Writing Help:
Guides | HelpSystem

Writing Help

Get started with writing help

Writing new help

The simplest way is to look at an existing help file or class document, and read this document and SCDoc Syntax

NOTE: The help files should use UTF-8 encoding!

News in SC 3.5.2

SCDoc has been rewritten and the parser is now implemented in C++ for speed and stability. The syntax has gotten stricter, and it will throw errors or warnings if there are faults in the documentation.

Some important changes to keep in mind:

Documenting new classes

When you navigate to an undocumented class, it will contain an schelp template that can be filled in and saved to HelpSource/Classes/ClassName.schelp.

Converting old helpfiles

There is no automated process for this, but for most help files it's really simple to do it manually:

  1. open the old helpfile in your web browser
  2. copy the text and insert it in a new textfile: FileName.schelp
  3. add the appropriate tags, like title, sections, etc.. (see below)
  4. save the file to the right subdirectory under HelpSource, depending on the document kind (see Directory layout below)
  5. check that it rendered OK. You can run SCDoc.indexAllDocuments (link to method documentation: SCDoc: *indexAllDocuments) to make SCDoc detect the new file and add it to the document index.

    If the file already existed and you want to see the changes, just press Reload in the help browser and SCDoc will re-render it.

A list of all undocumented classes can be seen here: Browse: Undocumented classes (auto-generated).

Directory layout

The help system uses different folders under HelpSource depending on document kind:

class reference, file must be named as the class.
other reference documentation.
yes, tutorials.
guides that explain stuff but without being a real tutorial.
overviews of other documents, these are mostly auto-generated.
stuff that don't fit in any other directory.
NOTE: It's important that the document is put in the right folder. For Classes, it's a must!

All .schelp files will be parsed and rendered to an equal directory layout in the help target directory. Any other files, like images or ready-made HTML files, will just be copied.

Document header

All tags that are used for document metadata should be entered at the top of the document source file, before any section or other text. See SCDoc Syntax: Header tags

NOTE: You should always specify title, summary and categories.

Normal documents

Example header:

title:: My help file
summary:: A short single-line summary of what this is
categories:: Language>Conditionals, SomeOtherCategory
related:: Reference/FooBar

Then use normal text in sections and subsections, and possible other tags for lists, tables, trees, images, links, etc.. See SCDoc Syntax for tag reference.

section:: Introduction

This is a nice document...
blah blah blah..

subsection:: Details

Some details..

Class reference

Class reference has some special tags and a more strict structure. Normal text should be written inside the special top-level sections DESCRIPTION, CLASSMETHODS, INSTANCEMETHODS and EXAMPLES.

Named subsections can be used under each of the above mentioned top-level sections.

Also named sections can be used, but they will be put after all above top-level sections.

Methods and arguments

Methods are documented like this:

NOTE: Don't list arguments in the method tag, only the method names

After the method description comes the arguments, written with argument:: name where name is optional, and will be auto-filled in if not given. If given, it must match the real argument name of the method. After each argument line comes the description of that argument.

There is an optional returns:: tag that could be used to describe the methods return value.

If a longer discussion is needed, use the discussion:: tag. This is a good place to insert example code, etc.

Setters are handled automagically, when documenting a setter/getter, use only the getter name (no underscore) and describe both setter and getter as a single property, example:

method:: helpSourceDir
set or get the help source directory

Methods get an anchor name automatically, prefixed with * for class methods and - for instance methods. For example, to link to the foo class method, use link::#*foo::.

The method:: tag can be used also in normal documents, and should then have argumentnames. This can be useful for documenting common interfaces outside of a specific class document, for example plot. Anchors for these methods get prefixed with a dot (.) instead of * or -.

When multiple methods have the same signature (like ar and kr in ugens), they should all be listed in one single method tag.

SCDoc generates docs for all undocumented methods. To ignore private methods, add them to a private:: tag, which works just like the method tag but without a section body.

Extensions can add methods to existing class docs, see the Extensions section below.

Copy methods from other class

You can use copymethod:: ClassName, methodName to copy the documentation of a method from another helpfile to this one.

methodName must be prefixed with * (asterix) for class methods and - (dash) for instance methods.

