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Contributors Guide to BRL-CAD

Types of Documentation We Maintain

BRL-CAD provides developers, users, and others with a range of documentation covering the basics of the software, its usage, and development APIs. This chapter briefly introduces the types of documentation that the BRL-CAD project maintains, as well as the purpose of each document.


The easiest way to contribute as a documenter is through BRL-CAD's wiki (a website that users can edit) at http://brlcad.org/wiki/Main_Page. The wiki is not currently integrated with any of the other documentation systems in BRL-CAD, although this remains one of BRL-CAD's project goals. 


Man Pages

Man pages are command-specific or program-specific documentation which thoroughly document and demonstrate the use of that command or program. Man pages may reference other man pages, but they are intended to be the primary source of documentation for a specific tool and should be written with a very tight focus.


API Documentation

Most of the project's documentation is maintained in the BRL-CAD source code repository as DocBook files (see the chapter Working with Our Documentation for more information about DocBook). API documentation, on the other hand, is automatically generated from the headers in the application's source code. Specially formatted source code comments in the headers are converted to HTML documentation by Doxygen (http://www.doxygen.org), a tool for generating source code documentation.

API documentation is the lowest level, most authoritative documentation of BRL-CAD's programming interfaces. However, it does not address user-level programs or commands.


Lessons are documents that are used to train a user to master a particular aspect of BRL-CAD. Unlike other documents, lessons focus on step-by-step teaching.


Reports and Articles

These can be technical reports, journal articles, conference papers, and/or similar focused descriptions of specific aspects of the package. Unlike lessons, reports and articles are primarily designed to inform rather than train. They are generally less comprehensive in scope and/or detail than a full-blown book.



Books are typically large documents that cover many aspects of BRL-CAD. In some cases, books can be collections of lessons, reports, articles, and/or other forms of documentation that are compiled between one set of covers. 



Specifications are formal documents that define formats or protocols that others can independently implement. Currently, the only specification in the BRL-CAD documentation set is a draft specification of the .g file format.



Presentations can range from an overview of the entire BRL-CAD package to an in-depth review of a specific feature or technical algorithm. Presentations are often used when marketing or explaining some aspect of BRL-CAD to people who are not familiar with it.


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