Documenting Code

As we continue to write larger and more complex programs, it is important to remember that we can include comments and documentation in our code. Comments are lines of text in our program’s source code that are ignored by the compiler or interpreter, allowing us to add information to the program beyond the code itself.

These help explain our code to anyone who might read it, but can even be useful to help us remember exactly how it works or what it does, especially if we end up coming back to a program written a long time ago that we do not remember very well.

Single Line Comments

As we’ve seen before, we can add single-line comments to our Python programs using a hash symbol # before a line in our source file:

# this is a comment
x = 5

# this is also a comment
b = True


Finally, Python also includes a secondary type of comment that spans multiple lines, specifically for creating documentation. A docstring is usually the first line of text inside of a class or method definition, and is surrounded by three double quotes """ with one set of three on each end.

These comments are specifically designed to provide information about classes and methods in our code. Here’s a quick example using a simple class:

class IntTuple:
  """ Represents a tuple containing two integer values
  This class is an adaptation of a class developed for Java
  that mimics the built-in tuples in Python
  first : int
      the first element in the tuple
  second : int
      the second element in the tuple
  def __init__(self, one, two):
    """ Initializes a new IntTuple object
    one : int
        the first element in the new tuple
    two : int
        the second element in the new tuple
    self.first = one
    self.second = two

Unfortunately, Python does not enforce a particular style for these docstrings, so there are many different formats used in practice. To learn more, we can consult the following references.