Redirect classes

Some classes uses the *doesNotUnderstand trick to redirect to another implementing class. To document such classes, you need to add this tag in the header:

redirect:: implClass

Where implClass is the name of the class variable holding the implementing class.


An example of documentation for LFPulse UGen, saved to HelpSource/Classes/LFPulse.schelp

summary:: pulse oscillator
categories:: UGens>Generators>Deterministic, UGens>Oscillators
related:: Classes/LFSaw

A non-band-limited pulse oscillator. Outputs a high value of one and a low value of zero.

private:: categories

METHOD:: ar, kr

frequency in Hertz

initial phase offset in cycles ( 0..1 )

pulse width duty cycle from zero to one.

An UGen.


a plot:
code:: { LFPulse.ar(Line.kr(100, 800, 0.1)) }.plot(0.1); ::

50 Hz wave:
code:: { LFPulse.ar(50) * 0.1 }.play; ::


Try to find good categories for the doc you are writing/converting. If a suitable category already exists, you should use that. See the Document Browser (auto-generated) for existing categories.

For UGens, you should use the existing categories like UGens>Filter>Nonlinear. View the current categories like this:

Documents can exist in multiple categories, and also have hierarchical categories, like Sequencing>Patterns.

Cross-document linking

To link another document, use link::Path/To/Document:: where the path is relative to SCDoc: *helpTargetDir and the document filename is with no extension. Example:

Also take a look at link::Classes/SinOsc:: and link::Reference/Literals::


To link to a specific class method, append #*methodName or to an instance method, append #-methodName:

Also take a look at the play method of link::Classes/Function#-play::

This will render as Function: -play

For generic methods documented outside of instancemethods or classmethods (like the generic play document), use a dot (.) as prefix instead of * or -.

The special Methods overview is dynamic and allows a specific method to be shown by appending #name where name is the name of the method:

For all implementations of play, see link::Overviews/Methods#play::

Making the document findable by Search

The Search page can match on document title/filename, summary, non-private methods, and categories. If you mention something that should match in search but is not one of the above, you can explicitly add it with the keyword tag:

keyword:: someKeyWords


Quarks and extensions

Each extension should have their own HelpSource folder with files that should be included in the help system.

Example file layout:

NOTE: All helpfiles contained in a quark will automatically get a category "Quarks>NameOfQuark" added, so you should not add this yourself. This makes it easy to navigate all documentation of a specific quark.

If you want to set a main help file for the quark, set \schelp in the Quark directory file to the path for the help file relative to HelpSource and without the .schelp extension. Example: \schelp: "Guides/MyGuide"

Method extensions

An extension that adds methods to existing classes should document these in Classes/TheClass.ext.schelp, only including the relevant bits (no title, summary, categories, etc..)

Example: Classes/String.ext.schelp


subsection:: Extensions by SCDoc

method:: stripWhiteSpace
strips whitespace at the beginning and end of the string
returns:: the stripped string

The contents are inserted into the right spot (section, subsection, etc). It works for all kind of sections, for example one can add a subsection to DESCRIPTION:: with additional information, or add another top-level section, etc.


URL's are automagically converted to links.

The link:: tag is used for cross-reference between docs. It uses a simple namespace, example:

Anchors can be inserted manually with anchor::name:: and referenced like this:

or to jump to an anchor in this document:

All sections get anchor names automagically.

All methods get anchor names prefixed with * for class methods and - for instance methods.

One can change the rendered text of the link by using another # character:

A link to specific methods:

Renders as: SinOsc: *ar and Function: -play

The Methods overview is dynamic and allows a specific method to be shown, by using the methodname as anchor, for example to get a list of all classes implementing play :

Renders as: All classes implementing play can be seen here.

The Browse page is also dynamic, and can take a category tree as anchor name:

Renders as: For more filters, see Browse: UGens>Filters

Contributing with the documentation

The easiest way to contribute to the documentation is:

1. Fork the SuperCollider repository https://github.com/supercollider/supercollider 2. Clone your repository

3. Create a branch for doc updates

4. Do your update, commit your changes and push to github

5. Submit your pull request through github, from your branch doc_updates to SuperCollider develop