# How to make automatic documentation using Doxygen, breathe and Sphinx

Posted on Wed 15 June 2022 in documentation

## Introduction

I recently wrote a C++ Library, and I wanted to document how to use it. I searched for a solution to extract the documentation from the code, and I found Doxygen. It works well, but produces an ugly html output.

So I decided, with advices from the JeBif discord, to use Sphinx, to render the documentation.

Sphinx does not extract documentation from source code, it rather generates the documentation from Markdown or ReStructuredText files, so I still use Doxygen to do this job, and thanks to breathe, we can use its xml output to render documentation using Sphinx.

## Let's go !

### Setting all the stuff up

First of all, Install Doxygen.

apt-get install doxygen


Let us create a dummy example:

mkdir myawesomelibrary
cd myawesomelibrary
mkdir include
cd include


And create a dummy header file:

// myawesomelibrary/include/cat.hpp

/**
* @brief This is a cat
*/
class Cat {
public:
Cat() {
say("I'm a cat");
}
/**
* @brief the cat is saying meow
*/
void meow()
{
say("meow");
}

/**
* @brief the cat is saying something
*/
void say(const std::string& message)
{
std::cout << message << std::endl;
}
};


Let's generate the doxygen cofiguration file:

cd ..
doxygen -g Doxyfile


Then in this file, we have to set the path to the header files source directory, and allow doxygen to look up to source code files recursively. It is also time to set the output directory.

INPUT = "./include"

EXTRACT_ALL = YES

RECURSIVE = YES

OUTPUT_DIRECTORY  =  "./doc/"


We need to tell doxygen to generate the xml output.

GENERATE_XML = YES


And, we can disable html and $$\LaTeX$$ output.

GENERATE_HTML = NO

GENERATE_LATEX = NO


Now let's set up Sphinx

mkdir doc
cd doc
sudo apt install python-sphinx
sphinx-quickstart


In the conf.py file, we need to add the following lines:

extensions = ['breathe']
breathe_projects = {'myawesomelibrary': '../xml'}
breathe_default_project = 'myawesomelibrary'


Of course we also need to install the breathe package.

pip install breathe


We need to tell Sphinx to render the class documentation:

// in index.rst
.. doxygenclass:: Cat
:members:


We can use the theme from ReadTheDocs:

pip install sphinx_rtd_theme

# in conf.py
html_theme = 'sphinx_rtd_theme'


### Generating the documentation

cd .. # go back to the root of the project
doxygen Doxyfile
cd doc
make html


That's it !

The output is in the doc/build/html directory.

Here is the result I got: