Knife plugin to document cookbooks

This project is maintained by realityforge


This is a knife plugin to help create and maintain a for a cookbook. As much as possible the plugin makes use of the same metadata as used by chef when generating the documentation. The plugin will also scan the source files for annotations present in comments. Users can also add fragments of markdown into the doc/ directory to merge into the generated file.

The goal is to keep the code as the authoritative source of information. The hope is that keeping the documentation close to the code will help to maintain it's currency.

Getting Started

Step 1

Populate the metadata.rb of your cookbook according to Opscode's documentation. Particular attention should be paid to documenting the recipes, attributes, platform compatibility and cookbook requirements (i.e. depends, recommends, suggests etc).

Step 2

At the top of each recipe, add a detailed documentation section such as;

The recipe is awesome. It does thing 1, thing 2 and thing 3!

Step 3

In each LWRP, add detailed documentation such as;

This creates and destroy the awesome service.

@action create  Create the awesome service.
@action destroy Destroy the awesome service.

@section Examples

    # An example of my awesome service
    mycookbook_awesome_service "my_service" do
      port 80


#<> @attribute port The port on which the HTTP service will bind.
attribute :port, :kind_of => Integer, :default => 8080

It should be noted that the documentation of the LWRP requires that the user document the actions, using @action <action> <description> and the attributes using @attribute <attribute> <description>. This allows meaningful descriptions for the actions and attributes to be added to the README.

The other text will be added at the start of the LWRP documentation except if marked with @section <heading>, in which case it will be added to the end of the LWRP documentation.

Step 4

Finally the user should add some documentation fragments into the doc/ dir. Most importantly you should add doc/ which will replace the first Description section of the readme. You should also add a doc/ which will replace the last License and Maintainer section in the readme. The remaining fragments will be included at the end of the readme in lexicographic order of the filename.


You can install the plugin via RubyGems:

$ gem install knife-cookbook-doc

Alternatively, you can install the plugin from source:

$ git clone git://
$ cd knife-cookbook-doc/
$ bundle install
$ bundle exec rake install

Afterwards, the new knife command knife cookbook doc DIR will be available.


knife cookbook doc COOKBOOK_DIR (options)

    -o, --output-file FILE           Set the output file to render to relative to cookbook dir. Defaults to
    -t, --template FILE              Set template file used to render


    knife cookbook doc path/to/cookbook
    knife cookbook doc path/to/cookbook --template

Further Details

Documentation in comments

The documentation stored in comments comes in three forms;

Single line comments

#<> This is some documentation

Multi-line comments using begin/end

This is some documentation

Multi-line comments without using begin/end

# This is some documentation


The plugin was originally written by Mathias Lafeldt as a way to create initial from the metadata.rb. It was subsequently rewritten by Peter Donald to gather information from the other files within the cookbook. All credit to Mathias for his wonderful idea.