Friday, 3 October 2014

Web API - Adding Xml Doc Comments to help files

One of the beautiful features of Web API is you get an out of the box set of help pages documenting your API and what calls are available. You will see this "HelpPage" section under "Areas" of your project. One thing I wanted to do to extend this is configure the help pages to read my Xml documentation comments within the code. It's not awfully difficult to achieve, simply follow these steps:

  1. In the file HelpPage/App_Start/HelpPageConfig.cs uncomment the following line:
     config.SetDocumentationProvider(new XmlDocumentationProvider(HttpContext.Current.Server.MapPath("~/App_Data/XmlDocument.xml")));  

  2. Open up the project properties for you Web API project and under the build tab enable the Xml documentation file (set the file path to App_Data\XmlDocument.XML)

This gives you the basic setup to get the XML comments outputting to your Help Pages. But how about making it look sexier? For example, let's say I had the following XML comment I wanted to display:
 /// <summary>  
 /// Get a list of products within the given product kit.  
 /// </summary>  
 /// <param name="id">Id of the parent product kit</param>  
 /// <returns>This api method returns a list of products in JSON format. To get a list of products in XML format add the following HTTP header:<br />  
 /// <br />  
 /// Accept: application/xml<br />  
 /// </returns>  

This will strip out the HTML tags and output on a single line like this:

To allow breaks in our comments we need to make a couple of changes. Firstly, we need to change how our XmlDocumentationProvider retrieves the tag value from the XML comment. Find the GetTagValue function in this class and change the line as follows:
     private static string GetTagValue(XPathNavigator parentNode, string tagName)  
       if (parentNode != null)  
         XPathNavigator node = parentNode.SelectSingleNode(tagName);  
         if (node != null)  
           return node.InnerXml;
       return null;  

Next, we need to modify all the display templates that display these tags to show the raw value instead. The Display Template you will need to modify are HelpPages/Views/Help/DisplayTemplates/ApiGroup.cshtml and HelpPageApiModel.cshtml located at. Find any of the following lines:



And replace them with the equivalent as per this code:



This could cover you for all areas you want to add breaks or html formatting to. For example, our description in the given example should look much better now:

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