OODoc - object oriented production of software documentation


   is an OODoc::Object


 use OODoc;
 my $doc = OODoc->new(distribution => 'My Name', version => '0.02');
 $doc->processFiles(workdir => $dest);
 $doc->create('pod', workdir => $dest);
 $doc->create('html', workdir => '/tmp/html');

or use the oodist script


OODoc stands for "Object Oriented Documentation": to produce manual-pages in HTML or the usual man-page UNIX format, describing Perl programs. The OO part of the name refers to two things: this module simplifies writing documentation for Object Oriented programs, and at the same time, it is Object Oriented itself: easily extensible.

Before you read any further, decide:

  1. to use your own modified version of the mkdist and mkdoc scripts, as provided in the examples which come with this module, or

  2. use the oodist, which is less flexible but much simpler, and only requires some additions to your Makefile.PL.

OODoc has been used for small and for very large modules. It can also be used to integrate manual-pages from many modules into one homogeneous set.

The documentation syntax can be changed, by configuring the parser or adding a new one. The OODoc::Parser::Markov parser understands POD and has additional logical markup tags. See OODoc::Parser about what each parser needs to support.

The output is produced by formatters. The current implementation contains two POD formatters and one HTML formatter. See OODoc::Format.

Do not forget to read the DETAILS section, later on this manual-page to get started. Please contribute ideas. Have a look at the main website of this project at That is also an example of the produced output.

Extends "DESCRIPTION" in OODoc::Object.


Extends "OVERLOADED" in OODoc::Object.


Extends "METHODS" in OODoc::Object.


Extends "Constructors" in OODoc::Object.

 -Option      --Default
  distribution  <required>
  project       <distribution>
  version       <from version or VERSION file>
distribution => STRING

The name of the package, as released on CPAN.

project => STRING

A short description of the distribution, as will be shown on many places in the produced manual pages and code. You can use the main package name, or something which is nicer to read.

version => STRING

The version number as automatically included in all packages after each package statement and on many places in the documentation. By default the current directory is searched for a file named version or VERSION which contains a number.

Inheritance knowledge

Extends "Inheritance knowledge" in OODoc::Object.

$obj->extends( [$object] )

Inherited, see "Inheritance knowledge" in OODoc::Object



Returns the nice name for the distribution.


Returns the general project description, by default the distribution name.


Returns the version string for the distribution.


 -Option      --Default
  distribution  <from main OODoc object>
  manifest      <source/>'MANIFEST'
  notice        ''
  parser        OODoc::Parser::Markov
  select        qr/\.(pod|pm)$/
  skip_links    []
  source        '.'
  version       <from source directory or OODoc object>
  workdir       <required>
distribution => NAME

Useful when more than one distribution is merged into one set of documentation.

manifest => FILENAME

The manifest file lists all files which belong to this distribution: packages, pods, tests, etc. before the new pod files are created.

notice => STRING

Include the string (which may consist of multiple lines) to each of the pm files. This notice usually contains the copyright message.

parser => CLASS|OBJECT

The parser CLASS or OBJECT to be used to process the pages.


The files which contain documentation to be processed. You can provide a list of filenames as array reference, a REGEX which is used to select names from the manifest file, or a CODE reference which is used to select elements from the manifest (filename passed as first argument). Is your pod real pod or should it also be passed through the parser?

Passed to OODoc::Parser::new(skip_links).

source => DIRECTORY

The location where the files are located. This is useful when you collect the documentation of other distributions into the main one. Usually in combination with an undefined value for workdir.

version => STRING

The version of the distribution. If not specified, the source directory is scanned for a file named version or VERSION. The content is used as version value. If these do not exist, then the main OODoc object needs to provide the version.

To make Makefile.PL option VERSION_FROM to work with this seperate version file, that line should contain $VERSION = .

workdir => DIRECTORY

Specify the directory where the stripped pm-files and the pod files will be written to. Probably the whole distribution is collected on that spot.

If you do not want to create a distribution, you may specify undef (still: you have to specify the option). In this case, only the documentation in the files is consumed, and no files created.

$obj->selectFiles($which, LIST)

Returns two array references: the first with files to process, and the second with files which do not need to be processed. $which comes from processFiles(select) and the LIST are files from a manifest.



Compile all files which contain packages, and then try to find-out how they are related.


