Institute for Software Research
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Documentation Generation as Information Visualization

Will Crichton*

November 2020


This paper was presented at PLATEAU 2020:
The 11th Annual Workshop on the Intersection of HCI and PL
November 2020, Co-located with SPLASH 2020

Keywords: Documentation generation, information visualization

Automatic documentation generation tools, or auto docs, are widely used to visualize information about APIs. However, each auto doc tool comes with its own unique representation of API information. In this paper, I use an information visualization analysis of auto docs to generate potential design principles for improving their usability. Developers use auto docs as a reference by looking up relevant API primitives given partial information, or leads, about its name, type, or behavior. I discuss how auto docs can better support searching and scanning on these leads, e.g. by providing more information-dense visualizations of method signatures.

8 pages

*Stanford University

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