Re: visually describing command syntax ?

Subject: Re: visually describing command syntax ?
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2011 17:44:16 -0500

It's always difficult to document complex syntax. One would naively expect to provide a strict format that is possible for mortals to comprehend. That, unfortunately, can be a tall order.

If you examine the Unix (or Linux) "man" command's results for the various Unix commands you will discover that neither the command structures (options and arguments) nor the descriptions are fully uniform. (The 'dd' command is notoriously strange, but the syntax of 'find' is hardly trivial.) In some situations it is necessary to take certain combinations of options and arguments as special cases.

A failure of much traditional Unix documentation is the lack of examples. Certain complicated commands have one or two common uses, but these are submerged in documentation that covers all possibilities, including the most esoteric. To my eye, it makes sense to call out those particular uses and give examples of their use, both the simpler cases and the more hairy. One should not be required to parse and entire structure of possibilities before learning that 24 out of 27 options apply only to extremely rare cases.

See the Wikipedia entry on the description of the Unix dd command:

On Thu, 17 Nov 2011 17:06:50 -0500, Dossy Shiobara <dossy -at- panoptic -dot- com> wrote:

Perhaps looking at how various languages are documented (e.g., SQL) and programming APIs would be useful? ...

On 11/17/11 3:57 PM, Monique Semp wrote:
I donât have any ideas right off, so I thought Iâd ask to see if anyone had suggestions and particularly anything online to point to as a non-traditional way to document command syntax?

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visually describing command syntax ?: From: Monique Semp
Re: visually describing command syntax ?: From: Dossy Shiobara

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