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Atomineer Documentation Preprocessing & Conversion Rules

If you have existing documentation comments in a format that Atomineer can parse, you can configure Atomineer to read it and convert it to your new Atomineer style. This page describes several methods that can be used to facilitate comment conversions into the configured Atomineer format:

  • An 'alternate' comment style can be configured, to allow Atomineer to detect and convert comments in a form that does not match the new style it is generating.
  • Special Conversion Rules can be used to convert custom documentaiton entries into forms that Atomineer can recognise and process.
  • Pre-processing - You can write a Visual Studio Extension that can read and process the comment text before Atomineer attempts to parse it. This gives you full control to convert any machine-parseable comment format into a form that Atomineer can convert. Example code is supplied below, and in many cases very little work will be required to modify this code to suit your old comment style.
  • In addition, you can help Atomineer to parse bespoke typedefs and #define macros by applying Regular Expression replacements to the code that Atomineer as it parses.

Details of all these options are given below.

Converting documentation from a legacy format

Existing documentation can be converted if it is in a valid XmlDoc or Doxygen-like form, but encoded in an alternative format (Doxygen/Javadoc/QDoc/Documentation XML) and style (block top/bottom separator lines and line prefixes) to the form that Atomineer generates. (If your comments are not in this form, you will need to use the 'preprocessing macro/extension' approach described below to convert your legacy comment text into a close enough format that Atomineer can parse it - see below for details)

As this is a relatively rarely used option, it must be manually configured by opening the Atomineer Prefs.xml file (usually My Documents\AtomineerUtils) and adding the following elements to the <DocComment> section:

<Alt-Separator  value="/** " />
<Alt-LineHeader value=" * " />
<Alt-SeparatorB value=" */" />

You can set any text for the Separator (top line of the comment block), SeparatorB (bottom line of the comment block) and LineHeader (prefix for all lines within the block). If the separators and/or line prefix are not used, you must set value="(None)"

If you wish to convert from JavaDoc, QDoc or Doxygen format, then you must also make sure that the doxygen command prefix is correctly configured. Look for the <Doxygen> section in the prefs.xml file, which contains a <CommandPrefix> entry. Set this as appropriate, i.e. one of these values:

<CommandPrefix value="@" />
<CommandPrefix value="\" />

The comments can be read from Documentation XML, Doxygen, JavaDoc or QDoc format, and will be converted into your configured 'primary' format (which may be any of those formats). If the format is the same, then it will simply be converted from an old block style to a new style). The standard tags (summary/brief, returns/return, seealso/sa etc) will be converted automatically as required, including embedded tags like c/see. Any custom tags used in your old format will simply be treated as embedded text appended to the previous entry, unless they match a custom entry tag that you have added to your comment Templates in rules.xml - if a matching template entry tag is found, the old comment data will be converted to the new documentation style and inserted into the final block as dictated by that template.

Custom <Conversion> Rules

In addition, Rules.xml contains a special section, <Conversions>, which tells Atomineer how to convert the entries it finds when converting legacy comments. This can:

  • Delete unwanted entries (e.g. delete '@ingroup' entirely)
  • Rename entries (e.g. '@description' to '<remarks>')

Note that at this time, the primary conversion process that is supported is Doxygen/JavaDoc/QDoc to DocXML, simply because there has so far been no demand to convert DocXML the other way. However, basic conversions are already in place to convert from DocXml if required. Please email if you encounter any markup that is not converted well, and where possible we will try to upgrade Atomineer to support your conversion needs. (Also, the macro/extension preprocessing approach described later on this page may help you to handle your conversion needs for yourself)

To convert between Doc Comment styles/formats, you may do any of the following:

  1. To convert between different block format "skins", set the Alt-Separator, Alt-LineHeader and Alt-SeparatorB preferences in your Prefs.xml file so that Atomineer knows what the 'old' comment format looks like.
  2. Set your Doxygen or DocXML Templates up to indicate the 'legal' entries in your new comment format, and how they should be ordered within the new comment block. Any entries that have the same tag in both old and new formats (e.g. param -> param) will be automatically 'converted' (reformatted in the new style). Any entries that are not considered 'legal' by Atomineer will be marked as 'deleted' with a ### prefix.
  3. Common Doxygen/DocXml markup is automatically converted, e.g.:
    \c ClassName         ->  <see cref="ClassName"/>
    \code ... \endcode   ->  <code> ... </code>
  4. Where an old entry should be removed entirely, add an entry like this within the <Conversions> section:
    <ingroup convertTo=""/>            - delete all '\ingroup' entries
  5. Where an old entry needs to be renamed, add an entry like this:
    <author convertTo="programmer"/>   - convert all '<author>' entries to '@programmer'
  6. A special pair of commands can be used to convert simple plain-text lists into a set of tags, e.g. To convert:
    			- \c MyClass
    			- \c BaseClass

    into a set of separate entries, you can use two forms:
    <references convertEachLineTo="seealso cref" stripPrefix="-" /> will produce:		   
    	<seealso cref='MyClass'/>
    	<seealso cref='BaseClass'/>
    <references convertEachLineTo="seealso" stripPrefix="- \c" /> will produce:

If an 'incorrect' entry is converted (such as a param or exception entry that describes a parameter or exception that is not present in the code), the entry will be converted correctly, but then added at the bottom of the new comment with '###' prepended ('deleted' entry), just as would happen if you removed that param/exception and updated an existing comment. If unwanted, just execute the DocComment command a second time to clean away these 'deleted' entries.

