Create cmdlet XML help files from XML doc comments
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README.md

XmlDoc2CmdletDoc

It's easy to write good help documentation for PowerShell script modules (those written in the PowerShell script language). You just write specially formatted comments alongside the source code for your cmdlets, and the PowerShell host automatically uses those comments to provide good inline help for your cmdlets' users. XmlDoc2CmdletDoc brings this same functionality to PowerShell binary modules (those written in C# or VB.NET). You no longer need to use CmdletHelpEditor or PowerShell Cmdlet Help Editor to manually edit a separate help file. Instead, this tool will automatically generate your PowerShell module's help file from XML Doc comments in your source code.

For more details, Michael Sorens has written a comprehensive guide to documenting your PowerShell binary cmdlets using XmlDoc2CmdletDoc.

To create a .dll-Help.xml file for your binary PowerShell module:

  1. Ensure that your project is configured to generate an XML Documentation file alongside its output assembly.
  2. Install the XmlDoc2CmdletDoc NuGet package into your project.

Optionally, you can enable strict mode to cause a build error if any of your cmdlets are missing required documentation elements. To do so, add the following property to an appropriate PropertyGroup element in your project file:

<XmlDoc2CmdletDocStrict>true</XmlDoc2CmdletDocStrict>

Examples

Here are some examples of how to document your cmdlets:

Cmdlet synopsis and description

The cmdlet's synopsis and description are defined using <para> elements in the cmdlet class's XML doc comment. Tag the <para> elements with a type="synopsis" or type="description" attribute, showing whether <para> is part of the synopsis or description.

You can use multiple <para> elements for both the synopsis and the description, but a cmdlet synopsis is usually just one sentence.

/// <summary>
/// <para type="synopsis">This is the cmdlet synopsis.</para>
/// <para type="description">This is part of the longer cmdlet description.</para>
/// <para type="description">This is also part of the longer cmdlet description.</para>
/// </summary>
[Cmdlet("Test", "MyExample")]
public class TestMyExampleCommand : Cmdlet
{
    ...
}

For guidance on writing the cmdlet synopsis, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb525429.aspx. For guidance on writing the cmdlet description, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb736332.aspx.

Parameter description

The description for a cmdlet parameter is defined using <para> elements in the XML doc comment for the parameter's field or property. Tag the <para> elements with a type="description" attribute.

[Cmdlet("Test", "MyExample")]
public class TestMyExampleCommand : Cmdlet
{
    /// <summary>
    /// <para type="description">This is part of the parameter description.</para>
    /// <para type="description">This is also part of the parameter description.</para>
    /// </summary>
    [Parameter]
    public string MyParameter {get; set;}
    
    ...
}

For guidance on writing the parameter description, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb736339.aspx.

Type description

You can document a parameter's input type or a cmdlet's output type, using <para> elements in the type's XML doc comment. As before, tag the <para> elements with a type="description" attribute.

You can only document types defined in the PowerShell module like this.

[Cmdlet("Test", "MyExample")]
public class TestMyExampleCommand : Cmdlet
{
    [Parameter]
    public MyType MyParameter {get; set;}
    
    ...
}

/// <summary>
/// <para type="description">This is part of the type description.</para>
/// <para type="description">This is also part of the type description.</para>
/// </summary>
public class MyType
{
    ...
}

Notes

You can add notes to a cmdlet's help section using a <list> element with a type="alertSet" attribute. Each <item> sub-element corresponds to a single note.

Inside each <item> element, specify the note's title with the <term> sub-element, and the note's body text with the <description> sub-element. The <description> element can directly contain the note's body text, or you can split the note's body text into multiple paragraphs, using <para> elements.

/// <list type="alertSet">
///   <item>
///     <term>First note title</term>
///     <description>
///     This is the entire body text for the first note.
///     </description>
///   </item>
///   <item>
///     <term>Second note title</term>
///     <description>
///       <para>The first paragraph of the body text for the second note.</para>
///       <para>The second paragraph of the body text for the second note.</para>
///     </description>
///   </item>
/// </list>
[Cmdlet("Test", "MyExample")]
public class TestMyExampleCommand : Cmdlet
{
    ...
}

For guidance on writing cmdlet notes, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb736330.aspx.

Examples

Cmdlet examples are defined using <example> elements in the XML doc comment for the cmdlet class.

The example's code body is taken from the <code> element. Any <para> elements before the <code> element become the example's introduction. Any <para> elements after the <code> element become the example's remarks. The introduction and remarks are both optional.

To add multiple cmdlet examples, use multiple <example> elements.

/// <example>
///   <para>This is part of the example's introduction.</para>
///   <para>This is also part of the example's introduction.</para>
///   <code>Test-MyExample | Wrte-Host</code>
///   <para>This is part of the example's remarks.</para>
///   <para>This is also part of the example's remarks.</para>
/// </example>
[Cmdlet("Test", "MyExample")]
public class TestMyExampleCommand : Cmdlet
{
    ...
}

For guidance on writing cmdlet examples, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb736335.aspx.

Related links

Related links are defined using <para> elements in the XML doc comment for the cmdlet class. Tag the relevant <para> elements with a type="link" attribute. The link text for each navigation link is taken from the body of the <para> element. If you want to include a uri, specify a uri attribute in the <para> element.

/// <summary>
///   <para type="link">This is the text of the first link.</para>
///   <para type="link">This is the text of the second link.</para>
///   <para type="link" uri="https://github.com/red-gate/XmlDoc2CmdletDoc/">The XmlDoc2CmdletDoc website.</para>
/// </summary>
[Cmdlet("Test", "MyExample")]
public class TestMyExampleCommand : Cmdlet
{
    ...
}

For guidance on writing related links, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb736334.aspx.

Developer notes

XmlDoc2CmdletDoc has a handful of NuGet package dependencies that aren't yet available from the official public NuGet repository. Instead, they are included in a local file-based package source in the LocalNuGetPackageSource folder.

  1. RedGate.ThirdParty.JoltCore - A fork of the Jolt.NET productivity libraries, with some modifications. The source is publicly available under the same BSD licence as the original library.

  2. RedGate.Build - A PowerShell module that contains cmdlets used by this project's build scripts. The source is publicly available under version 2.0 of the Apache license.

XmlDoc2CmdletDoc itself is available under the 3-clause BSD license.

Building XmlDoc2CmdletDoc

Prerequisites:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 or Microsoft Build Tools 2015
  • PowerShell 4.0 or later.

To build XmlDoc2CmdletDoc, simply invoke .\build.ps1 from a PowerShell prompt. This will generate a NuGet package in the dist folder. If you'd like direct access to the XmlDoc2CmdletDoc.exe, it can be found in XmlDoc2CmdletDoc\bin\Debug or XmlDoc2CmdletDoc\bin\Release, depending on the configuration you build.

Contributors