API Documentation

Scaladoc's main feature is creating API documentation from code comments.

By default, the code comments are understood as Markdown, though we also support Scaladoc's old Wiki syntax.


Definition links

Our definition link syntax is quite close to Scaladoc's syntax, though we have made some quality-of-life improvements.

Basic syntax

A definition link looks as follows: [[scala.collection.immutable.List]].

Which is to say, a definition link is a sequence of identifiers separated by .. The identifiers can be separated with # as well for Scaladoc compatibility.

By default, an identifier id references the first (in source order) entity named id. An identifier can end with $, which forces it to refer to a value (an object, a value, a given); an identifier can also end with !, which forces it to refer to a type (a class, a type alias, a type member).

The links are resolved relative to the current location in source. That is, when documenting a class, the links are relative to the entity enclosing the class (a package, a class, an object); the same applies to documenting definitions.

Special characters in links can be backslash-escaped, which makes them part of identifiers instead. For example, [[scala.collection.immutable\.List]] references the class named `immutable.List` in package scala.collection.

New syntax

We have extended Scaladoc definition links to make them a bit more pleasant to write and read in source. The aim was also to bring the link and Scala syntax closer together. The new features are:

  1. package can be used as a prefix to reference the enclosing package Example:
    package utils
    class C {
      def foo = "foo".
    /** See also [[package.C]]. */
    class D {
      def bar = "bar".

    The package keyword helps make links to the enclosing package shorter and a bit more resistant to name refactorings.

  2. this can be used as a prefix to reference the enclosing classlike Example:
    class C {
      def foo = "foo"
      /** This is not [[this.foo]], this is bar. */
      def bar = "bar"

    Using a Scala keyword here helps make the links more familiar, as well as helps the links survive class name changes.

  3. Backticks can be used to escape identifiers Example:
    def `([.abusive.])` = ???
    /** TODO: Figure out what [[`([.abusive.])`]] is. */
    def foo = `([.abusive.])`

    Previously (versions 2.x), Scaladoc required backslash-escaping to reference such identifiers. Now (3.x versions), Scaladoc allows using the familiar Scala backtick quotation.

Why keep the Wiki syntax for links?

There are a few reasons why we've kept the Wiki syntax for documentation links instead of reusing the Markdown syntax. Those are:

  1. Nameless links in Markdown are ugly: [](definition) vs [[definition]] By far, most links in documentation are nameless. It should be obvious how to write them.
  2. Local member lookup collides with URL fragments: [](#field) vs [[#field]]
  3. Overload resolution collides with MD syntax: [](meth(Int)) vs [[meth(Int)]]
  4. Now that we have a parser for the link syntax, we can allow spaces inside (in Scaladoc one needed to slash-escape those), but that doesn't get recognized as a link in Markdown: [](meth(Int, Float)) vs [[meth(Int, Float)]]

None of these make it completely impossible to use the standard Markdown link syntax, but they make it much more awkward and ugly than it needs to be. On top of that, Markdown link syntax doesn't even save any characters.