Note that if the old comment format diverges too far from what Atomineer expects (such as using Doxygen aliases or custom Documentation XML elements not mentioned in the Conversions rules), the conversion may not work so well - you may need to 'tidy up' the comment (manually or perhaps using a Macro/Extension preprocessing script - see below) before applying the Atomineer conversion.

For example, the following Doxygen/JavaDoc comment uses the alternate format described by the prefs XML above, with JavaDoc-style entries:

  * @brief  This is the brief description
  * @returns true if it feels like it
  * @param exampleParam An example parameter.
  * @date 15/04/2010
  * @author Jason

...and it is converted to the following Documentation XML (in this case, using the default Atomineer format, with the entries rearranged in the order dictated by the default template):

/// <summary>   This is the brief description. </summary>
/// <author>    Jason. </author>
/// <date>      15/04/2010. </date>
/// <remarks>   Jason Williams, 16/04/2010. </remarks>
/// <param name="exampleParam"> An example parameter. </param>
/// <returns>   true if it feels like it. </returns>

Note that the author and date are recognised tags and thus preserved in the resulting comment - but if these are not set as 'legal' entries in your templates, they can be removed by simply executing ths DocComment command a second time to update the new comment. (Note also that the 'remarks' was not supplied, so a new auto-generated entry is added that records the author/date of the conversion). However, as you can see, Atomineer does the bulk of the conversion work for you.

Preprocessing Macro/Extension Commands

Visual Studio (versions up to VS2010) provides a powerful built-in Visual Basic Macro system that provides excellent access to many of the internal functions of the IDE. All versions allow users to write add-ins or extensions that allow them to extend the functionality of the IDE.

These macros, or commands exposed from addins/extensions, can be used to pre-process legacy documentation comments to convert them into a format that Atomineer can parse. Atomineer can then apply its formatting and layout rules to complete the task of converting the comments to the new format.

(Please note: As of Visual Studio 2012, macros are no longer supported by Visual Studio, so this mechanism is unfortunately only available for use in 2005, 2008 and 2010. In 2012 it is necessary to write an extension that provides the command)

To enable this processing, you will need to first create a macro/extension command to be executed. Below is the processing code needed to get you started. To install this code as a macro (VS 2005, 2008, 2010), do the following:

In Visual Studio versions form 2012 onwards, it will be necessary to write your code into a Command within an extension, and install the extension within your copy of Visual Studio.

If you now select an entire legacy comment in a form that this macro/extension can process, such as this:

* Usage:           Open the datafile for reading
* Return Value:    true if the file was opened successfully
* Notes:
*		Preconditions:
*			The filename must have been set in Init()

...and turn it into this:

* \brief            Open the datafile for reading 
* \returns     true if the file was opened successfully 
* \remarks 
*		Preconditions:
*			The filename must have been set in Init()

This is now in a form Atomineer can parse and convert to whatever form you have configured. If this does not match your block format, you will need to set up an Alternate format (see the top of this page) so that Atomineer can recognise this partially-converted comment. In this example, set the preference options to:

<Alt-Separator  value="/***********************************************************" />
<Alt-LineHeader value=" * " />
<Alt-SeparatorB value="***********************************************************/" />

You should now be able to convert the preprocessed comment by executing Add Doc Comment on the method. The last step is to tell Atomineer to execute the preprocessing macro/extension command for you. Edit the Preprocessing Rules (in the Atomineer preferences, go to the 'Doc Advanced' tab and click the Preprocessing button) and uncomment the example entry:

<ConvertComment macro="Macros.Atomineer.Custom.ConvertExistingComment"/>

Now, when you execute Add Doc Comment, Atomineer should detect the legacy comment, select the entire comment block, execute your macro/extension command code to preprocess it, and then parse and update it to finish the conversion process.

It is recommended that when you have finished converting legacy comments, you disable the Preprocessing Rule so that Atomineer no longer tries to execute your macro/extension command - the mechanism that must be used involves selecting the comment (causing flickery redraws) and executing the macro/extension command can slow down comment processing quite significantly.

Helping Atomineer to parse better

Occasionally, Atomineer hits something that confuses it, resulting in a lower quality of automatic documentation than expected. Typical examples are when a typedef or #define macro are used to represent special types in your code - Atomineer only parses the code near the location you wish to document, so it has no way of understanding what these special code symbols represent.

When parsing method declarations, Atomineer can apply optional regular-expression replacements to the text before it is parsed. This does not change the code in the document being processed, but just the view Atomineer has of it. This allows users to convert in-house types, typedefs and macros into a form that Atomineer can handle better.

To add regex replacements, edit the Preprocessing Rules (in the Atomineer preferences, go to the 'Doc Advanced' tab and click the Preprocessing button) and add one or more entries like the examples that are provided - for Methods:

	<Replace pattern="OurTrueFalseType" replacement="bool" continue="true"/>
	<Replace pattern="OUR_TYPE\(bool\)" replacement="bool" continue="true"/>

... or for Classes/Structs/Interfaces:

	<Replace pattern="OurTrueFalseType" replacement="bool" continue="true"/>
	<Replace pattern="OUR_TYPE\(bool\)" replacement="bool" continue="true"/>

'pattern' and 'replacement' should be fairly self-explanatory, and the 'continue' attribute can be set to 'true' or 'false' to control whether or not any following Replace rules are executed if a rule causes the text to be altered.

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