[SciPy-dev] [Numpy-discussion] Unifying numpy, scipy, and matplotlib docstring formats

John Hunter jdh2358@gmail....
Thu Feb 15 13:28:59 CST 2007

On 2/15/07, Keir Mierle <mierle@gmail.com> wrote:

I think most of the developers are on scipy dev, so I'm cutting the

> I would like to re-open this discussion to be sure there is consensus among the
> numpy, scipy, and matplotlib folk before I invest signifcant time into
> massaging the docstrings into the right form.

I don't have a lot to add here because I did not follow the previous
docstring discussions closely.  I generally accept that if Robert says
something should be done a certain way, it's probably right and I
don't want to step in front of a freight train.  That said, I think
from a plain text perspective, your format and example look better
than the markup for ReST ( I really liked the contour example).  Since
I'll usually be reading docs through ipython or in the source code
directly, I prefer documentation with as little explicit markup as
possible, but respect that a significant chunk of users will be
reading docs in html or PDF and the markup certainly helps there.  I


and friends ugly though I'm sure they look splendid after pushing them
through ReST.   But I'm a softie and don't care enough about the
intricacies of docstring formatting to make a nuanced argument which
weighs all the details.  I'm probably happy to defer to whatever the
numpy/scipy folks decide on along with you and the other developers
who are pushing this.  Ie, I won't get in your way.

My guess is that you'll have to bear the brunt of the work, because we
have a lot of priorities in terms of development of matplotlib to work
on and a revamp of the docstrings is not at the top of the list.
There are two things I'd like to draw your attention to to see how
they fit into the proposed scheme(s).

  1) mpl uses a docstring formatting convention "ACCEPTS:' in all
set_* matplotlib artist methods.  This supports object introspection,
eg when you do

  >>> line, = plot(...)
  >>> setp(line)

  We could do it another way, and I'm open to it, but right now we are
using docstrings

  2) we use string interpolation to auto-generate repetitive parts of
docstrings, eg the optional keywords that customize lines appear in
many parts of the code.  See the kwdocd stuff in matplotlib.artist and
matplotlib.lines and matplotlib.axes.Axes.plot for an example.  On
first glance, this seems compatible with what you all are proposing,
with some reformatting of course, but I could be missing something so
please take a look at this.

I also concur that the signature section needs to be more general than
a single line, since we have lots of overloaded call signatures.

As for your enhanced  pylab proposals, this is something that I think
is very helpful and I would be happy to return the pylab
name/functionality to the ipython/numpy/scipy/mpl/enthought community.
 Travis originally owned this but at some point it wasn't doing
anything more than  serving as a web page for a collection of his
modules and I asked him if we could use it for the matlab-like
environment incorporating matplotlib and Numeric.  At the time,
matplotlib was pure python and trivial to insstall, and scipy was a
bear to install, so I did not want a dependency on scipy.  Now things
are very different.  matplotlib can be a bear to install, and the
scipy install has gotten much better, and so a single unified package
that brings in all three, rationalizes and factors out their common
functionality etc, publicizes and maintains it, supports installs
across platforms, etc.... would be a wonderful and major achievement.
It is certainly doable, but plan to spend a significant part of next
year working on it if you want to take this on.  We all have good
intentions, but none of the core developers of any of the packages
seems to have the time right now that such an integration effort
entails.  We've talked about it many times at the last scipy meetings.

Supporting easy installs of a comprehensive set of tools across
platforms is a big job.  Not insurmountable, but make sure you
understand what you are signing up for.  If you want to cut your teeth
at cross platform installation and support, you are welcome to take on
the limited task of supporting the matplotlib wx backend across
platforms; this has been a thorn in our side for some time.

So your proposals look really nice, but the devil will be in the
implementation.  Getting the core developers to agree on standards and
a unified environment is a good and useful first step, but the harder
part is getting the work done.


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