Q re documentation Python style

kj socyl at 987jk.com.invalid
Sun Jun 8 23:17:51 CEST 2008

I'm a Perlhead trying to learn the Way of Python.  I like Python
overall, but every once in a while I find myself trying to figure
out why Python does some things the way it does.  At the moment
I'm scratching my head over Python's docstrings.  As far as I
understand this is the standard way to document Python code.  I
think that's fine for simple functions, but I have some functions
that require a very long docstring to document, and somehow I find
it a bit disconcerting to stick a few screenfuls of text between
the top line of a function definition and its body.  I guess I'm
still a lot more comfortable with Perl's POD, which allows more
flexibility on the placement of the documentation relative to the
source code.

I expect that the reply to this quibble about very long docstrings
will be something like: if your function requires several screenfuls
of text to document, then it is too complex or it is doing too
much; refactor it into a collection of simpler functions that will
have shorter docstrings.

Fair enough.  In general I agree with this sentiment, except that
I think that sometimes even simple functions require a lot of
documentation.  For example, I want to document a function that
takes a dictionary as argument, and this dictionary is expected to
have 5 keys.  (When the number of mandatory arguments gets above
4, I find that it's too difficult to remember their order, so I
resort to using a dictionary as the single argument.)  The semantics
for each of these keys needs to be described.  Plus, of course, I
need to describe what the function returns.  That's a few screenfuls
right there...

I guess this is a rambling way to ask: are docstrings *it* as far
Python documentation goes?  Or is there a second, more flexible

Then again, I suppose that Python's relative formal rigidity is
considered by many to be a strength.  Which means that, to be
comfortable with Python, one has to learn to like this (relatively)
rigid structure...

But I thought I'd ask.  :)


NOTE: In my address everything before the first period is backwards;
and the last period, and everything after it, should be discarded.

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