was subsequently rewritten by Peter Donald to gather information from the other files within the cookbook. All credit to Mathias for his wonderful idea. Jarek Gawor has also submitted several major changes.