This page is primarily about tools that help, specifically, in generating documentation for software written in Python, i.e., tools that can use language-specific features to automate at least a part of the code documentation work for you. The last section also lists general documentation tools with no specific support for Python (though some of them are themselves written in Python).
Tools that support auto-documentation of code can be broadly classified into tools that:
- import the code to generate documentation based on runtime introspection
- parse and analyze the code statically (without running it)
See here for a longer explanation of the two concepts.
Tools that generate documentation from user-provided input typically use plain text markup formats such as reStructuredText (reST, the markup used for writing the official Python documentation) or Markdown.
Python modules are usually documented using docstrings. You can read a module's docstrings from the Python interactive prompt with the help() function. For example:
import distutils help(distutils)
The help() function uses Python's standard pydoc module, as does the pydoc command that comes with Python.
Automatic Python API documentation generation tools
autosummary, an extension for the Sphinx documentation tool: http://sphinx.pocoo.org/ext/autosummary.html
autodoc, a Sphinx-based processor that processes/allows reST doc strings,
pdoc, a simple command-line tool and library to auto-generate API documentation for Python modules. Designed to replace epydoc. Since 0.5.0 works with Python 3 only. Includes support for Numpydoc and Google-style docstrings, cross-linking across modules, documentation for variables and namedtuples, and a built-in HTTP server to view documentation of local packages.
pydoctor, https://launchpad.net/pydoctor replacement for now inactive Epydoc, pydoctor was born for the needs of Twisted project
Doxygen < http://www.doxygen.org > can create documentation in various formats (HTML, LaTeX, PDF, ...) and you can include formulas in your documentation (great for technical/mathematical software). Together with Graphviz < http://www.research.att.com/sw/tools/graphviz/ > it can create diagrams of your code (inhertance diagram, call graph, ...). Another benefit is that it handles not only Python, but also several other programming languages like C, C++, Java, etc.
No longer under development
Another PythonDoc - uses JavaDoc-style comments, and produces HTML and XML output. Can also be used as a library, producing ElementTree descriptions of your source code. http://effbot.org/zone/pythondoc.htm
Endo from Enthought Tool Suite - generates HTML API documentation from docstrings and from plain comments that immediately precede variable assignments.
PythonDoc - uses StructuredText input format (not reST), and can produce HTML and XML output. It uses XML as an intermediate representation, to simplify the addition of new output formats. http://starship.python.net/crew/danilo/pythondoc/
Documentation processing tools
Other projects that can be used to produce API documentation
XIST - an XML based extensible HTML generator written in Python.
HtmlGen - a Python library for generating HTML documents.
Other documentation processing tools
Pandoc -- written in Haskell, this tool can read and write a number of formats (including reST).
Rippledoc (formerly known as Gouda) -- a command-line tool written in Clojure (using Pandoc under the hood) to generate multi-chapter html documents from Markdown text files.