Adventures in Machine Learning

The Importance of Documenting Your Python Code with Docstrings

Documenting Your Code Is So Important

Coding can be an enjoyable exercise, especially for those who thrive on solving complex problems. Writing elegant code that is efficient is the primary goal of coding.

However, as important as writing elegant and efficient code may be, it is not enough. The documentation of the code is just as important, if not more important.

This article discusses the reasons why documenting your code is crucial.

The Importance of Documentation

At its core, documentation is a record of code. It serves as a guide for users and programmers who have to work with the code.

Documentation has various benefits, including:

1. Code maintenance becomes more accessible: When you document your code, it becomes much easier to maintain and upgrade.

Without documentation, programmers will find it challenging to maintain the code over time. 2.

Easy debugging of code: When there’s a bug or error in the code, documentation helps to diagnose and correct the error more efficiently. 3.

Verification of code functionality: Documentation helps to verify the code’s functionality and ensures that the code is meeting the intended purpose.

Code Audiences and Readability

Another important aspect of documentation is to ensure that the code is readable. Anyone who uses or works with code, whether it’s the original author or another developer or user, will benefit from readable code.

As such, the audience for code documentation is vast. It includes the following:


Developers who will maintain the code: Documentation has to be comprehensive enough to help another developer maintain the code over time. 2.

The code’s users: When a developer creates an application or software, the code’s users may not have a background in programming. In such cases, documentation must be carefully written to make it understandable for users who aren’t programmers.

3. Project managers: Documentation is essential for communicating the project’s technical details to managers and stakeholders.

Commenting vs Documenting Code

Commenting and documenting are two terms that often get used interchangeably. Although both serve similar purposes, they differ in their approach and application.

The Difference Between Commenting and Documenting

Commenting refers to the process of adding comments to your code to describe the code’s functionality. Documenting refers to creating an external document that details how the code functions.

Purpose and Use of Comments in Code

Comments have specific purposes when used in code. Here are some reasons why programmers use comments:


Code design: Comments give an overview of the design of the code and how it fits into the broader system. 2.

Code review: Comments make it easier for peers to review code and provide feedback on how it could be improved. 3.

Descriptions and Tagging: Comments provide explanations and descriptive information on any complicated code snippets, reducing confusion and making it easier to use the code. 4.

Rules: Comments are used to indicate rules or requirements about the code.

Commenting via Type Hinting

Type hinting is another form of commenting in code. It enhances readability by giving more information about the function’s parameters and the data types expected.

Type hinting is an essential tool that helps to make code more readable and easier to maintain.

Final Thoughts

Documenting code and commenting on code increases code readability, making it easier to understand, maintain, and extend. As a programmer, the goal should be to create code that can be easily understood and used by others.

Therefore, it is essential to take the time to document and comment on code. Writing clean, efficient, and maintainable code is good, but when you document your code and add comments, it becomes great.

Documenting Your Python Code Base Using Docstrings

In programming, documenting code is critical. Python is a language that relies heavily on documentation, making it easier for developers to work on pre-existing code.

Python’s documentation tools include docstrings, which are used to describe modules, classes, functions, and methods. This article covers the background and functionality of docstrings, as well as their use in class, package and module, and script docstrings.

Docstrings Background and Functionality

Docstrings are documentation strings that come immediately after a function, method, module, or class statement. They are used to provide information about the code to both humans and machines.

Docstrings serve as a form of metadata, allowing code to be programmatically introspected and analyzed. Docstrings are an essential part of Python’s help system, as they are used by the help() function to provide information about a particular object.

Docstrings are enclosed in triple quotes and can span multiple lines. They should be placed immediately after the statement they describe and should follow a specific format.

The format of a docstring should start with a one-line summary. It should then be followed by one or more paragraphs that provide a more detailed description of the object being documented.

Class Docstrings and Its Components

Class docstrings provide an overview of the class, its public methods, class attributes, and any subclasses. The components of a class docstring include:


Summary: A one-line summary of the class and what it does. 2.

Public methods: A list of all the public methods in the class. 3.

Class attributes: A list of all the class attributes, along with their types. 4.

Subclasses: A list of all the subclasses that inherit from this class. Here’s an example of a docstring for a class:


class MyClass:


This is an example class docstring.


name (str): The name of the class. age (int): The age of the class.


def __init__(self, name, age): = name

self.age = age

def get_name(self):


Returns the name of the class. “””



Package and Module Docstrings

Package and module docstrings provide information about the package or module, including any functions, classes, and exceptions defined in the module. The components of a package or module docstring include:


Summary: A one-line summary of the package or module. 2.

Functions: A list of all functions in the package or module. 3.

Classes: A list of all classes in the package or module. 4.

Exceptions: A list of all exceptions defined in the package or module. Here’s an example of a module docstring:



This is an example module docstring.

This module defines a function called `add` that adds two numbers,

a class called `Car` that represents a car, and an exception

called `InvalidInputError` that is raised when the input is invalid. “””

def add(x, y):


Returns the sum of two numbers.


x (int): The first number. y (int): The second number.


The sum of `x` and `y`. “””

return x + y

class Car:


This class represents a car.


make (str): The make of the car. model (str): The model of the car.

year (int): The year the car was made. “””

def __init__(self, make, model, year):

self.make = make

self.model = model

self.year = year

class InvalidInputError(ValueError):


This exception is raised when the input is invalid.




Script Docstrings

Script docstrings provide information about the script and how to use it. They are typically used for command-line scripts and console applications.

The components of a script docstring include:

1. Summary: A one-line summary of the script.

2. Usage: A description of how to use the script, including any required arguments or options.

3. Examples: Examples of how to use the script, including arguments and options.

Here’s an example of a script docstring:



This is an example script docstring. Usage:

python –input INPUT_FILE –output OUTPUT_FILE [–verbose]


–input INPUT_FILE The input file.

–output OUTPUT_FILE The output file. –verbose Set verbose output.


python –input input.txt –output output.txt –verbose


import argparse

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser(description=__doc__)


“–input”, required=True, help=”The input file.”)


“–output”, required=True, help=”The output file.”)


“–verbose”, action=”store_true”, help=”Set verbose output.”)

args = parser.parse_args()

# Do something with arguments


Final Thoughts

Docstrings are an essential part of Python and are used to provide information about modules, classes, functions, and methods. It is important to follow the correct format when writing docstrings to ensure maximum readability and usability of the code.

By using docstrings, you can make your code more accessible and easier to understand for other developers who may need to work on it. In conclusion, documenting your Python code using docstrings is crucial for creating readable and maintainable code.

Docstrings provide valuable information to programmers, users, managers, and other stakeholders about the different aspects of the code base. Documentation makes it easier to maintain, upgrade, and debug code, and it helps to prevent errors in the long run.

In this article, we explored how to use docstrings in different contexts, including class docstrings, package and module docstrings, and script docstrings. By following the standard format of docstrings when documenting code, we make it easier for others to understand, use, and improve our code.

Remember, writing clean, efficient, and maintainable code is good, but adding docstrings makes it excellent.

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