Add information to the documentation tree about inheritance relationships of the packages. prepare must be called between processFiles() and create().


$obj->create($name|$class|$object, %options)

Create a manual for the set of manuals read so far. The manuals are produced by different formatters which produce one page at a time. Returned is the formatter which is used: it may contain useful information for you.

The first, optional argument specifies the type of pages to be produced. This can be either a predefined $name (currently available are pod and html representing OODoc::Format::Pod and OODoc::Format::Html respectively), the name of a $class which needs to be instantiated, or an instantiated formatter.

 -Option          --Default
  append            undef
  format_options    []
  manifest          <workdir>/MANIFEST
  manual_format     []
  manual_templates  undef
  other_templates   undef
  process_files     <formatter dependent>
  select            undef
  workdir           <required>
append => STRING|CODE

The value is passed on to OODoc::Format::createManual(append), but the behavior is formatter dependent.

format_options => ARRAY

Formatter dependent initialization options. See the documentation of the formatter which will be used for the possible values.

manifest => FILENAME|undef

The names of the produced files are appended to this file. When undef is given, no file will be written for this.

manual_format => ARRAY

Options passed to OODoc::Format::createManual(format_options) when a manual page has to be produced. See the applicable formatter manual page for the possible flags and values.

manual_templates => DIRECTORY

Passed to OODoc::Format::createManual(template), and defines the location of the set of pages which has to be created for each manual page. Some formatters do not support templates and the valid values are formatter dependent.

other_templates => DIRECTORY

Other files which have to be copied passed to OODoc::Format::createOtherPages(source).

process_files => REGEXP

Selects the files which are to be processed for special markup information. Other files, like image files, will be simply copied. The value will be passed to OODoc::Format::createOtherPages(process).

select => CODE|REGEXP

Produce only the indicated manuals, which is useful in case of merging manuals from different distributions. When a REGEXP is provided, it will be checked against the manual name. The CODE reference will be called with a manual as only argument.

workdir => DIRECTORY

The directory where the output is going to.


Returns a string which contains some statistics about the whole parsed document set.

Commonly used functions

Extends "Commonly used functions" in OODoc::Object.


Inherited, see "Commonly used functions" in OODoc::Object


Inherited, see "Commonly used functions" in OODoc::Object

Manual Repository

Extends "Manual Repository" in OODoc::Object.


Inherited, see "Manual Repository" in OODoc::Object


Inherited, see "Manual Repository" in OODoc::Object


Inherited, see "Manual Repository" in OODoc::Object


Inherited, see "Manual Repository" in OODoc::Object


Inherited, see "Manual Repository" in OODoc::Object


Inherited, see "Manual Repository" in OODoc::Object


Why use OODoc in stead of POD

POD (Perl's standard Plain Old Document format) has a very simple syntax. POD is very simple to learn, and the produced manual pages look like normal Unix manual pages. However, when you start writing larger programs, you start seeing the weaker sides of POD.

One of the main problems with POD is that is using a visual markup style: you specify information by how it must be presented to the viewer. This in contrast with logical markup where you specify the information more abstract, and a visual representation is created by translation. For instance in HTML defines a I tag (visual markup italic) and EM (logical markup emphasis, which will usually show as italic).

The main disadvantage of visual markup is lost information: the formatter of the manual page can not help the author of the documentation to produce more consistent manual pages. This is not a problem for small distributions, but is much more needed when programs grow larger.

How OODoc works

Like with POD, you simply mix your documentation with your code. When the module is distributed, this information is stripped from the files by a parser, and translated into an object tree. This tree is then optimized: items combined, reorganized, etc, to collect all information required to produce useable manual pages. Then, a formatter is called to generate the manual pages.

The parser

The parser reads the package files, and (by default) strip them from all documentation. The stripped files are written to a temporary directory which is used to create the module distribution.

It is possible to use more than one parser for your documentation. On this moment, there is only one parser implemented: the Markov parser, named after the author. But you can add your own parser, if you want to. Within one distribution, different files can be parsed by different parsers.

The parser produces an object tree, which is a structured representation of the documentation. The tree is parser independent, and organized by manual page.

Collecting relations

The second phase of the manual page generation process figures out the relations between the manual pages. It collects inheritance relations and other organizational information which is to be used by the manual page generators.

