Generating package documentation

We are faced with a range of “normal” provision, as well as several oddities. One should note that documentation of many packages is available on CTAN, without the need of any further effort by the user — such documentation can usually be browsed in situ.

However, if you find a package that does not offer documentation on the archive, or if you need the documentation in some other format than the archive offers, you can usually generate the documentation yourself from what you download from the archive.

The standard mechanism, for LaTeX packages, is simply to run LaTeX on the package.dtx file, as you would any ordinary LaTeX file (i.e., repeatedly until the warnings go away).

A variant is that the unpacking process provides a file package.drv; if such a thing appears, process it in preference to the package.dtx (it seems that when the documented LaTeX source mechanism was first discussed, the .drv mechanism was suggested, but it’s not widely used nowadays).

Sometimes, the LaTeX run will complain that it can’t find package.ind (the code line index) and/or package.gls (the list of change records, not as you might imagine, a glossary). Both types of file are processed with special makeindex style files; appropriate commands are:

makeindex -s gind package
makeindex -s gglo -o package.gls package.glo
This author finds that the second (the change record) is generally of limited utility when reading package documentation; it is, however, valuable if you’re part of the package development team. If you don’t feel you need it, just leave out that step

Another common (and reasonable) trick performed by package authors is to provide a separate file package-doc.tex or even simply manual.tex; if the file package.dtx doesn’t help, simply look around for such alternatives. The files are treated in the same way as any “ordinary” LaTeX file.