The formatter

The final phase can be called more than once: based on the same object tree, documents can be produced in various formats. The initial implementation produces POD and HTML.

Getting Started from scratch

To use OODoc, you need to create a scripts which helps you producing the distribution of your module. The simpest script look like this:

 use OODoc;
 my $dist = '/tmp/abc';
 my $doc  = OODoc->new
  ( distribution => 'E-mail handling'
  , version      => '0.01'

 $doc->processFiles(workdir => $dist);  # parsing
 $doc->prepare;                         # collecting
 $doc->create('pod', workdir => $dist); # formatting to POD

The default parser will be used to process the files, see OODoc::Parser::Markov for its syntax. The formatter is described in OODoc::Format::Pod. Once you have this working, you may decide to add options to the calls to adapt the result more to your own taste.

Getting Started by Cloning

A much easier way to start, is to simply pick one of the examples which are distributed with OODoc. They come in three sizes: for a small module (mimetypes and orl), an average sized set-up (for OODoc itself), and a huge one (mailbox, over 140 packages).

All examples are written by the same person, and therefore follow the same set-up. Copy the files mkdoc, mkdist and MANIFEST.extra plus the directory html to the top directory of your distribution. Edit all the files, to contain the name of your module.

It expects a MANIFEST file to be present, like standard for Perl modules. That file lists your own code, pod and additional files which need to be included in the release. OODoc will extend this file with produced POD files.

The demo-scripts use a version file, which contains something like $VERSION = 0.1. This is not required: you can specify to take a version from any file, in the traditional Perl way. However, when you glue multiple modules together into one big HTML documentation website (see the mailbox example), then this separate file simplifies the production script.

To test the document production, try (on UNIX/Linux) <pod2man xyz.pod | man -l - >

To get a prepared distribution, use ./mkdist 1. This will first produce all documentation, and then run make test and make dist. It generates two distributions: the module-version.tar.gz which can be uploaded to CPAN, and the module-version-raw.tar.gz which is for yourself. The latter contains the whole setup which is used to generate the distribution, so the unprocessed files!


Error: Cannot compile $parser class

The $parser class does not exist or produces compiler errors.

Error: Cannot read version from file $fn: $!
Error: Parser $parser could not be instantiated

Something went wrong while starting the parser object. Probably there is an other error message which will tell you the exact cause.

Error: cannot copy distribution file $fn to $dest: $!

For some reason, a plain file from can not be copied from your source tree to the location where the distribution is made.

Error: create requires a directory to write the manuals to

You have to give a value to workdir, which will be used as top directory for the produced output. It does not matter whether there is already some stuff in that directory.

Error: formatter $name has compilation errors: $@

The formatter which is specified does not compile, so can not be used.

Error: manual definition requires manual object

A call to addManual() expects a new manual object (a OODoc::Manual), however an incompatible thing was passed. Usually, intended was a call to manualsForPackage() or mainManual().

Warning: no file $fn to include in the distribution

Probably your MANIFEST file lists this file which does not exist. The file will be skipped for now, but may cause problems later on.

Error: no version specified for distribution "$name"

Version information will be added to all packages and all manual pages. You need to specify a version and be sure that it changes with each release, or create a file named version or VERSION which contains that data.

Error: problems compiling $code for package $name: $@

Syntax error in your code, or a problem caused by stripping the file. You can run your test-scripts before the files get stripped as long as you do not use make test, because that will try to produce manual-pages as well...

Error: requires a directory to write the distribution to

You have to give a value to workdir, which may be undef. This option is enforced to avoid the accidental omission of the parameter.

When processing the manifest file, some files must be copied directly to a temporary directory. The packages are first stripped from their pseudo doc, and then written to the same directory. That directory will be the place where make dist is run later.

Error: the destribution must be specified
Error: there is no version defined for the source files

Each manual will need a version number. There are various ways to specify one. For instance, create a file named version or VERSION in the top source directory of your distribution, or specify a version as argument to OODoc::new() or OODoc::processFiles().

Error: use regex, code reference or array for file selection

The processFiles(select) option is not understood. You may specify an ARRAY, regular expression, or a code reference.


This module is part of OODoc distribution version 2.02, built on December 08, 2021. Website:


Copyrights 2003-2021 by [Mark Overmeer]. For other contributors see ChangeLog.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the Artistic license. See